It has finally arrived. A little belated but the third release of Mozilla’s much-acclaimed Firefox 3 has finally been released. Those who fell in love with how fast a browser could be were deeply disappointed when Firefox 2, with its memory hogging bare bones interface, became available to the world. It seemed a step backward for the innovator of today’s web browser. Those who switched to another browser still longed for the multitude of extensions and add-ons that were available to Firefox users.
First, a little background on the first two Firefoxes. F1, which premiered as “Phoenix” way back in 2002, officially became known as Firefox when version 0.8 came around. It was fast, it was sleek, and it got the job done: bells and whistles included. And then came Firefox 2. A flat-out memory muncher, a horrid interface, and for some reason had the browsing speed of IE with all the toolbars activated. It was a sad day for the devoted Mozilla users worldwide. I have been using Firefox since it first became available. I switched to Firefox 2 when the upgrade hit the Mozilla site, and now I will give F3 a test drive.
Since Firefox has been around the block for the past 3 years, it’s open-source nature has benefited from the efforts of thousands of developers, security experts, and user feedback. The browser is the most popular ‘alternative’ browser and is available in 50 languages. Firefox 3 boasts over 15,000 improvements, including new features such as the smart location bar, malware protector, and multitudes of engine improvements to improve rendering performance.
One of the biggest new features is the Location Bar, which claims to learn as you use it. It will adapt to your browsing habits, and its estimation of what you are trying to do gets better over time. It does tend to get annoying, though, and there is no easy way to turn it off (you have to go into about:config to disable it).
Other improvements include one-click bookmarking and tagging, better search and organization of visited web sites. You can also do a full-page zoom to hone in on a particular part of a webpage, which can only improve a page’s readability.
The new browser is built on the Gecko 1.9 platform, which is a faster engine than Firefox 2.x. Gecko was originally an engine created by Netscape for Mozilla, and it one of the most popular engines for the World Wide Web. Firefox 3.0 claims to use less memory and renders three times faster than FF2.
After the initial install, I checked out the default theme that comes with it. I wasn’t impressed. A few of the buttons were changed, but other than that there was really nothing new. And just like with the last Firefox, there is only one theme included with it, the rest have to be searched for on the Mozilla site. I gave it a test run to see what it was like when it came to browsing speed. Indeed it was faster, at least 50% faster than F2. But at what cost? I visited OCModshop.com using both Firefox 2 & 3. Sitting idle on the default Google start page, I was getting an average of 29,000KB (29MB) memory usage on both F2 and F3. But when it came to visiting a web page, things were a little different.
Firefox 3.0 is still not the only browser you will ever have to use, however. There are many Microsoft webpages that do not render correctly under Firefox, and since over 91% of the world runs on Windows, you can bet that Microsoft is not going to budge from using ActiveX or Silverlight. Most other advanced web pages worked great in testing, and it does appear notably faster than FireFox 2.
Using Firefox 2 while visiting OCModshop.com, I was using about 52,000KB (52MB) of system memory. Using Firefox 3 on the same site, the newest memory hog on the browser market was using 85,000KB (85MB) of system memory. F3 was using 33MB more memory than its predecessor, and the only thing it had to offer in return was a faster browsing speed. The amount of add-ons doesn’t equal version 2.0’s, and the user interface is kind of a let down.
The browser you choose is still a matter of personal choice, and for me, Firefox 3.0 is not the slam-dunk that everyone expected it would be. Sure, it’s slightly faster than 2.0, but at the cost of the same memory bloat as Internet Explorer. Frankly, I am pretty disappointed with 3.0, and I believe that Mozilla could have done much better.