The Mozilla folks have just released the first beta of Firefox 3.0 and it’s looking pretty good so far. The new browser will bring with it a host of new features and improvements and the goal of performing as well or better than Firefox 2.0. I’ve not had a chance to download and try it out myself yet, but the folks over at ArsTechnica.com have and they’ve got an initial hands-on report about it:
Firefox 3 delivers an impressive assortment of new features and interface improvements. There are lots of changes under the hood as well, which improve performance and reduce resource consumption. Firefox 3 is built on top of Gecko 1.9, the new version of Firefox’s HTML rendering engine. In Gecko 1.9, much of the underlying rendering code is now performed with Cairo, an open source vector graphics software library that can leverage hardware accelerated rendering. As we have previously reported, the Gecko 1.9 rendering engine can pass the Acid 2 test, a CSS test case developed by the Web Standards Project. Several impressive additions to Firefox 3 were made possible by the Gecko overhaul, including support for full-page zoom.
The inclusion of the Places feature is another major architectural improvement in Firefox 3. The Places system, which was originally planned for Firefox 2, is a cohesive storage framework that leverages a SQLite database rather than flat files and unifies bookmark and history storage. In Firefox 3 beta 1, the Places system is almost completely finished. New user interfaces for bookmark management have also been created to give users access to the new capabilities—like support for bookmark tagging—that are made possible by the Places system. A new star icon adjacent to the URL text box uses the Places system to simplify the process of bookmarking a page. In the URL autocompletion box, stars are shown next to bookmarked pages.
The Places system supports elaborate bookmark search queries, which can be associated with a new kind of smart bookmark. A useful selection of smart bookmarks that use Places queries are included by default in the Places folder in the bookmarks toolbar.
Go read the whole thing for more insight on what’s coming down the pike. It’ll be a while yet before 3.0 is in final form and the beta is sure to have a fair number of bugs and not-quite finished features so if you plan on trying it out you’ll want to keep that in mind. I’ll probably nab it when I get home from work to give it a spin and I’ll post my thoughts on it later.