Developers and Firefox fans who like to live on the edge now have a chance to try out the latest pre-release version of Mozilla's Firefox 3.0 browser. Firefox 3.0 beta 1 isn't quite ready for prime time, but it includes a whole host of changes that give a nice preview of what the finished product will be like. It's available for download over on Mozilla.org, and detailed release notes can be viewed here.
First and foremost, Firefox 3.0 beta 1 includes a revamped rendering engine code-named Gecko 1.9, which Mozilla says includes "nearly 2 million lines of code changes, fixing more than 11,000 issues." Gecko 1.9 brings major architectural changes that improve performance, stability, rendering correctness, and code simplicity. Other under-the-hood improvements in the new Firefox include a transactionally secure database system to store user data (i.e. bookmarks, history, cookies, and preferences) as well as the removal of over 300 memory leaks compared to Firefox 2.0.x.
However, the most noticeable changes are in the user interface and new functionality. Firefox 3.0 beta 1 has a tweaked user interface designed to better integrate with Mac OS X, Windows Vista, and Gnome desktops. The browser also includes a plethora of new features like an instant bookmarking system via a star button in the address toolbar, advanced history/bookmark search, bookmark tagging, anti-virus software integration, a new download manager with resumable downloads, a plug-in manager, full-page zooming, tab scrolling, resizable address and search bars, and re-thought tab behavior, just to name a few.
The final version of Firefox 3.0 is scheduled to come out either late this year or early next, according to the Firefox Product Release Roadmap in Mozilla's Firefox wiki. Mozilla says Firefox 2.0 will continue to be supported for six months after Firefox 3.0's release.