Firefox 4 is out. For a browser that re-sparked the browser wars, Firefox had been falling behind lately. Can 4 bring back Firefox?
I have a tendency not to download betas of web browsers. I’m not much of a bug hunter, haven’t been able to establish myself in those communities, don’t have a ton of time for actual hard core testing, and I’m not a developer. I just like having things work, especially where web browsing is concerned. So when I heard that Firefox 4’s final release was going to be the exact same as the last Release Candidate, I decided to actually jump the gun and start using it. I figured it couldn’t be any worse than using 3.6.
I’ve been using Firefox as my main browser since version 2, and overall have liked it. There have always been some issues with it, such as the memory hole it has, but they were things I could mostly live with. As Firefox 3 kept getting updated though, it was all getting worse and worse. To open my iGoogle home page, which is set up with a bunch of news widgets, would take 5 minutes. Not only that, but the whole browser would be slow and unresponsive until it fully opened.
So I finished downloading Firefox 4 and installing it, expecting the same sluggishness. Surprisingly to me, my iGoogle paged opened in under a minute, and I was all set to go to other websites in other tabs, even while the iGoogle page was loading up. This is starting to look promising.
I continued on my browsing way, going to sites I frequent such as Tech Republic, ZDNet, Krebs on Security, and many more. All rendered faster than in Firefox 3.6. I did run into an occasional site which just wouldn’t open in Firefox 4 (Buffalo Wild Wings being one), but considering that there have been a lot of changes in Firefox 4, this doesn’t surprise me.
Everything isn’t all roses though. Java rendering (I enjoy playing Text Twist) and some Flash rendering is slow and painful. The Java being the worst of them all, as it slows to a crawl with a java game on Yahoo’s website. Once loaded, it works ok, but still a bunch of issues. Also, Firefox still uses a lot of memory, and doesn’t have the best memory management in the world. I have also heard reports of people who have had issues with it upon install, although the percentage seems to be small.
Is Firefox 4 an improvement? Definitely. Is it a game changer? No. Can it fend off Google Chrome? Maybe. Personally, I’m not going to Chrome unless I have to (Google has enough info on me from Android, Gmail etc, they don’t get any more if I can help it), and I don’t care of IE, Safari, or Opera. In the end, its really about what you are comfortable with and what works. On that, Firefox 4 is a solid, fast browser.