One week of Firefox 3.0

Sucked in by the sheer excitement of the Firefox 3 download day last week, I thought I'd not only give the beta a test, but also see how it stands up as a default browser (adios IE...)

Tags: BrowserFirefoxMozilla Foundation
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By  Mark Sutton Published  June 24, 2008

Sucked in by the sheer excitement of the Firefox 3 download day last week, I thought I'd not only give the beta a test, but also see how it stands up as a default browser (adios IE...)

Here at ITP Digital we already use Firefox quite extensively, simply because it just works better with some of our content management apps, but I hadn't gone all out and switched from Internet Explorer until now. So what's version 3 of the world's second most popular browser got to offer?

First of all, the browser is definitely still a beta. There's really quite a few bugs and minor problems that aren't bad enough to make the browser unusable, but do result in maybe one crash or lock up per day.

From the off, as an upgrade, rather than a new install, there's no option to transfer favorite sites from IE to Firefox bookmarks, which meant a lot of searching for our most used URLs. Once they are in the browser, Firefox 3 has done something a bit different with the drop down menu in the navigation bar.

Instead of listing sites in the order in which they were visited, it lists in terms of your overall number of visits - so your most popular sites are shown at the top, and the more obscure ones disappear off the list quite quickly. This isn't exactly helpful, as I tend to know the URLs of the sites I visit the most, but might need to refer back to sites that I have recently visited, for example, if I'm researching a new topic, and don't want to have to trawl through browser history to find them.

I'm also a bit dubious about any application that collects data on browsing habits regardless of why or how.

Compatibility seems pretty much OK, although some short cuts in other programs (like our blogging software) have now been hijacked by browser short cuts, our content management system is showing a few more hiccups than usual and I couldn't navigate to our inhouse CRM system either - the auto-complete function takes you off into the .com world rather than working on our network.

In terms of stability, the browser does seem to have some issues. Multiple tabbed browsing seems to slow down at times, although I suspect that's more our network, but in one week I've experienced a few too many crashes to be fun. There doesn't seem to be any consistency to these errors, sometimes the session recovery function worked, sometimes it didn't. I've also had a couple of times where the browser has just disappeared, as if it had been closed, but it turns out to be running in the background.

Security vendor TippingPoint has also reported a critical vulnerability in both the new version of Firefox and the previous 2.0 version, which could let malicious code run on your PC.The browser is packing integrated malware protection though, and given the mess of security threats at the moment, that's got to be a good thing.

Apart from  that, there's a few new features that I haven't gone into such as quick bookmarking and RSS subscription from the navigation bar,  and the ability to pause and resume downloads, but you know what? It's a browser - I don't need a whole lot of bells and whistles, just need it to navigate from A to B without falling over. Firefox 3 is currently less stable than IE 6 in my experience so far, but it's still quick enough, with a clean interface, so it gets to stay for now.

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