Mozilla says Firefox 3 ready for prime-time

BOSTON Thu Mar 20, 2008 3:36pm EDT

An undated handout image of Mozilla's current Firefox browser. A new version of Mozilla's popular Firefox Web browser is ready for download with improved security and memory use as the tiny company takes a stab at Microsoft Corp's dominant Internet Explorer. REUTERS/Mozilla/Handout

An undated handout image of Mozilla's current Firefox browser. A new version of Mozilla's popular Firefox Web browser is ready for download with improved security and memory use as the tiny company takes a stab at Microsoft Corp's dominant Internet Explorer.

Credit: Reuters/Mozilla/Handout

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BOSTON (Reuters) - A new version of Mozilla's popular Firefox Web browser is ready for download with improved security and memory use as the tiny company takes a stab at Microsoft Corp's dominant Internet Explorer.

The program's creators told Reuters on Thursday that the privately-held company's trial version of Firefox 3 browser is ready for the masses to use after months of development.

Until now, the company has discouraged average Internet users from moving on from Firefox 2, which was launched in October 2006.

"In many ways it (Firefox 3) is much more stable than anything else out there," Mozilla Corp Vice President of Engineering Mike Schroepfer said in an interview.

Key rivals to Firefox are market leader Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Apple Inc's Safari browser.

Engineers at Mozilla are still putting the finishing touches on the software and hope to release the final version of Firefox 3 by the end of June, Schroepfer said.

Mozilla is in a battle with Microsoft, which unveiled an experimental version of its Internet Explorer 8 in Las Vegas earlier this month and is looking to expand its presence on the Web through its bid to acquire Yahoo Inc.

Additions boost security and allow users to run Web sites when they are not connected to the Internet. Mozilla also says Firefox 3 uses less computer memory than Firefox 2.

Until now Mozilla has discouraged the typical computer user from exploring these new features. But its developers said on Thursday that the situation has changed and that they will be revising their Web site.

As of Thursday afternoon, the Web site still stated: "We do not recommend that anyone other than developers and testers download the Firefox 3 beta 4 milestone release. It is intended for testing purposes only."

But they said that as they concluded their fourth round of tweaking their software, they determined it was ready for prime time.

A fifth round of changes, due to begin within the next few weeks, will involve "tuning the visual look and feel of the program" and further improving its stability," Schroepfer said.

(Reporting by Jim Finkle; Editing by Brian Moss)

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