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Firefox 3.5: The Good, The Bad, and The "Meh"

Posted 07-07-2009 at 02:52 PM by pereb
Updated 07-08-2009 at 09:26 AM by pereb (Fixed a typo)

Just over a year after Firefox 3.0 set a Guinness World Record for the most downloads in a single day, Mozilla released the official version of Firefox 3.5 last week. While not a full new version, 3.5 packed in a ton of upgrades (fun fact: it was originally numbered Version 3.1, but developers changed the name because they felt it didn’t reflect the amount of new stuff added). I’ve been using the official Firefox Version 3.5 since it came out on June 30, and while it does boast some serious new and cool tricks, it hasn’t all been perfect. I already gave my two cents on Windows 7, so here’s my rundown on Firefox Version 3.5.

I’ll start with private browsing (aka “porn mode”). It’s about time! Not that it’s a life-changing feature, or one that I’ll even use much, but Firefox was a bit behind in the game on this. IE8 has it. Safari has it. Hell, Google Chrome has had private browsing since its initial release. With the vast network of developers working on Firefox (read: everyone and their sister, since it’s open source), you’d think this would have been something they would have rolled out a lot earlier. One nice touch is that Firefox gives no indication that you’re surfing in private mode, unlike Chrome and IE, which put little indicators on the toolbar. It’s like movie stars who wear face-blocking sunglasses and gigantic hats to “hide” themselves, because skulking about in ridiculously huge articles of clothing won’t get you noticed. Plus, going into private browsing mode automatically hides the windows you have currently open, reopening them when you leave private browsing mode. I guess that could come in handy in panic situations, but if I didn’t want someone to see those windows, wouldn’t I have been viewing them in private mode to begin with? It’s somewhat annoying. If there’s a way to turn this off, I haven’t found it yet.

Mozilla’s biggest claim with Firefox 3.5 - and my biggest gripe - was the incredibly enhanced speed. I’ll be honest: I don’t notice any difference. If anything, it seems to be slower starting up. Maybe it’s just me, but this promise seems to have fallen quite flat. Another hyped-up feature that left me feeling disappointed was geolocation. Now, I never really understood the need for this feature. It seemed a bit unnecessary to me, unless I got lost in the wilderness with my PC, or wound up like the guy from Memento who had his memory wiped every time he went to sleep. Regardless, I was curious to test it out as soon as I downloaded 3.5. (Try Mozilla's geomapping test here) Mozilla claims the feature is useful for mapping directions, but the best it could give me was a metro area, and a rather large metro area at that. Hardly useful for getting me anywhere in town.

Despite these few gripes, Firefox is still by far my favorite browser. Most of the new features I have absolutely nothing bad to say about. Tear-off tabs that you can stick on your desktop for later use are great. The plugin-free integration of audio and video is a long-awaited gem. And, of course, the beautiful Linux compatibility. Alright, so maybe that last one isn’t exactly brand new. But it’s still one of the things that matters most to me.
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