Firefox 3.1 will be three times faster, says Mozilla

Just the day before the official launch of IE8 Beta 2, Mozilla has crept in and announced that the impending Firefox 3.1 will run three times faster than the last version of the company's Microsoft-rivalling web browser.

TraceMonkey is the name of the clever bit of coding which is apparently going to achieve this, by working with Mozilla's JavaScript engine SpiderMonkey to improve all-round Java performance, resulting in Firefox running up to three times faster than before.

The coding should radically improve the performance of web-based applications like Gmail when compared to their desktop equivalents, and also stop the increasing trend of developers defecting to Adobe Flash in web development.

TraceMonkey to the rescue

TraceMonkey gets its name from a cross between the aforementioned SpiderMonkey JavaScript interpretation engine, and a technique called tracing, developed at the University of California by Andreas Gal and his team.

"TraceMonkey is what's called a just-in-time compiler, one type of technology that solves the problem of converting programs written by humans into instructions a computer can understand," said Mike Shaver, Mozilla's interim vice president of engineering.

Basically, TraceMonkey concentrates only on translating selected high-priority parts of software – ie bits of repeated activity in code where the program spends a lot of its time.

This code is compiled into native instructions the computer can understand without having to constantly and repeatedly interpret each line of code.

"It lets us focus our optimization energy on the parts of the program that matter most," said Shaver, who reckons that TraceMonkey will improve JavaScript performance so much that image editing and 3D graphics will also be within its abilities.