(Posted on zdnet, November 20, 2007)
I noticed that the Beta 1 for Firefox 3.0 was made available sometime yesterday. I’ve been curious as to whether the Firefox dev team would do a serious revamp for this release or just concentrate on bug fixes and performance improvements. Early indications seem to suggest that it is indeed a major revamp of both the core and the UI, and that Firefox will be a much better browser for it.
I’m not a big Firefox user because I find the memory management to be very poor most of the time and the spiraling memory consumption affects both Firefox’s performance and the overall performance of my systems. I like Firefox but Firefox just doesn’t like me, so, while I have it installed on most systems, I mostly use Internet Explorer 7 and Opera for day to day browsing. Every time I say this I’m faced by a chorus of users telling me that there’s no problem with the way that Firefox handles memory, but this isn’t what I’m seeing. When a browser starts to edge near to consuming 500MB of RAM on a regular basis, something is wrong. Sure, I hammer the browser and have dozens of pages open at a time, but since both IE and Opera can handle this load, I expect Firefox to do so too. So far, it can’t, and because of that the icon doesn’t get clicked on that often.
Over the past few years I’ve felt that Firefox has lost its way and moved too far away from its roots. Firefox used to be about security and performance, but lately I’ve felt that add-ons and junking up the interface with eye-candy has taken priority over security and core stability.
Is Firefox 3.0 going to be better? Given what I’m seeing so far, I think so. Why? Because it looks like Mozilla have gone back to basics and worked on what really matters to users - security, speed and ease of use.
Everything about Firefox 3.0 beta 1 is fast. The download package is small which means that it comes in fast, the installation is fast, the browser fires up fast, pages and tabs open fast, the browser shuts down fast, and the uninstall process is fast and painless (I always like to test the uninstall process on applications because there’s nothing worse than having a bad house guest on your system that you can’t get rid of). This is all good stuff.
Without a doubt the Firefox 3.0 UI has been dramatically improved. Compare version 3 to version 2 and you instantly see the difference. Everything is brighter, clearer, and easier to access. Things that should be simple, such as bookmarking, saving passwords, and finding words and phrases in the text of a web page are now simple. Page zooming is brilliant, as is the feature that resumes interrupted downloads.
Security is also greatly improved. Only time will tell if the core of Firefox 3.0 will be any more secure than previous versions, but without a doubt version 3 makes it harder for hackers to get a foothold into systems. Not only have the SSL error pages been redesigned, but there’s also malware and web forgery protection available. Add-on and plugin security has also been beefed up considerably. To top that off, Firefox integrates with your anti-virus app and with the Parental Controls feature in Windows Vista.
If you’re interested in taking Firefox 3.0 beta 1 for a spin, be sure to read the disclaimer:
Please note: We do not recommend that anyone other than developers and testers download the Firefox 3 Beta 1 milestone release. It is intended for testing purposes only.
I didn’t have any problems but your mileage may vary considerably.