An alpha version of Firefox 1.1 is due out within days, bringing more Web standards support, extensions improvements and a reporting tool for broken sites. Coming later: tougher pop-up blocking and easier updates.
The Mozilla Foundation is preparing to release the first alpha version of its next Firefox Web browser within the next few days.
The release, called Deer Park Alpha 1, is targeted to Firefoxs base of testers and will include developer-focused features such as support for additional Web standards, extensions improvements and a way to report incompatible Web pages, Mozilla officials said.
Deer Park also serves as a sneak peek into Mozillas plans for the full Firefox upgrade, due for a broad public beta later this summer. Firefox 1.1 is slated to give users additional pop-up blocking tools and a more visible process for installing Firefox updates, including security fixes, said Asa Dotzler, Mozillas release coordinator.
"The changes are geared toward the developer community," he said of the alpha. "Theres not a lot of things that you will see in front of the end user. A lot of the improvements are behind the scenes."
Dotzler expects the Firefox 1.1 alpha release to be available after the Memorial Day weekend, though he said there was a slight chance it could come out as early as Thursday since the code is complete.
The alpha release is built on the newest version of Mozillas Gecko rendering engine, Dotzler said. That will provide a performance boost to Firefox as well as add support for such standards as CSS3 (Cascading Style Sheets Level 3) and SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics), Dotzler said.
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For SVG, which is a next-generation method of rendering graphics on the Web, Firefox 1.1 is supporting a subset of the SVG Full 1.1 specification.
One of Firefoxs selling points is that its community of developers created add-ons for it. Those so-called extensions have grown from about 100 when Firefox 1.0 was launched in November to about 650 today, Dotzler said.
In the alpha of Firefox 1.1, Mozilla is expanding the options for extension developers. It will include additional APIs for managing user style sheets and overriding browser proxy configurations and support extensions using translucent windows in their interface, Dotzler said.
One extension being included by default in the Firefox alpha is called Reporter. It lets testers report to Mozilla Web pages that dont render correctly in Firefox.
From those reports, Mozilla will determine whether code tweaks are needed to improve Firefoxs compatibility or whether the Mountan View, Calif.-based foundation should reach out to the site about following Web standards to render in Firefox, Dotzler said.
"We want our 1.1 users to never encounter sites that are broken," he said. "If we find in our alphas and beta releases that theres enough data and we make big headway, then we may not need to ship [Reporter] in the final release."
One end-user feature testers will notice in Deer Park is the more prominent placement of the option for clearing all privacy settings, such as Web history and cookies, Dotzler said.
But Mozilla is planning to include most of the significant features for end users in a Firefox 1.1 beta.
For that release, Mozilla is working to counter pop-up ads that can appear for Firefox users. Though Firefox 1.0 blocks pop-up ads, the developers of the pop-ups have begun using Firefox plug-ins such as Macromedia Flash to initiate the ads, Dotzler said.
Mozilla has an extension that aggressively blocks all pop-ups generated from plug-ins, but it is testing approaches that still allow legitimate pop-ups from plug-ins.
"Were going to take our time and do it right, but we expect a comprehensive solution with Firefox 1.1," Dotzler said.
Mozilla also has faced some criticism over the way Firefox handles software updates, particularly when the foundation issues updates to fix critical security issues.
For example, while Firefox 1.0 has a software update feature, it lacks the ability to patch portions of the browser rather than reinstalling the full browser.
With Firefox 1.1, Mozilla plans to fix that and also make the software update notifications more visible to users, Dotzler said.
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As an online reporter for eWEEK.com, Matt Hicks covers the fast-changing developments in Internet technologies. His coverage includes the growing field of Web conferencing software and services. With eight years as a business and technology journalist, Matt has gained insight into the market strategies of IT vendors as well as the needs of enterprise IT managers. He joined Ziff Davis in 1999 as a staff writer for the former Strategies section of eWEEK, where he wrote in-depth features about corporate strategies for e-business and enterprise software. In 2002, he moved to the News department at the magazine as a senior writer specializing in coverage of database software and enterprise networking. Later that year Matt started a yearlong fellowship in Washington, DC, after being awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship for Journalist. As a fellow, he spent nine months working on policy issues, including technology policy, in for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He rejoined Ziff Davis in August 2003 as a reporter dedicated to online coverage for eWEEK.com. Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.