Mozilla released Firefox 3.5 this week, and the Web browser has numerous improvements over its previous version. For those Microsoft Explorer holdouts, it’s worth taking a look at. As of this writing, Mozilla reported approximately 4 million downloads. Here’s five reasons Firefox 3.5 is a hit.

1. Speed:The number one criterion for a browser is fast speed. The 3.5 version of Mozilla Firefox is markedly faster than its predecessor. According to Mozilla, it ran the industry-standard SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark, which measures how fast browsers render JavaScript, on versions 2, 3 and 3.5 of Firefox. The company claims the newest version performed with at least double the speed of Firefox 3 and is more than 10 times as fast as Firefox 2.

2. Privacy:Just as Explorer offers InPrivate Browsing, Mozilla Firefox 3.5 has Private Browsing. Once a Private Browsing session is activated, computer users can surf any site at all with no trace remaining when they are finished: no cookies, no temp files, no forms information and no search information.

Further, if a user isn’t in Private Browsing mode, but still wants to eliminate traces of where he or she has been, there’s the “Forget About This Site” feature. That erases the site from the History list, as well as all traces of the browsing session on your computer, including cookies and temp files, search history, forms and more.

3. Music and Video Support:Because Firefox 3.5 supports HTML 5 audio and video elements, users can watch video and listen to music directly in a Web page, without launching any plug-ins. The video or audio can be saved by right-clicking and saving it. That’s a big improvement with the torrent of video viewing taking place on the internet.

4. “Awesome Bar:”The location bar -dubbed the “Awesome Bar” by some perhaps overly enthusiastic developers – has been made even more, well, awesome in Mozilla Firefox 3.5. Previosuly, you could simply type the name of what you were searching into that field, foregoing the search box altogether, and a Google search page would show results. Mozilla has tweaked the search functionality in the browser so surfers can show only bookmarks by using an asterisk after a query such as “Channelweb *”, or show only tags by using a plus “Channelweb +”.

5. Session Control:If Mozilla Firefox crashes, users can choose which tabs to resuscitate, a feature previously available through the Session Manager add-on. That’s handy particularly if a Flash-based or heavy JavaScript site was the cause of the crash, so users aren’t caught in a perpetual, and irritating, crash-and-restart cycle in their browser.

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