Firefox has been around for what seems like forever and it’s always been the underdog! Initially released in 2004, the people behind (Mozilla) Firefox created their browser after the “First Browser War”. In the early, to mid 90’s Netscape Navigator was the preeminent tool for browsing web pages online, but by the end of the decade and into the early 2000’s, Internet Explorer overtook and finally supplanted Navigator as the tool of choice. Navigator did not, however, go down without a fight! They open-sourced their code and entrusted it to the non-profit Mozilla Foundation.
Our rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
👍🏻 The good
- Lot of extensions
- Open-source development
👎🏻 The bad
- Can’t resume downloads when interrupted
With constant updates, Firefox is on the cutting edge of Internet browsers and is often the one to beat. Currently, at version 55 (stable), it offers both Android and iOS mobile browsers in addition to its desktop browser.
What is Firefox?
Firefox, like Chrome and IE, is a web browser. What this means in simple terms is that it takes computer code and translates it into something that is more easily recognizable by humans. This computer code (known as HTML, CSS, Java, C++ etc…) is a programming language that not only formats and structures the page properly, it informs the browser about any links to other pages, where to place images and even how to run other programs in the background.
Firefox was launched in April 2004 as a competitor to Microsofts Internet Explorer. IE had taken a dominant position in the market with its browser that had been bundled with its operating system and while it was a good tool, it was proprietary and was not necessarily following the “rules” in terms of how certain features should appear. During this time, browsers actually had a “service mark” which web pages displayed indicating which was the preferred browser for the site as the appearance and operation could sometimes be radically different.
Firefox with its compliance to standards, speed, tabbed browsing and other enhancements gradually picked up the pace and continued to steal market share from Microsoft during the 2000’s and by 2010 it had a respectable 30+% share of the market with IE plummeting from its heights. Firefox looked poised to take the browser crown, but in 2009 a new contender appeared on the scene in Google Chrome. Over the next five years, Chrome surpassed both IE and Firefox and is now the reigning champion of browsers – but really it is only thanks to the work Firefox did in the early days, that this was possible. Many of Chrome’s features look like a straight port from Firefox … the phrase “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” definitely applies!
Pros and Cons of Firefox
- Tabbed browsing is a key feature in any browser and Firefox has it! In addition in a similar fashion to Chrome, each tab runs in its own instance and can be closed down without impacting the remainder of the browsing session.
- Extensions and add ons – as one of the earliest web browsers, Firefox has a strong and well-developed user community that is constantly enhancing the product. Many (most) of the extensions are free and they are definitely worth a look.
- It’s fast – with a minimalist design and interface, it does not waste time or resources where they are not needed. Speed is a key requirement and feature of Firefox and it sure delivers.
- Syncing browser details across multiple devices is built into Firefox also. This is a huge timesaver as not only are your bookmarks and account information ported but with Firefox, any open tabs also get transferred.
- Virtual sticky notes are a great tool for students through Firefox’s “pin as app” … another huge time saver truth be told and an add-on that is well worth exploring!
- It doesn’t automatically resume downloads when interrupted. This can be quite painful if in the middle of a large download as the file needs to resume each time.
Features of Firefox
Tabbed browsing was introduced by Firefox as far back as 2006 – almost 3 years before Chrome even existed! – and it was this same version 2 that also offered an anti-phishing feature! Version 9 released in 2011 included touch navigation and 19 included a built in PDF viewer. The innovations from year to year continued with new releases coming out every 6 weeks and while many of these releases were bug and security related – others were to bring the browser into parity with Chrome, IE, and Opera or in some way continue innovating past them.
Some Tips and Tricks
- Simply click on the star in the address bar to add a web page to your favorites. A single click gets them added to the “Unsorted …” folder but double click and you will be presented with a pop up that will let you sort them into their correct location.
- “Tag” your bookmarks with the relevant detail to simplify your search for them. Once they are appropriately tagged, just typing the tag into the location bar, will give you all of the linked sites quickly and easily.
- Smart keywords are a killer feature/trick introduced by Firefox. Simply right click on the search box on a website and give it an appropriate name. For example, an IMDB search for an actor could be called “actor”. Next time you are interested in knowing the details of the movie you are watching, just type actor into your search bar and their name and you’ll immediately be catapulted to the IMDB page!
- If you’re really feeling adventurous, you can do a deep dive into the nitty gritty of Firefox through its “secret interface”. This is not a trip for the unwary and can be quite confusing, but the customization options available are simply unbelievable. To access this – just type: “about:config” in your address bar and take a look at what you can do!
Firefox has always been the underdog and to be honest that’s probably to the best. Having Firefox in play has helped ensure that the big boy’s don’t get complacent and sit still on their laurels. They need to constantly innovate and provide new features and services to us if they want to stay in their preeminent position as while Firefox might be number two … it’s not that far behind!