What is it with FireFox?

Written By: Pete Crewdson

I don’t like FireFox. I’m not afraid to divulge the fact that I don’t like it. I don’t like people who insist on running on about how great it is, or people who try to push it in my face. I can’t ignore it though, and this is why:

Whilst looking over the FireFox website I noticed the increasing number of downloads it is garnering, this inspired me to try and work out why people are so keen on this browser over its Microsoft Counterpart. So why do so many people choose to switch to FireFox?

The Hype?
FireFox has garnered more and more media hype as the downloads increase, and the more it gets hyped, the more people download it. It’s a never-ending circle of over hyped confusion, and one of the many reasons people have chosen to download the browser.

The Cross-Compatibility Issues?
I’m not a fan of FireFox but even I own a copy on both my home and work machines. Cross Browser compatibility on websites is a must to for every website, you cannot afford to lose out on visitors/potential customers because your website doesn’t work in other browsers. Remember, FireFox now have almost 20% of the browser market share – that’s 20 out of every 100 visitors you will be potentially losing if your website is not cross browser referenced!

The Tabbed Browsers?
Though you wouldn’t think this would be a top competitor in this field, it is. A lot of people I asked said they decided to go with Mozilla and FireFox browsers because of the tabbed browser bar. This enables you to open more than one Internet page within the same browser window, in turn, saving on computer usage and virtual memory capacity. Internet Explorer opens a new window as opposed to this, and in turn, uses up a lot of the computers memory, which can lead to unresponsiveness and crashing.

The Security Issues?
Nearly everyone I spoke to said one thing, “It’s secure.” And I’m not going to deny it, but is Internet Explorer really that unsecured that people feel they have to switch – well, in reality – no. The reason for this is that so many people have hacked and hunted down flaws in Internet Explorer, that Microsoft has been forced to fix them, and made them more secure. Yes, there are still holes in Internet Explorer, but FireFox has not been on the market long enough, or holds enough of a market share for hackers to try and discover all the holes in it. And already, a few companies have in fact, found vital flaws in FireFox (which have now been fixed).

Open Source Project and Patches?
There are currently hundreds, possibly thousands of FireFox patches and upgrades for download across the Internet. Adding to the bare-bone structure of the original FireFox, these patches allow more usability and customisation of the FireFox browser – but with patches not being “officially endorsed” by the Mozilla Foundation, these patches could cause the browsers security issues to be exposed – all it would take is one malicious patch. Being Open Source Software means the browsers coding is commercially available to anybody who wishes to use it – The upside to this is that FireFox can ease the strain a bit by letting people continue to work with the code and create patches, cover up security holes and customise the browser to how they feel it should be, without the encouragement of the Mozilla Foundation.

Feedback and Production?
One thing that is prominent in FireFox is its “fan base”, a dedicated following of users who promote to the death and spread the word about FireFox. One thing that people like about FireFox is how much the designers appreciate and encourage feedback and ideas on the project. This is a browser that they want people to use, and the way they do it is by letting people tell them what they want. What more can they do?

And after all that, no, I am still not convinced that FireFox is a good enough browser for me to make a switch. I can understand the hype behind it, but I’m sure it will soon die down. There are plenty of flaws and design features which are snarled at in FireFox, and as a web developer and website builder, it is not easy to get around them using the new methods of building on the market (CSS based browsing, for example). FireFox is, in its own right, a good browser, and once they have smoothed everything out, then maybe I will think about a switch again.

About the Author

Pete is the owner of the Forfeit The Game Network, Forfeit The Game: A Linkin Park Fansite, and runs the Forfeit The Game Media Weblog – For all the latest Music, TV, Film, Computer and Internet and Sports articles.

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