Firefox 3 came out yesterday to much fanfare and a world record. The world seems to like it, at least in general, though I have heard a bit of complaining. One thing in particular: the Awesome Bar.

This has been the number one complaint I’ve heard, and to be fair, I can’t blame people. When I first downloaded a beta (or maybe a nightly) back in January, I HATED the Awesome Bar. I spent a couple hours with it and bitched to Rob (who was and still is an intern). I just wanted URLs to be matched as they always had been, with the first few letters and then a bunch of arrow pressing as I chose the right page. By the end of those hours I was frustrated as all hell and wanted out. Rob told me about the oldbar extension - which makes the Awesome Bar behave much like the old location bar - and installed it. I used Firefox & Safari roughly equally over the next couple weeks, and then I interviewed with Mozilla.

During one of my interviews (with Mike Connor I believe), I was asked, “If you could change one thing about Firefox, what would it be?” I thought about it a second, and the first thing that came to mind was my new found hatred of the Awesome Bar, so I said that. I explained myself, and said some of the things that I said to Rob. My biggest gripe was that I just wanted URLs to be matched before titles of pages. Mike talked a bit about how it worked and how it used machine learning to adapt to how I used it. So if I just behaved like I used to and chose the page I was looking for, it would remember that for next time. He said it was still being tweaked and it wasn’t perfect yet, but that I really should give it another shot.

So I did, and since I knew a little bit more about it, I felt a little less apprehensive about using it. So I set out to “train” it. I bit the bullet and got some inaccurate results over the next week or two. At one point in there I opened my browser and could not for the life of me think of the domain or URL for a page I knew I had been to a couple days before. I did however know what the page was about (it was something specific about Java or some such nonsense for an assignment). So I just typed the topic into the Awesome Bar. Luckily the word I was thinking had been in the page title, and viola voilà - the first result after I had typed the word was the exact page I was looking for. It had proved itself to me. I probably would have spent another 20 minutes trying to remember exactly what I searched for on Google. I’ve been using it since and absolutely love it.

So just give it a shot and quit complaining. Yes, it is a complete paradigm shift. But it’s not called the Awesome Bar for nothing; it really is awesome once you give it a chance.