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Firefox 3.5 'Web upgrade' planned for end of June
- From: Brian Warkoczeski
- Date: Wed Jun 17 10:58:52 2009
Firefox 3.5 'Web upgrade' planned for end of June
by Stephen Shankland
June 16, 2009
Mozilla plans to issue a release candidate for Firefox 3.5 on Friday and
the final version by the end of the month, Firefox director Mike
Beltzner said Tuesday.
The browser, code-named Shiretoko, began its life as a modest 3.1
upgrade. But as Mozilla's ambitions expanded and other browsers such as
Google Chrome exerted competitive pressure, the new Firefox was promoted
to version 3.5 and its planned ship date slid back several months. You
can grab the Firefox 3.5 beta for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Firefox 3.5 comes with a spate of new features--5,000 total, according
to Mozilla. Among the major ones: built-in video; local storage to
enable richer Web applications that can work even with no network
connection; a private browsing mode; geolocation to aid Web pages that
can benefit from knowing a user's location; and faster performance
"We've added technology we think upgrades the Web itself," Beltzner said.
Mozilla squeezed in a post-beta-4, pre-RC1 Firefox update last week, and
the official release candidate 1 will get mostly a handful of changes to
said. And because of Firefox's extensive beta-testing network--800,000
people use the beta versions--Mozilla expects that RC1 will be the sole
"We're aiming the final release around the end of the month," Beltzner said.
Firefox trails only Internet Explorer in market share, and Mozilla says
its use is growing fast.
Update 12 p.m. PDT: Other features in Firefox 3.5 include support for
Web workers, which can enable browser-based applications to run in the
background; personas to more easily provide themes; downloadable fonts;
better built-in graphics technology through CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)
and SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) standards; the ability to delete
browsing traces for a recent period of time or specific Web site; and
for better communications between a browser and server.
What's after Firefox 3.5?
Mozilla has a number of improvements in mind for the successor to
Firefox 3.5, code-named Namoroka, and Beltzner said programmers are
eager to get 3.5 out so they can get cracking.
One is a process isolation technology called Electrolysis that should
help protect Firefox from crashes, said Damon Sicore, director of
platform engineering. Competing browsers' process isolation can help
keep the browser running even when one page or plug-in misbehaves, but
Firefox today crashes in its entirety, employing the less graceful
approach of trying to reopen the pages upon restart.
The first phase of Electrolysis will be to isolate plug-ins such as
Adobe Systems' Flash so a problem won't crash the whole browser, Sicore
said. "It's going faster than we expected. By the end of July we hope to
have a prototype," a separate development version of Firefox where the
technology can be tested, he said.
Next up for Electrolysis will be a broader isolation technology that
separates the processes of tabs, he said. "The goal for that is
somewhere around the end of year in prototype form," Sicore said.
Also in the future is a 64-bit version of Firefox for Mac OS X. "We have
people working on that now, a 64-bit version on Mac OS X. The majority
of that is supposed to be done by end of quarter," Sicore said. Again,
loose deadline is for prototype work, not a production version.
Apple's new Snow Leopard operating system is fully 64-bit, including
Most Firefox add-ons should move easily to 64-bit versions, Beltzner
said, unless they include binary software compiled specifically for
32-bit operating stems.
Though 64-bit Windows is now arriving, "It's not one of our
supported-tier platforms," Beltzner said.
Firefox also plans to improve performance in Namoroka, including
start-up time and user interface responsiveness.
Firefox in second place
Firefox broke the lock Microsoft's Internet Explorer had on the browser
market, and now there's abundant competition. Apple's new Safari 4 works
both on Mac OS X and Windows, Google's Chrome is advancing the
performance agenda, and Opera is trying to advance the state of Web
But Mozilla has a big leg up on other IE rivals. Based on the number of
machines that ping Mozilla's servers, the organization estimates there
are 300 million Firefox users worldwide--a major increase from the 175
million a year ago when Firefox 3.0 was released amid "Download Day"
promotional fanfare. According to NetApplications, Firefox has 22.5
percent share, a number that Beltzner said corresponds reasonably well
with Firefox's own measurements.
"Our growth has been steady and strong throughout the past year,"
One of Firefox's competitive advantages is an active community, not just
the open-source coders who help Mozilla with the core programming but
also vocal fans, translators, testers, and programmers who write
add-ons. That community has been helpful in places like Poland, where
Firefox has nearly 50 percent market share, and Indonesia, where it has
the majority, Beltzner said.