Eich wasn't afraid to tip his hat to Google. "Chrome does some interesting things," he said. "There are some talented people working on Chrome."
Mozilla might end up taking some of Chrome's ideas, and perhaps even some of its open-source code, to work into Firefox. Tops on Eich's list: Chrome's running each browser tab as a separate process, an approach designed to prevent a single site, and thus tab, from crashing or locking up the whole browser.
"We've worked on isolating plug-ins," said Eich, "but that's been strictly a lower priority. But we were coming to the point even without Chrome that we were looking at [per-tab processes] for the next major iteration of Firefox."
Unless Mozilla shifts gears, that won't happen in Firefox 3.1, which has been cast as a fast-track update to Firefox 3.0 that mostly includes features dropped from the June upgrade.
Some Chrome source code, which was released under the open-source BSD license, might also find a place in Firefox, but Eich wasn't ready to speculate what Mozilla might grab. "We're going to look at it," he said. The most likely scenario: "There may be modules we could use."
In the near-term, Mozilla will push forward on TraceMonkey, which will be turned on in Firefox 3.1 Beta 1. By Mozilla's current schedule, that beta should reach users sometime next month. TraceMonkey has been added to Firefox 3.1's current nightly build, but its disabled by default. "We've been working more on stability [in TraceMonkey] than on performance, so we're on track to turn it on in Beta 1," Eich said.
He acknowledged the new competition from Google. "Mozilla has always been for choice on the internet, so in that way, [Chrome's entry] has got to be good. But we have competitive pride, too. And we'll use that going forward."
But he also maintained that Mozilla sees it as more than a rivalry. "We're trying to make the lives of web application developers easier so that the internet is the place to be," he said. "In that way we're aligned with Google."