Firefox Update Expected in Early June

firefox
Artwork: Chip Taylor
After months of problems that delayed the last two betas of Firefox 3.5, Mozilla Corp. is now on track to deliver the first release candidate early next month.

If Firefox 3.5 Release Candidate (RC) is declared suitable for final release, Mozilla may still make its self-set deadline -- before the end of the first half of the year.

Mike Beltzner, the director of Firefox, was optimistic in a note published on the site last Thursday. "We're setting an aggressive code freeze target of next Wednesday, May 20 for Firefox 3.5 RC," he wrote.

"Code freeze" is a term Mozilla uses to describe a development stage when it blocks changes in anticipation of handing off the build to internal testers.

"We'll check back against schedule on Tuesday [May 19], but (it) looks like the finish line is very much in sight!" said Beltzner. Assuming Firefox 3.5 RC's code is frozen on Wednesday, Beltzner said that the preview would ship the "first week of June."

Three weeks ago, Mozilla released the fourth, and final, beta of the browser. At the time, the company was still citing a final release before the end of June.

Last year, when Mozilla was making its final push on Firefox 3.0, it used a pair of release candidates, the last of which was issued June 4. It launched the final version two weeks later, on June 17.

If Mozilla sticks to just a single release candidate for Firefox 3.5, it could still ship the completed browser next month. As of Sunday, Mozilla's bug-tracking database showed that developers have 54 "blocking bugs" -- problems that would stymie the final release -- to address.

It's possible, however, that Mozilla will need multiple release candidates to shake out all of Firefox 3.5's bugs, a fact the company acknowledged earlier this month. "While we will aim to make RC1 perfect, previous Firefox releases have needed up to 3 RCs before we're ship-ready," said Mozilla in notes posted on its site from a May 5 meeting.

Firefox 3.5, which at one point early in development was planned to ship in late 2008 or early 2009, has been delayed several times as Mozilla added more test builds to deal with troublesome bugs, and to integrate TraceMonkey, a new JavaScript engine, as well as other new features.

According to U.S.-based Web measurement company Net Applications, Firefox owned 22.5% of the browser market last month.

For its part, Mozilla said last week that Firefox 3.5 Beta 4 is being used by about 650,000 users, a statistic it tracks as Active Daily Users (ADU) and obtains by counting the number of update requests the browser makes each day to the company's servers.

The current test version, Firefox 3.5 Beta 4, can be downloaded for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux in 63 different languages from Mozilla's site.

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