Firefox is the second most popular browser on the internet. PCMech visitors are particularly fond of Firefox. Judging by our site statistics, about 42% of all of our visitors are using Firefox. But, we are all (hopefully) using version 2. What’s coming in version 3? Let’s look and find out.

What’s New?

Like any new version of a program, the major goals are increased stability and security. But, Mozilla has the goal of “Delivering the right set of features – not too many or too few. (The goal is to create a useful browser, not a minimal browser.)”. So, what is new that will be useful?

  • Places. This new feature will provide a new, enhanced way for organizing your bookmarks. One of the newest components of this is tagging. Tagging is very “Web 2.0” and essentially means you assign a keyword or keywords to the bookmark to describe it to you. By grouping bookmarks by tags, you can organize your bookmarks in new ways. You will also be able to bookmark saved searches.
  • Malware Detection. Mozilla is working with Google to implement a feature that will warn a user when they are visiting a site which might try to install some malware to your computer.
  • Unified Content Handling. Instead of using different dialog boxes to deal with different types of content, Mozilla will try to unite them into a single dialog that provides the user with all relevant options on handling that content.
  • Detecting Microformats.
  • Changing the Location Bar. They are contemplating removing the favicon (the small icon which is displayed just to the left of the URL) as well as greying out the entire URL EXCEPT for the the domain name itself. Not sure how useful this will be, and I kind of hate to see the favicon go.
  • Private Browsing. Puts the browser into a mode where you can surf around and no information about the browsing session is stored (such as history, cache, etc).
  • Improvements to the Password Manager
  • Support for offline web-based applications. Perhaps browser support for Google Gears?

Where it Stands Now

The development version of Firefox 3 is currently in Alpha 1 stage, which means it is pretty early in the development cycle and is buggy. The current codename is called Gran Paradiso. It is built on top of the new version of the Gecko layout engine, Gecko 1.9. One of the more notable results of using Gecko 1.9 is the lack of support for older versions of Windows. Windows 95, 98 and ME users will be out of luck with version 3 of Firefox.

So, I downloaded and installed the this Alpha 1 version of Gran Paradiso. Here’s how it went for me.

At this point, it really doesn’t look any different than version 2 of Firefox. It opens up, by default, to a page on which tells me I am using an Alpha 1 version of Gran Paradiso and that it is not a final version. I pull up and it seems to render just like it usually does. Even going through the menu options, it really is no different than Firefox 2.


The main differences with this early version are in the rendering engine and internal programming methodologies. In other words, the differences are under the surface and not really noticeable to an end user.

Where It’s Heading

Since the working version of Gran Paradiso doesn’t really offer anything too visually stimulating yet, let’s look at the concept images of the coming Firefox 3. As time goes on, we will be able to see some of these in practice in coming developer releases of Gran Paradiso.


This is a concept image for the handling of bookmarks. What excites me more, though, is the addition of the tagging:


The malware protection could be cool. I assume the database will be up to date by partnering with Google, but we’ll need to wait for details.


Here is what the location bar may end up looking like. Notice how it is greyed out, except for the domain itself. Again, I’m not really sure how useful this will be.


And lastly, we have a concept shot of the unified content dialog box:



We are at the really early stages of the development cycle for Firefox 3. The cool thing about Firefox, though, is that it is open source. That means they are very transparent in the development process. You can follow the activity by checking out the Firefox 3 Wiki. You can also check out the release notes for Alpha 1 of Gran Paradiso. You can also follow the blog of Alex Faaborg, one of the interface designers for Firefox 3.

And in the meantime, we’ll just continue to use Firefox 2, which is a very worthy browser.