Firefox 3 available for download
Firefox 3 was released on Tuesday night, eighteen months after the first pre-release version. At the same time, the Mozilla Foundation initiated its widely publicised Download Day to try for a world record number of downloads within 24 hours. The installer was already available on Mozilla's FTP server beforehand. English versions of Firefox 3 are available for Windows – 2000, Server 2003, XP and Vista, Mac OS X and Linux; however, Windows 98, Me and NT and Mac OS X up to version 10.3 are no longer supported.
The browser's Gecko rendering engine has been upgraded to make Firefox 3 faster, more memory efficient and more web standards-compliant, especially its CSS and SVG handling. Mozilla has also introduced numerous new features to enhance the browser's security and user interface. The foundation has published a detailed list of the changes since Firefox 2. Mac users in particular will notice differences in appearance as Firefox now integrates better into the operating system, including using Mac OS widgets.
The browser's bookmark management has been reworked completely: Clicking the star in the address bar saves the address as an uncategorised bookmark for later sorting. Bookmark management also handles tags; when editing, the browser will suggest tags which have already been allocated to avoid duplicates with different spellings.
The auto-completion of addresses in Firefox 3 also responds to page titles and the tags of visited and bookmarked addresses and adapts to user habits when sorting the results. Pages found on the net can be grouped in intelligent bookmark folders; these 'places' are managed via SQLite, a transaction-safe relational database. The database also allows offline web applications which synchronise with an online service when the internet connection is re-established.
The new download manager has a better overview and can complete previously aborted downloads. Firefox 3 also makes it easier for users to determine what to do with downloads. Users can now name web services to handle protocols like
mailto:, instead of local applications. From the flood of extensions, Mozilla has included a selection to assist users with increasing their browser functionality. Firefox automatically deactivates obsolete add-ons.
Firefox 3 doesn't even display web sites which are known to be fraudulent. Security-related web site information is clearly arranged and can be accessed by clicking on the favicon. The browser routinely checks whether an SSL certificate has expired, which is likely to cause numerous error messages with sloppy web site operators. In addition, the program co-operates better with anti-virus software and Vista's child protection. However the private surfing mode, as found in Safari, which prevents the browser from leaving any data on the user's computer, was not completed in time to make it into the new version.
Firefox 3 offers a full zoom function which does not destroy the page layout. The new browser is also said to improve text rendering by displaying improved ligatures and complex characters. Multiple text selection is possible and image colour management makes full use of embedded colour profiles, greatly improving the quality of displayed images. Mozilla have also claimed an improvement in page download and display time. In practice this is quite noticeable.