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Firefox 3: Speed, Stability, Security

Introduction

Looking back at the history of Firefox, it is immediately apparent how different the launch scenarios of version 1, 2 and 3 were. Firefox now holds almost 20% of the browser market and has established itself as a serious rival to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. That was especially obvious when Mozilla’s download servers where overwhelmed by download requests Tuesday (there were more than 2.9 million downloads within the first 8 hours after launch) and we saw a flood of articles complaining that Mozilla’s servers were unreachable – a circumstance that was largely forgiven during the launches of version 1 and 2.

With Firefox 3, Mozilla takes the browser war to another level and can claim dramatic speed gains and feature optimizations. In fact, the browser turns out to be a well-balanced application, with just enough innovative features to enhance the user experience, and with many minor tweaks – some of which you will likely only notice after a few days of using the software. Personally I believe that Firefox 3 is to the browser world what a new Apple device is to the consumer electronics industry– a sleek, beautifully designed piece of software that connects with you personally, enabling you to concentrate on the task ahead, not on the software itself.

  • ff 3 does ask you during install if you want it to be the default, it is ticked by default but you DO get the choice
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  • Titanius
    Nice article about Firefox 3.0. You greatly detail the new features and your criticisms are objective but still feel like you couldn't find anything wrong with the browser to really criticize on. I agree with the offline functionality but the problem is like you stated the web developers. Webslices in IE8 is proprietary in part, but an extension does exist for Firefox 3.0 to have the same functionality. And with a little help from Greasemonkey and a few scripts can be a very powerful extension. It is called Webchunks.

    So like I said, nice article. Oh and the "intelligent bar" is commonly known as the "Awesome Bar".
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  • gm0n3y
    Haven't finished the article yet, but just wanted to say I second kylde's comment, there is a checkbox (checked by default) that asks if you want FF as your default browser.

    Also, @Titanius, nice quadruple post.
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  • KITH
    how can you say that it forces you to make it the default browser? the option is very clear not in any way hidden but by default already selected. Yes it doesn't popup asking you the question but seriously everyone else is fighting dirty.

    Also doesn't opera have the zoom feature and has had it for years?
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  • hellwig
    FireFox definately has a good PR department, I'll give it that. As far as innovation in functionality and features, I'll give it a so-so rating. Opera has had most of these features for years, and included all the new ones (and many others) in it's recent 9.50 release this week (overshadowed by FireFox hype unfortunately). Cloud Opera Network? you bet, store those bookmarks where you really need them, online. Zoom? That's been in Opera since I started using version 6.0 years ago. Same with session restoration (and session saving). Opera has the secure Password Wand. Opera has preview's of the tabs. New with 9.50 is an intelligent address bar that searches not just web addresses but webpage content. I'm not saying FireFox is a bad browser, I've just never seen the need to use it since Opera out much longer. I suppose you can use FireFox to replace IE, that is if you didn't already stop using IE years ago.
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  • Zorak
    Before I begin I'd like to give some credit to the author for at least acknowledging the fact that he didn't do any speed tests for the new release of Firefox. That being said, the lack of quantitative evidence is unacceptable - especially since this is an attempt at performing an objective review for Firefox 3. The release candidates for FF3 have been available for months, so there really should be no excuse for not testing.

    Also, why is it that the new browser must be overflowing with new features? I think the author unfairly criticizes Firefox in that regard. As it is, most people complain about the feature creep which is starting to manifest itself in Firefox. I think it is nice when useful new features are added, but the devs should focus on providing increased speed, security, and stability (which, to their credit, they have done). If with every release they cater to the demands of people who want more features, we will soon end up with a bloated browser that no longer does its job well. A hammer works best when it is used as a hammer: one does not add a saw blade to a hammer because they think it might be a good idea. The same principle applies here.
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  • bujuki
    I also used Opera for quite a long time, and I agree on hellwig's PR opinion. Firefox was felt far inferior compared to Opera, until the Firefox 3 came out. Opera 9.50 is a very great browser (though I don't feel much different with 9.27), but then the speed issue is one truly strong point of Firefox 3 (along with other 'Opera already has' enhancements) that makes me try to get used to it. So far I'm feeling this browser is awesome and better then Opera 9.50.

    I also agree on Zorak to some point. A browser is nice when it's light, clean and having only necessary features. But I see that what Firefox has added and Toms' suggestion are helpful to many users, and thus I don't see it walking towards being a bloated browser. IMO complimenting them won't change the direction much.
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  • randomizer
    I found the browser to be exactly the same as FF2 other than GUI, the annoying anti-virus scanner and the reduced memory usage. Doesn't load anything faster for me.
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  • FireFox 3 is very nice, but Opera 9.5 has increase its qualities and is yet the best browser... and in my opinion by far.
    FireFox users do know now what is the mean of "fast", Opera users know that for years, and keep the "fastest" status.

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  • mitch074
    Several speed benchmarks have been done by other websites. Currently, latest Safari, Opera 9.5 and Firefox 3.0 are pretty much equivalent (faster here, slower there) - depends on context, but they are all generally 2-5 times faster than IE 7, with still better standards support. So, what's left to compare them with?
    - with its mobile orientation, Opera's cloud platform was a no-brainer feature. It really was logical for Opera to add this, and to host it. It also has a small enough user base to host the cloud, and is "fixed-function" enough (ie. you can't really extend Opera) to remain stable.
    - with its toolbox working mode, Firefox needed to get faster everywhere: it's pretty much a platform using XUL, CSS and Javascript to write applications with, allowing websites to make use of the whole browser to provide applications to the user; the off-line mode, although discrete, is there; enjoy off-line Google Apps right now! Please note: storing session settings in the cloud was already available in Firefox 2, through several extensions.
    - its integration with Apple systems makes Safari the ideal iTunes+Quicktime companion; if you have a Windows machine crawling with Apple apps, Safari is a good choice for UI consistency. However, chances are you'd already have a Mac.

    Still, these browsers really are faster: loading Yahoo!Mail, Gmail or Hotmail on any of these browsers is now an order of magnitude faster than on IE. Firefox 3 got a great speed-up over 2 in this area (DOM-heavy, standards-compliant websites).

    Mitch
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