Firefox Stays In The Game With Firefox 3.5

And It's Great That Everyone's Finally Focusing on Performance

Firefox released their 3.5 version update for download today and so far it seems to be a pretty good release, including some new additions and some catch up features. Probably the biggest change, though not classified as a new feature, is Firefox 3.5's use of the TraceMonkey JavaScript engine. Whether you love all the interactivity or the slowness it can impose, we're relying on the interactivity JavaScript enables more and more. JavaScript isn't going away anytime soon so having a higher performance engine makes for a much better user experience.

Probably the biggest catch up feature added in Firefox 3.5 is Private Browsing, something we've had in Internet Explorer 8 with InPrivate Browsing. Private Browsing keeps sites you're visiting out your browsing history, but it appears to do more, by hiding all the existing tabs you have open. I'm assuming this is to prevent nefarious sites from peering into other open tabs, or maybe it's just to keep you from confusing what's private and what's not. Private Browsing does stop pre-filling password fields for you, cookies won't be added or updated, and cached and temporary Internet files won't be saved until Private Browsing is turn off.

The new feature I like most is the ability to drag-and-drop a tab to create a new browser window. Many times I've wanted to Alt-Tab between browser tabs, like you do with applications, and now you can do that. I sure wish IE had this feature. You can also combine a tab back into another browser window. The one capability I wish both IE and Firefox had is Google Chrome's ability to use the URL brower field for both searching and browsing. I grew to like that about Chrome staight away.

UPDATE: Reader Johnny Bravo discovered Firefox 3.5 does let you enter a search term in the URL field. Thanks for being on top of it, Johnny. Shake-a-pecks. (<- reference from the show).

Firefox also reinforces a common thread we're seeing in some recent software releases, focusing on performance. There's an entire page highlighting what's done to improve Firefox's performance. While TraceMonkey doesn't put Firefox in the performance category as Chrome, it's keeping pace ahead of IE 8. I'd easily give up some of IE 8's new features, like Accelerators, for better performance. Unless it's really useful, I just turn that stuff off because it gets in the way and often times slows performance. IE 8 could have taken a few lessons Windows 7 applied about 'less is more'. Both Windows 7 and Apple's latest Mac OS X release Snow Leopard are heavily focused on improving performance.

Sometimes less is more, in this case less feature-itis and more performance. That's often a good thing.

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