When we heard today that Apple was releasing a beta version of Safari 4 , which they boast is up to 4 times faster than the previous version, it got us thinking about the new browser wars. More than ever, it seems like every new release from each of the contenders brings with it a bevy of new features and performance upgrades. Although we're excited to put Safari 4 through its paces, right now we're more excited about the next version of Firefox.
Here at Maximum PC, we like Firefox an awful lot. Its mix of stability, speed, expandability and open source warm-fuzzies easily earned it a spot on our recent list of the 32 essential Windows apps . And right now, because we like Firefox an awful lot, it should come as no suprise that we’re excited about Firefox 3.1, the upcoming update from Mozilla. Many of our readers have tried the 3.1 beta, but for those who haven’t, we’re going to take a minute to explain the changes that will impact your browsing experience when the update lands.
Perhaps the biggest new feature in Firefox 3.1 is the “private browsing” mode, more colorfully known as “porn mode.” Private browsing allows you to temporarily tell Firefox not to save any information about your browsing session. This means that you won’t leave any trace of your activity behind in your history, cache, cookies or saved forms and searches. Naturally, if you choose to create a bookmark or save a file to your computer, those will still remain.
To use private browsing, simply open the Tools menu, then click on Private Browsing. Your current session will be saved and closed, and a new, private session will open. Whenever you’re done, just go back to the Tools menu and uncheck Private Browsing. Your previous session will automatically be restored.
New CSS 3 Features
Firefox 3.1 provides support for the CSS @font-face rule, which allows website authors to make certain fonts mandatory to view their page, downloading the font to the reader’s computer if they don’t already have it. This may not seem like the most Earth-shattering change, but it will give site creators an excellent way to make sure that everyone sees their content exactly as they’re meant to.
So when can we expect Firefox 3.1?
Well, if you’re holding out for the final release, you’ll have a little bit of a wait ahead of you. Mozilla hasn’t set a firm release date for Firefox 3.1, and when we asked Mike Beltzner, director of Firefox development about it, he’d only say that “the schedule we’re working against now will likely put us outside of Q1.” Still, you can download and try the beta release right now . In our experience, it’s been very stable (though some plugins won't work), and a noticeable improvement over Firefox 3.0.
Between Firefox 3.1, Safari 4, IE8 and Chrome, the browser wars are really starting to heat up. And with this many competitors in the field, that means very good things for the end user. Look forward to more in-depth browser coverage on MaximumPC.com in the future!