Firefox 3.1 "three times faster" than predecessor

New Firefox JavaScript engine could significantly improve performance of web apps

Firefox 3.1 could run web apps almost three times faster than previous version, according to the Mozilla Foundation.

The speed boost is the result of a new feature called TraceMonkey, which promises to dramatically speed up programs written in JavaScript.

JavaScript is used to deliver a number of web-based applications including Gmail. Unfortunately, the poor performance of JavaScript means these applications often struggle to run with the same responsiveness as a desktop application.

This had led to developers moving to alternative platforms such as Flash. However, TraceMonkey adds native code compilation to Mozilla's existing SpiderMonkey JavaScript engine and Mozilla is hoping the performance boost will redress the balance.

"The goal of the TraceMonkey project - which is still in its early stages - is to take JavaScript performance to another level, where instead of competing against other interpreters, we start to compete against native code," says Mike Shaver, Mozilla's vice president of engineering on his blog. "Even with this very, very early version we're already seeing some promising results."

One of these is a significant improvement to online image editing, with company demonstrations showing contrast and brightness adjustments working seven times faster than with Firefox 3.

Trace Monkey is expected to appear in the first beta of Firefox 3.1, with the final version expected by the end of the year.

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