Firefox 3 and 3.1 Coming Soon

UPDATE: Mozilla has recently decided to roll out one more Release Candidate. While this wasn’t planned, they’re doing so to make sure the final release is extremely solid. With RC2, 40 additional bugs will have been fixed. The final release date will be pushed back with approx. 5 days, though. Better safe than buggy I guess.

Firefox has been all over the news today. This is probably mostly due to the latest Release Candidate Mozilla pushed a few days ago. The third iteration of Mozilla’s flagship web browser is due no later than next month, contrary to earlier reports. It doesn’t seem likely the Firefox team will be releasing another RC build, though. But never say never, of course.

Performance boost

I’ve been using Firefox 3 since beta three and I’m having mixed feelings about it. I love the way it doesn’t gobble down hundreds of megabytes of RAM anymore. And, it’s great to see they’ve finally made the rendering engine snappier. Now, in comparison to FF3 RC1, it becomes apparent that Firefox 2’s performance was taking a snail trail beneath its baggage of (amongst others) poorly supported Javascript processing and page rendering. In addition, the numerous leaking addons made using FF2 a rather crash-prone experience.

Mozilla, in my opinion, [still] under-delivers on its promise to give Firefox a native look on every platform. There were humongous plans for a Mac version (which made its debut a couple of betas ago), a Linux version and a Vista version. As most of us know, Mozilla threw out the latter to retain Firefox’ image and online presence. Instead, they slapped out a regurgitated iteration of Firefox’ former self, i.e. Firefox 2. A big mistake.

Enhancements

An other addition worth mentioning is the dramatically improved address-bar. Much like the Spotlight on the Mac, or Instant Search in Vista, Firefox searches for previously queried or bookmarked sites as you type. If you’re the type to frequently visit certain sites, but don’t want to go through the hassle that is bookmarking (yes it is), this is a great productivity booster.

The download manager finally allows for pausing downloads. And, closing the browser won’t flush them out either. They’ll just pop right back the next instance you open your trusty browser. This feature greatly obsoletes the need for addons like ‘DownThemAll’, though the aforementioned provides more that just download management.

Protecting the young’uns

Dumb and uninitiated web surfers are now protected against the dark side of the net. Clearer certificate pages and anti-phishing/scamming warnings are in place to wane off ignorant eyes.

One of the annoyances of running an ‘unfinished’ version of Firefox – like software is ever finished – is that support for addons is completely broken. Only a few are capable of keeping up with Mozilla’s beta/RC cycle. That, and the revised addons’ underpinnings usually render the addons-window empty. While there are methods at present to get incompatible addons running again, this is not advised, since many contain deprecated and insecure code. The solution is simple, just sit it out, or plainly revert back to Firefox 2 for the time being.

Firefox 3.1 in the running

Word goes round that Mozilla has already started planning the next major update to Firefox, i.e. version 3.1. It will reportedly incorporate features that were cut from the RC1 build because they weren’t yet on par with the rest of the feature set. Most of them were nearly finished, but just didn’t meet the quality bar for broad release.

The XMLHttpRequest (XHR) API is an example of this. The RC1 release notes note that the specifications for this technology aren’t stable, nor secure enough [yet].

With Firefox 3.1, it will be the first time Mozilla rolls out two major updates to the Firefox franchise in the same year. Interesting.

Get the RC

For those interested on living on the bleeding edge (cough), Firefox 3 RC1 is available from Mozilla’s website right here. In keeping with its good tradition, this download is available in all its multi-language/platform splendor.

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