Saturday, July 18, 2009

Firefox 3.5 Makes Browsing Better

Internet users are partying like it's the 90s, when the browser wars were roaring and Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) and Netscape were fighting to become the dominant window on the Web. These days, Microsoft Internet Explorer is in the lead -- just like then -- but we're also seeing an efflorescence of alternatives: Mozilla Firefox (which counts Netscape as an ancestor), Google Chrome, Apple Safari and Mobile Safari, and the venerable Opera. Into the fray comes a new version: Firefox 3.5. This build offers significant improvements, including upgraded Web technology, geolocation, privacy tools, and tab management. The browser also improves performance over previous versions.

Private Browsing

Firefox 3.5 implements private browsing, catching up with features already available in Internet Explorer, Safari, Chrome, and Opera. When you're in private browsing mode, the browser switches off logging your history, cookies, user names, and passwords.

Even in private browsing, your Web traffic isn't guaranteed private. If your network manager is tracking your browsing on the server, private browsing does nothing to block that. Also, the servers you visit may be keeping records of your visit, especially if you log on to access the server.

Firefox's implementation of private browsing has a different user interface than competing browsers. The chief difference: When you switch to private browsing, Firefox shuts down all your existing browser windows and tabs, leaving only the private browser window open. Other browsers leave existing windows and tabs open and open a new window for private browsing.

I like the way Firefox closes non-private windows when in private browsing; I'm less likely to accidentally enter private information in a non-private window. However, other people might find it time consuming to switch back to non-private browsing, especially if they have a lot of open tabs and windows that need to be reloaded. It's a matter of personal preference.

If you forget to switch to private browsing before you visit a site, Firefox 3.5 lets you erase your tracks -- just go to the history menu, open "show all history," find the page you want to hide, and click "forget about this site." That's handy for those of us who are paranoid and absent-minded ("My enemies are conspiring against me -- but I can't remember who.")

1 comments:

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