Mozilla has officially released the latest version of its Firefox browser bringing not only cutting-edge features, but new prospects of stripping away market share from rival browsers.

As the trend in browsers moves towards higher performance, the new Firefox 3.5 released Tuesday promises to be Mozilla’s fastest thanks to advances in JavaScript, the online programming language.

Firefox 3.5 brings together the most innovative Web technologies and delivers them in the most complete and powerful modern browser,” said John Lilly, CEO, Mozilla.

The group is also taking aim at the competition with new features like a private browsing mode that hides browser activity, support for location based services, and new HTML 5 standard – an area where Microsoft’s Internet Explorer still needs to catch up.

With major builds of Firefox coming on average every 2 years, Mozilla’s latest builds on top of a legacy of innovation that started in November 2004 When Firefox 1.0 was released it featured more in-depth security, promising safer browsing, and with more features, it quickly grabbing about 6 percent of the browser market from rival Internet Explorer.

Firefox 2.0 focused on user environment flexibility with features like tabbed browsing and the ability to restore a browser in case of a crash. An anti-phishing utility designed by Google also made its way into the browser, protecting users from fake websites masquerading as authentic ones.

By the launch of Firefox 3.0 in June last year, the alternate browser had built up a following of users around the world, and its official launch was met with a Guinness World Record for the largest number of downloads in one day.

The pace of innovation has not been matched since Microsoft fought with Netscape's browser for domination a decade ago.

“So much is happening on the Web right now, it’s a great time for browsers, Lilly added.

The rise of the Firefox browser since the middle of this decade has brought an unexpected wave of competition back to browsers, with Firefox now accounting for about 23 percent of the market, according to Net Applications.

Microsoft hasn’t stood still.

While Firefox and other browsers continue to gain share, Internet Explorer still holds a lion’s share of the browser market. The software-marker also updated its own browser with the release of Internet Explorer 8 last March.

To further complicate dreams of other developers, Microsoft is expected to bundle its browser with its forthcoming Windows 7 operating system, giving Internet Explorer a head start against rivals on a majority of computers around the world.