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Mozilla's well-known Firefox browser has netted legions of fans and millions of downloads, with many good reasons for its popularity. Version 3.6 serves up several interesting new features.

No longer a fledgling upstart, Firefox is the gold standard of alternatives to the still-dominant Internet Explorer. This browser is full-featured, secure, and lightning fast--although competition is strong and it can no longer be said that Firefox is the fastest browser available. Its killer selection of add-ons remains strong, however, with built-in support for the next generation of themes, called Personas.

Several notable improvements in recent updates keep Firefox abreast of current browsing tech. In addition to improvements made to the TraceMonkey JavaScript engine so that it renders Web applications faster, there have also been other significant under-the-hood changes. These include: blocking third-party software from encroaching on Firefox's file system turf to increase stability; support for the Web Open Font Format, which means many non-English browser users should have a faster time loading Web pages with downloadable fonts; and support for the File interface, which can help with tasks such as uploading multiple photos and is part of the draft HTML5-standard effort. HTML5 support debuted in Firefox 3.5. Another deeper change to the browser is that it is now running scripts asynchronously, which can help to load a Web page faster by putting off some work until the high-priority chores are complete. Firefox also isolates out-of-date plug-ins so they do not become a security risk.

The latest update to Firefox 3.6.6 fixes security holes and solves some problems with plug-ins crashing (for example, most notably, a Flash or Silverlight crash now won't take Firefox down with it). Upgrading is highly recommended.

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