Mozilla Starts Work On Firefox 3.0

Users want more enterprise control in the next version of Mozilla's browser
With Firefox 2.0 out the door last week, Mozilla is turning its attention to version 3.0, with a goal to deliver the new browser about this time next year.

Among the features Mozilla wants for Firefox 3.0 is Places, the revamped bookmark tool that was dropped from 2.0 development in April. "We definitely didn't want to add [Places] until it was ready for prime time," says Mike Schroepfer, Mozilla's director of engineering.

Places will store both bookmarks and browsing history in a database that users will be able to search for sites they want to revisit. "Bookmarks and [browsing] history haven't changed in years," Schroepfer says.

Firefox bookmarks will go searchable when 3.0 arrives

(click image for larger view)

Firefox bookmarks will go searchable when 3.0 arrives
Mozilla has begun work on a rendering engine to debut in Firefox 3.0--it will swap out the aging Gfx graphics infrastructure for something called Cairo 2D--and next year's browser will use the Gecko 1.9 code base. Both Firefox 2.0 and 2005's Firefox 1.5 relied on Gecko 1.8 code. Mozilla is switching to the Cairo 2D graphics library to add hardware-accelerated two-dimensional graphics capabilities.

A side effect of moving to Cairo in Firefox 3.0 will be dropping support for Windows 95, 98, and Millennium. The shift away from the older operating systems, announced in June, was widely criticized by users.

Mozilla recently asked developers and users to brainstorm new features for Firefox 3.0 and later editions, then posted a large document containing the ideas. "We try to figure out what people are doing with the Web," says Mike Beltzner, the company's user interface designer. "This is a seed list of what's possible." Included in the wish list are requests for more enterprise IT-management control, a "remind- me-later" feature for the browser's updates, and JavaScript restrictions.

Also a possibility are lowered rights for Firefox when it runs on Windows XP, Mac OS X, and Linux, Schroepfer says. Low rights mean that user privileges are limited, which helps protect systems against malicious code. Microsoft recently invited Mozilla engineers, including Schroepfer, to its headquarters to work with the Windows Vista team. One of the things Mozilla came away with was the idea to implement some of Vista's low-rights features in Firefox on other operating systems. "We may try it out on Mac and Linux, too," Schroepfer says. "But it's too early to really comment on."

Mozilla's shooting for the end of next year as a delivery date for Firefox 3.0. "About every year is about the right cycle for a major upgrade," Schroepfer says. "Anything less just doesn't give us enough time."

That schedule would jibe with what Mozilla's done the last two years; it released Firefox 1.5 in November 2005.