Inside Firefox 3.5 – the improvements and new features

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After a year of Firefox 3 being released; the Mozilla Corporation has launched a major update to the second-largest and open-source browser, Firefox 3.5. The new version is said to be the “best performing browser” and has added several improvements to the browser, and new features to go along with it.

Now, TECHGEEK.com.au looks at what is inside this major release.

Private Browsing & Privacy Controls

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With Safari, Chrome and Internet Explorer having launched a way to browse the web without anyone knowing what you have done, Firefox has now added that functionality with “Private Browsing”. The new feature does what it says, no trace of what you browse will be recorded.

Also new is the added “Clear Recent History”, allowing you to clean the past few hours of recorded history activity, including all private data, so you can still have the rest of your history, just not the past few hours of it – because there are some things that are meant to be kept secret.

Location Based Browsing

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After seeing this in action in Firefox 3.1 Beta, Firefox 3.5 has now made this as a feature in the browser, allowing you to send your geographical data to a website to find more relevant and useful information, like finding local hotels or getting directions to a particular location or landmark.

Because of this, Firefox has also made it optional, so you can reject attempts to get information based on location – meaning that you have control who knows where you are located.

Audio and Video

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As you can see in the image above, that is a video being played in Firefox 3.5. But why are you showing me this? This is obviously a Flash player; and you would be right to guess that it was, but you are wrong. Dailymotion, along with Firefox, have partnered up to create a new video experiment with the new HTML5 syntax, which also includes the <video> and the <audio> tags.

In brief, the <video> and <audio> tags are to play video and audio formats, but it seems that many are opting to use the open source codecs from Ogg Vorbis and Ogg Theora formats.

You can see below that this is using that very same syntax to play the video, and the controls are also coded in HTML, so there is no need for Flash anywhere in the site.

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Copying Chrome

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One of the new features, however, is that you can now rip off the tabs into new windows and drag them back in. This sounds like Google Chrome for some reason, and it could be, because they had that feature since day one, even though they do not have a Mac or Linux version out.

However, with that, there is no sandboxing feature out yet, which is where you can have each tab and each window running as separate things, so if one tab crashes, it does not crash the entire browser – and that is one of the things that sets Chrome apart from the rest.

Mozilla, however, is said to be working on that very feature soon, so look out for it in the next major release.

Performance

One of the big things about Firefox 3.5 is that it has now improved its Javascript rendering performance, though it is beaten by Google Chrome. On a SunSpider test (on a Windows XP machine), it manages to reduce the loading time from 3,669ms in Firefox 3 to 1,524 seconds.

As well, more emphasis has been made integrating the browser’s look to the operating system, with Vista have visual enhancements to the sidebar, rounded corners for the OS X version and icons in the location bar have been aligned in the Linux version.

Overall

Overall, Firefox 3.5 is a major upgrade that hopes to close the gap between it and Google Chrome by so many in the performance area, but it has added several things to catch up with many of its rivals, like Private Browsing and HTML5 support from Safari.

However, because of Firefox’s large amount of plug-ins and its community supporting the development, Firefox remains the number one choice, in my mind, in browsers.

Next up, a look in what Firefox 3.5 has made for developers.