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Firefox 3 Released - Sort Of

Mozilla officially issued the third major release of its Firefox Web browser today. Firefox 3 includes tens of thousands of bugfixes, some performance enhancements, and a few new security features. But if you've been eagerly waiting for the final release, you may have to cool your heels.

Mozilla set a goal of breaking the Guinness Book of World Records' record for the most downloads of a program in a single 24-hour period. Mozilla may be well on its way to breaking the current record (I actually couldn't find any such existing record to break in a search at the Guinness Book online). It's a cute gimmick, but the download record may be slowing would-be users from grabbing a copy of the new browser. So far, I have only been able to pull up the Firefox 3 download page once for a brief moment this afternoon.

At any rate, I've been using the latest Firefox 3 release candidates for some time now, and have been moderately impressed with the changes. The new browser includes the same anti-phishing protection built into Firefox 2, and adds blocking for sites known to be distributing malicious software. The malware site blacklist is being distributed by Google, but the browser is designed to accommodate other blacklists, too.

Firefox 3 also provides easy access to information on any site you visit: Just click on the site's icon to the left of the site's address in the URL bar, and up pops a green icon resembling either a policeman or a crossing guard, I can't tell which. Anyway, green guy tries to offer a bit more data on the site you're visiting. This is obviously more useful when you want to check whether you're really at your bank's Web site or a clever fake. But the added information only pops up for sites that have secured somewhat pricey Extended Validation (EV) certificates, which turn the address bar green.

So, for example, if you click on the "w" icon next to http://www.washingtonpost.com/securityfix, the green guy doesn't provide more information. But if you do the same while on Paypal.com, the security cop provides a brief description of the site's credentials and offers additional details if the user wants to investigate further.

I'll leave it to my colleague Rob Pegoraro to delve into all of Firefox 3's quirks and perks, as he's promised a thorough review soon. But one thing I did want to mention on the performance side is that the new Firefox is noticeably lighter on system resources. This may be in part because not all of my add-ons were compatible with the release candidate (add-ons can be some of the biggest sources of memory problems with Firefox). Still, I noticed that with the same number of tabs on both Firefox 2 and Firefox 3 release candidate 3, the newer browser fairly consistently consumed about half as much memory resources as Firefox 2.

What about you, dear readers? Have you been surfing with the early versions of Firefox 3? If so, leave a note below with your impressions or gripes.

By Brian Krebs  |  June 17, 2008; 5:12 PM ET
Categories:  From the Bunker , New Patches , Safety Tips  
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