June 20, 2008 8:17 AM PDT

Week in review: Firefox's wildfire

After months of waiting and minutes of technical hurdles, Mozilla finally released Firefox 3, its open-source browser challenger to Microsoft's Internet Explorer crown.

While faster performance and better memory handling are sigificant Firefox 3 improvements, the real star is its Smart Location Bar, better known as the "awesome bar," which lets users type real words rather than sometimes-abstruse URL addresses to call up Web sites.

Other features of Firefox include a prominent warning when a user tries to open a page that has been shown to host malware; offline data access, a feature that can make Web applications usable, even when the network is unavailable; a better full-page zoom feature that devotes maximum screen real estate to the browser; and a star button to quickly add bookmarks. Read the in-depth review by CNET's Robert Vamosi here.)

The foundation was aiming to set a 24-hour download record with Firefox's release, and, after site issues delayed the release for nearly an hour, Mozilla said more than 8 million copies of Firefox 3 were downloaded in its first 24 hours online.

It's likely, however, that the majority of those who downloaded Firefox 3 at this stage will just use it to replace Firefox 2, not a competitor such as Microsoft's still-dominant Internet Explorer or Apple's third-place Safari.

As the Web transforms from a static repository of content into a foundation for applications such as word processors and graphics editors, browsers are growing up from mere gateways into the tool that makes those applications possible. In this new era, it's Firefox--the heir to the Netscape legacy--that's going up against the victor of the last era, Internet Explorer.

Yahoo bleeding executives
A Delaware court denied a fast-track schedule to hold a trial on whether to invalidate Yahoo's controversial employee severance.

The shareholders had sought to have a trial on the severance plans, prior to Yahoo's annual shareholders meeting on August 1, at which time investor activist Carl Icahn is currently planning to run a dissident slate to unseat Yahoo's entire board. The pension funds were concerned that unless the severance plans were invalidated, a successful election by Icahn would set off the first of two triggers needed to activate the plans.

If Microsoft was holding out any hope of enlisting Icahn to its side of the table with a partial acquisition of the search pioneer's business, Icahn apparently isn't budging. Icahn, as quoted in a Reuters report, said he believed Yahoo's advertising partnership with Google "might have some merit."

Icahn, in the interview, declined to comment on whether he would continue with his proxy fight to unseat Yahoo's entire board with his own slate of dissident directors, or scale it back and seek only a minority representation on Yahoo's board.

Having failed to buy all of Yahoo, or even its search business, Microsoft is now looking to take an even more piecemeal approach: hire Yahoo's workers. The company took out an ad in the San Jose Mercury News touting the fact that it has search jobs available in Silicon Valley.

Think the Microhoo drama is starting to grate on Yahooers? It seems that top executives are voicing their angst with their feet.

Since we learned last week that Jeff Weiner, executive vice president of Yahoo's Network division and leader of many of the company's core products, plans to leave the company, there has been a steady stream of top executives jumping ship.

Weiner, who is joining venture capital firms Accel Partnerse and Greylock Partners as "executive in residence," was joined in the executive exodus early in the week by Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake, the husband-and-wife co-founders of the photo-sharing site Flickr, which Yahoo acquired in 2005. Fake's last day with Yahoo was June 13, and Butterfield's will be July 12.

After this news had a couple of days to settle on the Yahoo campus in Mountain View, Calif., three more executives announced plans to leave the company: Qi Lu, executive vice president of engineering for search and advertising technology; Brad Garlinghouse, senior vice president of communications; and Vish Makhijani, senior vice president of search.

Other recent defections from Yahoo include Usama Fayyad, chief data officer, and Jeremy Zawodny, a top programmer and advocate of what's now become the Yahoo Open Strategy.

Making the broadband connection
Sprint Nextel plans to launch its first commercial WiMax service in Baltimore in September, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said during a speech at the Nxtcomm trade show in Las Vegas. Sprint will turn up WiMax service in two other cities, Chicago and Washington, before the end of the year, Hesse added. But he didn't give a specific time frame for these deployments.

The much-anticipated WiMax service has been delayed several times. Initially, the company had said it would launch the service in the first half of the year. More recently, it has been vague about when it would deploy the service. It's been testing the mobile WiMax service with download speeds of between 2 megabits per second and 4Mbps since the end of last year in Chicago and the Washington-Baltimore area.

Verizon Communications is also looking toward big cities as the next big opportunity for its Fios broadband and TV service. The company said it expects to get approval from the New York Public Service Commission to offer its Fios video service in New York as early as next month.

The company sees cities as a huge opportunity for the Fios service, which provides high-speed Internet service, telephony, and cable TV service over a super-fast fiber connection. Because most customers in big cities such as New York live in large apartment buildings, Verizon has had to adapt its installation process.

