Firefox is a fast-moving application, and now you can take a quick gander at the first Alpha version of Firefox 3.0, the next iteration of the open-source browser for Windows, Mac and Linux nicknamed Gran Paradiso. On the surface, it doesn't look that different from the current version of Firefox (which we find to be unacceptably unstable, by the way).
Its innovations are under the hood, where it enhances compatibility with three tricked-out graphics standards that might soon be ubiquitous on the Web: Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), the Canvas specification, and the cairo graphics library. Sounds great, but what does all this stuff do? They all have to do with making Web pages look the same on any platform, and scaling up graphics without loss of quality.
Explanations, plus the download link, after the jump.
Scalable vector graphics have been around since 2001, and the idea here is to have a standard graphics format on the Web (the way jpeg and gif have become) that uses vectors, that is, descriptions of where lines will go rather than individual dots of each graphic that comprise bitmap images such as jpeg and gif. These graphics can be scaled up or down without any loss of resolution.
The cairo graphics library is another vector-based graphics enabler that can use hardware acceleration that's already in Firefox and has been since version 1.5. Cairo can work with the Quartz graphics engine in Mac OS X, as well as OpenGL.
There's nothing quite like the speed of open-source development, but we wish version 2.0 of Firefox would be perfected before any grand adventures began on the next point release. But that's just us.