Sunday, November 27, 2005


What is Firefox? Firefox is an open-source web browser that is making significant headway in the online world.

However, every person who uses a browser other than IE and Firefox is familiar with the rabid Firefox fanboy. The person who starts up their own page on how brilliantly awesome Firefox is because of all it's innovations, including:

  • Tabbed browsing! First present in Opera v1, 1994.
  • Popup blocking! First present in Opera v5, 2000.
  • More secure! The main reason Firefox is "more secure" is because it doesn't load ActiveX controls, which isn't exactly a feature. Opera has obviously had this since v1 also. However, the "Privacy" tab in the Options window features several convenient methods for deleting your "browsing tracks". This is essentially a duplicate of the "Delete private data" dialog first introduced in Opera v4 (2000).
  • Smart searching! This means three things: Google search integrated into the toolbar (Opera v5, 2000), "instant find in page" searching (ie. searching as you type) and "smart keywords" which allow you to type for example "wp BitTorrent" into the address bar to search for BitTorrent on Wikipedia. Both of the latter two features have been present since I started using Opera (v7, 2003) but may have been present earlier.

Just for reference, Firefox was first released as "Phoenix" in late 2002, however at this stage it was extremely immature and had very few features compared to what it has today (as well as a much smaller number of extensions and extremely unstable extension code).

These are the main advantages first preached by Firefox fans and most prominently featured on the main Firefox website. However, there are a number of others that are also Opera innovations or were already present in Opera before Firefox. I've also left out a lot of features present in extensions that are also in Opera already.

For a larger list of Opera's innovations, read Innovations by Opera on the Opera 8 Wiki. Also this blog post by haavard is an interesting writeup with a similar theme.

There is one major feature I like about Firefox though, which is why I install it whenever I can on computers I'm working on (ie. fixing - a computer that is usually not used by a "power user"). You can read more about it here, but basically, Firefox is a lot simpler and closer to IE "out of the box" than Opera is. For starters, the panels on the left are way different to IE. The tabs don't quite look right to someone used to IE in Opera. However, overall, Opera is a better browser for power users, once you get used to it.

Also, the rendering engine in Firefox (Gecko) appears to be a lot closer to that in IE than the one in Opera

What annoys me is people that really are, in my opinion, power users (or at least approaching it) who use Firefox and remain ignorant of Opera's advantages. People that say things like "Firefox is better because it's faster/simpler" or "Firefox is better because of all its extensions" when those features are already in Opera, and Opera being an integrated program is much more efficient resource-wise.

This blog is going on about how great Firefox is for BitTorrent.

If the “open with” box is greyed out for some reason, I advise to download the mimetype extension. This extension allows you to edit the way all filetypes are handled.
In other words, if Firefox screws up for some unknown reason, you need to download an extension to activate a simple feature that's already built in to Opera! The page also features a" number of comments by Firefox users on how awesome the article is.
A veggie and damn proud… there is no god.. because IE exists.. Firefox pwns" - Null
"I wish I could use FireFox. It works fine on my old computer, but for some reason on my new one it always works fine for about 10 minutes then doesn’t respond and eventually crashes." - Nereus (but he still loves Firefox!)
"Good" - Kaoiri
"thx for all those “beautiful words” related to firefox! indeed, a GREAT browser." - Adeekos
"cool" - Alex
"fire fox is cool" - Alex

Nobody has come up with a good reason for me to switch to Firefox yet, however, every time I talk about Opera someone tries to tell me how much better Firefox is. I've yet to see someone do this without claiming something that's just not true. The only thing that tempts me (apart from the fact that Firefox is open-source, which doesn't appeal to me all that much now that Opera is free) is that Google's code (which is often a little kludgey) is as far as I can tell designed to work in Firefox and IE - if it works in other browsers that's just a bonus. Thus I can't use the full benefit of some of their applications like Reader and to an extent Blogger. However, hopefully things will become more standards-compliant in the future as the standards become more mature, and webmasters are able to achieve more without resorting to ugly hacks.

On a more positive Firefox-related note, I discovered The Firemonger Project the other day. If you do any work that might involve you promoting or installing Firefox, you may find this interesting - basically an ISO including Firefox, Thunderbird and a whole lot of documentation which could come in handy if you're teaching a newbie how to use Firefox or the internet in general.

PS: Anyone know how to stop Blogger from switching to preview mode when you press CTRL+SHIFT (when you're coding in HTML)? It's pissing me off. :-(


Ben said...

Awesome post as always scott (y) keep it up :D

Peter said...

This is why I hate firefox.
Opera is my secondary browser. (Firefox is my fourth)
My primary one is Internet Explorer 7.

Since I doubt that you want to hear my, "IE is Superior" rantings, I shall contribute another thing in favor of Opera.

Opera has the most sophisticated tabbed browsing in any browser. Opera can close any tab at a time. And it automatically saved tabs.