Verizon is also boosting speeds for Fios. As part of the upgrade, all Fios customers will now have access to download speeds of 50 megabits per second and uploads of 20Mbps for about $140 a month.

Meanwhile, a group of investors has agreed to take over Philadelphia's Wi-Fi network just as EarthLink was set to pull the plug on it. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the group plans to change the business model. Instead of charging $20 a month for network access, the group will offer free Wi-Fi based on advertisements.

EarthLink announced on June 10 that it was abandoning the project after being unable to find a buyer for the network, 80 percent of which is complete. It also claimed that after months of negotiations with the city and a nonprofit group interested in running the network, it was unable to close the deal.

Also of note
Hewlett-Packard announced a significant reorganization of its most profitable division, paring five groups down to three within the printing-and-imaging division. ..A Missouri woman accused of contributing to a teenager's suicide by creating a fake MySpace account to taunt the girl pleaded not guilty in federal court...The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission is expected to support the $5 billion merger of Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio...Google is developing a suite of tools to help broadband users identify traffic discrimination by their Internet service providers.

See more CNET content tagged:
Firefox 3.0, top executive, Yahoo! Inc., Week in review, Firefox

26 comments

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FF3 is not living up to the expectation, it crashes at least 2 or 3 times a day. There is a problem with the program crashing on certain webpages and/or Java scripting; after a crash FF3 will display an error and transmit the information back to FF. This is problematic and should have been worked out during the Bata phase.
Posted by drp2p (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It was worked out during the Beta phase. I would really like you to list what pages are crashing, so I can go to them and see if they are actually crashing or if you are just a Microsoft fanboy or paid poster who is bashing Firefox 3 for no reason.
Posted by Lerianis (1210 comments )
Link Flag
@ Lerianis: It was not worked out during the Beta phase. I would really like you (and similar people) to start doubting, questioning and making the same requests whenever someone claims a Microsoft application crashes all the time, so unbiased people can see for themselves if you are actually worried that someone is unfairly bashing a random program or if you are just a Microsoft hater or paid poster who is religiously defending Firefox 3 for no reason.
Posted by Fil0403 (1303 comments )
Link Flag
I am loving FF3 for the most part too. I have noticed two problems on two of my websites. First, at <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jmarkmediallc/" target="_newWindow">http://www.flickr.com/photos/jmarkmediallc/</a> , our Greese Monkey Scripts do not work properly in our Portfolio Pro Invitation Group. Also, I ntoiced at my other website (<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://centennialtoyota.com/toyota_las_vegas_best_price_quote.cfm" target="_newWindow">http://centennialtoyota.com/toyota_las_vegas_best_price_quote.cfm</a>) that atl tags dont seem to appear as they did before. Not sure if this is just a glitch or what, but wonder if there is a work around?
Posted by jmarkmediallc (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I tired both sites from my FF3 browser and did not have the problems you cited. Then again, I am not using Greese Monkey.
Posted by Ed Aguila (3 comments )
Link Flag
You are complaining about something that Mozilla has no control over(GreaseMonkey)? Nice
Posted by MSSlayer (1074 comments )
Link Flag
Considering the triple post by drp2p, CNet discussions are not living up the expectations either. Someone ought to fix that annoyance.
Posted by shoffmueller (236 comments )
Reply Link Flag
There is nothing "awesome" about the awesome bar as it just searches for the letter/ word in the history and bookmarks. I don't think that people will be surfing the same pages again and again. It would be really awesome if it suggests names of web pages like "Google suggest".

