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What makes Firefox 3 great?

Monday, May 12, 2008
Keywords: Technology

Last night, the code for Firefox 3 RC1 was handed off for building, and as I type this, the first candidate builds for RC1 are being spun. I've been using the nightly builds on my test machine (actually, a VPC) for a while now. At first, it was just meant as a test installation so that I could get a feel for what the upcoming browser would be, but now I find that I'm doing more browsing on that test install in a VPC than I am on my Firefox 2 installs on the real computer. That I'm using the Firefox 3 nightlies more than Firefox 2 despite it being run in a virtual machine is a testament, I think, so how great the new version is. So what makes it so great?

  1. Places: the new SQLite-based storage of bookmarks and history is much faster and allows for cool new things like the new location bar. I must admit, like many users, I hated the new location bar at first. It took a bit of getting used to and some adjustment in how I used the location bar, but now, I find it to be utterly indispensable, and it is the primary reason why I am using Firefox 3 more than Firefox 2.
  2. Firefox 3 is noticeably faster and more responsive.
  3. As a result of improvements such as the use of jemalloc and a new garbage collector, Firefox 3 uses less memory.
  4. The new graphics backend offers various benefits, such as the smooth scaling of images.
  5. Firefox 3 strives to appear more native, so it fits in better with the OS that it is running on. Of special interest to me, Firefox 3 looks better than Firefox 2 on Windows Classic.
  6. The download manager has been improved. First, it no longer uses RDF and thus doesn't suffer from slowdowns when the list gets too long (the use of RDF was a perfect illustration of how too many people today are mis-using XML for things for which XML is an insanely bad idea). Second, it allows download resumption. Third, it shows a general status indicator (# of downloads and est. time remaining) in the browser's status bar so that you can keep the manager closed and still keep track.
  7. The remember password prompt has been redesigned so that you could choose to remember the password after you have successfully logged in.

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