Firefox 3 gets a first run

Coders and testers can now download Gran Paradiso Alpha 1 from Mozilla

Mozilla has given software developers a first taste of the next version of its browser, Firefox 3.

Although Firefox 2 was only released this autumn,  Mozilla is keen for web application developers and its own testing community to get their hands on the alpha version of Firefox 3. It has named the release Gran Paradiso Alpha 1.

Firefox 3 will include some significant changes. It uses version 1.9 of the Gecko rendering engine — which itself hasn't been released yet, but which includes the Cairo graphics engine. Gecko 1.9 has been in development since before the release of Firefox 2, and provides vector-based rendering on all platforms.

As this Gecko 1.9 roadmap explains, Cairo will "bring modern, hardware-accelerated 2D graphics capabilities to the whole of the web, without requiring proprietary plugins or rendering obsolete the broad and rich set of web-authoring techniques developed over the past decade".

Although Gran Paradiso uses the latest version of Gecko, the user interface is unchanged from Firefox 2 at this stage. More details are available on ZDNet UK's Reviews Channel.

The move to Gecko 1.9 also means that Firefox 3 will not work on Windows 95, 98 or ME, or OS X 10.2.

Other new features include an updated threading model. Later in the development cycle there may be changes to the user interface, and browsing, bookmarking and privacy enhancements. According to reports, Mozilla believes the full version of Firefox 3 could be released before the end of 2007.

Gran Paradiso Alpha 1 works on Windows, Mac and Linux. Mozilla has warned that it should only be used by software developers and testers at this stage.