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Mozilla is calling on developers to help it ensure that the next version of the open source web browser is solid. And it has released an alpha version of Firefox 3 for developers to play with.

The superstructure of Firefox 3 alpha is built around Gecko 1.9, an updated layout engine. The browser, tentatively scheduled for delivery in May 2007, is also due to include features held back from Firefox 2, such as the revamped Places system for storing bookmarks and a re-jigged history function.

Release of the code for Firefox 3 (nicknamed Gran Paradiso after a mountain region of Italy) comes just six weeks after the release of Firefox version 2.0. The software is orientated towards making web applications behave in the same way as programs installed on user's desktops. Core layout and rendering changes include use of Cairo as the default graphics library, use of Cocoa Widgets for MAC OS X version and the inclusion of Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) languages.

There are no significant user interface changes to the browser as yet. These will come later after developers sort out what ought to go under the browser's bonnet, the current focus of their development efforts. The release is designed for testing purposes only, and is intended for web application developers and Mozilla's testing community. More information on the early browser build is available from Mozilla's release notes here. ®

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