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Firefox 3.0 Already?

Mozilla is pushing ahead on work and planning for its next two major browser releases, Firefox 3.0 and 4.0. Firefox 2.0 was just released yesterday.

Firefox 3.0 is currently being developed under the code name Gran Paradiso and the current alpha release is code-named Minefield.

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The Firefox 3 release is currently scheduled for sometime in the first quarter of 2007 and will pick up on some of the features where Firefox 2.0 left off.

One of those items is something called "Places," which is a replacement for Mozilla's bookmarks and history system. It was originally scheduled to debut in Firefox 2.0 but got left out since it wasn't complete.

"Bookmarks and history really haven't changed in many many years but the way in which we use the Web and the size of the Web itself has changed dramatically in that same time period," Mozilla's vice president for engineering, Mike Schroepfer, told internetnews.com.

"There is definitely a lot of room for innovation on that side of the browser."

Firefox 3.0 will also get a complete overhaul of its graphics capabilities. Mozilla's gfx graphics infrastructure will be replaced with the Cairo 2-D graphics library

"We've also been working in collaboration with another open source project called Cairo which is a graphics subsystem for KDE and a couple of other things," Schroepfer explained.

"We've been integrating that into the browser to really prepare for the expectations that people have for really high performance rich graphical applications with transparency and translucency and taking advantage of the latest graphics hardware."

A side effect of moving away from gfx to Cairo is that Firefox 3 will not support Windows 95, 98 or ME. Only Windows 2000 users and newer will be able to run Firefox 3.0.

While Firefox 2.0 introduces the JavaScript 1.7 engine, Schroepfer noted that it's his hope that some further implementation of the JavaScript engine will show up in Firefox 3.0.

"We're always looking at improving core standards supports, so CSS and rendering," Schroepfer said. "There is lots of exciting work going on under the hood.

Mozilla has even gone so far as to enlist its community of users to help come up with features for Firefox 3.0 and beyond on a heavily traffic Feature Brainstorming page on the Mozilla wiki.

Firefox 3.0 and 4.0 will also mark new departures for Mozilla's core Gecko code base. Both Firefox 1.5.x and Firefox 2.0 are based on the 1.8 Gecko code trunk.

Firefox 3.0 will be based on the new Mozilla Gecko code trunk branch 1.9. Firefox 4 is likely to based on the as yet un-started Mozilla Gecko 2.0 code trunk.

In a recent blog posting Mozilla CTO and creator of the JavaScript language Brendan Eich wrote that the goal for Mozilla 2.0 is to make the codebase smaller, faster and easier to approach and maintain.

Among the changes Eich hopes to have for Gecko 2.0 is a JIT-oriented JavaScript VM (just in time [jit] VM [virtual machine]). The new VM could have the effect of dramatically improving AJAX performance in Firefox.

The Mozilla Gecko 2.0 codebase is also being planned by Eich to be more secure than its predecessors. In his view program security is inherently weak in all browsers implemented in languages such as C and C++.

"Security requires defense at every level of abstraction, from high-level JS [JavaScript] that enforces confidentiality properties, down to buffer manipulations that should be provably memory-safe," Eich wrote.

"I'm intent on moving the Mozilla codebase to a true next level: cleaner, leaner, safer, with better APIs and C++ bindings, and very fast page-load and DOM performance," Eich added.

"While this is easier said than done, it is palpably within our reach for 2008. Let's do it."