Firefox 3.5 Streaks Onto the Web

Mozilla has released Firefox 3.5, the latest edition of its open source browser, one year after its release of Firefox 3.

The update went through four betas, incorporating JavaScript fine-tuning and other improvements, resulting in the fastest version yet, according to Mozilla.

Mozilla was unable to provide an interview for this story in time for publication.

Five Times as Fast

Firefox 3.5 includes support for a new private browsing mode, native support for open video and audio, and location aware browsing.

However, it is the performance upgrades — particularly the new TraceMonkey JavaScript engine — that Mozilla is touting the most: On complex Web sites, Firefox 3.5 is more than twice as fast as Firefox 3, and it’s 10 times faster than Firefox 2.

Support for open video and audio is now native to Firefox 3.5, available to users without the need to install plug-ins.

There are also new privacy controls in Firefox 3.5; the new private browsing mode, for example, does not store anything from a surfing session online. Also new is the forget-this-site feature, which can remove all traces of a site from the browser. Another feature, clear recent history, removes all activity from the past few hours.

Missing Toolbars

So far, the new browser is living up to its promise, Brent Diggins, a public relations rep at Mindspace and a Firefox enthusiast, told TechNewsWorld. “It looks the same. The functionality is good. It’s cleaner than the last version, a little bit.”

The one disappointment, said Diggins, is how few toolbars and other applications are compatible with this version.

“I lost virtually all of my toolbars and add-ons from other sites when I downloaded and installed 3.5. They are vital to what I do, so I may have to go back and download an old version,” he said. “In hindsight, I wish I had waited.”

Speed Doesn’t Thrill

As for speed, Diggins didn’t notice a perceptible difference — but then again, measuring browser speed is becoming more science than art.

Apple touted Safari 4’s unprecedented speed when it was released earlier this month. However, companies that measure such things report that the difference in speed among browsers, in general, has narrowed considerably, with perhaps one-second advantages on certain Web sites, depending on how they are designed.

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