Firefox 3 Review

In the new browser wars, first week downloads mean everything. Mozilla scored a victory in achieving 8 million downloads in the first 24 hours when Firefox 3 launched on 17 June. Not only did this put the company into the record books but it stole some of Microsoft’s thunder as it stumbles towards a release date for internet Explorer 8 some indeterminate time in the future.

Mac users have Safari, of course – but Firefox remains the number one alternative browser. In cross-platform terms it’s number two in the browser race. Does Firefox 3 offer enough to new users to give it pole position? In this release, signs point to yes. Equipped with the latest version of the Gecko browser engine, Mozilla claims that Firefox 3 is faster, uses memory more efficiently and is more standards savvy than ever.

It certainly feels that way, but it’s the Mac experience we’re interested in though – and this version takes steps to integrate OS X more closely into the browser experience. The default theme makes toolbars, icons, buttons and windows look native to OS X. Firefox also supports Growl for downloads and program updates.

There are lots of features to pick from and most of our favourites enhance web interaction without the gimmicky, site-specific tools found in extended browsers like Flock. For example, you can now set an online email service to act as your default client. You can also tag your bookmarks to help you arrange them – it’s like having del.icio.us embedded in your browser. We also appreciated the better RSS and RDF handling. Anticipating a move towards a web that more comprehensively separates data from presentation, Firefox is the only feed client you need, and can read the Microformats like hCards and hCalendar formatted iCal data, without the need for plug-ins.

OUR VERDICT

If you don’t already have Firefox on your machine, the release of version 3 would be an ideal time to check it out.

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