Often, when it comes time to look at a product's new features, I end up writing what amounts to a laundry list of functions that no one is ever likely to use in the real world. That's not the case with Firefox 3.
For example, the protection mechanisms against malware and cross-site scripting actually work. Firefox warns you before you enter sites that have been known to carry malware -- you can continue, if you really want to, but at least you'll know you're heading into trouble.
Firefox 3 also gives you more information about the sites you visit than earlier versions did. The drop-down listing of possible addresses that appears when you start typing in an URL has been enhanced to be easier to read and show more information.
Clicking on the favicon -- the tiny icon to the left of an URL address -- will give you a window that, hopefully, will show such information as who owns the site, what cookies have been set and other elements that may have been delivered. Unfortunately, that feature isn't all that useful yet -- few Web sites bother with identity information -- but it's got potential.
Another nice feature is that when (as is so often the case) you come across a Web site with an SSL security certificate that's not quite right, Firefox displays enough information about the certificate so you can make an informed decision about whether you want to trust the site or not. It's still an error message, but at least now it's an easy-to-understand error message.
Firefox now asks if you want to save your password only after you've successfully logged in to a Web site. For those of us who always type in passwords wrong the first time, this can be darn handy.
Bookmarking has also been improved. For example, the new Smart Bookmarks folder, which appears in your bookmarks toolbar, automatically picks up and lists your most-often visited pages. Firefox 3 also enables you to add keyword tags to your bookmarks and then sort your bookmarks by these tags.
On a purely aesthetic basis, Firefox will now adjust its look to match that of your Mac OS X , Linux or Windows operating system. This worked perfectly on my XP, Vista, Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and Linux systems running both KDE and GNOME. It sounds small, but I found the overall effect to be surprisingly easy on my eyes.