Speed and security make Firefox 3.5 worth a look

HAMBURG - Many internet users spend more time with their browsers than with their cars. Which makes it all the more important to know the pros and cons of the browser you choose for your global surfing.

By (DPA)

Published: Sun 12 Jul 2009, 2:28 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 8:57 AM

With that in mind, Firefox 3.5, which came out June 30, is worth a look. Downloads are free.

“We’ve put more than 5,000 improvements into version 3.5,” says Mike Shaver, one of the chief designers at Mozilla, the company that, with a host of voluntary contributors, backs the browser.

Most improvements are “under the hood” and will barely be noticed by the average user. However, some things - like the faster speed - should be very obvious to any user. “Firefox 3.5 is twice as fast as its predecessor,” says Shaver.

Everything from calling up pages to webmail applications to web-based photo manipulation should run faster, says Shaver.

Jo Bager, who tested the new browser for German computer magazine c’t confirms that speeds have picked up significantly. It also outperforms Internet Explorer, but only holds even with Chrome and Safari, the browsers from Google and Apple.

Another addition is the Ogg Theora video codec. This piece of software makes it as easy to insert a video into a website as it has previously been to insert a picture. It’s no longer necessary to include extra software to play the video, meaning plug-ins like Flash are no longer necessary.

All that’s left is for website operators to make use of the technology, which should come fairly quickly, since it’s free and Firefox is already used by 300 million operators worldwide. In Germany, with 40 per cent of the market, Firefox has already overtaken the newest versions of Explorer, 7 and 8, according to marketing researcher Fittkau & Maass.

Taking a lead from Chrome, Firefox has also given a nod to data security. With a simple click, users can start a private session, the details of which are promptly deleted once the session is completed. And that’s only one of Firefox’s new tools for erasing one’s tracks online.

For example, users now can be specific about which data to delete: that from the last hour of surfing, that from a specific day or all references to a particular website. The options save users from having to dump their whole memory cache every time they want to hide something.

“This can be useful if, for example, I’ve just used the family computer to buy my wife a gift on Amazon,” says Bager.

Another interesting feature lets users pick specific sites to reopen in case of a system crash. This helps them leave aside sites that might have been responsible for the crash in the first place.

Mobile users might be interested in knowing that Firefox 3.5 comes with Geolocation. If the user explicitly agrees, Firefox looks up the physical location of the computer and user. That then makes it easier for searches about hotels, restaurants and other attractions in the area.

“We don’t see the details about your location and we don’t save them,” says Shaver. His colleague, Tristan Nitot of Mozilla Europe, adds: “You don’t have to trust us. Just look under the hood.” After all, Firefox is open-source software, meaning anyone can access, change and update its source code.

More news from TECH