Review: Firefox 3

19 Jun 2008

I’ve never seen such hype surrounding the release of a browser update. Is it due to the spirit of the open source community or because the browser has become more integral to our everyday lives? Or are people just getting tired of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer?

Either way, I got swept up in the hype and waited patiently until 6pm rolled around on Tuesday evening because I’ve been using Firefox for years and telling anyone who will listen to switch over from Internet Explorer. Firefox: you had me at tabs.

I ran into a problem before even using it – the Mozilla site was snowed under with visitors and I had to wait a while before it was up again and I could get my download. Probably a good sign because Mozilla were gunning for five million downloads in 24 hours to set a Guinness world record and it exceeded expectations, passing the five million mark in just under 14 hours.

The first noticeable difference is the design: Firefox’s skin now automatically matches whatever operating system you are using and it looks a bit more streamlined with a focus on the back button – finally browser developers have noticed that we have a tendency to go heavy on the back button for navigation purposes – I never use the forward button and wouldn’t notice if it disappeared.

But you know what the acid test of a good application upgrade is: would you go back to the original? I don’t think I would go back to Firefox 2 for a few reasons.

First of all, I use the URL bar a lot, I type in the first few letters of a page to bring it up. Now, Firefox developers know we love to do this and have built in a powerful search engine so that any word typed into the address bar will bring up related URLs, website descriptions or tags containing this word – brilliant addition!

The next feature I find pretty useful is the little ‘favicon’ or teeny icon that sits to the left of the web address. When you click on this, it gives loads of information about the site, such as security settings, the type of media contained on the page, whether you have visited it before, and if you have a password for it. Oh, and it lists the RSS feeds available. Very handy.

Another little tweak: I use social bookmarking site on a daily basis. Now when I favourite a page in Firefox (and add tags too if I like) it lets me add to automatically, saving me time in the process.

Everyone has been talking about how fast it is at loading pages – they’re right, it is very fast. Some webpages pop up fully loaded almost instantly. I don’t know what they did but it makes me feel sorry for Internet Explorer 7.

As for security features – Firefox 3 boasts extra protection from malware, phishing and viruses which is good, but to be honest I’ve never had a problem with Firefox 2 in this respect.

Overall, I want to give Firefox 3 top marks but I do suggest you make use of the great add-ons like for easy online bookmarking, as well as Sxipper which manages all your passwords for you.

By Marie Boran