New Firefox 3.1 Details Emerge

Mozilla is revealing new details about features in the works and targeted release dates for the upcoming Firefox 3.1. Beta 1, the company says, is on track to launch next week. It’ll include new options such as the long-discussed HTML video tag support as well as some notable changes to the tab bar. Beta 2, though, is where some of the newest options will come into play.

The build, now scheduled for a November release, is definitely set to include the rumored private browsing mode — presumably a reaction to the same feature being touted in Google’s Chrome release last month (and already available in IE8 and Safari).

Also within the realm of privacy, Mozilla’s taking aim at its competitors with a souped-up, schedule-based data clearing service. Beta 2 will have options to let you select specific time and data ranges for deleting browsing history and the likes. Any questions of whether the move is competition-driven are put to rest by these developer notes:

“The above will clear ALL data that you selected. It would be nice if you could
define a time period of what to clear.

Google Chrome offers a ‘Clear data from this period’ dropdown where you can
select a time period of what to delete.

Default option could be ‘Everything’ with other time frame options such as
‘this session only,’ ‘last day’ etc.”

Other features discussed include an expanded address bar — now being referred to, at least internally, as the “AwesomeBar.” Some of the specifics being planned for it are (more) added privacy options and tab search options. Mozilla’s also working on adding the ability to drag-and-drop tabs in and out of windows (a la Chrome). Enhancements to the TraceMonkey JavaScript engine — which engineers have sworn will outperform Chrome’s V8 engine — are also expected in Beta 2.

Then there are some “maybes” that may or may not make the second beta. One is a “Speed Dial,” reminiscent of the option in Opera and now Chrome, that creates a custom thumbnail-driven home page based on your favorite or most frequently visited sites. Developers are looking at a couple of add-ons — one actually called Speed Dial, and another named Fast Dials — for models of what they may eventually integrate. Another interesting possibility is a “site specific functionality” menu that would give you drop-down options based on where you’re surfing — things such as forgetting passwords, showing cookies, or even zooming into the page.

So, the latest status and timeline for all things Firefox 3.1, as of now:

  • Beta 1: Released next week
  • Beta 2: Locked down November 4; released shortly thereafter
  • Full release: Late 2008 or early 2009

In the meantime, Mozilla’s Mobile browser — codenamed Fennec — is expected to hit alpha mode within weeks. More about its development here.