This is a good upgrade to a good browser, but it's not the godsend many make it out to be.
3 is finally here.
I've been testing the betas and release candidates off
and on and there's no doubt it's an improvement on Firefox 2, probably a big
improvement. I'm moving over to it. Click
here to read a gushing review of Firefox 3.
For me, the biggest improvement in Firefox 3 is that it no longer (at least
not yet in my testing) consumes huge amounts of memory. As I work right now,
with four tabs open including some Flash content, it's consuming 130MB, which
is the most I've ever seen. Firefox 2 regularly consumed several hundred megabytes
on my systems, and usually much more than Internet Explorer 7. Mozilla seems to
have solved that problem.
But not everything about it is wonderful. Even if I'm basically happy with
it, there are a few things I definitely don't like about it.
For example, I use the Clear Private Data feature now and then, which clears
the browsing history (when you use the drop-down in the address bar), among
other things. You can select Tools-Clear Private Data or press Ctrl-Shift-Del.
When you do this in Firefox 3, it does not clear any browser history where the
domain is in a bookmark, so your address bar drop-down may still have addresses
in it. This seems wrong and confusing, and I bugged it in
Bugzilla during beta.
To the developers, it's one of those "It's not a
bug, it's a feature" things, and they provide no way to turn it off in
about:config or anywhere else. I think this was a bad choice. [Update: Thanks to reader D from LA for pointing out that there is a Firefox Add-On Hide Unvisited 3 which addresses this problem.]
I don't think the developers' decision to show address bar colors only on a
section on the left of the bar is correct, either. The point of these colors,
such as green for EV-SSL (Secure Sockets
Layer) sites, is to be conspicuous, and these seem easy to miss. The area at
the left is basically an expansion of the favicon. Opera does the same thing,
and the developers told me that their testing was unclear, but that some people
had trouble understanding address bars that were green throughout (which is the
way IE 7 does it). I still disagree, but perhaps they have some evidence on
their side. I've seen testing to indicate that the green EV-SSL
bar does instill confidence in users and that they are more likely to complete
a transaction where it is present. It would be interesting to run the same
testing with the small green bar in Firefox 3 and Opera 9.5.
On the other hand, Firefox 3 makes great use of that expanded favicon.
Warnings show up here for phishing and malware sites. You can click it in any
number of situations and it gives you useful information. It's just that you
have to know to click it.
Firefox 3's support for CRLs (certificate revocation lists) is lame, as it
was in Firefox 1 and 2. The browsers don't download them from certificate
authorities and check automatically; you have to manually import them, which of
course nobody does. On the other hand, they do now support OCSP (Online
Certificate Status Protocol), a new and better standard for revocation
checking. On balance, from the perspective of certificate revocation checking,
this makes Firefox 3 a much better option than Firefox 2. I have no doubt that
the CRL problem has caused problems for
people, but it's such an obscure issue that it's basically gone unnoticed.
I'll also point out that I've had problems printing with Firefox since
Version 2 came out, and Version 3 is no better. I'm in the habit of selecting
text on a page and printing the selection, and Firefox messes this up all the
time. IE is generally a better printing browser.
Most of the other problems I have with Firefox 3 will probably go away eventually.
For instance, today I still have problems with some plug-ins. Obviously, this
will improve over time.
Incidentally, if you plan to stick with Firefox 2, don't plan on doing so
for very long. Mozilla has a policy of providing security updates for old versions
for only a few months and then you're on your own.
So by all means upgrade, soon if not immediately, to Firefox 3. I use both
Firefox and IE all the time, and I expect things will be better with Version 3,
not just for browsing, but for my system overall, since that much more memory
will be freed up. It's a good day for Web users.
Editor Larry Seltzer
has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983.
For insights on security coverage around the Web, take
a look at eWEEK.com Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer's blog Cheap Hack.