November 9, 2005 – Firefox is released.

Firefox-CakeFour years ago today, Web users everywhere that were looking to escape from the mediocrity of Internet Explorer were treated to the official release of a new browser, Mozilla Firefox. Since then, It has since become one of the most popular Web browsers currently available, second only to Internet Explorer, which, of course, ships as the default browser for Windows.

Firefox started as an offshoot of the Mozilla Application Suite which, in turn, was built on the open-source code of Netscape Communicator. Since then, Mozilla dropped active development in favor of the standalone apps Firefox and Thunderbird, and the full application suite was spun off as the community-developed project, SeaMonkey.

Firefox is considered by most to be stable and safe, and is available in Mac, Windows and Linux versions. That compatibility, plus an extensive add-on architecture which allows users to customize Firefox, are the main contributing factors to its popularity.

Even though I, personally, tend to stick with Safari for the vast majority of my Web browsing (especially in Snow Leopard, where Safari 4 is a 64-bit application), I still keep an updated copy of Firefox handy; every so often, I’ll find a site that pitches a fit over Safari, yet handles Firefox just fine. However, on the two virtual machines (Windows XP and Ubuntu Linux) I have on my MacBook Pro, Firefox is the main browser I use.

Many other people I know, both Mac and Windows users, use Firefox almost exclusively. Its compatibility with many corporate and online banking sites is far better than Safari (without changing user agent strings); I don’t think we need to go into its security advantages over Internet Explorer. ;-) I’ve also found Firefox to be reasonably zippy on PowerPC-based machines, often rendering more complex pages faster than Safari, so it may be a good option for you if you have an older machine.

Overall, Firefox is well worth the download, even if you don’t use it every day. You can find the latest version (v.3.5.5, released late last week) at www.mozilla.org/firefox


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