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The Firefox Explosion

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I’ve been spending some time working at a client’s site, on their network and one of their computers. It’s a big company and an all-Microsoft shop, which means I’m using Microsoft Internet Explorer.

I’d forgotten about how bad it is, especially in the way that it spawns pop-up windows. I’ve been using it to browse at a lot of media sites, especially newspapers and trade journals, and spending lots of time closing pop-ups and missing the tabbed browsing feature of Mozilla Firefox.

Which brings me to the point of this post. The February issue of Wired Magazine
has an article on The

Firefox Explosion that talks about the browser and
looks at some of the programmers who worked on it. As the article says

What makes Firefox different from other open source projects is its consumer appeal. Until now, the open source community has been very good at creating useful software but lousy at finding non-technical users. By liberating Firefox from the “by geeks, for geeks” ethos, [Blake] Ross and [Ben] Goodger have moved open source out of server rooms and onto Microsoft’s turf: the desktop. Borrowing from the Net-based grassroots techniques of the recent political season, the Firefox inner circle has turned satisfied users into foot soldiers and missionaries. How’s this for a marketer’s dream: In the weeks following the debut, Firefox contributors and fans threw their own launch parties in 392 cities around the world.

One of the programmers featured in the article, New Zealander Ben Goodger, also made
the news
this week. He was hired this week by Google, which further fueled the rumors that Google would be producing their own browser based on Firefox. While on the Google payroll, half of his time would still be devoted to working on Firefox.

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About Bruce Kratofil

  • Chris Brancato

    I’ve been using NetCaptor after trying FireFox. My ONLY criticism was that in comparison, FF was very slow to respond.

    Has anything changed?

  • I’ve never used NetCaptor, so I can’t compare to that.

    If you compare FF to IE in starting up, IE will be faster since it’s partially pre-loaded by Windows. In other words, it gets a head start. FF will be faster than Mozilla, since it’s not bringing the email client along too.

    If you talk about it being slow in rendering a page, I don’t really see a difference. If a page is optimized for IE, it might matter, but otherwise for a standards-compliant page I don’t think its an issue. I have a really fast Net connection, anyway, so most pages come right up no matter what I use.

  • I switched from IE to FF several months ago, and have been very happy with the results. For one thing, I could never figure out how to close some of the tool bars at the top of the page to open up a maximum amount of screen, so for that alone I’m thrilled.

    The only thing that annoys me in FF is that links that I’ve already clicked on aren’t highlighted, which makes me have to remember what I’ve done more than I would like when poking around websites. I’m guessing there’s a way to change this, but as you might be able to tell I’m not a techie. And, I’m lazy, which doesn’t help.

  • I use a Mac and the version of IE that came bundled with it was absolutely terrible. Cripplingly slow. In the beginning I used Safari which was much better than MacIE and I still use it as my back-up browser should things not load properly in Firefox. Since downloading FF I’ve been totally converted – tabbed browsing, no pop-ups, live RSS bookmarking for blogs and news sites. These features have all become essential now. I still use IE on a PC at work and long for the day I can download FF on my office PC…

  • Links I’ve visited are highlighted in Firefox, Eric, and I don’t recall having to change any settings to make it do that.

    Firefox is also much faster at loading most web pages than IE ever was.

    Either way I have to wait more often than not, because I still use dial-up to browse the Web, but at least with Firefox I don’t have to waste my scarce bandwidth and time waiting for any pop-up advertising windows to load.

  • Victor – I just messed with my settings a bit. I’m able to change the color of “visited links” but the weird thing is that when I click any link, it changes color (from default blue) to the “visited link” color, but only for half a second. It then reverts to the unvisited color.

    Weird, eh?

  • Eric, I’m going to take a wild guess here and speculate that you are, to some degree or another, a privacy advocate. Have you told Firefox not to track the history of the web pages you visit?

    I tested this speculation by going into the options menu and setting the history tracking option to zero days (the privacy-advocate’s setting). My browser now displays the exact behavior you described.

    This makes sense, in fact. How can the browser change the color of links it has visited, when it has been instructed to forget which links it has visited?

    Of course I might still be wrong about what’s causing this on your machine, but it’s something else you can check.

  • Victor: That’s brilliant, you’ve hit upon it exactly. I don’t remember setting the history tracking to zero, but it’s likely I did it during a brief paranoid-delusional fugue.

    Thanks very much!

    ~ Eric B.