Firefox 3.1 Beta 2 arrives a month late


From the “good things come to those who wait” files:

Mozilla developers have released Firefox 3.1 Beta 2 – nearly a month after it was expected. There are a number of reasons why this milestone release was delayed but in a nutshell from my third-party point of view, it’s all about making sure a release is ready before making a release. Mozilla has a process of “blockers” which identify which items must be fixed prior to a release (milestone or otherwise), it’s a process that tends to serve them well.
In terms of features, Firefox 3.1 Beta 2 includes the overhyped Private Mode feature (aka Porn Mode), which allows for a browsing session that is not retained locally after the session is closed out (that is history is not carried over to the main browser). This is a feature that other browsers have and previously was available to Firefox users by way of an extension.
Then there is the Tracemonkey JavaScript engine which is Mozilla’s answer to Google Chrome’s V8. Tracemonkey will in my opinion, get a real workout in this Beta 2 and I expect that it will improve by leaps and bounds from here as more users get to try it out.
Mozilla also claims that the 3.1 release includes, “improvements to the Gecko layout engine, including speculative parsing for faster content rendering.”
While speed is also a key issue for browsers, especially for end users. Firefox 3.1 in general includes more developer focussed improvement than I can easily get a handle on. There are CSS, HTML 5 tags and DOM changes that could really be very interesting from a development point of view. The problem – as it was during the first browser war – is trying to figure out what is supported cross-browser since I doubt many developers really want to develop multiple implementations of their site just to cater to specific browsers. 
That said, mainstream web development in my view has always been about the lowest common denominator – and maybe with Firefox 3.1, IE8, Safari 4 and Chrome that lowest common denominator can get pushed forward yet again.

As for Firefox 3.1, Mozilla has planned for a Beta 3 release and I personally expect at least two Release Candidate (RC) versions as well. So don’t expect a final Firefox 3.1 for Xmas this year, it’s not likely to be finalized until 2009.

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