posted by Thom Holwerda on Fri 20th Jun 2008 23:18 UTC
IconI've seen superlative after superlative concerning the release of Firefox 3.0, and in all honesty, it is making my stomach ache. Yes, Firefox 3.0 is a great release. It has a slicker interface (the UI on Vista looks quite pretty) and the use of native widgets in Linux is a very, very welcome addition. On top of that, it actually delivers what I was craving for the most from my favourite Windows web browser: much improved performance. But does Firefox 3.0 change the web, or alter the way we use the intertubes?

To put it bluntly: I think not. Let's first take a look at one of the over-the-top reviews that I've seen so far, one that really stood out to me because it almost made me loose my appetite for my can of Pringles (Sour Cream & Onion). This is what our friends over at eWeek had to say about firefox 3.0:

At first glance, it doesn't look that different from previous versions of the browser. And while there are nice improvements from a usability standpoint, there's nothing radically different for Web users.

But appearances can be deceiving. And with its release today, Firefox 3 is poised to usher in a new phase of Web browsing that will change how Web applications are built and delivered, and even how most of us use and think of the Web.

The first bit is of course pretty much dead-on, as Firefox 3.0 looks pretty similar to any other browser out there. It is the second part that is rather over the top - change the we use and think of the web? I've been using the test releases of Firefox 3.0 for quite a while now, and I must say that, yes, I'm still pretty much browsing the same way I've been browsing for the past 10 years - only a little faster, but that's a given since Firefox 2.0 was no speed demon.

According to the eWeek article, it are two things that supposedly "change the way we use and think of the web". The most important one is the seamlessness of web applications. This may seem like something really fancy, but what it effectively means is that you can set a web email service such as Yahoo! mail as your browser's default email client. Attentive readers will see the problem: this is not a system-wide setting, but a browser-wide setting. It only works in Firefox, so as soon as you encounter a mailto: link somewhere else, your operating system's default email application will still launch. I don't see how this is revolutionary - or in fact even special. I'd consider it annoying since it breaks concistency. One application opens Yahoo! mail when clicking on a mailto: link, but the other opens Mail.app.

The other big thing is the offline availability of web applications. This is indeed a great feature for those that rely on web applications (email applications come to mind, mostly), but sadly, websites have to manually implement support for this before it works.

The other new features are very welcome, but hardly revolutionary. Anti phishing protection, the love-it-or-hate-it Awesome Bar, location information and pause/resume functionality in the download window, increased annoyingness in the invalid certificate dialog, and so on - great new features, welcome improvements, and even some stuff that was long overdue anyway. However, this is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a revolutionary release. It's an evolution of Firefox 2.0. Nothing more - but certainly, nothing less either.

My respect to the Mozilla Foundation for their excellent hyping marketing campaign surrounding the new release. They have done an excellent job at making everyone believe that Firefox 3.0 is the second coming of Christ himself, and that's commendable. But let's keep both feet on the ground here and respect Firefox 3.0 for what is actually is: a very good web browser, with an enticing feature set and greatly improved performance, and definitely, without a doubt, my browser of choice in Windows, BeOS, and Linux (I prefer Safari on Mac OS X). But revolutionary? No.

You can resume your normal browsing schedule now. Firefox 3.0 won't mind.

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