Mozilla has released the final version of the most anticipated and celebrated browser : Firefox 3. This is the second “true” release from Mozilla, as the Firefox 2 was actually a kind of small update to Firefox 1, and at the time of the development Firefox 2 number was set on 1.5, but then basically to compete with the Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 7, they decided to increase the version number.
This time there was no need in doing it, Firefox 3 is a brand new release with quite a number of new features and functionalities. Codenamed “Gran Paradiso” it has been under development for more then 1.5 years, and it uses the newest version of layout engine – Gecko 1.9, which has quite a number of difference in comparisson with a Firefox 2, which was Gecko 1.8.1 based. The most important features of the Firefox 3 are: Gecko 1.9 (it passes the ACID 2 test, opposite to the Firefox 2, which fails; it implements some of the HTML 5 upcomming features), APNG (animated PNG: besides Firefox, Opear 9.5 is also supporting it), completely reworked url address bar (which will truly search visited urls as you type the address to show you a list with urls to select), verified pages (the icon before the url bar, which allowes to consult the certificate, reworked bookmarks system : one-click addition bookmarks (a golden star, which allow you to add a page to your favourites with just one click on it) and tags for the bookmarks (the social part is getting even inside your browser), completely reworked add-ons system (a number of plugins even stopped working with the new version, but i believe that in a couple of weeks those problems should be addressed by the developers of the respective plugins).
Also there are some serious improvements in memory-management area, at least the first impression, is that Firefox 3 consumes much less memory then it predecessor. It appears to be more stable, especially when opening multiple google pages (gmail, analytics and docs for example), which is quite important since the Firefox 2 required a lot of attention while working with multiple tabs with google pages open.
A number of pages appears to have some serious bugs — the layout engine is quite different to the elder one of Firefox 2, and i currently see a lot of pages which rendering wrong, one of the most famous examples is Google Analytics, where the second date of the range “falls” down below the start date and breaks the interface. I have noticed, that various pages reendering in a very similar way as a Opera 9.x and opposite to Opera 9.5, i have one of such examples in a current project which should go online next month.
Another favourite feature of mine is a closing page controller, which will allow you to save and restore current tabs when closing Firefox. A part of this feature on Firefox 2 has already working when shutting the computer down, but without a message box to confirm if you want to save it. It is very usefull, when you wish to close Firefox while starting some memory-consuming applications as a graphical editors for instance. Opera 9.5 recently released has this feature as weel.
Firefox 3 has finally abandoned support for Windows 95 (yeah, a product which is 13 years old), Windows 98, Windows ME and Windows NT 4, and if you are still using one of those systems (insane thing because of the security problems and the fact that all of them are more then 2 years are not supported), then Firefox 2 is your best friend. You won’t miss anything groundbreaking on the web in the next couple of years, so if you stick with the elder “brother” you will still be quite safe. As for the Mac OS X version – the OS X 10.4 is required and its a typical situation for macintosh software – i don’t really thing that any real Mac user will be affected by this fact. The reason of using the OS X 10.4 was implementing Firefox natively, so it will have a native Cocoa widget interface, and such things as transparency when overlapping with Flash elements on the page, for example (it has bugged me for quite some time). It is also much faster as a native application, there is no doubt about it.
After 1.5 years of the development, 4 beta versions and 3 release candidates the final version has finally arrived. Take a look at it, and while some graphic bugs and incompatibilities are unavoidable, this is not a future browser – this is a browser of the moment.