David A. Wheeler's Blog

Sun, 07 Nov 2004

Firefox is coming November 9, 2004…

The official release of the Firefox web browser is coming soon, on November 9, 2004. Of course, “new” is misleading; much of the infrastructure of Firefox is based on Mozilla, which is based on Netscape Navigator’s original code. But Mozilla underwent a major redesign in 1998 to make its infrastructure design far better, and now the same is happening to the outer browser. The result - a very nice browser. It’s clean and simple, yet it’s easy to add extensions that do lots of extremely useful things. I really like it; if you haven’t checked it out, you need to.

Firefox has lots of useful capabilities. I love tabbed browsing, which it supports; I find it truly painful now to use a browser without tabbed browsing (such as Internet Explorer (IE)). Firefox’s built-in tabbed searching and finding is really nice. There’s much to like from a security point of view: it won’t load harmful ActiveX controls, it has a built-in pop-up blocker, and frankly it’s got a better security history to recommend it. Indeed, CERT’s taken the unusual step of suggesting that a good solution to IE’s endless woes is to switch browsers; eWEEK.com Senior Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols recommends dumping IE as too dangerous.

But something very nice about Firefox - and not as clearly crowed by its developers - is that Firefox is far more standards-compliant. This isn’t just an idle claim; this detailed analysis of CSS support clearly shows how badly IE supports CSS, a key web standard. No browser is perfect; Firefox is based on Mozilla, and you’ll notice some weaknesses of Mozilla in that paper. But you want a browser that’s close and in the process of fixing any minor problems. Even though many web application developers have complained mightily to Microsoft for years for them to fix the many bugs and incomplete capabilities of Internet Explorer, Internet Explorer has continued to poorly implement the web standards for years, with little evidence they’ll be fixed soon.

There are lots of nice extras you can get. I like the “Google Cache” and “Internet Archive” extensions; they’re very handy for research.

Firefox also runs on just about anything: Windows, Mac, Linux, Unix. Notice that it runs on old versions of Windows (like Windows 98), too.

If you’re curious, download and try Firefox out - it’s free!

Get Firefox!

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