Mozilla shut off the HTTP connection to the servers that host Firefox 3.0 after a rumour spread that the open-source browser's first beta was finished.

On Wednesday, someone identified as "corevette" posted a notice on Digg.com claiming Firefox 3.0 beta 1 had been released. Corevette then linked to the Mozilla server which stores the updated-daily, under-construction versions used by developers and testers. The resulting server load was more than Mozilla was willing to bear.

"It's extremely flattering to get this sort of attention, and we know that it's motivated by the very best of intentions, but it does cause us three major problems," Mike Beltzner, Mozilla's user interface designer, said in a posting on the company's DevNews blog. He cited the unfinished beta, lack of QA testing and unmirrored servers as the reasons.

To stem the tide, Mozilla redirected the Digg.com link, which started with the familiar http:// found in most URLs. "We've restricted access to the builds by HTTP, meaning that if you click the link in Digg, you'll see this page instead," said Beltzner. "We've done this to protect our own bandwidth, and also to limit the distribution of what's essentially an unfinished product."

Firefox 3.0's builds remain available, he added, via a URL beginning with the ftp:// protocol. He encouraged users interested in Beta 1, which may release next week, to download the newest version and join the mass testing set for Friday.

Beltzner also answered the obvious question. "Why do we put these 'release candidate' builds on a public server? Well, because we're an open source project, and we put all of our builds on public servers."

Firefox 3.0 is considerably behind the schedule Mozilla established earlier this year. Firefox 3.0 was supposed to hit Beta 1 in late July, with a second beta in September and the final release due out by the end of the year. Now, however, it's unlikely that Firefox 3.0 can make final release status during 2007. When Mozilla updated the browser to Version 2.0 last fall, it took Mozilla nearly two months to move from Beta 2 to final release.