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?

This article has 3 comments

  1. Lawrence John Reply

    Nice blog Darren – Have you tried Google Chrome as a browser yet? – I tried Safari and Firefox, but I think Chrome is the best – and definitely the fastest.

    LJ

  2. Darren Reply

    Hi Lawrence… I did try a beta of Chrome, but at the time there were so many things missing (things that I use in Firefox) that it was no-go. Haven’t installed it on my current laptop yet so willing to give it another go. At home I use a Mac 95% of the time, and as there’s no Chrome for Mac I’ll continue to use Firefox.

  3. Darren Reply

    So, I’ve had another look at Chrome. There’s some nice things about it… the uncluttered user interface provides a lot of screen real-estate, and I really like the download manager and the native re-sizeable text boxes. But there’s still too many things missing. There’s no equivalent of Firefox’s live bookmarks. There’s no extensions, so there’s no fully-fledged RSS reader or FTP client.

    Also, Chrome is a memory hog. 9 tabs open (far less than I usually have open in Firefox) sucked up over 300 mb of RAM – Firefox with 12 open tabs and a number of extensions is using 170 mb.

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