Why Firefox and why now?

June 15, 2006

I have been using the Internet for a long time. In fact, it has been almost 15 years (14.7 to be exact). I am sure that there have been others out there that remember the earlier Internet. After all according to this article, the 2400 baud modem become affordable as early as 1987.

Back then though the Internet was not really for public use and the World Web hadn't even been created. I do remember people talking about Bullitein boards and AOL but before 1992 (when I got my start) the web had just gotten started. First it was Mozaic and then came Netscape and finally IE. I have seen all of the browsers and I have ask myself "Why Firefox and Why Now"?

I will take this in two sections:

Why Firefox
What makes Firefox so popular? What is making it so successful? For starters Firefox has been around for a bit longer than most people might think. It was originally launched as beta software project named "Phoenix" in September 2002. They launched the beta for 0.8 in February 2004 with the name Firefox. So lets talk about what makes Firefox so appealing. I can think of a few good reasons:

1. Cross Platform
This browser runs and acts the same on all platforms mainly because of its use of XUL for the Interface. I am not sure how they got their rendering engine to be so cross-platform but with Firefox you did not see all of the crazy HTML/CSS incompatiability problems that you may have experienced with IE. So from the development perspective you didn't have to write your app 3 or 4 ways to work on different platforms.

2. Extensions
Did I say extensions? I really mean "Mini-software apps". I am actually using one now called "Performancing". A great tool for those of you who blog. The number of extensions (and their relatively easy development process) is astounding. Since Firefox used XML and scripting standards for their Intereface API it appeals to broad audiences. Since we use our web browsers so much, it makes sense to add in connections to our email, bookmarks, RSS readers, Blog tools etc… Why leave the browser? I know the Web as the OS is the new mantra, but to me the Browser as the OS means soooo much more.

3. Cleanliness
The application is so light weight (not that it can't chew up memory). It sits in a tiny space on your hard drive and is not integrated with the world. I can not remember the last time I was browsing for files on my local machine and felt the urge to visit a web site so bad that I replaced "c:\temp\foo\" with "http://www.techcrunch.com". Integrated browsers with my "everything" is not as useful as one might think.

4. Security
When Firefox first came out, it was a lot more secure than IE. There were not as many security holes because it did not have a lot of airtime for hackers. Plus, it was the hackers that got sick of IE and started using Firefox. They were almost championing Firefox because it was more appealing. Zillion dollar software bohemoth vs. Non-Profit foundation for the better of all Internet users. There was no reason to poke holes in the app, it was accepted. Not to say that there aren't any security risks – because there are some doozies. But it is more secure than IE.

5. Updates
Ok, so IE does have updates, but since these updates are so bundled in with the OS, you have to download a million other patches to fix holes in the browser. Firefox has more regular updates and they install automatically (should you choose to).

So why now?
I can not truly say why now. Maybe it had to do with the tremendous security holes opened up via the IE browser in the early 00's. It certainly is a lot more fun to use. But what really makes an application like this work so well.

1. Appealing to the right people
This application was targeted for people who embrace change. This was evident in the Marketing campaign. There were no flashy commercials. There were no full page ads taken out in Technical Publications. It was a quiet movement dessiminated via Blogs and forums posts. "Hey, did you check out Phoenix"? or "I downloaded Firefox last night and it is really cool … there are all of these extensions…". The development community ate it up because it was fun and different.

2. Reliable
It is rare that Firefox crashes. It is very light weight. It is good at doing what it is supposed to do – serve up web pages. If Firefox does crash it is more likely due to the fact that you have installed some beta extension that did not take into consideration how users would react to the tools provided.

Reality
Don't get me wrong, Firefox has it annoyances, but I would take them over IE any day. I can not say that I will never open up an IE browser again, but I can say that my browser of choice is certainly Firefox.

powered by performancing firefox

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4 Responses to “Why Firefox and why now?”

  1. Greg Says:

    The thing that got me using Firefox (about 10 months ago) is that IE just stopped working. It was so jacked up with viruses, that it just stopped working. I could not get on the net!

    Luckily I had a version of Netscape, so I was able to get on the web and I had heard of Firefox. I downloaded it, it worked great and the rest is history.

  2. notronwest Says:

    Greg,

    Have you gotten into Extensions yet? If so, what’s your favorite(s)?

  3. Greg Says:

    Hey notronwest.

    No, not really. I have tried the delicious plugin and the co.mments plugin to track where I left comments (so I can come back and leave more).

    I will look into them. So much to do….

  4. ProfeC Says:

    If you’re interested in some good extensions, Mikull and I have posted what we currently use.

    Being an internet developer, I have found these extensions invaluable. Not to mention down-right cool!

    Hope this helps a little in your search for extensions.


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