No more betas for Firefox 3.5: Browser on track for Q2 launch

Chicago (IL) – Beta 4 is the final beta version released for the next-generation Firefox browser, Mozilla told TG Daily. The browser mature enough to be entering the release candidate phase and Mozilla’s Mike Beltzner told us that the browser is well on track to be launched in the second quarter. 900,000 users are already using the new browser in its Beta 1-3 versions.

Beltzner said that Mozilla has completed all “remaining beta issues” in Firefox 3.5 and while there is always a chance that the actual beta testing in the current beta 4 will unveil additional challenges, the next pre-release of Firefox 3.5 will be a release candidate (RC). Mozilla is aiming for a single release candidate, but Beltzner said that every single Firefox release so far always had three release candidates and it is unclear how many RCs version 3.5 will see.

“This release is tougher to nail down,” Mike Beltzner, director of Firefox at Mozilla, told TG Daily, pointing to significance of the update. Originally planned as a small 3.1 release, Mozilla recently decided to rename the browser to version 3.5 due to the browser’s substantial changes. The most important upgrade is the TraceMonkey JavaScript engine, which increases Firefox’ Javascript performance by a factor of 3, Beltzner said. For the remaining pre-releases, Mozilla focuses on Firefox 3.5 web compatibility to make sure the browser “does not break websites.”

If everything goes according to plan, Firefox 3.5 will be released in late Q2.  
Other than it is the case with the beta versions of Safari and Internet Explorer, Mozilla treats Firefox beta software as pure developer software. Apple and Microsoft have used their beta browser more and more as marketing tools, but Mozilla does not plan to hop on the same train – and it may not have a beneficial effect for the organization anyway, Beltzner noted.

While Mozilla releases nightly builds of the browser on a continuous basis, each new beta may not be as interesting to users as those rare betas for Safari and IE. “It is a fundamental difference in the way how our culture works,” Beltzner said. Mozilla believes that its beta software is a crucial tool for developers, while other browser makers are using their beta browsers for marketing purposes. “Internet Explorer has such a long upgrade cycle. And when a beta is released people end up installing that software since they believe it is the latest and greatest.”

Mozilla estimates that 900,000 users are currently using a beta version of Firefox 3.1/3.5. Mozilla hopes that Firefox 3.5 will appeal to developers as the software that will drive the web as an application platform. It is interesting to note that Mozilla is treating the 3.5 release as a major release, which has the same significance as the previous 3.0 release. Beltzner said that Mozilla has accelerated its development effort: While the organization usually took two years to get a new browser to users, the next release was developed in just one year.