Google to release Firefox toolbar

An e-mail sent to open-source developers reveals the search giant plans to launch a version of its toolbar for the browser.

Google is poised to release a version of its toolbar for the Firefox browser, according to information sent to developers of an open-source toolbar alternative.

Although Google's toolbar--which provides users with easy access to advanced functionality such as spellchecking and translation--has been available for Internet Explorer for more than four years, this is the first version to appear for users of the Firefox browser , developed by the Mozilla Foundation. Users of open-source alternatives have, until now, used the GoogleBar--an independent project which emulates most of the Google toolbar features.

However, an e-mail to GoogleBar developers--sent under the name of Google engineer Fritz Schneider and dated July 1--refers to the proposed Firefox toolbar.

"I thought I'd drop you a note to give a heads up on something Google will be releasing next week: a version of our Internet Explorer toolbar for Firefox," the e-mail reads.

The e-mail stated that July 7 is the likely release date for the toolbar, and asks the developers to hold off commenting to the press until the company sends out its own statement the day before.

More specific details are also provided; the e-mail said the software will work on Microsoft's Windows 2000 and XP platforms , Mac OS X 10.2 and "Linux 8.0+". The latter is likely to encompass the more recent releases of popular Linux distributions like SuSE, Red Hat and Mandrake, several of which are at release versions eight or above.

"It has pretty much the same features as the latest IE toolbar except of course for things like the pop-up blocker," the e-mail said. Pop-up blocking is a built-in feature of Firefox.

"We really appreciate the work you folks did to fill this gap in our products for so long," the e-mail said, adding that a current link to the GoogleBar project on Google's toolbar Web site will be maintained, "so users can make the choice of which toolbar they'd like to install."

A representative for Google was not immediately available to comment on the e-mail. The company's competitor Yahoo released a Firefox version of its own toolbar in February.

Renai LeMay of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.

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