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Why Firefox?

Get Firefox! I normally try to keep my sites in neutral territory when it comes to browser endorsements. In this case I am going to make an exception and say wholeheartedly that FireFox right now is the finest browser for the internet.

Why "Take Back The Web"?

Well, several reasons really. The biggest one is that since Netscape handed the browser crown to Microsoft, browsers had stagnated until the Mozilla/Firefox project started picking up steam. As the day of this writing, Internet Explorer 6.0 now is now 3 years old. Even then, IE 6.0 was a minor update from IE 5.5. Before, when IE was actively competing against Netscape - they were innovating and pushing things forward that were generally good for web developers. Releases that improved support were much more frequent.

Since that day, the only updates Microsoft has done to Internet Explorer have been to patch up its abysmal security. With the release of Windows XP SP2, Internet Explorer was finally hardened a little against ActiveX based attacks and given a Pop-Up blocker. Nothing was done to improve the bad standards support since the IE 6.0 release.

The result of this is that web developers such as myself have had to contend with with the numerous layout bugs and standards that haven't been implemented. This requires that web developers have to spend untold hours to find solutions that work with the standard yet also works with IE. Oh, and IE for Mac - forget it, it doesn't support CSS-P at all! Things like this hold back the art of web development, keeping sites in the days of table based layouts and the user experiences not completely what they should be.

There has also been a graphics standard called PNG that has existed for quite some time. It was created for the web. IE still doesn't support transparency on this standard and Microsoft has known about this for several years.

ActiveX is a danger. Microsoft was foolish in creating it. Fact is that ActiveX is quite powerful - an ActiveX control has access to your entire machine, not just the browser. Now, if the world was a utopia and nobody on the internet was mean or selfish and all users were educated and looked carefully at what they were doing, ActiveX would be a great idea. Unfortunately the web has a very seedy side - unscrupulous ActiveX authors have found ways to breach Internet Explorer's security or fooling the user into clicking "yes", allowing malicious adware and spyware to be installed on unsuspecting users machines.

Overall Microsoft's grand success has now proven a detriment to the web. Only now that Microsoft's large dominance has been scratched by Firefox, they have started working on improving standards support and implementing new features that users of other browsers have long enjoyed.

A Delight To Write For

As a web developer, Mozilla based browsers such as Firefox are much easier to write for. They have numerous tools built in that make it easier to troubleshoot CSS, and debug JavaScript. That and a lot of the JavaScript interfaces with the Document Object Model (DOM) simply just works while I've seen IE crash on some things.

The JavaScript console for Mozilla/Firefox is great - tells me the line the problem occurred on, what file it occurred in, and some hints as to what's wrong. IE on the other hand gives and error and a line number. Problem is that there might be several JavaScript files and it doesn't tell you which one has the error - this makes finding the offending line more difficult.

The DOM Inspector is very nice. It's a tool that shows the HTML document structure and gives information about each element and what styles are acting upon it. This is useful for giving insights into problems encountered during the process of developing web sites.

That said, yes, Firefox has its bugs and flaws, and a few were encountered during development of this web site. When I do find a bug, I have the means of communicating this to the FireFox team and write a test cases to isolate the problem so it can be fixed. I have actually done this. With IE, there is no way I can communicate to them about problems encountered leaving web developers to find work-arounds and no legitimate hope of ever expecting to see the problem fixed.

Keeping It Competitive

I know I've spent this whole page largely slamming Microsoft - I use Microsoft products every day and they are my bread and butter. They are a great company who knows how to innovate when they want to. Problem is, on web browsers they haven't wanted to innovate and improve. Only recently with the successes of FireFox and other browsers has Microsoft finally started to consider improving their browser with IE 7.

In my opinion, the best way to keep Microsoft a good company is to keep them competing, keep them hungry. That requires their competition to never be lax and never cease innovating themselves - to always be a viable and strong alternative to Microsoft.

Professional sports would not be what it is today if not for the athletes rising to the challenge and playing on a level playing field. Same rule applies to companies. Open source software is attractive to me because it is beyond the corporate need for profit. It is not about money - though there is a lot in it, it is about making computers better and doing so in a way that serves the common interest and good. This is one of the founding principals of the internet.

Your Turn

Try Firefox! I have all my family members running it, and they like it. Unfortunately you might have to keep Internet Explorer around for some sites and that situation is improving with each day.

It has lots of features that are not yet present in Internet Explorer - tabbed browsing, improved CSS support, it's faster and on the whole I feel that it is better. This browser has been a long time in coming - I've been using Mozilla since the early milestone builds and it just keeps getting better with each new version. Firefox's updates have been more than security enhancements, but also moving foward and adding features to help the web realize its full potential.

If you decide you don't like it, it is easily removed. Try it, explore it, use it, I believe you'll like what you see.
Get Firefox!

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