Saturday, September 09, 2006

A Tale of Two Foxes

By now, you have all probably heard (if you care) that Firefox has released Firefox 2.0 Beta 2 for public consumption.

It offers the following features:

Visual Refresh,
Built-in phishing protection,
Enhanced search capabilities (search-suggestion feeds)
Improved Tab browsing with session restore,
RSS feed preview and subscriptions,
Inline spell checking
Live "microsummary" titles,
Improvements to the extension/theme managers (now called Add-ons?)
Support for JavaScript 1.7
SVG text support, and

A new Windows installer.

It takes me a little while to get comfortable with a new Firefox build version as I have highly customized my extensions and have a gormoungous number of bookmarks and Sage RSS feeds to deal with. As such, I generally depend on John Haller's Portable Beta versions to tide me over (with a few tweaks) until the final release comes out and sufficient numbers of updated extensions have been released.

That said, I downloaded his portable Firefox 2.0 Beta 2 version when it first came out and the slow slide to conversion...and mild ho-hums....has overtaken me.

My feelings on Firefox 2.0 (based on the very latest Beta so far)

Umm. Nice. Works well. No big deal.

That's it.

Nothing really to see for converted Firefox fans. Get it. Use it. Yawn. Hope for more in 3.0.

I will say this; It hasn't crashed yet. I was able to find one or two extensions I use updated for 2.0. My theme of choice has been updated and is now compatible. I've "hacked" the version number of Sage to get it working with no hiccups and imported my RSS feeds from my installed build. Bookmarking remains the biggest headache. I have to remember which build I saved my latest bookmarks in.

So I find myself using this new Beta 2 version 90% of the time for my daily surfing. I'm about a few weeks away from fully switching over to it "installed" on my systems...of course by that time it will probably be out of Beta and available as a final release.

But I must confess. I was hoping for a "sexier" version upgrade. Something a little more inspiring. Many of the new "features" are already available for the current "release" versions of Firefox via extensions. Nothing neat there. Just saves some time installing them. Yawn. Oh, I am sure the underlying code will make it render "better" and hopefully faster. The coders are working hard and I don't want to sound like I don't realize the importance of all that under-cover stuff they do. But instead of getting a whole new design, this feels to be more on the lines of a mid-level upgrade to the average user. Like going from Firefox to Firefox 1.6 or maybe 1.8. That feeling probably comes from the developers stripping out the Places feature that was planned that sounded "sexier". Ben Goodger over the Inside Firefox blog confesses to taking comments along those lines.

Is that fair? Well. I don't know. Stripping Places out of the new release might have been a good move, developmentally wise. But what is this feature about? Just a redesign of an already strong handling of bookmarks, history and page information.

I guess I just was expecting more. The Fox has been running so well and I love it so much, it just looks kinda, well, plain now compared to the spiffed up IE7. I hope it doesn't bite me for saying so.

Then again, maybe browsers have "matured" more to the point where that is what we get...I just want a secure, fast, stable and nimble rendering browser that interfaces with the way I blog, surf and download from the net. Firefox still fits that bill for me, but I'm using IE 7 RC1 (standalone) quite a bit more frequently now.

What's keeping me from drinking the IE 7 Magic Kool-Ayde?

Primarily just two things, actually.

1) No in-line spell checking (that I'm aware of)--a must for frequent forum posters.

2) I'm not fully comfortable with the IE "Add-Ons" concept yet. I want light, nimble and open-source, specifically tasked extensions. Not BHO's. And MS's Add-On site, really doesn't seem to inspire a feeling of "lightness." Maybe I'm wrong in comparing extensions to Add-ons--especially when so many of them are not free. Maybe they are like apples and oranges. I'm just not sure. Most of these products seem to be standalone software applications that interface with IE7, rather than extending it's internal features.

So what am I saying?

When IE 7 is finally released for the masses, I'll be one of the first in line to upgrade my XP systems from IE6 to IE7. In a heartbeat. It is just leaps ahead of IE6. I will install it with pleasure and not grimace in security fear when Alvis and Lavie choose to use it instead of Firefox.

But I will continue to use Firefox 2.0...and hopefully 3.0 for my daily surfing. Why? Because even though it may not be quite as "sexy" as it was when it first burst onto the scene, I'm finding I really enjoy our relation more as each year goes by. It is opening up more and we dance well together. And I just (personally) trust it more.

Firefox continues to support the way I surf and utilize the Web, and makes it that much more transparent for me to do so.


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