I'm at a Mozilla "open house" sitting around a table with about 10 other bloggers. Lots of history is being discussed here; the 10th anniversary of Mozilla will be celebrated on Monday (Firefox 1 came out two years after Mozilla started). Check back on this post for practical tidbits from this meeting.
Mike Schroepfer, VP of engineering: Next beta of Firefox 3 will be beta 5. It comes out next week. Will be the last beta before release candidate 1, which is due for May. Firefox 3 should ship for real in June (or before, if possible).
Feature of Firefox 3: Will look like a native app on each platform: Windows, Mac, Linux. Less of the "Firefox look," more native. Of couse, will support skins so you can pick your favorite look. Most everything is in the same place, but the back button is about twice as big.
The "awesome bar:" This is what they call the new address entry field. It has very useful autofill and search, since "people are moving to search as a modality" of how they use the browser. It combines search with your history, and it's adaptive, based on what you historically click on. Tries to divine what you want even if the search term is ambiguous.
New history/bookmark technology: Stored in a local relational database, replacing the old-school tech from previous version. New tech is more reliable and higher performance. What it means to users: more browser history is stored by default (instead of just 14 days), and will be instantly accessible and searchable.
"Better, faster, safer" is a focus. Firefox 3 will scan for malware (Firefox 2 already checks for phishing). Actively checks sites. Updates internal pattern database every 30 minutes. Compare to IE, which uploads site URLs to Microsoft to check. Mozilla says its version offers more privacy, but at Mozilla's expense to push the pattern database over the Net. In early beta, this technology found that the site supporting a popular extension (Firebug) had been compromised.
Address bar also checks for phishing exploits, lets users pull info from certification authorities.
New password manager: doesn't pop up and interrupt, but does give you the opportunity to save the password after you see if you've successfully logged in. Won't sync passwords across systems yet, but a new Mozilla project, Weave, will make this possible in the future.
Performance/memory improvements: Hundreds of fixes, reflected in benchmarks. Maybe three times faster than Firefox 2. Testing on Gmail: it's two to four times faster than Firefox 2. Much faster on SSL sites (like banking), too.
Regarding the complaint, "You're eating all the RAM in my machine:" They say they've made it better, "better than anything out there." Firefox 3 uses less memory than other browsers, and more importantly, releases that memory when tabs close. Also, during an extended browser session test, Firefox 3 is much better behaved and doesn't chew up memory and slow down. Schroepfer says IE 8 can't pass the test they've written, and neither can Safari 3.1. They both crash.
That's it for the demo.
Regarding Microsoft: The company's stated support for open standards (like CSS 2.1) is "a huge win for the Web." But "I wouldn't call it 'vigorously embrace,'" Schroepfer says. Still lots of old standards not used.
On offline access: Firefox will support HTML 5, which has a spec for offline access. This will make Google Gears obsolete.
Question from my Twitter followers: What about Firefox on the iPhone? Response: "Apple has not written a license that allows it to happen. We've got other places we're paying attention to, but that's not one of them." We note that Schroepfer, as well as Mozilla CEO John Lilly, both have iPhones sitting on the table in front of them. Still, they say, both iPhone and Android are closed platforms. What they are interested in is a truly open platform, they maintain. "That's coming," they say. Look at the Nokia N810.
After the roundtable discussion, I had a good talk with Chris Beard, Mozilla's director of labs. A post on that is forthcoming.
For another CNET perspective on this meeting, see a post from News.com's Charles Cooper: With Firefox 3, Microsoft has reason to worry.
Update: Meeting swag.