"If you're doing something like image processing, we can demonstrate six to seven times speed-ups and we can probably double those," Eich said in a phone interview. "If you're doing a tight [programming] loop that's just manipulating bits, you can go 20 to 40 times faster."
TraceMonkey was built with the help of UC Irvine research scientist Andreas Gal, using a technique called "trace trees."
Mike Schroepfer, VP of engineering at Mozilla (soon to leave for Facebook), has posted a screencast demo that shows how TraceMonkey makes image editing done through Firefox competitive with dedicated image editing applications, at least in terms of the responsiveness of the user interface.
Mozilla's support for the canvas graphic-rendering element in the HTML 5 specification and the Ogg video format also reflects this goal.
If Mozilla is successful in its efforts, the rationale for developing rich Internet applications will become increasingly questionable. As Eich sees it, RIAs are already at risk. "Those platforms that are not a browser are an increasingly thin value-add to what the browser can do," he said.
Eich said that when Google launched Google Maps and found that it was done without plug-ins, they were stunned. He expects that ongoing browser performance improvements will usher in similarly surprising applications.
Firefox 3.1 should be ready before the end of the year, Eich said.