Alex Coles showed me the Firefox browser last week and ever since then I’ve been hooked! With the recent (and highly-publicised) run of flaws in Internet Explorer (IE) resulting in bodies such as US-CERT advising users to consider switching to an alternative browser, the browser marketplace has been opened up again, leading to IE’s market share slipping and the Mozilla website reporting 3,592,687 million downloads of the Firefox preview release as I write this (1.3 million of which were in the first week).
So why is Firefox so great? Well, for a start it’s fast. It takes about the same time as IE to launch, but seems about 4 times faster to render popular websites (e.g. BBC, or The Register). Previously, I had thought it was my connection that was slow – not my browser! One of the major features is tabbed browsing – I wasn’t convinced as to the difference between multiple tabs in a single browser and multiple copies of a browser, but it just seems easier to work with! Installation is easy too – it’s compact (at 4.5Mb) and even imports my IE settings. Like the latest IE version, it has an integrated popup blocker; but it also includes integrated search tools for Google, Yahoo and others in its toolbar. It just seems more elegant.
Actually (much to my own surprise) I’m becoming a bit of an open source fan. I use FeedReader as my RSS aggregator and now Firefox is my browser of choice. I’ll probably start looking at the Mozilla Thunderbird e-mail client too.
Internet Explorer is not dead – it still holds more than 90% of the market, but as Firefox rises in popularity, perhaps Microsoft will look seriously at a full redesign, including a host of new features? We can but hope.