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Mozilla 2 promises big change

Behind Firefox

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The beta 3 version of Firefox 3, released this week, will probably be the last version of the browser based on the original Mozilla platform, celebrating its tenth anniversary next week. Work is already underway on a revamp of Firefox's underlying platform - Mozilla.

It was on February 23, 1998, that Netscape announced the creation of the Mozilla website as the "focal point for developers interested in modifying and redistributing Netscape client source". It was an historic time for the embryonic open-source movement. Netscape's move happened around the same time that open-source evangelists Bruce Perens and Eric Raymond formalized open-source development with the Open Source Definition.

Although Firefox 3 introduces some changes that will affect many developers given Firefox's growing number of downloads, it should be noted that those promised for Mozilla 2 will also have a far-reaching impact. The Mozilla code has become widely used by a range of hardware manufacturers, from mobile devices to media servers, in addition to regular ISVs, all rolling their own browsers.

While the current Mozilla 1.9 platform for Firefox has evolved incrementally since 1998, Mozilla 2 is likely to be more of a revolution with cleaner application program interfaces (APIs) and possible adoption of a Just In Time (JIT)-oriented JavaScript Virtual Machine with incremental garbage collector to manage DOM object memory, instead of using Cross Platform Component Object Mode (XPCOM) reference counting. Interestingly, the Mozilla 2 definition specifically excludes a mobile version although the architects say "volunteers are welcome to port" to mobile platforms and note that it will be easier with Mozilla 2 than its predecessor.®

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