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Firefox browser to hit 1.0 milestone

Set for release today, the latest version of the open-source rival to IE promises to work with KDE.

Barring any last-minute surprises, the Firefox Web browser on Tuesday will turn 1.0.

Although the release is technically a preview, the 1.0 version is a significant milestone for the free open-source browser software, which has already won an enthusiastic following as an alternative to Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

"Today's builds are the new candidate 1.0PR (preview release) builds," Asa Dotzler, the Mozilla Foundation's community quality advocate, wrote in a Web log posting Saturday night. "If all goes well with these builds, they'll become the official Firefox 1.0 Preview Release builds on Tuesday morning."

Spun off last summer by AOL Time Warner, the Mozilla Foundation is the open-source group that produces both Firefox and its predecessor, the Mozilla browser.

Mozilla spokesman Bart Decrem confirmed that the group was aiming for a Tuesday morning release, with the caveat that quality control problems could still delay the launch.

"It's always possible that we discover some showstopper issue this afternoon," Decrem said. "But (a Tuesday morning release) is the plan."

The launch of the 1.0 preview is the latest in a series of advances for Firefox. First known as "Phoenix" and then as "Firebird," the browser was created as a response to complaints that the original Mozilla browser suffered from code bloat.

Lauded for its comparatively small size and its early introduction of browser tabs and a pop-up blocker, Firefox has won both fans and a handful of prizes in its run as a pre-1.0 product.

Despite suffering security problems of its own, Mozilla has gained in stature, if not numbers, as Internet Explorer has taken increasing heat for security woes.

The U.S. government's computer security group in June advised people to avoid using IE as one way of evading a number of security problems. This weekend, an IT security official for the German government sounded a similar warning for Germans who use online banking.

For its part, Microsoft made substantial security changes to IE in its Service Pack 2 release last month, despite having sworn off development of the standalone browser last summer.

With IE taking a beating on security woes and its dearth of new features, Firefox has gained corporate fans, such as cell phone maker Nokia, that are attracted to the browser's comparatively small size and (free) price tag.

The browser has also proved popular among open-source groups. Developers at the K Desktop Environment, a group working on a Linux-based user interface, late last month --the browsing engine that underlies Mozilla's various browsers--to KDE. The port means that the browser will have the look and feel of a KDE application and can render Web pages for KDE's Konqueror browser and file manager.

Mozilla called the KDE port a step toward its cross-platform goals.

"We have done one Linux build, one Windows build and one Mac build to keep our lives manageable," Decrem said. "The KDE community is now taking the initiative to improve integration with KDE, and we are delighted."