The internet of today scarcely seems the same entity as the web of just a couple of years ago. Ground-breaking tools for blogging, commenting, embedding video, sharing and championing content via sites such as Digg have turned the web upside down.
There might be a few new tools in our browser bar to enable us to enjoy in-page RSS feeds and forum updates but, until the past few months, our personal access to this web-based content has seemed just the same as ever.
The latest versions of the Safari, Opera and Firefox web browsers have changed all that, becoming both smarter and easier to use. Opera, for example, has a Speed Dial feature that lets you instantly jump to favourite pages, bookmarks or frequently visited sites and is far more intuitive than before.
Firefox, meanwhile, is chameleon-like in its ability to take on the attributes of the OS you're using: the Vista version looks like a Vista app and the XP version is more like XP. You can also access sites by typing directly into the address bar - Firefox divines the site you want if you've visited it before.
Firefox 3.0 has gone down in history, with a Guinness World Record Certificate for 'the largest number of software downloads in 24 hours' after more than eight million users installed it within the first 24 hours of its release. Part of the take-up was due to Mozilla's aggressive marketing, but we take our hats off to the developer for growing its user base.
One of the chief reasons for such interest in the browser is its security credentials. Mozilla says that in 2006, Internet Explorer users were vulnerable to online threats 78 percent of the time, while Firefox users were at risk just 2 percent of the time. Even now, it's fair to say that using Firefox is a safer bet than the world's most prevalent and therefore most obvious to attack browser.
Many of the cosmetic changes that have been made to the way Firefox 3.0 operates are down to the introduction of integrated tools that let you know whether a site you're trying to visit is safe, and to improved handling of downloaded applications.
We'll take a look at some of these security measures in the following workshop.
1. Mozilla says it will continue to support and issue updates for Firefox 2.2 until December this year, but urges users to upgrade to Firefox 3.0. If you're happy with what you've got, click Check for Updates on the Help menu. If not, head to mozilla.com and download Firefox 3.0.
2. Firefox 3.0 performs a quick scan of your existing settings and preferences and takes them with into account — if Firefox isn't your default browser, it won't nag you to become so. Once installed, you're taken to a Getting Started page where you can learn more about Firefox 3.0.