Mozilla Firefox Logo

I’ve received some comments on my previous post, Firefox + WebDeveloper: a powerful combination and it seems that I should begin at the beginning instead of the end.

Read onward for a brief summary of the Firefox web browser and what it can do for you.

Introduction

Mozilla Firefox is a web browser, like Internet Explorer, Netscape, or Opera. It is a rewrite of the web browser portion of the Mozilla suite. Firefox is designed to be a fast and easy-to-use web browser. It was built from the ground up to provide only the features that users need, such as pop-up blocking and tabbed browsing—its beauty lies in its simplicity. Other people seem to think so, too. The Firefox logo recently graced the cover of Wired magazine, as well as a full-page ad in the New York Times.

Unquestionably, Firefox is a growing phenomenon. So, why should you use Firefox?

Simplicity

Firefox was built with simplicity in mind. Most people never use the myriad of bells and whistles built into Internet Explorer and Netscape. In fact, those extra features contribute to slow performance and security flaws. Firefox is different; it focuses on one thing, and one thing only: displaying web pages. It will not attempt to interface with instant messaging (IM) programs, display weather information, etc—unless you want it to.

Simple design means that you can begin using Firefox without reading a manual, or fear of “breaking” something. If you have used a web browser in the past, the basic features of Firefox are one click away.

Speed

The lack of superfluous features means that Firefox loads and displays pages exceptionally well. There are additional options for power users to allow for downloading web pages in parallel—why wait for one image to finish, when you can be downloading ten images simultaneously? Firefox has excellent performance.

Extensibility

Firefox’s spartan design may be too basic for some. Extensions are a way to address this problem. I mentioned previously that Firefox won’t do some things, but it can if you want it to. Hundreds of programmers have written extensions, add-ons to Firefox that give it new features.

With the aid of extensions, you can block banner ads from displaying on the screen, disable flash animations, view the guts of a web page (like in my previous article), and do many more things. Firefox’s feature set is limited only by the imagination of its developers.

Community Support

Firefox is an open-source project. This means that anybody who wishes to contribute to the effort can download the program’s code and fix bugs or add improvements. The Mozilla foundation manages Firefox development, and ensures that the final product is one of quality.

With developers around the world working on a single project, bugs can be addressed very quickly. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, for example, will often go unpatched for weeks after a critical bug is found. With Firefox, developers are on the case the minute it is reported.

After all, Firefox developers are not being paid to work on the project per se; they are simply doing what they love to do.

Lack of major security flaws

Compared to Internet Explorer, Firefox has had far fewer serious security breaches in its code. Personally, I have encountered many users who have had their Internet Explorer literally hijacked by malicious software. An out-of-date Internet Explorer can open the door to virus or spyware infestation on your computer.

Running Firefox poses much less risk than running Internet Explorer.

Innovative features

From the beginning, Firefox has included advanced features for the internet user. Foremost among them is its excellent built-in pop-up blocker. Everyone has had some experience with pop-ups—visit most any major media site today, and you will see an ad or two pop up over the web page you are trying to view. Using Firefox will completely eliminate pop-up ads while browsing.