Firefox 3.1: Lookin’ Good Under the Hood

By  |  Wednesday, October 15, 2008 at 12:00 pm

It’s a busy day for browsers–not only is there a new version of Flock, but the browser it’s based on, Firefox, has popped out beta 1 of Firefox 3.1. As usual, Mozilla says it’s meant for developers and testers and that it may break add-ons. As usual, I’ve ignored the warnings and downloaded and installed it.

Most of what’s significant about 3.1 doesn’t hit you in the face the moment you launch the browser. In fact, you might not notice it at all–but it’s there, and it will pay dividends long term. That’s because it focuses on under-the-hood technical improvements, including improved support for Web standards. It also implements geolocation, which will let Web sites such as mapping services determine your location via GPS or other methods. And it runs the JavaScript that many Web services use to create their user interfaces faster (ZDNet’s Adrian Kingsley-Hughes ran some benchmarks to compare Firefox 3.1 to other browsers, and it was the quickest browser in two out of three tests.)

Firefox 3.1 does have a couple of new features beyond the under-the-hood stuff. (What do you call ’em–Inside-the-passenger-cabin improvements, maybe?) One is very nifty–press <Ctrl><Tab>, and thumbnail previews of all your open tabs pop up, letting you cycle through them in exactly the same way that Windows lets <Alt><Tab> to let you cycle through open applications:

Also new are some special characters you can use in the Awesome Bar to restrict the sites that Firefox shows you: Precede the characters you type with #, for instance, and you only see pages you’ve been to with those characters in the URL itself; procede it with ^, and you only see results from your history:

Any browser feature that involves remembering the different between what # does and what ^ does is by definition pretty geeky, but if you’re a command-line enthusiast you might be pleased with this one.

I said I installed Firefox 3.1 without worrying about the consequences; that doesn’t mean that I’d recommend you do the same, especially if you’re an add-on fan (One of the saddest feelings in all of technology is installing a new version of Firefox and discovering that it’s broken one or more add-ons you can’t live without.) Actually, even once 3.1 ships in its final version, it’s not a bad idea to wait to install it until you’re sure that your essential add-ons are good to go.

Which brings me back to Mozilla’s explanation of who this beta is for: developers (such as the ones who make add-ons) and other testers. Even if you don’t install 3.1 right now, it’s good to know that they’re already living with this beta and figuring out what needs fixing. And if by chance you have installed the beta, let us know what you think…



2 Comments For This Post

  1. Firefox beta 3.1 Says:

    Wow, It’s great I love to see these new changes

  2. ann87 Says:

    Most of what

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