Over here at dadams.co.uk headquarters we’re big fans of Mozilla Firefox – everyone from the tea-boy, to the feature writers, right up to the editor-in-chief uses the much-loved web browser. And so there was a huge swell of anticipation today as the release of Firefox 3.5 drew ever nearer. As soon as it became available the whole team downloaded it and what follows are the first impressions. Well, I say first impressions, I’ve actually been using the beta for a couple of months. Anyway, here we go…

First let’s look at the performance. According to the what’s new page, 3.5 is more than twice as fast as 3. I actually think that measuring browser speed is pretty tricky – if you’re visiting lots of sites the connection speed, the amount of content, the page design and logic all contribute to very different experiences. If you’re accessing a web server which is perilously under-specced, swamped with traffic and connected to the Internet with a length of garden twine, the performance will suck. However, it does feel as if 3.5 is zipping along so I’m not going to doubt the performance claim. They also claim “smaller memory footprint” – with twelve tabs open and a handful plug-ins installed, this hungry fox is weighing in at 235 mb in memory. So much for the thin client.

Firefox 3.5Next up is a rather fun feature known as ‘location-aware browsing’ which allows Firefox to tell applications where you are (subject to privacy and permissions). The demo application showed a blue circle hovering over Camberley, probably about half a mile in diameter, and Adams Towers sat just within it… so they got it right. I can see this being quite useful – imagine you want a pizza, the provider’s web site could show you the nearest outlet. Or a retailer could give you an instant answer for a delivery cost to your location.

Firefox 3.5 boasts an increased number of open standards, including the emerging Ogg Theora video standard – this will allow the browser to play embedded videos without the need for other plug-ins.

A neat new feature related to tabs – you can pick one up and drag outside of the browser to spawn the content in a new window.

Finally, the big new feature which is ‘private browsing’. This is described as the ability to browse but not leave any trace of what you’ve looked at. There isn’t any reference to it now, but there was a scenario put forward along the lines of “you could be shopping on-line for a gift and you don’t want a family member to see what you’ve been looking at”. Absolutely… I can’t think of any other scenario where you might want to cover up what you’ve been looking at on the Internet. Any ideas?