Although Mozilla's Firefox 3.6 is still in beta, the CRN Test Center reviewers wanted to take a look at it because we measure the progress of a browser in development by doing a series of benchmark tests against each alpha, beta and final versions to determine whether there are performance improvements with each release.
For instance, when we tested Firefox 3.6 Alpha 1, we were pretty impressed with the benchmark results.
Firefox 3.6 beta 2 scored even better benchmark tests than the Alpha 1 version.
Using the Peacekeeper benchmark test, which puts the browser through a rigorous stress test, including rendering, Firefox 3.6 beta 2 scored an almost 10 percent increase in performance. Keep in mind that with Peacekeeper, the higher the score, the better the browser performance. Firefox 3.6 Alpha 1's Peacekeeper score was 2647, and version 3.6 beta 2's score is 2904.
These results underscore the progress Mozilla has made in making Firefox leaner and faster.
The latest version of Firefox looks promising, as do the more than 190 changes that have been made since the previous beta. However, most of the add-ons that were installed on a test machine running Firefox 3.5 were labeled incompatible with Firefox 3.6 b2 in the Add-On Manager.
Some of these add-ons include: FoxTab, Cooliris, Brief, GreaseMonkey and Microsoft's .Net Framework Assistant 1.0. There also aren't any updates as of yet for these specific add-ons.
No worries, though, as Mozilla provides an add-on to report the add-on problems. Once installed, the Add-on Compatibility Report allows you to enable those add-ons that are marked incompatible so you can test if they work or not. Once you know, you can click on the "Compatibility" tab next to the particular add-on on the Add-on Manager and send a report to Mozilla.
Firefox 3.6 b2, by default, installed into a different directory than Firefox 3.5, so it's not an upgrade. Rather, it's a stand-alone test beta that users can run independent from the current version of Firefox they may be using.
Under this beta's hood is Mozilla's Gecko 1.9.2 Web rendering platform. Mozilla is promising faster, more responsive performance in 3.5 than in the previous Firefox version. This is great, as we have noticed in the CRN Test Center the tendency for Firefox 3.5 to crash with greater frequency the longer it's used and the more add-ons that are installed.
Firefox 3.6 b2 is optimized for mobile platforms like Maemo, a mobile OS that is being shipped with Nokia's first Linux-based smartphone, the N900.
Other changes include support for more than 45 languages, the ability to display open, native video in full-screen mode plus built-in functionality for changing Firefox's Appearance. This is done using Personas, a "skin-changing" app for Firefox, rather than having Personas as a separate add-on. Much like in previous versions, the user can now browse to the add-ons page for Personas and click on the skin that's desired. It's a one-click makeover.
Based on the benchmark results, plus streamlining and optimization for mobile browsing, it seems like the best Firefox yet is coming from Mozilla with the 3.6 final release.