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Firefox coders propose fast-graphics deadline

Direct2D support on Windows could be available in a preview release of the open-source browser under a proposed second-quarter goal.

Competition among browser makers is getting fiercer, and Mozilla programmers are pushing a schedule in one hotly contested area, hardware-accelerated graphics.

On Windows, this takes the form of support for Direct2D and DirectWrite, technology to tap into the graphics processing unit (GPU) to process and display graphics and text faster. Direct2D support is one of the highlight features of the upcoming Internet Explorer 9, but Firefox programmers are working on it, too.

And now the Mozilla graphics team have issued themselves a goal, according to a mailing list message: ship a developer preview version of Firefox with Direct2D support that will work on at least some machines by the end of the second quarter.

The feature should improve how fast Firefox responds to user interaction, said programmer Joe Drew in the message.

However, the goal worried Benjamin Smedberg, a Mozilla programmer who's working on the Electrolysis effort to split Firefox processes into separate memory spaces. "The current release roadmap, as I understand it, is to do a beta of 1.9.3 in mid-June with a scheduled release in October," Smedberg responded. "By targeting an alpha for these goals you're implicitly missing this release vehicle."

Other goals for the second quarter include:

• Shipping a final version of Firefox for Windows with the out-of-process plugins feature that's designed to improve stability by putting Flash Player and other plug-ins in a separate memory area. Out-of-process plug-ins are one aspect of Electrolysis.

• Shipping a beta version of Firefox with out-of-process Flash support for Macs using Snow Leopard, aka Mac OS X 10.6.

• Building support for the JaegerMonkey technology for faster JavaScript performance to the point where its performance can be tested, and supporting the EcmaScript 5 version of the standard that underlies JavaScript.

• Releasing an alpha version of Firefox with support for the Indexed DB local storage database technology.

• Turning on the HTML5 parser by default in a beta version, a move that will mean Firefox can decode Web pages written with the new Web page standard under development.