Mozilla beats schedule, launches Firefox 3 Beta 2 early

Newest build boasts improved security and performance, improved address bar

Mozilla released the second beta of Firefox 3 Tuesday, several days earlier than it had planned.

Last week, Mike Beltzner, Mozilla's interface designer, pegged Firefox 3 Beta 2's tentative release at midafternoon on Friday, Dec. 21. Last night, however, after announcing that the beta was finished and ready to download, Damon Sicore, Mozilla's director of platform engineering, said, "We shipped three days ahead of schedule, only 31 days after Beta 1!"

In a post to the mozilla.dev.planning forum today, Beltzner touted several improvements in Beta 2 over November's predecessor, including better protection against cross-site JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) data leaks, and a new "effective top-level domain" (eTLD) service that puts tighter control on site-specific content such as cookies to stymie privacy hacks and session hijacking.

Also new to Beta 2, said Beltzner, is an enhanced address bar -- Firefox calls it the "location bar" -- that matches page titles and addresses from the browser's history with the user's bookmarks and tags.

The beta also boasts improvements to the browser's performance and stability that developers gleaned from Beta 1 feedback, said Beltzner.

The early release of Beta 2 made moot Mozilla's plans to block access to the server which hosts the browser's "nightly builds," code that is updated daily for use by developers and testers. Last month, before it could officially roll out Beta 1, a posting to Digg.com swamped that server, prompting Mozilla to redirect users to an explanatory page to keep the machine online. Last week, Beltzner said Mozilla was standing by, ready to repeat the redirect if necessary.

As it has in the past, Mozilla continued to warn most users off the newest beta. "Beta releases are geared toward Web developers and Mozilla's testing community in order to gain feedback before advancing to the next stage in the release process," the company said on its Web site.

Mozilla has committed to at least one more beta before it shifts to release candidate code, the final testing stage. The company has not set a definite release date for the final version of Firefox 3, although Mozilla Links, a blog not officially connected with Mozilla Corp., claimed that March or April would be likely, assuming Firefox 3 runs through only three beta builds.

Firefox 3.0 Beta 2 can be downloaded for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux in 29 language versions from Mozilla's site.

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Gregg Keizer

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