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Mozilla Firefox sparks a revolution

Mozilla fires up the staid browser mart with Firefox. Dancewithshadows meets  the wily fox in its cave. A review.

BY JM

 

 

15 Nov.  2004: Few new-gen surfers have heard of the browser wars -- how Netscape brought the Internet home with its startup browser, how Microsoft came up with its own imitation, how Microsoft bundled Internet Explorer with Windows and how Netscape lost the battle to unstitch Explorer from Windows. Netscape lies buried beneath the rubble of hopes and dreams. It has been years.

Here comes light at the end of the tunnel; hallelujah!! Bugles were blown for the Battle of Browsers (Part-II) on Tuesday, November 9, with the arrival of Mozilla Firefox 1.0. Firefox took the browser-watchers by storm. It's not too late to be part of the Next Revolution. Go ahead, Download it here: You will never think of Explorer again!!

The sparkling new browser comes as a result of years of research and development. Firefox is an open source software, which has been developed by the non-profit organisation Mozilla Foundation in association with developers worldwide. Dancewithshadows raises a toast to the revolution. Here are some of the foxy novelties:

1. Tabbed browsing: Currently, only Opera (the other non-Explorer browser) offers this facility. This means, you can surf multiple pages within the same browser window. There is no clutter in the bottom tool bar when you open multiple pages. By contrast, Internet Explorer offers no such convenience. When you attempt to close Firefox when multiple tabs are open, it pops up an alert: Multiple tabs open: Shut browser? This is quite user-friendly, since many of us are hard-wired into the habit of closing IE windows when the page is not required.

2. Automatic pop-up blocker: Till the time website managers grow up to better standards of civility and give up pop-up windows, this option is a must. Currently, pop-up blocker is available with Windows XP Service Pack 2. If you are using the lower versions of Explorer, you will have to install a Google toolbar or something similar to block the annoying pop-ups. Firefox offers pop-up blocker free.

3. Integrated websearch box: A search window is integrated into the browser. At the top right of the browser is a small drop-down box where you can directly type in search keywords. Default is a Google search. There are also options to search through Yahoo, Amazon, eBay etc. Quite thoughtful, indeed (Psst: There is no option for MSN Search, but of course you can add it by yourself -- there is an option to add search engines.

4. Built-in RSS reader: As of now, only Firefox ofers this. If you are using Internet Explorer, you need a separate feed collector software to read the RSS news feeds. In Firefox, there is an option called LIVE BOOKMARKS, which offers the luxury of having an RSS reader right within your browser. I am not an RSS junkie, but people who have used this tell us the Firefox RSS reader is quite userfriendly, though a little featureless. Something better than nothing :). Perhaps we can expect more with the later versions. After version 1.0, things can only get better!

5. Cross-platform versatility: Whether you are a Mac fan or a Linux aficionado, there is a Firefox for you. Mozilla has made the browser for non-Windows platforms as well.

6. Addition of extensions and themes: You can add about 117 extensions (plug-ins) and several themes (skins) from the Mozilla website, to pep up the looks and improve functionality.

7. Download manager: The browser incorporates a download manager, which keeps track of downloads.

8. No ActiveX support: Mark my word, half the spies and trojans that are currently running in your computer, slowing down your work and gobbling up bandwidth came through ActiveX controls, the unique Microsoft discovery which made work easier for hackers. This also means that the sites which are intensely ActiveX-based won't display properly in your Firefox screen. On my part, I have decided to give up on ActiveX-based sites. If I HAVE to visit some such site, I can of course open Internet Explorer. Though fox-enamoured, I cannot uninstall Explorer -- Microsoft has ensured that IE cannot be removed from Windows even if you try without damaging the operating system.

9. Fewer spyware attacks: Most of the spyware and adware have been written specifically for Internet Explorer. At least for the time being, there are no Firefox-specific attacks. But don't count on this one too much; once Firefox gains steam, the hackers will turn their attention to you.

10. Cleaner interface: There are no stupid buttons pushing you to download Windows Media or go to Hotmail. There is no Microsoft promo (or any other promo) anywhere to be seen. Even the request to contribute for Firefox development is only on the Mozilla website; not on the browser. Buttons are fewer and the toolbar is clean and the options mostly similar to that of Internet Explorer.

11. Better FIND option: Type Control-F and an unobtrusive search box opens at the bottom left, which does not block the page view unlike conventional dialogue boxes. It also includes a highlight option ie; if you want to highlight all words with BUSH, it will do so for you.

12. Small setup file: The setup file that can be downloaded from the Mozilla server is quite compact, making it convenient to download over a weak internet connections. The size is only 4.7 MB. This is important, since to lure more users, Firefox needs to remain lean and mean to enable quick downloads.

13. Easier migration from Explorer: The fox knows its limits. To migrate habitual IE users to its cave is no easy task. The options file has a section called Help for Internet Explorer users" which helps you make the transition easy. Besides, when installing, Firefox can copy your FAVOURITES and even cookies to the new browser, so you don't have to do it all over again.

14. One smart thing I noticed: Like Explorer, Firefox asks you if you would like it to be the default browser. When you say YES, all icons of Internet Explorer are instantly changed to Firefox's! Even the INTERNET button (Browse the Internet) on the desktop and the start menu changes to Firefox. This means once you install Firefox as default browser, Explorer is practically out of sight, out of mind! Clever foxy trick! After this, if you need to open Explorer, you have to go thought the program menu and click on the program.

VERDICT: Go for it. Junk IE. Leaner, smarter, well thought-out, Firefox gives a run for money to Explorer, Opera and other tail-eners. Sign up for the revolution and its evolution.

BY JM

 

 

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