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Firefox 3 and Google team up for offline apps

By Barry Collins

Posted on 25 Jun 2007 at 14:43

Mozilla and Google are collaborating on an effort to make web applications work offline.

Firefox 3 will be the first internet browser to offer offline web application support when it launches at the end of this year.

Mozilla is working with open-source messaging provider Zimbra, for example, to offer offline features for its email service - such as saving emails typed offline to a "drafts" folder, ready to be sent when the user next connects.

The Firefox effort is very similar to Google Gears, the search giant's recently launched browser plug-in that allows web applications to be used offline. And while the two companies are developing the technology separately, they plan to join forces. "We're working on trying to standardise the API set," says Mike Schroepfer, vice president of engineering at the Mozilla Corporation.

Firefox 3 plans

Offline applications is just one of the new features that will arrive in the new browser, which Schroepfer claims "is a pretty big release" compared to Firefox 2.

Mozilla has completely redesigned the History and Bookmarks functions, making it easier for third-party extension developers to synchronise bookmarks across different PCs. "It [previously] fell into the realm of rocket science to get that right," Schroepfer admits.

The Firefox developers are also addressing growing criticism that the browser is becoming a memory hog. "We've done a lot of work to profile user scenarios and improve memory performance," Schroepfer claims. "We're really focusing on the big application scenarios and making sure the memory image is reasonable."

However, Schroepfer says the browser's memory requirements have to increase as web applications grow ever-more sophisticated. "It's now a full application platform," he says.

Limited ambition

Despite Firefox's growing popularity, Mozilla insists it doesn't want to dominate the browser market. "We don't want 90% of people in the world to be using Firefox," says Mike Shaver, Mozilla's director of ecosystem development. "We want to provide a compelling user experience and we want Opera, Safari and IE to compete to provide great user experience as well."

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