You: What’s that?
Me: It’s a web browser.
Y: Ahh, I see. Looks different somehow.
M: Yep, it’s Mozilla’s Firefox, I’m now using it full time as a replacement for Internet Explorer.
Y: Really? Fascinating but strange. Why would you want to switch from the world’s favourite browser?
M: Simple really, IE is getting a bit old in the tooth and a little too vulnerable security-wise for my liking. So I thought it might be time for a change. Not an easy decision, but I’ll give you 10 reasons why I’m really glad I did it
1. Extensions. Without a question the biggest draw for me are the extensions, free third party add-ons which you can download and integrate into the browser itself to do useful tasks. My top extensions currently
- TinyURL. automatically generate a tiny URL in place of a clumsy long one via a button right there on the toolbar.
- Translation Panel. A button which lets you translate text via Excite or Babelfish. Small and easy to use.
- Bandwidth Tester. Check out your bandwidth to see if there are problems.
- BugMeNot. Fill in subscription details for locked sites with one right click of the mouse. Super useful.
- Auto Copy. Selected text is automatically copied to the clipboard. No more right mouse click hassle.
2. Family. I use the word family because it’s more than a community. The Firefox browser is being produced by a collection of dedicated, enthusiastic and skilled collaborators from across the world. More importantly it’s being supported by them too. I posted a question to the Firefox forums and within 2 hours received my first response. Try doing that with Internet Explorer. In fact try finding a forum.
3. Performance. Did I mention that Firefox is really fast in comparison to Internet Explorer? It loads faster, has cool features like multiple tabbed start pages and fairly zips along. It won’t change your life, but it does make surfing more efficient. You can even tweak it to go faster if you really want.
4. Feature set. I’ve already touched on the multiple start pages feature, but there are also a host of other things which come in the box which make Firefox a really cool alternative to kludgy old IE. Things like default tabbed browsing, dynamic page styling, manual proxy configuration for secure browsing, a pop up advert blocker and a very cool download manager which makes it a snap to save, install and delete files. There’s more, but you’ll have to find out for yourself.
5. Security. A crucial element of the switch for me was the fact that Firefox is just plain safer. Microsoft programs are the target of just about every malevolent cracker/hacker on the planet, and although no-one knows what will happen to Firefox when it also holds over 60% of the browser market, for now it’s one of the most secure browsers on the planet. It’s not perfect and also has its own vulnerabilities, but if you want to have a better chance of avoiding the spyware, trojans, phishers or other nasties out there, you should definitely consider switching.
6. Development. For me one this is also one of the biggest plus points. Regular Ferret readers will know that only very recently I was trumpeting the benefits of the DeepNetExplorer browser, which I still think is a nice product by the way. However the real problem with this product is that the development team clearly is not that large, which means that progress on product development is not as fast as it could be. Firefox has a huge and growing geek development family, which means that features, fixes and updates are continually being released. This gives users like me a nice safe feeling.
7. Super search. Firefox is a very cool tool if you do a lot of research. The Smart Keywords function (which lets you set up personalised keyword search from the address bar) and the integrated Google search are excellent features. And the Ctrl-F Find function (to locate stuff on a page) is quite simply the best implementation of its kind anywhere.
8. Themes. Customisation is good for the soul, which is why it’s nice to have the ability to skin your browser to your own taste. The Ferret hasn’t got round to this yet, but it’s on the list of things to do after painting the back fence.
9.Hacking. This is not yer grandma’s browser, which means that the developers are actively encouraging geeks to hack, tweak, improve and fiddle with the Firefox default. This is not irresponsible, it’s clever. The more people who get to experiment with a product, the more chance there is that someone in Bangalore, Orlando or St Petersburg will come up with a super cool feature or improvement.
10. Size. Size matters when it comes to performance, distribution and portability. Netscape made a big mistake back in the day when it released a Netscape Communicator which took hours to download, and Microsoft are making the same mistake by turning their browser into a hugely complex and integrated Windows kludge. Firefox is small (4.7MB) and lightweight.
Me: So that’s it really. It’s not a perfect product, fixing bugs and feature glitches are a never ending task, but there’s a clear roadmap and the developers make a point of keeping us users up to date with developments coming down the line. Makes a nice change. I don’t want to come off sounding like a cheap suit browser salesman, but take a look at it. It takes some getting used to after being a lifelong IE user, no question, but if you persevere it’s worth it.
Y: Mmm thanks. I must say that I particularly like the orange and blue icons. Such a nice colour combination, don’t you think? And such a pretty blue.
M: Riiight. If you say so