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New features revealed for Firefox 3.1 alpha

Final version expected in early 2009

An alpha release of the next version of Firefox could become available in July, just weeks after the final release of Firefox 3.0.

Mozilla said the first Firefox 3.1 developer preview, or alpha, could ready by July, then move to a beta by August. The firm hopes to produce a final version in early 2009.

Firefox 3.0 review

If Mozilla holds to that plan, Firefox 3.1 would be its first fast-track update, with a development timeline significantly shorter than usual. Firefox 3.0, for instance, launched approximately 20 months after its predecessor, Firefox 2.0.

Previously, Mozilla said that it would be able to meet the shorter deadlines because Firefox 3.1 would be composed of features that didn't make it into Firefox 3.0, but were "nearly complete", said Mike Schroepfer, Mozila's vice president of engineering.

In the meeting notes published online Tuesday, Mozilla listed some of the improvements it hopes to slot into Firefox 3.1, including changes to the revamped bookmarking that debuted in 3.0 and modifications to the new amped-up location bar.

Several of the proposed changes, however, rely on improvements to the Gecko engine that underpins Firefox, as well as other applications, such as Mozilla Messaging's Thunderbird email client. Developers are working on Gecko 1.9.1 at the same time as Firefox 3.1, and programmers on the latter project expect some of those refinements will make it into the browser's next upgrade, including additional improvements in JavaScript performance and better compliance with the Acid3 test, which checks how closely a browser follows certain web standards.

In March, when both Apple and Opera Software ASA touted gains in matching Acid3's requirements with their Safari and Opera browsers, respectively, Mozilla called the race to a perfect score "a puzzle game" and said it wouldn't divert resources from the still-under-construction Firefox 3.0 to match its rivals.

Since the June 17 launch, more than 21.8 million copies of Firefox 3.0 have been downloaded, according to Mozilla's own counter.


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