Mozilla released Firefox version 1.0 to relative obscurity in November of 2004, and four short years later, the much-anticipated Firefox 3.0 will hit the streets with ambitions of setting a new world record tomorrow. In honour of the nearly here 3.0 release, let's take a look back at a visual history of Firefox, version 1.0 to 3.0.
The most significant change you'll notice in Firefox 3 off the bat is the new themes. Mozilla has skinned Firefox 3 to integrate with your operating system of choice. Firefox 3.0 in Vista now fits more into the aesthetic of Vista, Firefox in OS X likewise fits more with the look and feel of native OS X apps, and so on. Here's a quick look back at the changes from the Firefox 1.0 to 3.0 chrome.
You'll notice a subtle change in the theme from Firefox 1 to 2, but nothing to write home about.
On the other hand, the changes between Firefox 2 and 3—and even between Firefox 3 on different operating systems—are significant.
Another huge change to the look and functionality of Firefox 3 is the new and improved Location bar. Not only can you find a web page in your history by address, but you can also search the location bar by page title. It's smart, too, so the more you go to a site, the higher it'll show up in your results.
Between Firefox 1 and 2, the navigation sidebar in the Options dialog moved to the top and Mozilla added new options for handling RSS feeds and tab management, among other small tweaks.
The biggest change in Firefox 3's Options window comes through re-thinking the Feeds tab as a complete application-management tab. You can now easily set how you want Firefox to handle any filetype through this interface as opposed to just tweaking how it handles feeds.
In Firefox 1.0, extensions were extensions, themes were themes, and you managed them separately.
In Firefox 2.0, Mozilla designers lumped extensions and themes together into a new Add-ons dialog.
In Firefox 3, the Add-ons dialog hit the weight room, beefed up, and added a Plug-ins tab and the Get Add-ons tab, an add-ons store of sorts. Instead of searching the depths of the internet when you're looking for a new extension, you can go straight to the Get Add-ons tab, search for it, and install it without ever opening a web page.
There's very little difference—if any—between the bookmarks management in Firefox 1 and 2.
Firefox 3, on the other hand, has completely revamped the look of the bookmarks manager and included support for some of Firefox 3's newer bookmark features, like smart folders and tags. (As you can see, I haven't tagged many bookmarks yet.)
In Firefox 3, you can easily add or edit any bookmark while you're visiting a bookmarked page by clicking the new star in the address bar. Clicking it automatically bookmarks an unbookmarked page or provides you a simple avenue for removing a bookmark or adding tags.
The Downloads manager didn't change much between 1 and 2, but Firefox 3 has added a slight visual refresh, swapped out text links (like Cancel) for some buttons, and added a handy little search box to the bottom of the Downloads window to filter through your recent downloads.
Like bookmarks, we didn't see any change in the way that Firefox 1 and 2 handled saving new passwords when you logged into a site.
Firefox 3 provides a much less intrusive mechanism for asking you what you'd like to do with the login credentials you use to log into a site. Rather than triggering a pop-up window that requires a response before you can continue, the new password bar allows you to continue on your merry way without attending to it immediately. You can even ignore the prompt altogether if you prefer.
For more details on what you'll get with tomorrow's Firefox 3 release, see our top 10 Firefox 3 features.
If we missed a change that you think needs pointing out between Firefox versions 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0, tell us about it in the comments. No matter how you slice it, looking back at where Firefox has been, how far it's come, and where it's going, there's no question that it's a phenomenal browser that's never stopped evolving.
Adam Pash is a senior editor for Lifehacker who can't get enough of the 'fox. His special feature Hack Attack appears regularly on Lifehacker.