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First Look: Firefox 3 Beta 5

updated 04:55 pm EDT, Thu April 3, 2008

Firefox 3 Beta 5

Mozilla's Firefox continues gaining market share, and Firefox 3 Beta 5 brings the newest version of the popular browser closer to a final shipping date. While Firefox's strength has always been its security features, version 3 focuses on improving its security and enhancing overall performance.

The most notable performance improvement is Firefox's JavaScript processing speed. After running a JavaScript speed test ( five times and taking the average, Firefox 3 proved nearly twice as fast as version 2, although it still ran nearly twice as slow as Safari 3.1.

(Macintosh browsers)
Firefox -- 924.4 ms
Firefox 3 Beta 5 -- 531.2 ms
Safari 3.1 -- 222.8 ms

(Windows browsers)
Firefox -- 2524.4 ms
Firefox 3 Beta 5 -- 957.4 ms
Safari 3.1 -- 576.8 ms

Besides speed, Beta 5 uses less memory than previous versions of Firefox and also increases reliability by protecting your bookmarks, history, and preferences from program crashes.

The software has also evolved to deal with new security concerns. Some of the latest tricks online are booby-trapped websites, which try to install spyware and other malicious programs on any computer that visits them. While such sites are targeted mostly towards Windows users running Internet Explorer, Firefox 3 Beta 5 offers a new warning to alert you when you might be visiting a potentially dangerous website.

Another possible security threat is when you connect to a website and type in your credit card number or other sensitive information. If a website uses Extended Validation (EV) SSL certificates, Firefox colors the site address green, in order to help you verify that you haven't been routed to a bogus page masquerading as a trusted site. If you try to connect to a bogus site, Firefox blocks that connection and refuses to display its contents.

Besides focusing on speed and security, a third area of improvement appears in Firefox's revised user interface. If previous versions of the program tried to download a large file and crashed or lost their connection to the Internet, you'd be forced to start downloading the entire file all over again. Firefox 3 now offers resumable downloads, so you can start downloading at the point where you got cut off.

A small, but subtle change are the Back and Forward buttons. In most browsers, these buttons appear the same size, despite the fact that more people use the Back button to view a previously visited page than use the Forward button. In Firefox 3, the Back button appears larger and easier to click on than the Forward button.

To help you bookmark a site, Firefox now displays a star in the address bar, giving you the ability to bookmark a page with a single mouse click. If you want to select and copy text fields that may not be next to each other, such as the top and bottom paragraphs of an article, Firefox 3 lets you hold down the Ctrl/Cmd keys to select non-adjacent text blocks.

In general, if you already use Firefox, you'll be familiar with its features and should have little trouble adapting to its may improvements. If you use another browser, you may prefer Firefox's greater security emphasis and minor user interface tweaks that make the program easier to use. Firefox 3 Beta 5 may not be the fastest browser on the market, but it's one of the most compatible and most secure. If the beta version of Firefox is any indication of the final version, Firefox 3 will continue grabbing market share in the browser wars.

by MacNN Staff



  1. bjojade

    Joined: Dec 1969


    2 good options

    I like both FireFox and Safari as browsers. Firefox seems to work with more sites, but I also have more problems with it. Eg, right now, it's telling me it can't open because i have 2 instances of Firefox running. The fix isn't that hard, but it sucks to have to deal with it so often.

    With Apple bundling the Safari install with the iTunes software updates on people's Windows machines, we will see a strong growth of that browser, regardless of how you feel about the ethics of that method.

    I don't know anyone that seeks out IE for use. People use it because it's there, but once they use something else, that's what they stick with.

    I can't wait for the day where I don't see 'Designed for IE' disclaimers anymore.

  1. redsoxfaninpa

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Firefox error on

    Am I the only one that has the main links on displaying as textual links on the left when using Firefox??? Anyone know how to fix??

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