Google browser sync: I’m not dead yet

About a month ago, I noted the bad news that Google was ending development of one of the most useful Firefox add-ons ever, the Google browser sync extension. This nifty piece of code not only kept your bookmarks synced between different computers (across different operating systems, too) but also coordinated browsing history, cookies and passwords. Foxmarks, which I switched over to, only supports syncing bookmarks, so far. And the Mozilla’s Weave project is still in an early beta stage. So it’s nice to hear on the official Google open source blog today (via Jeremy Zawodny’s link blog) that the company is throwing open the doors to programmers everywhere and anywhere to keep Google browser sync alive:

“Open Sourcing the Google Browser Sync client was something we’d always planned to do, and we’re pleased to say that the code for it is now yours for the taking. Given our recent decision to discontinue support for Browser Sync, we wanted to make sure that the code for it was available for the developer community to use and improve. While we’re no longer doing active development, we’ve released the code in the hopes that those folks who asked for it will use it to develop something cool. For example, it would be great to see the server ported to Google App Engine, or support for Firefox 3 implemented.”

Now we have some competition, I suppose, between privately-coded Foxmarks and open-sourced Weave and Google browser sync. That should lead to good progress in a hurry — I hope.

p.s. Exciting to make an allusion to the great flick “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” “Life of Bryan” in my headline. Here’s the clip:

Firefox 3.0 for Mac improves on an already fine browser

Last month, I first noticed that version 3 of the Firefox browser was nearing completion and downloaded the “release candidate” for some early trial runs. Yesterday, Mozilla released the finished 3.0 Firefox and I’ve updated all my Macs. I’m hardly alone. The download counter at Mozilla is getting close to 9 million on just the second day.

Over 8 million downloads on day two

Several of the new features are truly great little additions. The smarter auto-complete list is probably my favorite. In the prior version, when you started typing a web address, Firefox would try to guess what you wanted but usually ended up offering a whole bunch of deep links within sites when you really just wanted the main site. The new auto-complete uses a combination of the total frequency of past visits along with recent visits and comes up with smarter choices. A couple of minors changes, like triple-clicking to select a paragraph of text and improvements to opening a bunch of tabs at once, round out a very nice upgrade.

I’m also glad that most of my favorite add-ins, including Google Notebooks and Delicious bookmarks, have made the jump to 3.0 compatibility. As I noted the other day, however, Google has ended development of its excellent browser sync product. I’m now using Foxmarks to keep bookmarks in sync but I’m suffering from a huge loss of capabilities since Google’s product also synced history, cookies and other stuff. Hopefully, some more capable alternatives will crop up and/or Foxmarks will add features. Meanwhile, any other add-ins that people recommend?

p.s. there are some great tips and tricks for using the new Firefox over at Lifehacker. I especially needed the one showing how to delete mistyped web addresses that then get onto your auto-complete list. Blech.

Next version of Firefox gets ready for prime time

icon for firefox web browserSeems like the Mozilla project has been working on the 3.0 upgrade to free, open source browser Firefox since time began but really it’s only been since the Pleistocene Era. Finally, we’ve arrived at the so-called release candidate (download here), or the almost, not quite but really almost finished beta version. I was hanging around reading other people’s tweets on Twitter when I saw Mac expert John Siracusa mention it and link to the download page. So, I guess it’s about time to cowboy up and try it.

I’m usually not big on beta software, but it’s the weekend. At first, I grew very apprehensive when, reading way down the list of improvements, I eventually happened upon this sentence: “Please note that installing Firefox 3 will overwrite your existing installation of Firefox on Mac OS X and Linux.” Hmm. That’s a little scary. But I was comforted just three lines later when told: “You can remove Firefox 3 through the Control Panel in the Start Menu on Windows, by removing the Firefox application on OS X, or by removing the firefox folder on Linux. Removing Firefox 3 won’t remove your bookmarks, web browsing history, extensions or other add-ons.”

Some of the cool new features I’m looking forward to (and which I’ll be reporting back on shortly):
— Full page zoom: from the View menu and via keyboard shortcuts, the new zooming feature lets you zoom in and out of entire pages, scaling the layout, text and images, or optionally only the text size. Your settings will be remembered whenever you return to the site.
–Optimized Open in Tabs behavior: opening a folder of bookmarks in tabs now appends the new tabs rather than overwriting.
–Triple-clicking selects a paragraph.
–Integration with the Mac: the new Firefox theme makes toolbars, icons, and other user interface elements look like a native OS X application. Firefox also uses OS X widgets and supports Growl for notifications of completed downloads and available updates. A combined back and forward control make it even easier to move between web pages.
–Location bar & auto-complete: Results are returned according to their frequency (a combination of frequency and recency of visits to that page) ensuring that you’re seeing the most relevant matches. An adaptive learning algorithm further tunes the results to your patterns!
–Speed: improvements to our JavaScript engine as well as profile guided optimizations have resulted in continued improvements in performance. Compared to Firefox 2, web applications like Google Mail and Zoho Office run twice as fast in Firefox 3, and the popular SunSpider test from Apple shows improvements over previous releases.

Stay tuned.