June 21, 2008

Mozilla Has Mature Browser in Firefox Version 3.0


After several years of development, the Mozilla Corp. officially has released Firefox 3.0, a major update to its free Web browser.

When Firefox 1.0 shipped in 2004, browsers were stale and suffering from a major lack of innovation.

Internet Explorer had such a lead in market share that Microsoft deemed it unnecessary to keep pouring resources into the browser.

Firefox's introduction of tabbed browsing, popup blocking and an excellent grassroots advertising campaign saw the browser market share figure start to shift.

While Microsoft still has a firm hold on the lead, Firefox's rapid adoption rate was enough to force Microsoft to again begin releasing improved versions of its browser, further proof that competition leads to innovation.

Firefox 2 was a bit of a letdown. It offered a few improved features but was quite liberal in its memory usage. For computers without much memory, Firefox could cause the system to become sluggish.

With Version 3, Mozilla focused on improving the performance of Firefox. I'm happy to say that it's a much more usable browser.

There is more to Firefox 3 than just changes under the hood.

The first thing you'll notice is the new theme the browser sports. Firefox has developed new default themes that give the browser a native look and feel for XP, Vista, Linux and Mac OS X.

Firefox now looks as if it belongs on each environment rather than sharing a single design between each platform that didn't fit any particularly well.

The Windows version takes exceptional advantage of this, but the Mac OS X version still doesn't have that perfect fit

that native browsers such as Safari and Camino offer.

That said, unless you are a user-experience stickler like me, you probably won't notice the niggling inaccuracies.

One of the best features of the new version is the enhanced bookmark and history storage engine.

When you visit a page or bookmark it, information on the page will be stored in a searchable database.

You can also append tags to help describe the page and improve search results. This improved functionality shines when you type a Web address into the location bar.

Firefox 3 now will dynamically autocomplete the address as you type, much in the way Safari does.

It's a small but effective change.

Firefox 3 is not without issues. If you are a heavy user of extensions, you may find that your favorites have not been updated for 3. Waiting a week after release to update might prove beneficial.

Google Browser Sync, an extension that made it easy to synchronize bookmarks between multiple computers, has been discontinued.

Mozilla is working on a similar extension called Weave, but it has not been officially released.

If you are still using Internet Explorer 6, replacing it with Firefox will offer a much better browsing experience going forward.

Firefox is one of the few browsers that is completely usable by novice Internet users, but powerful enough for advanced users.

Firefox 3 is freely available from http://getfirefox.com/.

Justin Williams is a local blogger and the owner of Second Gear, a local Web and software development firm. He can be reached at [email protected]

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