Also FF 3 loads images slow for any web page, when opening for the first time.
Posted by softwaremaniac (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Actually, it helps me. I surf the same pages again and again every singe day because I go to a lot of internet forums and You-tube like sites.
Posted by Lerianis (1210 comments )
Link Flag
FF3.0 is not working with Google Desktop I had...I am thinking if I should unistall FF3.0 as I need Desktop more ...I hope FF listens and helps me :(
Posted by anshul_sushil (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Maybe Google should make that piece of spyware work with FF3?
Posted by MSSlayer (1074 comments )
Link Flag
Update your Google Desktop. It works absolutely fine with the Google Desktop that I have installed on my computer, so the problem might be that you just haven't updated for a long time.
Posted by Lerianis (1210 comments )
Link Flag
I've noticed a bug where I get a form stating that FF crashed, but I usually get it when I'm closing down FF and another page at the same time. I love the Mac and Opera tool that asks for password remembrance, since I rarely write down passwords, and then I CRS. I'd also like an NOIA extreme theme upgrade to include FF3. I love that theme.
Posted by Kasiola2003 (15 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So Far, So Good!
Downloaded Firefox 3 yesterday -- the Mozilla people didn't think it important to advise their users, not even through the check for updates menu...
It works all right, and fast too. I'm still searching for the so called awesome bar. Must be well hidden.
Some of the add-ons I like don't work anymore, but that's not the fault of the Mozilla people.
Thank you! I'll keep using FF3 resorting only occasionally to Safari.
Posted by Fusco_D (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Thanks, Fusco. I can't find it either. I DL'd FF3 early Friday morning, and had a fine time playing with it. But the first time I used it for something important - to log into a government website (to pay our sales taxes for May), FF3 said it couldn't display the page. Great.
So now I'm back to IE for the moment. I assume there was a reason for what happened when I tried to load the Div of Taxation site with FF3 - I just didn't have time to figure it out. I really like the look of FF though, so I'll keep trying to get the knack of it.
Posted by mbtaggart (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Which Division of Taxation website are you trying to go to? I did the first 40 or so that popped up using a Google Search, and it loaded just fine for me.
Posted by Lerianis (1210 comments )
Link Flag
I have yet to see news of any malware which affects any Linux (or BSD, including OSX) distribution. I find this feature almost as ridiculous as the CNET spell-checker's insistence that malware is a mis-spelling.
Posted by epcraig (25 comments )
Reply Link Flag
CNET doesn't have a spell checker. The spell checker complaining is from the browser you are using: likely FF. Yes, FF spellchecker is pretty sorry.
Posted by MSSlayer (1074 comments )
Link Flag
Firefox download number is an obvious fraud. For example, there is absolutely no way Lithuania had 300,000+ downloads from different individuals. This country has just 3 million population and is generally lagging behind its neighnors in computer and internet usage. So if the number is correct, it must include some robots. If robots count, you could as well put some computers next room starting a download every 1000th second and get any number you want so the number does not mean anything.
Posted by idoppler (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I downwloaded Firefox 3.0 and have uninstalled and reinstalled 2.0. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING when they made that fancy recently-used list of URLS in the dropdown? It's a pain in the butt, too long and unwieldy, and doesn't even show some of the most frequently visited ones that were in my existing list.
If they provide an option for the "classic" dropdown format I will reconsider. (Didn't like the silly new cosmetics either - back button etc).
Posted by johnb3950 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's designer feature-creep. Pretty trumps functional. All users are assumed to share backgrounds and tastes with programmers.

Weird: some pages have boxes and buttons with Hebrew (?) lettering instead of English, and are right-justified.
Posted by BrianFH (54 comments )
Link Flag
Firefox has really done well in the last 2 public versions (FF2 and FF3). We've covered it a few times at www.pcauthorities.com and I really think it has the potential to beat IE 7 and Safari.

The speed and stability for Mac and Windows is fantastic in my opinion. I haven't heard many disappointing comments about FF3.

And you have to give them credit, they did surpass the Guinness World Record.

Jeff McCord
Posted by krisjames (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
epcraig says: "I have yet to see news of any malware which affects any Linux (or BSD, including OSX) distribution. I find this feature almost as ridiculous as the CNET spell-checker's insistence that malware is a mis-spelling."

Since OS-X and Linux account for less than 7% of all web site traffic, and Firefox accounts for almost 29% of web traffic, I strongly suspect that there may be one or two folks out there who use Firefox on something.other than Linux and BSD...

.
Posted by Mike Sharp (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"Since OS-X and Linux account for less than 7% of all web site traffic, and Firefox accounts for almost 29% of web traffic, I strongly suspect that there may be one or two folks out there who use Firefox on something.other than Linux and BSD... ." Since Firefox (in reality) actually accounts for less than 19% of Web traffic (<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://marketshare.hitslink.com/report.aspx?qprid=0" target="_newWindow">http://marketshare.hitslink.com/report.aspx?qprid=0</a>), I strongly suspect that you are one of these folks who cannot stand the fact the Internet Explorer (as any other commercial product) continues proving its supremacy with (such a significant and obvious) market share (almost 75%).
Posted by Fil0403 (1303 comments )
Link Flag
From some of the unbiased comments that can be read here, one (unbiased person) can conclude that Internet Explorer won't cease to be the leading Web browser anytime soon (and, with that, proving to - still - be the best around).
Posted by Fil0403 (1303 comments )
Reply Link Flag
IE leads nothing but the worst browser category. That it is on every windows install and can not be removed is the reason for its "supremacy". Windows users are generally very computer illiterate, they use whatever is in front of them.
Posted by The_Decider (3097 comments )
Link Flag
 

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