After a grueling Alpha development period that included no fewer than nine
milestone releases, the first beta of Firefox 3 is now available for
According to Mozilla developers, the Firefox 3 Beta 1 milestone fixes over
11,000 bugs and has almost 2 million lines of code changes in comparison
with the current Firefox 2.x browser.
Beyond just bug fixes, Firefox 3 Beta 1 includes a long list of browsing,
security, usability and performance improvements over the 2.x version of
While Firefox 2.x includes the Google-developed Safe Browsing
extension, Firefox 3 Beta 1 provides even greater protection with a one-click info button. All a user needs to do is click on the “favicon” (a 16×16
icon in the browser navigation bar that accompanies URLs) to get information
on the identity and ownership of a site.
Plug-in security also gets some attention in Beta 1 with an improved mechanism to perform secure plug-in updates. The new version will also automatically disable older insecure versions of plug-ins, providing further protection for users. The plug-in security first appeared in Alpha 8 and
is further improved in the Beta.
Firefox will now also work with Microsoft Windows Vista parental controls, so
the browser will integrate with any system-wide policies a user may
already have in place.
On the usability front, Beta 1 will enable users to resume a download after
the browser is restarted. Developers have also improved tab functionality
in this release with a new tab-scrolling feature and the ability to save
tabs when closing the browser.
The Beta 1 release also marks the functional debut of a feature that was
originally intended to be Firefox 2.x but didn’t make it to the final
release. Firefox 3 includes the Places bookmarking engine, which is a ground-up rewrite of Firefox’s history and bookmarking tools.
A user can add bookmarks with one click and tag them using Places, which appeared in the Alpha 5 release in June. Both bookmarks and history are also searchable. A new feature called the Smart Places Folder helps users to further organize and control bookmarks by organizing bookmarks by visit frequency, as well as chronological order.
A key focus for Mozilla developers during the development of Firefox 3 has
been to improve the speed of the browser. Mozilla claims that it has
put the foundation in place for performance tuning, resulting in speed increases in the beta.
The release notes also claim that the beta plugs more than 300 individual memory leaks. There is a new tool built right
into Firefox 3 that is expected to further reduce memory leakage, as well.
Called the XPCOM (Cross Platform Component Object Model) cycle collector,
the tool identifies objects that aren’t being used and releases them from
Mozilla developers have been at work on Firefox 3.0, code-named Gran
Paradiso, since at least the release of Firefox 2.0 in October last year.
During that time, developers have cycled nine alpha milestones many of which introduced new functional items into Firefox 3 development tree. Alpha 2, which
appeared in February, was the first to include the Cairo 2-D graphics
library, which improves performance over Firefox 2.0’s gfx graphics
The Alpha 4 milestone included the FUEL (Firefox User Extension Library)
library designed to help developers build extensions using terminology and
interfaces that are familiar to them.
In addition to Places, the Alpha 5 was the first to include the Breakpad
crash-reporting system. Breakpad, formerly known as Airbag, is based on
technology originally developed by Google.
The Alpha 6 release was particularly noteworthy as it integrated into Firefox 3
Cross Site Scripting (XSS) attack protections. The XSS protection come by
way of a specification that is intended to secure XML over HTTP requests
(often referred to as XHR), which are often the culprit when it comes to XSS
The release of Firefox 3 Beta 1 is several months behind the original
schedule, which at one point had the final version set for release this year. Firefox 3 is now expected to hit general availability in