Mozilla Firefox 3 Beta 3: First Impressions

Got to be careful what I say here.  Mike Schroepfer might be reading. 🙂

Actually, I was reading his blog when I found out that Firefox 3 Beta 3 is out.  You can download it here.

I’m playing the naive user for now… just installed it and using it, without reading up on the specifics of the new features.  I’m trying to see what I actually notice without any prep.

First thing… it’s FAST.  Much faster than Firefox 2.  And much much more stable with lots of tabs left open, although I need to give this a bit of a test through the weekend.

One of my biggest problems with Firefox 2 has been based on my particular usage habits.  I tend to open a lot of web pages in tabs, and leave them open for days (or weeks), as reminders to either read the pages or blog about them (or both).  What I’ve noticed is that once I get a large number of open tabs (20+), Firefox starts lagging my entire machine.  I don’t have the fastest machine in the world (PowerMac G5, Dual 2.5Ghz, 2.5GB RAM), but I’m pretty sure it should be able to display 20+ webpages at one time. 🙂

Anyway, everything is faster with Firefox 3.  My eBay loads faster.  SYI 3 loads faster.  WordPress.com loads faster.  Email links that open URLs in Firefox open faster.  And when I launch with a dozen or more tabs, it feels much more stable, not locking up nearly the way that Firefox 2 did.

I’m noticing on Mac OS X (10.5) that the controls look a little goofy.  The small controls used on eBay now come out as Mac-like round buttons, but the font is off-center.  Also, the drop-down menus actually have their text one pixel below the end of the menu control.

This is stuff I’m sure that’ll get fixed by final release.

We’re obviously going to have get busy updating our LinkedIn toolbar – Firefox 3 informed me the current version isn’t compatible.  I use that toolbar every day, so I’m going to have to make sure that gets fixed.  🙂  In fact, none of my toolbars were verified to work with Firefox 3, which is probably a good thing since I don’t use most of them anymore anyway.

I’ve been very happy with Firefox vs. Safari since I switched about two years ago.  I was debating whether Safari 3 and the rise of the iPhone meant I would eventually have to switch back to Safari as my primary browser.

It’s not final, but my first few hours on Firefox 3 has left me fairly confident that Mozilla will continue to be my browser provider of choice for the foreseeable future.

You know, I just realized that Mozilla’s success making a great web browser for the Mac proves the lie in Microsoft’s excuses for abandoning the platform.   Firefox proves:

  1. That a great web browser can be built as a stand-alone application, not as a component of the OS.
  2. That a great web browser can be built on the Mac by a company other than Apple.

These were, of course, the two nominal reasons that Microsoft gave back in 2002 for dropping Internet Explorer on the Mac.

As Apple market share continues to grow, and the concept of an all-Windows workplace fades, I have to wonder – will Microsoft ever reconsider providing IE as a cross-platform browser again?   Even if the Mac has a low (5%) market share, that doesn’t mean only 5% of companies will have Macs deployed.  It could turn out that a vast majority of companies end up with a minority share of Macs in-house.  Does Microsoft really want to cede the cross-platform web application market to Mozilla?

Somehow, I doubt this is being seriously considered in Redmond.  But it’s definitely interesting in the face of a resurgent Mac platform and a cross-platform Firefox & Safari.  Internet Explorer for the iPhone, anyone?

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