Switch to Firefox 3 or stay with 2?
December 17, 2008 8:15 AM   Subscribe

Advantages/disadvantages of Firefox 3?

I'm currently using Firefox 2, and am completely happy with it. After the latest security update, I see a message saying that there will be no more security updates, and that I should switch to Firefox 3 instead.

Should I switch? If you're currently using Firefox 3, what is better about 3? If I stay with 2, am I leaving myself open to viruses, attacks, etc.?
Also, I have a couple of firefox extensions I've installed. Do they transfer over to 3, or do I have to re-install them? Looking for the least troublesome/time consuming option here. Thanks.
posted by jujube to Computers & Internet (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you're using a Mac, you should most definitely upgrade as there'll be performance improvements (they're using native OS X widgets instead of the clunky firefox ones). There's also some feature enhancements all around involving anti-phishing. The upgrade automatically checks for new versions of your current plugins, though there are still a few abandoned ones that may not have been upgraded.
posted by hylaride at 8:23 AM on December 17, 2008

Personally, I love the smart address bar. I miss it when I use Firefox 2 on other computers. It basically searches your history as you type and learns- so, for instance, I type "registrar" and the first site on the list is my school's registrar page, saving me from trying to remember the exact address or clicking through from the homepage. I also love the quick bookmarking (the star in the address bar). That's the main UI difference, as far as I can tell.

Your extensions will be checked for compatibility with Firefox 3 automatically when you update. Most common extensions will probably be updated already, and they'll automatically be downloaded for you. Any that aren't compatible will be disabled, and periodically checked for updates. There are hacky ways to get around this if your extensions aren't updated, but if your extensions are actively being developed and maintained, it probably won't be an issue.
posted by MadamM at 8:25 AM on December 17, 2008

The only downside I've found with FF3 is that it takes a lot longer to load a page filled with thumbnail pictures than it did in FF2 and IE. If I view the page with one of those browsers, no problem, but in FF3 it seems to hang on a few pictures for some reason.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:28 AM on December 17, 2008

I'm using 3, and I also have a bunch of extensions. Delicious, greasemonkey, firebug, tamper data, adblock plus, zotero, and others. extension developers have had plenty of time to get up to speed with FF3, so if you're using one that doesn't have a FF3 version, then development on that extension is probably dead.

Some awesome things about FF3: (1) faster. (2) the "awesome bar", (3) better download manager, (4) mostly clearer/better certificate/security messages.

(4) brings me to my one major gripe. I have to access the configs for linksys WRT54G routers with some frequency, and the certificates used on them aren't valid. FF3 won't let me accept the certificate since it uses a duplicate serial number. I can create exceptions to accept invalid certificates (an annoying multi-step process) for sites that have self-signed or expired certificates, but for the WRTs in question I just have to switch to another browser. This issue probably won't affect you, and honestly it's a very sane default to make it hard/annoying to accept "bad" certificates.

Oh, and yes, you'll be leaving yourself open to security issues if you stick with FF2 past EOL. Do your homework on your extensions and then update.
posted by tarheelcoxn at 8:32 AM on December 17, 2008

1) Switch. Better security, better and faster rendering.
2) Extensions will generally carry over unless a compatible version has not been released - which really only happens with very obscure extensions.
3) If you hate the "awesome" bar and the rest of the new address/search features, you can disable them easily. I have.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:34 AM on December 17, 2008

2) Extensions will generally carry over unless a compatible version has not been released - which really only happens with very obscure extensions.

IE Page
Search Images

and a couple others I can't recall won't work in FF3, so I have dual versions installed on my machines.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:44 AM on December 17, 2008

I hated the awesomebar at first; now I love it. It takes a bit of learning but it's much better than the old non-awesome bar.
posted by zsazsa at 9:12 AM on December 17, 2008

If your favorite extensions aren't compatible with the new version, you can try using the MR Tech Toolkit add-on to manually disable the compatibility check and force the installation. This could theoretically break the extension (or break Firefox), but this has never happened, in my experience. If you're paranoid, just back up your profile folder and reinstall Firefox 3 if you experience any problems.
posted by Rhaomi at 9:19 AM on December 17, 2008

FF3 crashes for me at least twice a day. FF2 didn't tend to do so. It's a minor annoyance most of the time, a major problem some times.
posted by RustyBrooks at 9:26 AM on December 17, 2008

