Firefox – The Granddaddy of Them All

As the final installment of my reviews/recommendations of open-sourced freeware, I will review the granddaddy of them all (with the exception, possibly, of the umbrella that contains all of the various builds of the Linux operating system): Mozilla Firefox.

Mozilla Firefox is a lightweight, standards-compliant (for the most part) Web browser developed by the Mozilla Corporation. The codebase/engine behind Firefox is the same engine used in the Mozilla/Seamonkey Web browser, Netscape Navigator and a host of other Web browsers.

Although Internet Explorer users still outnumber Firefox users nearly three-to-one, Mozilla is by far the most popular alternative browser on the market. It is not necessarily the best browser out there, but it is the most popular browser among technologically-savvy Internet users.


Performance

Firefox performs extremely well. It does crash, but not nearly as often as some of its counterparts. A nice feature was built into Firefox 2.x to handle the crashes that occur occasionally in Firefox. You can now “restore” your session in Firefox after a crash occurs, so that you can go right back to where you were when the browser died on you.

The out-of-the-box installation of Firefox is fairly efficient. There have been some minor reports of memory leaks, but they are few and far between, and rarely are substantiated as an inherent problem of the browser. The problem occurs in the add-ons (or “extensions”) that people install in their Firefox browsers. The add-ons occasionally cause memory leaks of their own, which are generally mistakenly attributed to Firefox directly.

Features

Out of the box, Firefox doesn’t really offer any more functionality than any other browser. In fact, it offers less functionality than some other browsers out there. That, though, is the whole reason that Firefox exists. Firefox was initially developed as a response to the “bloat” associated with Netscape. It was intended to be a slimmed-down, efficient, fast, lightweight browser for the masses.

The great thing about Firefox is the ability to install “extensions”. The Firefox extension developer community is one of the most active development communities in the world. Contributors from all over the world develop and implement add-ons to do just about everything you can imagine. If you need Firefox to have a specific feature, chances are that someone out there has already developed an extension to do it.

Other browsers (including IE) offer the ability to install add-ons, but the development communities are not nearly as active as Firefox’s.

Standards-Compliance

Firefox is widely admired for its standards-compliance. In fact, in a lot of cases, it seems as though the standards follow the development of Firefox rather than the other way around.

However, it should be noted that it is not the most standards-compliant browser out there. Safari is closer to compliance than Firefox and Opera is by far the most compliant browser on the Web.

That said, however, it is very rare that a compliant Web site will encounter problems when viewed in Firefox

Summary

Firefox is definitely my favorite browser. Comparing out-of-the-box functionality between browsers, I would have to choose Opera. However, with the ability to install add-ons, Firefox easily surpasses Opera for me. I would give Firefox a 4.5 out of 5.

Downloads

Firefox can be downloaded from the official Firefox Web site. Firefox is available for all three OS platforms, and generally comes standard with most Linux builds nowadays (although Lynx and Konqueror are still the default browsers in many builds).

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