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Firefox 4 beta due 'within days'

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Velocity Mozilla vice president of products Jay Sullivan says that unlike Google, the open source outfit has no intention of bundling Firefox with Adobe Flash —– or with a plug-in that runs native code inside the browser. Mozilla, Sullivan says, believes that the future of online applications lies with web standards, including HTML5.

Google likes to say the same thing. But then it rolls Flash into its Chrome browser and brews a Chrome-based "operating system" that embraces a native code plug-in. Asked if Mozilla intends to go native or bundle Flash, Sullivan is unequivocal.

"Our idea of the web where you can use these technologies that are scriptable, that interact with the rest of the page, that can be mashed up and linked into and linked out of," Sullivan told The Reg today at Velocity, a Santa Clara, California conference dedicated to net infrastructure. "These native apps are just little black boxes in a webpage. That's not something we're pursuing. We really believe in HTML, and this is where we want to focus."

Mozilla isn't abandoning the plug-in. Just this week, the company introduced a new version of Firefox — 3.6.4 — that attempts to minimize crashes by running plug-ins in processes separate from the browser proper. "We're trying to balance the reality of the web today," Sullivan told us. "Flash is there. Our users are going to use it, and it's going to crash. We want to protect them from that. But over time, we really believe that HTML5 is the future."

He wasn't prepared to comment on whether Mozilla is on-board with Google's revamped plug-in model, NPAPI Pepper. But Google says that Mozilla is. Currently, Pepper — an overhaul of the existing Netscape Plug-in Application Programming Interface (NPAPI) — is used with Google's native code plug-in, Native Client, as well as the Flash and PDF reader plug-ins that integrate with the Chrome developer build. Like Native Client, the Flash and PDF plug-in will eventually arrive in Chrome proper.

Mozilla's next-generation desktop browser, Firefox 4, will get its first beta release "within days," according to Sullivan. Version 4 will offer a revamped UI, a central permissions manager, and a new add-on manager. It'll debut JaegerMonkey, an extension to Mozilla's JavaScript engine that operates alongside TraceMonkey, working to speed the interpretation of code that's unsuited to "tracing". And it'll benefit from Jetpack, the new add-on development platform designed to ease the creation of add-ons and to improve compatibility with the browser.

As with Firefox 3.6, Mozilla will roll out Firefox 4 betas every few weeks before its official launch, slated for November. "We want to beta stuff pre–Big Bang process."

So, Mozilla will roll additional tools into the beta as they're ready for testing. At some point, we may see the Chrome-like ability to automatically load updates in the background. But don't expect built-in Flash. ®

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