Updated: November 8, 2011
By now, we are all used to the Firefox Mach 9 release cycle. We may like it or not, but it is here to stay, it seems. Therefore, I'm trying to transcend past my dissatisfaction with the Chrome copycat strategy and look into the actual changes, fixes, improvements, and new features added to the latest Firefox release, marked as number eight.
Firefox 8 finally brings in several major improvements rather than just cosmetic polish seen in Firefox 5 through 7, built upon Firefox 4. These include more focus on smart and efficient addons management, geared toward making Firefox run faster, better resource utilization, and some extra privacy focus. Let's see what's on the platter. You may have already read all of this elsewhere, but no one has my flair, style or charm. Follow me.
When you install Firefox 8, it will attempt some housekeeping. It will ask you about your existing addons, whether you wish to keep them installed or enabled, as you may have ancient leftovers polluting your profile. The goal of this procedure is to make your Firefox less buggy due to incompatible, unstable or unsafe extensions, but we've seen this feature before, make Firefox start and run faster, with a smaller memory footprint and without memory leaks.
If you like to save your browsing sessions, you may have tens or perhaps hundreds of tabs opening all at the same time when Firefox starts, which can take quite some time, usually making your browser unresponsive. Now, there are extensions that can load your session lists without actually loading the webpages until you request them. Rather neat. This feature has become official in Firefox 8. The browser will remember your tabs, but it will not load them until you need them. You get the best of both worlds this way.
If you choose to show only the home page, the option will be disabled. But if you want to start the browser with your last session, then you can deselect the automatic loading of tabs until they are selected.
Firefox 8 comes with Twitter as an available search engine option. You can make it your default if you want, or use it occasionally when needed. This will probably come handy to some people, although I can't possibly imagine what SMS-style 140-character snippets of text could offer to anyone. The last bit is my opinion, if you're wondering.
There isn't much to conclude here. There's always hype around security, privacy, as well as changes underneath the hood that only matter to developers. For users, it's the practical stuff they can taste and feel. In this regard, Firefox 8 actually makes a difference.
The ability to search tweets is cute, the ability to post-load tabs is powerful and very much needed for heavy users. It also conserves bandwidth, as there's a chance you may never want to reopen some of those tabs again. Addons management is also useful, as it allows people to clean their collections, throw out unneeded stuff, possibly resolve problems and slow startup times due to an accumulation of old junk, or nothing at all, if they are dandy about their software.
Well, I guess that would be all. Firefox 8 makes sense, for the first time after a long series of marketing spins. Perhaps Mozilla guys have finally come to their senses, the surge of panic is down to controllable levels and they can focus on making Firefox the great and simple browser I once knew.