Today Mozilla released the third beta for the next major Firefox update, version 3.1. Firefox 3.1, which will likely be re-numbered to Firefox 3.5, will have one more beta before the final release this summer.

The most significant upgrade coming in Firefox 3.1 is the new Javascript engine, TraceMonkey, which is enabled by default in Beta 3. I tested its performance with the SunSpider Javascript benchmark. Firefox 3.1 performed 1.6 times faster than Firefox 3:

Firefox 3.1 Beta 3 1914.6ms +/- 6.2%
Firefox 3 3082.8ms +/- 0.2%

The new private browsing mode is available from Tools->Start Private Browsing. When you enter this mode all of your tabs are saved and closed, and no history is recorded until you leave the private mode. After leaving private browsing mode Firefox returns to the state it was in before. There isn’t any visual indication when private browsing is active, which could be a good thing, but it could also make it easy to forgot that it’s turned on.

Another new privacy feature is Clear Recent History. From this dialog you can choose a time interval, and what exactly you want to be cleared.

Clear Recent History dialog

Tabs can now be dragged and dropped between Firefox windows. You can drag a tab from the tab bar in one window to another tab bar to move it. Dragging a tab out of the tab bar and onto a page opens a new window for that tab.

The new HTML media elements allow video and audio to be played in Firefox without additional plugins. Simple playback works great for me, but seeking to a position in a video takes a long time or doesn’t work at all. TinyVid is an experimental streaming video site where you can try out this feature.

HTML video element

You can test drive Firefox 3.1 Beta 3 without disturbing your existing stable version of Firefox.

If you’re already using Ubuntu 9.04, you can install Firefox 3.1 Beta 3 from the Ubuntu repositories. The Universe repository will need to be enabled in order to install this package. Install Firefox 3.1 Beta 3 from the package firefox-3.1 (click the link to install), or by running the command below in your terminal:
sudo apt-get install firefox-3.1

This Firefox package is unbranded, it’s referred to by the codename for 3.1, Shiretoko.

Ubuntu 8.10 users can download Firefox 3.1 Beta 3 from Mozilla:

  1. If you’re already a Firefox user, you should backup your Firefox profile before you use it with Firefox 3.1. First, clear Firefox’s disk cache to make this backup smaller; select Edit->Preferences->Advanced->Network and click Clear Now. Run the command below to backup your profile (located in ~/.mozilla/firefox/) to the folder firefox_profile_backup in your home folder:
    cp -r ~/.mozilla/firefox/ ~/firefox_profile_backup
  2. The command below will download and extract Firefox 3 Beta 3 to a folder named firefox in your home folder:
    wget -O - http://releases.mozilla.org/pub/mozilla.org/firefox/releases/3.1b3/linux-i686/en-US/firefox-3.1b3.tar.bz2 | tar xj -C ~
  3. Run the command below to start Firefox 3 Beta 3. Be sure to first close any other instances of Firefox.
    ~/firefox/firefox

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