We’ve exhausted our clever browser wars word play, so we’ll just come right out and say it: Firefox 3.5 was released for download today. 

The anticipated release comes one year after the launch of Firefox 3, and is being described by its creators as “the best performing browser Mozilla has ever released.” While that may be true—and has certainly got us geeks excited—those seeking one single rock-your-socks feature will be sorely disappointed. It appears that Firefox 3 isn’t about pulling ahead with fancy new functionality, rather, it’s about catching up.

Nobody’s a Shoo-in

Now, before you long-time Firefox fans beeline for the comments section of this post in an outrageous frenzy, think about the current browser situation. Our increasing number of options include: minimalistic Google Chrome, visually stimulating Safari, social Flock, the ever-changing Opera and Internet Explorer, among others. Much like social networking, there’s pretty much something for everyone.

As a result, being at the top of list is no longer achieved solely by what is delivered. It’s now very much about how it’s delivered, too.

No Monkeying Around

Accordingly, Firefox 3.5 is all about doing what it does faster than it did before. The new version is reportedly two times faster than Firefox 3 and a whopping ten times faster than Firefox 2 on complex websites. That’s a lot of speed.

Though there’s no big new visible feature with Firefox 3.5, there’s definitely some big new stuff going on in the background. TraceMonkey, Mozilla’s new JavaScript engine, was built specifically for Firefox 3.5 and is responsible for the boost in performance.

Word on blog street is that TraceMonkey has enabled Firefox 3.5 to be about as fast as Safari, and just a few steps behind Google Chrome 2.0.

Private Fox

Of course, it’s not all about speed. It’s also about improved functionality and privacy controls. See here:

Open Video and Audio: Video and audio content are now delivered from within your browser, without the need for plugins.

Privacy Controls: While using the new Private Browsing mode in Firefox 3.5, nothing you encounter on the Web will be stored from that moment on during your browsing session. The feature is much like Chrome’s “Incognito” window, except while you’re in Private Browsing mode, regular browser tabs must be closed.

Forget this Site: This feature can be found by right clicking a website from the history list.
Click Forget this Site and it will remove every trace of the site from your browser. Additionally, if you want to remove all private data or activity from the past few hours, Clear Recent History is available and can be applied to time increments such as the past hour, two hours, four hours, or day.

Location Aware Browsing: Location Aware Browsing saves you time by allowing websites to ask you where you are located. If you choose to share your location with a website, it can use that information to find nearby points of interest and return additional, useful data like maps of your area. The feature is, of course, optional.

Must. Have. Fox.

Without any major risk taking on Mozilla's part, there’s no need to start setting off fireworks over Firefox this time. However, the speed is more than welcome and should help the browser retain its place as one of the more popular choices. 

In the end, we’re glad to see Mozilla making moves in this particular direction. What about you? Get the newest version for free here and tell us what you think.