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Firefox 3.1 beta arrives with JavaScript booster turned off

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Mozilla pushed out the first beta of Firefox 3.1 on Tuesday night but the release omits some much anticipated improved JavaScript functionality.

The preview edition of the open source web browser is intended to allow developers to run a slide rule over the software as well as giving the public at large a chance to take the software for a spin.

Major enhancements over version 3.0.x of the browser include a revamp of the Gecko layout engine, improved support for the latest developments in style sheet standards (ie CSS 2.1 and CSS 3 properties), a tab-switching shortcut and support for a range of new web technologies.

And, as previously reported, the next version of the browser includes a privacy (AKA prOn) surfing mode.

The "Web 3.1" features supported include Geolocation API, <video> and <audio> elements, and offline applications. The Geolocation API offers similar functionality to the recently release Geode add-on for Firefox 3.0.

One promised feature missing from the release is the TraceMonkey JavaScript engine, which promised to improve JavaScript speed by a factor of 40. Mozilla developers have been working on the "rocket-charger" since summer but it's been turned off in the first beta of Firefox 3.1.

Mozilla recently decided to release further preview editions of the browser so the technology might yet get the green light. A second beta is expected in late November ahead of the delayed release of the browser, expected sometime around the turn of the year. The appearance or not of the TraceMonkey JavaScript has become much more important since the release of Google Chrome, whose nippy handling of JavaScript apps has impressed.

Firefox 3.1 beta 1 is available for Linux, Mac and Windows machines and in 36 different languages. As with the beta release of any major browser software package the preview edition of Firefox 3.1 gives webmasters a chance to see how their site is rendered using the software and a chance to provide feedback or tweak their site.

More information on the release from Mozilla, including links to downloads, can be found here. ®

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