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Mozilla testing near-final Firefox 3.5

Release Candidate 1 for Firefox 3.5 still could be weeks away, though a widespread testing day to debug the updated browser was held Friday anyway.

Mozilla is close to releasing of its near-final version of Firefox 3.5, but the updated browser wasn't quite ready in time for a planned day of widespread testing.

Earlier this month, Mozilla set Friday to be Firefox 3.5 RC1 Test Day. But RC1, the first release candidate designed to be more stable than the earlier Firefox beta versions, wasn't finished for the occasion.

"Even though RC1 hasn't been released yet, the test day will still go on with the latest nightlies (nightly builds of Firefox based on the latest source code) which are practically RC1 minus some minor uplifts," said Aakash Desai of Mozilla's quality assurance team on Thursday. Mozilla has set up the Litmus program to encourage broad testing of its software.

RC1 is expected in a few weeks, spokeswoman Melissa Shapiro said Friday, though one developer told CNET News he hoped it would arrive in less than two.

The new version of Firefox began as version 3.1, a modest update. But a gradually expanding feature list led Mozilla to rename it 3.5 and release it months later than had been planned initially. In the meantime, Microsoft released Internet Explorer 8, Apple released a beta of Safari 4, and Google has released a rolling series of upgrades to its new Chrome browser.

Among the changes compared with the current Firefox 3.0.x versions are the faster TraceMonkey engine for running Web sites' JavaScript programs; support for tags to describe audio and video content the way images have been available for years; the private browsing mode for leaving no traces on your computer while surfing; support for geolocation technology to let permitted applications know the user's location; built-in JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) technology for exchanging data between servers and browsers; and support for the Web Workers standard for letting a browser perform processing in the background without holding back a Web application's user interface.