A skillful and secure Web-surfing tool | Download Product Review - CNET Download.com

A skillful and secure Web-surfing tool

Mozilla's well-known Firefox browser has netted legions of fans and millions of downloads, with many good reasons for its popularity. Version 3.5 serves up faster load times, better cookie and history control, geolocation, and lots of love for developers.

No longer a fledgling upstart, Firefox 3 is full-featured, lightning fast, and an able foe for both the big-dog competitor Internet Explorer and competitors nipping at its heels. Firefox's killer add-ons remain strong, and the latest update makes version 3.5 about two times faster than version 3. However, competition is strong and it can no longer be said that Firefox is the fastest browser available.

Several notable improvements in the latest revamp keep Firefox abreast of current browsing tech. Along with Mozilla's new TraceMonkey JavaScript engine that renders Web applications faster on Firefox than ever before, there have also been improvements to the layout engine Gecko for faster page rendering. The new Private Browsing brings a feature to Firefox that competitors have had for a while: the capability to turn off cookie and history logs. Users also have more granular control over cookies, history, and bookmarks in version 3.5 via the redone Clear Recent History option under Tools. Geolocation courtesy of Google has been activated by default in Firefox, so that generic searches such as "city hall" will come closer to pegging the government offices nearest you.

Web developers should be excited about expanded support for HTML5 local storage, downloadable fonts, and native support for OGG-formatted embedded video. ICC profiles, SVG transforms, CSS media queries, native JSON support, and Web worker threads also get lots of love from v3.5. There's no doubt that Firefox 3.5 is a must-have, but it's an update that's more about keeping the browser current rather than blazing new trails.

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