The awesomebar is awesome. Seriously, it's the sort of thing that makes you wonder why all browsers don't work that way. It kills me when I'm using Mobile Safari and have to remember the beginning of the URI instead of just the most memorable part, or the title.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 9:42 AM on December 17, 2008


i am not 100% sure what the IE Page extension does (a search for "IE Page" firefox, returned no relevant results), but it seems likely IE Tab is a suitable replacement.
posted by phil at 9:48 AM on December 17, 2008

one more time with the correct link IE Tab
posted by phil at 9:50 AM on December 17, 2008

What gives, IAmBroom? An extension that hasn't been updated in two years is obscure. (And I can't even find the other one.) Ease up on the accusations of bullshit.
posted by zamboni at 10:21 AM on December 17, 2008

Another push from a Mac user: Switch.

I moved over to FF3 within a couple of weeks of release, once all my extensions had been updated for compatibility. I did it solely because of the "awesome bar," which is a function I've wanted in a web browser for a long time now. Yeah, it's pretty useful.

The big bonus, though, was the performance boost. F'rinstance, I am a shameless tab junkie and in FF2 I used to keep up to 60-75 tabs open at any one time, but I noticed some major sluggishness kicking in around 45 on my ancient Mac. In FF3, I can have over 150 tabs open without even realizing it. Okay, I know this is not impressive for you sensible people who actually close your browsers from time to time, but for me it's value fo' money.

And yeah, be civic-minded, old browsers are security risks, etc.
posted by jeeves at 10:21 AM on December 17, 2008

Some folks like the awesomebar; personally, I hate it, for these reasons:

1. If I don't remember the URL, I can always use Google to find the page again; I don't need the toolbar to do it.
2. It takes a much longer time to produce the list of URLs, especially the first time you use the bar after launching Firefox, when it does some kind of intense computation (recomputing weights or something?). On my newish computer at work this is a minor issue; on my 3-year-old home machine it's a major annoyance.
3. When I am typing a URL I know, I have to type more of the URL than I did before, on account of the false positives.

But then again, I'm a grumpy control freak of a computer user. If you're not, then it probably won't bother you.

I haven't noticed any improvements in speed or memory consumption.

But FF2 is dead, so I think you should switch. It's worth it for the extensions, even though the browser is worse.
posted by equalpants at 10:25 AM on December 17, 2008

Response by poster: Okay, I'm sort of convinced, on account of security. But I'm already hating the sound of the "awesome" bar.
So, Inspector.Gadget (or anyone else who hates/has disabled it), how do I disable it?
posted by jujube at 11:24 AM on December 17, 2008

Switch. FF3 is marginally faster. There are a couple of things in FF3 I find more annoying than FF2 (e.g., sliding windows popping up to announce things that aren't even that important.) There are a couple of extensions I miss that were never updated (and don't work with just a version-check-override,) but there are also useful extensions only available for FF3, and other things you no longer need extensions for (like bookmark tags.) FF2 routinely hung on pages running Flash for me (on Linux); FF3 rarely does.

But none of these pros and cons measure up to FF3 is supported and FF2 will no longer receive security updates. That difference would be really, really tough to trump.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 11:30 AM on December 17, 2008

All the awesome bar really does is to integrate browser history and bookmarks into the autocomplete. If you add tags to either, it matches on those as well. It also uses a larger font, two lines per entry (one for name, one for URL) plus website icon.

In my experience it isn't nearly as bad, or as annoying as some people have suggested. But that's my experience. The Awesome Bar takes your browsing history into account, so it takes a few days for it to learn your habits, but it does seem to use whatever FF2 history is already in your profile. For me, having "me" auto-match Metafilter, or "sl" taking me straight to Slashdot, well that took a total of about two days before it worked as expected.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:00 PM on December 17, 2008

In FF3, I can have over 150 tabs open without even realizing it.

I'm about this bad too. I occasionally have that issue where you can't mouseclick a new tab if you have too many open (well you can click it, but you aint goin nowhere). Is this fixed in FF3?
posted by cashman at 12:01 PM on December 17, 2008

How to disable the "awesome" bar. (full disclosure, I, too, didn't like it, but then got used to it, and now feel weird when I use FF2 -- you should at least try it).
posted by bluefly at 1:26 PM on December 17, 2008

Yes, you should switch. If there are no more security updates, you could be leaving yourself open to an attack of some sort, better safe than sorry.

