Firefox 3 has been released recently with a lot of fanfare as usual — Record breaking downloads , data about increasing market share , the admiration and praise for the open source movement, among other things.
I have been an active user of Firefox ever since its launch. IE 6.0 was great but IE 7.0 was awful. Thus my preference for Firefox has been further strengthened over the years. So when Firefox 3.0 was released I promptly downloaded it and started to use it. Here are a few of my observations.
Memory problem is still very much there
I was hoping that in this release the memory issue will be addressed. Though I have read claims about the fix, I didn’t see it working first hand on Windows XP. I find that Firefox 3 hogs memory (as you add tabs) and then suddenly freezes. Once this occurs, “killing” the browser window is quite a struggle. Firefox 2 is more stable and reliable in this regard. This is easily the biggest Firefox 3.0 weakness in my opinion. It happened to me too frequently to be ignored despite the fact that I usually open no more than 4-5 tabs.
Saving Login/Password does not work, sometimes
I noticed this problem on the Meebo site. Despite checking the box that says remember me, you have to enter your password every single time. This works just fine in Firefox 2.0. (This maybe a problem with Meebo rather than the browser?)
Saving the tabs is very useful
If you accidentally delete a tab, the History menu maintains the recently deleted tabs, making it so much easier to recover deleted tabs. In Firefox 2 you had to install a plugin to do this for you.
Cool Address Bar
As always there are cool features to excite the technically inclined. The coolest of these being the address bar. If you visit a site frequently you can just enter the site name instead of the entire URL. The browser maintains this information. In short, its cool and saves you some typing.
Look and Feel of IE
Firefox fans are not going to like this. Firefox 3.0 has an IE 7.0 feel to it. By this I don’t mean specific UI features. I mean the overall feel. There is a certain “lightness” to it which reminds one of IE 7.0. It will be interesting to see Microsoft return with IE 8.0 later this year.
You can read a full list of new Firefox 3.0 features here . There is no question that Firefox 3.0 is easily far ahead of IE 7.0 in its usability.
Finally, Some Serious food for thought
Here is a snippet from a recent article in the Mercury News.
The code for the latest version of the browser received contributions from about 800 folks, only a fraction of whom are employed by Mozilla. And thousands more people download daily updates to the beta versions to test and critique them.
Mozilla funds all this primarily through money it gets from a revenue-share agreement with Google for searches conducted through the browser. The balance comes from contributions from its community and foundations. In the most recent year of financial data available, Mozilla had revenue of $66,840,850 in 2006 compared with expenses of $19,776,193. It paid 90 people in some fashion that year to work on Firefox.
Statements like the above just spread the myth that Firefox is all non-profit and we are living in this great new world where an army of strangers come together for the common good of computer users around the globe. While there might be some element of truth to it, the reality though is that there is the Mozilla Corporation (which is for-profit) while the Mozilla Foundation is non-profit. The for-profit organization rakes in the moolah and pays its CEO (500K+ in annual salary) and other executives big bucks. 90-odd people who work on the project are hopefully well-paid as well while the 800-odd out there get little or nothing in return (besides some recognition, possibly some web presence and maybe a couple of T-shirts).
Most of Mozilla’s revenues come from its advertising arrangement with Google. The Firefox browser with a growing market share is a direct challenge to Microsoft’s IE. Under these circumstances, it is hard to argue against claims that Mozilla is no more than a front for Google’s in its battle against Microsoft. Frankly, it is surprising that Microsoft is not doing more to dispel this myth about Mozilla.
A cash rich organization like Mozilla would do well to monetarily recognize those 800-odd (starving?) developers around the world. Next, the media should stop spreading this myth about Mozilla’s non-profit status.
Last but not the least, the Mozilla should be forced to explicitly outline the distinction between its for-profit and non-profit entities instead of high falutin’ statements on its website like “We’re a public benefit organization dedicated not to making money but to improving the way people everywhere experience the Internet” and “In the end, the Mozilla community, organization and technology is all focused on a single goal: making the Internet better for everyone.”
The Mozilla website in its current form helps further this myth that sections of the media seem to be spreading already. This is wrong, unfair, and blatantly misleading, though I still love the Firefox browser.