Firefox 3.1 Facing Late Arrival; Will It Ship With TraceMonkey?

by Ostatic Staff - Feb. 24, 2009

Digital Arts Online has a thorough break down of some of the snags the Firefox development team has encountered as it continues work on the browser's 3.1 release. TraceMonkey, the JavaScript engine that's responsible for the browser's performance boost, seems to be what's holding its actual release back.

According to the forum posts the article points to, both Firefox developers and those focusing specifically on TraceMonkey agree that a decision has to be made -- but whether it's better to release Firefox 3.1 without TraceMonkey, release Firefox with TraceMonkey disabled by default, or give the developers a set amount of time before making the decision at all -- might be a sticking point.

Mozilla's vice president of engineering, Mike Shaver, says that pulling TraceMonkey from Firefox 3.1 is unlikely, and that in the grand scheme of things, it's better to release the browser working well, no matter how long it takes. I agree with this line of thought to some extent -- an application that isn't usable shouldn't be rushed to market simply to reach a deadline. But the browser market is a little different -- with competition from Chrome, and Internet Explorer 8's release coming up quickly -- would Mozilla do better to finish up and release what is already a fairly solid product, and continue to work on TraceMonkey until it's ready for integration?

It's a tough call, because at the very least, it means Mozilla has to re-imagine what it ideally wanted the 3.1 release to be -- and determine what it's willing to put on hold until a later release. That is, without a doubt, disappointing for all the development teams involved. Waiting until Mozilla's vision of 3.1 is realized perfectly, however, is potentially dangerous.

Shaver emphasizes that the developer discussions aren't a "revolt" -- I believe this wholeheartedly. It seems a good sign -- that the developers (and management) are passionate, enthusiastic, and willing to discuss (maybe heatedly, at times) the software they are working on.

Mozilla says that it's likely now that Firefox 3.1 will ship in the second quarter of this year, and will probably see another beta version or two before it is ready for the release candidate designation.