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.
Firefox 184.108.40.206 -- 924.4 ms
Firefox 3 Beta 5 -- 531.2 ms
Safari 3.1 -- 222.8 ms
Firefox 220.127.116.11 -- 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.