First Look at Firefox 3.0 Beta 2

First Look at Firefox 3.0 Beta 2

Summary: I'm keeping a close eye on the latest Firefox betas to be released by Mozilla. The reason is that if past performance issues have been fixed, it's quite likely that I might consider making a switch to it as my main browser. While I find Internet Explorer 7 to be fine, I think that there would be advantages to switching to a unified browsing platform across Windows, Mac OS and Linux.

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I'm keeping a close eye on the latest Firefox betas to be released by Mozilla.  The reason is that if past performance issues have been fixed, it's quite likely that I might consider making a switch to it as my main browser.  While I find Internet Explorer 7 to be fine, I think that there would be advantages to switching to a unified browsing platform across Windows, Mac OS and Linux. 

First Look at Firefox 3.0 Beta 2The Beta 2 of Firefox 3.0 represents the latest milestone.  Visually it looks virtually identical to the previous beta release, but under the hood Mozilla claim that a lot has changed:

  • Improved security features
  • Greater ease of use
  • More personalization options
  • Improved graphics and font rendering
  • Improved performance

You can find a complete listing of what's new in Firefox 3.0 beta 2 here.

But it's not new features that I'm interested in, it's performance and reliability - so how does Firefox 3.0 Beta 2 stand up?  Well, it's only been out a few hours but I've been hammering it hard on several systems and my feeling is that beta 2 is a significant improvement on beta 1.  Functionally and visually, beta 1 and beta 2 are hard to tell apart, but after a few seconds of using them side-by-side I think that I could tell them apart on pretty much any system.  Beta 2 feels snappier and far more responsive than beta 1 (or Firefox 2.0 for that matter) and I can feel the difference on all the systems that I've tried it on - from a lowly Sempron system to my quad-core monsters.  No matter what you want doing - opening a new tab, moving tabs, opening up Find, zooming in and out of the page, bookmarking - it all happens swiftly and smoothly.  Finally, Firefox feels like it's back to being faster and more responsive than Internet Explorer.  The bloat seems to have been trimmed away and what remains is fast.

Memory usage plus a possible bug -->

First Look at Firefox 3.0 Beta 2The memory footprint of Firefox 3.0 Beta 2 is similar to that of Beta 1 - page for page, Beta 2 has roughly the same memory footprint as Beta 1, which is a lot less than the footprint of either Firefox 2.0 or Internet Explorer 7.  I can see no sign on the spiraling memory consumption that plagued my use of previous releases.  Reusing the same tabs over and over for new pages doesn't seem to be a problem now either.  After having Firefox 3.0 Beta 2 running for several hours now without a restart, memory usage is at a little over 18MB with one tab loaded - nice.  By comparison, Firefox 2.0.0.11 sitting on another machine is hovering at over 41MB despite having only one tab open, having been used less and having no additional extensions installed.

First Look at Firefox 3.0 Beta 2The only bug (or possible bug) that I've noticed is that on one of my systems the menus seems to flash black before being populated.  It's only for an instant but it's noticeable and annoying.  I can't see why one system in particular would be affected - it's had Windows newly installed on it a few weeks ago and nothing else is misbehaving on it.

What surprises me about the Firefox 3.0 beta is how many memory leaks that Mozilla have fixed.  Complaints of memory leaks with Firefox 2.0 were met with an attitude of "Leaks?  What leaks?"  Considering that there have been more than 300 leaks plugged, it's obvious that past versions leaked like sieves.

If this trend continues and Firefox 3.0 continues to improve and these improvements continue to be present in the final release, I can honestly see myself using Firefox 3.0 as my main browser in 2008.  Not because of security, and not because of the add-ons and extensions (these are the main cause of Firefox bit-rot and I've vowed to limit my reliance on and use of them) but because it will be a unified browser that I can use across all operating systems.  That appeals to me a lot.

Thoughts?

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67 comments
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  • My Backup Browser

    Like its predecessors, Firefox 3.0 Beta 2 continues to work with my financial site and
    Cox TV listings. No version of Safari has ever been able to do this. Firefox 3.0 Beta 2
    also passes the acid test, http://www.webstandards.org/action/acid2/. Camino and
    Navigator won't pass.
    msackett
    • It's interesting that Camino doesn't pass...

      It's interesting that Camino doesn't pass since it's based off the same source code. I
      wonder why that is?
      olePigeon
      • Safari 3 passes, though. Just tested it. [nt]

        [nt]
        olePigeon
      • If I'm not misinformed,

        [b]Camino[/b] is based on [b]Gecko 1.8[/b], whereas [b]FF 3[/b] is based on version [b]1.9[/b]....

        Henri
        mhenriday
    • Very speedy

      I write web apps that use some fat javascript libraries. Beta 2 is extremely quick, and I've come across no compatibility issues. IE just chokes to death. I won't be putting any effort into getting my apps to work or 'look right' in IE, I'll just put (far less) effort into installing FF3 for clients.
      fr0thy
  • Firefox 3 Beta 2 Disables Google Desktop

    NT
    msackett
    • Sounds like another reason to use it.... ;-)

      nt
      bportlock
    • Another upside!

      On a serious note, this will no doubt be fixed.
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
      • Your a tool if you need google toolbar

        Exactly, Google Toolbar is spyware and isnt allowed at most secure facilities. It's for lazy people. Kudos to them for killing an inherent risk to their browser and a security hole for admins to begin with.
        Eindhoven
        • You're a tool if you can't spell "you're." [nt]

          [nt]
          olePigeon
        • I doubt sincerely

          that [b]FF 3.0 Beta 2[/b] was designed to ?kill? the [b]Google Toolbar[/b] add-on ; rather I suspecta new and better version of the toolbar - which I personally, being as indolent as they come, find most useful, indeed - will be made available as soon as the browser comes out of beta. I know that many users, among them myself, look forward to this and to ([i]pace[/i], Adrian !) other add-on updates....

          Henri
          mhenriday
        • Reading Retension...

          The post you're responding to is talking about Google [b]Desktop[/b], NOT Google Toolbar.

          The Google Toolbar is [b]Great[/b] if you use many computers with your USB drive, so your bookmarks are with you all the time!!
          MDGeist
      • Too bad...

        NT
        Syzygy01
    • Not As Far As I Can Tell

      I'm using Google Desktop with FF3 Beta 2. Seems to work fine for me. Google [i]Toolbar[/i] doesn't work, but that's an extension. Extensions almost never work out of the box with a major version FF upgrade. All it takes is some hacking of the extension to make it work, though. (Go into install.rdf and change the maxversion parameter to 3.0.0.* or something similar.)
      bhartman33
  • no new features to justify the new major version 3.0

    no new features to justify the new major version 3.0
    qmlscycrajg
    • sure there is

      Fx 3 is based on Gecko 1.9, new rendering engine deserves a major version number.
      rtk
      • it's not new, but it's just an upgrade from 1.8

        it's not new, but it's just an upgrade from 1.8
        qmlscycrajg
    • Sure it does

      It has a completely new system for storing and managing bookmarks and history, for instance - providing both enhanced functionality and a fix for the long-standing "lost bookmarks" bug. It also has a new download manager that allows resume across sessions - something users have been crying for for years. There's more, too - but just those changes are more than enough to call a major update.
      Greenknight_z
    • What's in a name (or number)?

      Who cares what they call it - 2.0.0.xx or 2.1 or 3.0 - as long as it's still <b>free</b>, and installs easily and is stable and improves performance, without changing the user interface too much.
      tmcsweeney9
  • Still a pig on OS X.

    Too bad because adblock and NoScript are dabomb
    frgough