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.
- 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.
The 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 18.104.22.168 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.
The 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.
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