New Firefox 3.1 beta released: final to be Firefox 3.5

The availability of the third beta release of Firefox 3.1 has been announced by Mozilla. The beta fixes many bugs and brings the browser just a little closer to its final release. This release comes only a week prior to the final release of Microsoft’s IE8.

Late last year Firefox 3.1 was planned to be an incremental update release but the Mozilla Foundation has now moved the version number from 3.1 to 3.5 in recognition of the significant feature set improvement. Firefox “3.5” delivers a plethora of notable improvements which are now included in the code base currently being used for the 3.1 beta builds.

The 3.1 release will usher in many very impressive changes among which include performance enhancers for both developers and users. The features were demonstrated during the Southern California Linux Expo by Chris Blizzard.

Among the changes users will note that version 3.1 delivers much richer multimedia and  support for the new HTML5 canvas element. Paul Rouget of Mozilla demonstrated how JavaScript can be utilized to detect motion in HTML 5. Audio and video playback in Firefox 3.5 will be made possible via built-in Ogg codecs – Ogg Vorbis (audio) and Ogg Theora (video). A new CSS3 feature will allow the viewing of shadows and border images.

Version 3.1 also includes TraceMonkey Firefox’s new high-performance JavaScript runtime which boosts script execution speeds significantly which should see across the board speed increases in interactive sites (which are the majority of websites these days). Not only does it boast quicker performance but it also has increased support for background processing with its new worker threads feature. Users will notice increased performance of dynamic web applications via Native JSON parsing support.

Another interesting feature is Firefox 3.1’s Private Browsing Mode which is very similar to the InPrivate mode developed by Internet Explorer. This feature aims at removing any trace that someone has been browsing – and now has features that let you delete just the “last hour” of browsing for example to make it even less obvious to a snooping boss or partner that you’ve cleared your history. This mode has been called “porn mode” by reviewers journalists and bloggers. During these browsing sessions all of the records of pages that are visited passwords form entries downloads cache files and cookies are deleted following these private browsing sessions. Unfortunately unlike IE8 users are not protected from having third-party sites track your activities.

Firefox 3.1 beta 3 can be downloaded in 64 languages for Windows Linux and Macintosh operating systems from the Mozilla website. Though it is not ready to be adopted on a mainstream level it is at a point where use by developers and testers will be a breeze. Of course one should expect an occasional hiccup. Only one more beta version is scheduled prior to the release though the date has not been announced. The final release should be available this summer.