Update: The updated version of Thunar with network share support will be included as part of Xfce 4.8, sure to be featured by all of the distributions that ship Xfce (e.g., Fedora 15, Xubuntu 11.04, OpenSUSE 11.4, and many others).
Congratulations to Jannis Pohlmann on the release of Thunar 1.1.0! For those who don’t know, Thunar is the Xfce file manager, and this release marks a major milestone for Thunar and for the Xfce project. Why is this release so noteworthy? With this new version of Thunar, users will be able to access networked file systems (SFTP shares, FTP shares, Samba shares, etc.) from within the file manager itself.
This means that desktop users will be able to access their networked files and folders via a couple of clicks. Users of previous versions of Thunar who wanted to access network folders would have to hack around with FUSE file systems, or use a separate application altogether. Configuring a special file system, or having to open a different file manager application to get files and folders on a network do not represent user-friendly approaches to networked computing. Thus, providing network-share support from within the file manager represents a major improvement to the Xfce user experience.
Admittedly, for long-time GNOME and KDE users (or even for Windows or Mac users), adding network-share support to the file manager may not seem like a big deal. The respective GNOME and KDE file managers, Nautilus and Konqueror (or Dolphin), have provided network-share support for some time. However, Xfce is a much smaller project than GNOME or KDE, so I’m sure that people can appreciate the effort of a small group of developers working to add important end-user functionality such as this.
For long-time Xfce users who don’t want or need the new network share support, and would prefer that things stay as simple and lightweight as possible, there is good news for you, too. Jannis will be issuing a maintenance release of Thunar that includes several of the improvements from the 1.1.0 release, but uses the previous back-end of Thunar, called Thunar-VFS. Thunar-VFS does not support native access to network shares. Thus, individuals who package Thunar for their Linux/BSD distributions will be able to choose whether or not they want to incorporate the new network-share features into their packaged version of Thunar.
While the network-share support is the most prominent improvement that comes with this release of Thunar, several other improvements are also included. Have a look at the release notes (best viewed in Firefox) if you want the full-scoop on the improvements and new features that come with this new release of Thunar.
 as John Carr indicated in the comments, the GIO/GVfs back-end is the result of the hard work of GNOME developers, so credit is due to them, as well. Also, the performance of the GIO/GVfs back-end has not been tested in comparisons against the Thunar-VFS back-end. Thank you for the comment, John.