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Firefox 3 beta is (almost) out

Firefox 3.0b1Mozilla doesn't plan to officially launch Firefox 3 beta for another few days. But the crafty folks over at Digg have umm, dugg up a few download links for anyone who can't wait to get their hands on the newest version of the popular web browser.

As usual, Mozilla is releasing Mac, Linux, and Windows versions of Firefox. And the developers have put a handy little Read Me note up on the FTP site stating that they'd really prefer if you waited until the official announcement to download the browser so that their servers don't get hammered. Thanks to Digg, it's probably too late for that, so we went ahead and downloaded a copy of Firefox 3 beta anyway.

At first glance, you won't notice many changes from Firefox 2. In fact, Firefox 3 beta will import all of your settings, bookmarks, add-ons and plugins from Firefox 2, so at first you might think you've opened the wrong program. We even installed Firefox 3 beta using Sandboxie so that it wouldn't overwrite our old settings, and all the data was easily imported.

Update: Mozilla has posted a note making it clear that the Firefox 3.0b1 is a release candidate of Firefox 3 beta, which was not meant for general consumption yet. If you can hold your horses a few more days, there should be an official release soon.
But in addition to the upgrades under the hood, there are a few nice new features in Firefox 3 beta. For example, you'll notice a star icon sitting in your URL bar. It works sort of like the star in Google Reader or Gmail. Click it to remember websites you like or want to come back to later. Click it again to create a permanent bookmark.

While that might not sound like a big deal, it works because of a completely redesigned bookmark system in Firefox 3 called Places. If you look at your Bookmark toolbar, you'll notice a new folder called places, when you open it up you'll see a bunch of options that you didn't have in older versions of the web browser.

Firefox Places

You can instantly view all of your most recently visited sites, recently starred sites, or pages that you visit most often. Click the "Open All in Tabs" button and each listed site will open in a new Firefox Tab.

A few other changes include an enhanced plugin manager, security requirements for upgrading add-ons, and an enhanced security system that alerts you of suspected attacks. Visit this page in Firefox 3 to see an example.

While Mozilla is expected to release native themes for Windows, Linux, and OS X, Firefox 3 beta ships with just the default Firefox theme that we've come to know, love, and occasionally get tired of.

Tags: bookmarks, browsertips, firefox, firefox-3beta, places