With JavaScript becoming increasingly important as the underlying technology for many rich Internet applications, it also becomes all the more crucial for browsers to interpret the language at top speed. While Firefox 3 did improve JavaScript execution times when compared with Firefox 2, Mozilla this week is touting a new engine that will dramatically boost performance like nothing else in the market.

Dubbed TraceMonkey, the new engine will purportedly take JavaScript performance to another level, where instead of competing against other interpreters, it will start to compete against native code running directly on PCs. But how fast is that? According to Mozilla's vice president of engineering, Mike Shaver, the JavaScript performance will nearly double compared to current speeds - which he said should speed up many basic tasks but also bring image editing and 3D graphics into JavaScript's abilities.

Mozilla hopes to include a scaled down version of TraceMonkey in Firefox version 3.1, but it won't be until the release of Firefox version 4.0 that we will see the full benefit.

It's great to see how Firefox has gone from something of a niche internet browser only a few years ago to actually being a threat to Internet Explorer's dominance of the market. If indeed these latest speed claims prove to be true in real world usage, I can imagine many applications being written specifically (or at least optimized) for Firefox - which should further help the open source browser grow its market share.