That said, I loathe the "awesome" bar. Problem is, disabling it and getting back Firefox 2 behaviour doesn't work quite right. There is no "disable the awesome bar and give me back a normal URL box" checkbox(though rumor has it that one may appear in FF 3.1)

The disable awesome bar link above will get rid of the drop down, but you are still stuck with the FF3 autocompete algorithm. Simarly, there are extension that mimic FF2, but the underlying structure is still FF3.

This link has a set of steps to make the URL bar work mostly like FF2, though it still has some quirks.

If you are not in any hurry, you might consider waiting until FF 3.1 with it's spiffy new javascript engine.
posted by madajb at 2:07 PM on December 17, 2008

Another for Upgrade to FF3. One of the improvements that I haven't seen mentioned yet is that the image resizing looks a lot better now. For example, if you have firefox automatically scale an image to fit within the browser window, FF2's scaled image looks pretty crappy. FF3 seems to use a better method, one that seems to do some interpolation to smooth out the scaled image a bit.

As far as negatives.... I dunno, I guess there's some extensions out there that don't work. But I've had FF3 since the betas and also had some of the FF2 betas, so it's not exactly something mind-blowing or earth-shattering to me. I can't even remember what the non-working extensions are anymore.

Oh, one of the biggest improvements (at least in the Windows version): They seem to have fixed the horrible memory leaks of FF2. It used to be that when I left FF2 up for a few days, its memory usage would balloon to ridiculous amounts, sometimes up to a gig. Nowadays, I can have as many tabs open as I want, for as long as I want, and the memory footprint rarely gets higher than around 200Mb.
posted by agress at 3:56 PM on December 17, 2008

So, I'm a power-user, Linux-running, system-tweaking, grungy hacker. I upgraded to FF3 the moment it was available... didn't even think about it. Just got the "new version available" rigmarole, and clicked "Sure, whatever".

Aside from the chrome looking a little different, I don't actually detect any substantial difference between FF2 and FF3.

Not that there aren't differences, I'm sure... but, not a single one of them has caught my attention. It's the same browser. Just a newer version. I actually had no idea that the address bar was "awesome" until I read this question... I had only noticed that I could autocomplete based on a website's title as well as its URL.

Although it does seem to choke and die on more flash-based websites than FF2 did. I actually think that's bad interaction with PulseAudio, and not core code, though.
posted by Netzapper at 5:47 PM on December 17, 2008

am I the only one more paranoid about what the "awesome bar" might bring up if a guest was using my browser to look something up?

(just thinking of the time I was on a friend's machine to look up a bus schedule and as I was typing the url a porn site briefly appeared in the mix...)
posted by canine epigram at 7:43 PM on December 17, 2008

But I'm already hating the sound of the "awesome" bar.

I echo the recommendation above to give it a chance. It might cost you a couple of extra seconds for the first week or so, but you'll more than make up for that time over the following months. (At least I did.)

am I the only one more paranoid about what the "awesome bar" might bring up if a guest was using my browser to look something up?

Sure, but I don't ask my neighbours to not own binoculars for the sake of my privacy. Anyway, Firefox 3.1 is supposed to have a private browsing mode.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 8:48 PM on December 17, 2008

That analogy is completely loopy.

A better one would be browsing a bookshelf. Normally, you put books you don't want the general public seeing somewhere like the bedroom.

With FF currently (since 3.1 is in beta) it's like someone looking at your bookshelf and seeing all your titles starting with A when they look at your copy of Aesop's Fables. Yeah, you can disable the functionality, but it's regrettable they didn't factor in the fact that maybe not everybody wants all their history flashing through the address bar.
posted by canine epigram at 6:05 AM on December 19, 2008

it's regrettable they didn't factor in the fact that maybe not everybody wants all their history flashing through the address bar.

The default setting is that only 5 of the most 'frecent' (there's an algorithm that balances both frequency and recency) urls appear if you type "a", so it is certainly not all of one's history.

(Disclaimer: I work for Mozilla but I have no say into the functionality of the browser.)
posted by gen at 9:26 AM on December 21, 2008

Whichever you choose, consider taking Google Chrome for a spin! At first, I didn't want to leave all the add-ons of Firefox, but the simplicity of Chrome is a win!
posted by steampowered at 6:29 PM on January 14, 2009

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