Firefox 3.6 - The review

Firefox 3.6 - The review

Summary: I've had Firefox 3.6 installed on my system for a few hours now and I've been putting it through its paces, I'm ready to give you my thoughts and feelings on this new release.

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TOPICS: Hardware, Browser
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I've had Firefox 3.6 installed on my system for a few hours now and I've been putting it through its paces, I'm ready to give you my thoughts and feelings on this new release.

Firefox 3.6 isn't a major release, so don't expect to experience any huge, radical changes the way you browse the web. There are no major interface advances, and most of the tech tweaks are hidden away so you're only likely to spot if you go looking for them. That said, it doesn't mean that you should ignore what Firefox 3.6 has to offer.

Performance

A while ago I concluded that the page rendering and JavaScript processing performance of both Mozilla's Firefox and Google's Chrome browsers had evolved to a point where speed was no longer an issue. About the only valid take away from measuring the performance of Firefox and Chrome is to compare them to the still abysmal performance of Microsoft's Internet Explorer. When it comes to performance, IE8 is way behind the curve, and lagging severely behind the competition.

So how fast is Firefox 3.6? According to Mozilla, Firefox 3.6 is some three times faster tahan Firefox 3.0, and about 20% faster than 3.5. My testing shows that 3.6 is indeed over three times faster than 3.0, but when it comes to 3.6 vs 3.5, I'm seeing a performance increase nearer to 15%. Still, 15% performance increase is pretty impressive, especially considering that this is a minor release.

Is the performance boost noticeable? If you're coming at it from 3.5, no, not really. However, I can notice a different with JavaScript heavy sites such a Google Mail between 3.6 and 3.0.

What about the memory leaks? Are they gone? To be perfectly honest, I can't tell you. I've not seen signs of any issues yet, but I don't find these things to be predictable and will need to spend more time with the browser before I can comment.

New features

Like I said earlier, don't expect huge change in Firefox 3.6. That said, there are a few new features worthy of a mention.

Personas

One cool new feature is called Personas. This allows the user to customize the look of their browser with a single click. Sure, it's just a method of skinning the UI with an image, but don't underestimate the feel-good factor that this single feature can give people. It's a low-drag way for people to make the browser feel like their own personal space.

These changes are more superficial than changing the browser theme, but they are fun and simple to use.

To find out more about Personas, and to download them, check out GetPersonas.com.

Safety and stability -->

Outdated Plug-in detection

Another cool feature of Firefox 3.6 is one that will make your browsing safer and more stable - an improved plug-in checker. Now Firefox 3.6 checks your plug-ins and if it finds that you are running an outdated plug-in it directs you to a new page on Mozilla's site that allows you to download new versions (note that the plug-in check page needs Firefox 3.6 to work).

Under the hood tweaks

There are also a whole raft of under the hood improvements, many aimed at developers. These tweaks include:

  • Support for full-screen video
  • Web Open Fonts Format support
  • CSS gradients
  • Drag and drop support
  • Orientation support for systems featuring accelerometers

Should I upgrade?

So, should you upgrade? My answer to this is going to be "yes ... but ..." Yes, Firefox 3.6 is a worthy update, and offers something for everybody, even if it is only a performance boost. But what about that "but"? In this case the "but" is dependent on existing add-ons and plug-ins that you have installed. The problem with any version change in Firefox is that this could cause plug-ins to stop working, and if these are critical to your day to day operations then this could make Firefox 3.6 a deal-breaker until developers update their add-ons.

If you really want to make the switch to Firefox 3.6 but are being prevented by an extension that doesn't seem to work, then you might be able to force compatibility using this handy tweak. I make no guarantees and your mileage may vary, but it's worth a try.

Other than issues with add-ons, I see no reason for people not to upgrade to 3.6. If you're one of those types that worries about bugs, then wait a few weeks for 3.6.1 or 3.6.2, which are bound to make an appearance shortly.

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Topics: Hardware, Browser

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93 comments
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  • Awesome

    I must admit... Personas are more fun than I thought they would be.
    Galactica Actual
    • Personas

      I have tried a few (12<"Personas"<100) of the "Personas" for FF 3.6 and I have to say that I found most of them to be awful.

      They loaded OK, but the colour schemes interfered with the text.

      lehnerus2000
      lehnerus2000
      • Personas

        I agree, they are predominantly / truly AWFUL. Blurred or unreadable text and designs by (apparently) aged hippies, those with visual impairments, or someone who has/is a hallucinogenic frame of mind.
        herronjames
  • RE: Firefox 3.6 - The review

    Firefox 3.6 still does not fix the redirect bug that you get when you click on Google search results.
    roybjr@...
    • Works in Windows

      I believe that problem exists only in Linux. It has never happened to me while running Firefox from windows. You should try changing the DNS servers to maybe OpenDNS (208.67.222.222). It worked the last time I tried.
      pravin3832
  • Don't forget . . .

    to check the developer's websites for the extensions that don't work. A lot of the time, they'll have either an experimental version, or a nightly build.

    Tab Mix plus, for instance is available in their forum under the sticky at the top of the nightly build topic (creative, huh . . . :) ).

    Just be aware that these things aren't stable enough for general release sometimes . . .
    JLHenry
  • Firefox has won the browser war

    Firefox is the BEST!

    IE is a virus magnet.
    linux_kernel
    • It's getting there, but not yet.

      It's getting there - but not yet. IE is still the majority, and IE is still in the game, and Microsoft is still working on it.

      Firefox is making great progress, yes - but it's still a far cry from being a definitive "win."

      Firefox is my primary browser, yes. And I love it. But I still can't really deny that IE still has the larger market share.
      CobraA1
  • TABS!!!

    When will Firefox and Chrome make it so I can view each browser tab individually from the start bar in Windows 7?!? The only reason I still use IE8 is because of that feature, which makes having multiple tabs extreemly easy. Maybe it's just me, but this seems like it should have already happened.
    zbaker@...
    • Is this what you are talking about?

      http://www.askvg.com/how-to-disable-windows-7-taskbar-tab-preview-thumbnails-in-mozilla-firefox-3-6-beta/
      Galactica Actual
      • YES!!!

        That did it! Thanks for the pointer!
        zbaker@...
      • Mine doesn't do that at all.

        My FF 3.6 doesn't do that, regardless of the config setting (I have Windows 7 b7100).

        Additional:
        After rebooting my PC and restarting FF, I now get a pop-up list (not thumbnails).

        lehnerus2000
        lehnerus2000
    • That feature is in the 3.7alpha releases

      And I think it is in 3.6, you just have to enable it through the config console somehow.
      Lerianis10
      • Go TO about:Config

        Filter for Preview.
        Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
    • Try the "Showcase" extension....

      I find it to be [u]vastly[/u] more usable and pretty than Taskbar thumbnails.
      Rick S._z
  • RE: Firefox 3.6 - The review

    you still need IE8 permission for downloads.
    i set "IE Security and Privacy to High".
    i get empty files on download.

    have to go back to "Internet Options" and set: "Launching applications and unsafe files" to Prompt.
    if not, you get no .exe files.
    zeepkist1@...
  • I love Opera.

    Yes, I do.
    People
    • Opera STINKS PERIOD

      nt
      TalentSupporter
      • Firefox sucks PERIOD.

        Don't use it.
        sadly2010
        • I agree

          The same stupid thing as before. Never made a big impression for me, as opera did.

          Just made waste me time finding stupid add ons made by geeks, and that stopped working upon the first update.

          Opera is all the contrary, everything is there ouy of the box, I spend my time working with important things, not finding shitty add ons just to see if I get the same functionality.
          hectormacias