Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Faster Firefox 3.5 released, but beware of bugs

The final release of Mozilla's Firefox 3.5 web browser should be available to download tomorrow morning, six months after the original release date of the upgrade.

The suffix was upgraded from 3.1 to 3.5, because Mozilla decided the number of new features and performance improvement made the browser more of a "major upgrade", rather than an incremental upgrade with bug fixes.

The main selling point of Firefox 3.5 (codenamed Shiretoko) is that the browser should be much faster, especially when running JavaScript (which will speed up the likes of Facebook, Gmail, and Digg).

The speed boost is mainly due to Mozilla's new TraceMonkey JavaScript engine, with claims some scripts run up to twice as fast on 3.5 compared to Firefox 3.0.

The browser is Mozilla's attempt to grab back the momentum in the browser wars, with increased competition from Google's Chrome, Apple's Safari, Opera, and of course Microsoft's Internet Explorer.
Around 800,000 users have been running the beta versions of the improved browser, as developers worked to get rid of niggly bugs.

New features include a new Private Browsing Mode, an enhanced address bar called the 'Awesome Bar' (which offers auto-complete suggestions as you're typing), and an improved system restore tool to recover from browser crashes.

Firefox 3.5 also boasts dynamic colour profiles for more accurate image representation, Geo-location, a redesigned Downloads feature, multi-touch support, and in-browser video rendering (ie. video playback without patented plugins).

Windows, Mac, and Linux users can download the Firefox 3.5 web browser from Mozilla's official website. Current users should click on 'Check for Updates' (under the Help tab).

** UPDATE 4/7 ** It looks like Firefox fans and new users might be better holding off upgrading to version 3.5 of the open source web browser, which seems to have been rushed out to squeak inside the planned "Quarter 2" delivery date.

The biggest complaint is a massive increase in initial loading time (startup), which has increased to a very poor 20-50 seconds for many users. There are at least 55 published bugs for the new Firefox 3.5 browser, including crashes caused by the faster TraceMonkey JavaScript engine.

A mini bug-fix release Firefox 3.5.1 is due out by the end of July, but is expected to fix only a handful of the most serious bugs. A date for a more complete 3.5.2 has not been confirmed.

(My personal experience is that the new Firefox 3.5 browser was definitely speedier in operations, but the startup and crashing issues have forced me to downgrade to the previous 3.0.11 release until these problems are sorted out).

* The Channel Wire: Buggy Mozilla Firefox 3.5 A Rush Job?

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