Mozilla Firefox

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Mozilla Firefox
File:Firefox 3.5 logo.pngFile:Mozilla Firefox wordmark.svg
File:Fx-3.6.png
Firefox 3.6 displaying Wikipedia's main page.
Original author(s) Mozilla Corporation
Developer(s) Mozilla Corporation
Mozilla Foundation
Initial release Template:Initial-release
Written in C++, XUL, XBL, JavaScript,[2] CSS[3][4]
Operating system GNU
Windows
Mac OS X
Linux
BSD
Solaris
OpenSolaris
Engine Gecko
Size 9.4 MB (Linux)
17.2 MB (Mac OS X)
7.9 MB (Windows)
(all archived)
Available in 75 languages
Development status Active
Type Web browser
FTP client
Gopher client
License MPL/GNU GPL/GNU LGPL/about:rights
Website www.mozilla.com/firefox

Mozilla Firefox is a free and open source web browser descended from the Mozilla Application Suite and managed by Mozilla Corporation. A Net Applications statistic put Firefox at 24.41% of the recorded usage share of web browsers as of January 2010, making it the second most popular browser in terms of current use worldwide after Microsoft's Internet Explorer,[5] and the most used browser independent of any one operating system. Other sources put Firefox's usage share at between 21% and 32% and generally trending upward.

To display web pages, Firefox uses the Gecko layout engine, which implements most current web standards in addition to several features which are intended to anticipate likely additions to the standards.[6]

Latest Firefox features[7] include tabbed browsing, spell checking, incremental find, live bookmarking, a download manager, private browsing, location-aware browsing (also known as "geolocation") based exclusively on a Google service[8] and an integrated search system that uses Google by default in most localizations. Functions can be added through add-ons, created by third-party developers,[9] of which there is a wide selection, a feature that has attracted many of Firefox's users.

Firefox runs on various versions of Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and many other Unix-like operating systems. Its current stable release is version 3.6, released on January 21, 2010.[10] Firefox's source code is free software, released under a tri-license GNU GPL/GNU LGPL/MPL.[11]

Contents

History

File:Firefox.svg
(category)
Contents
Origins and Lineage

The Firefox project began as an experimental branch of the Mozilla project by Dave Hyatt and Blake Ross. They believed the commercial requirements of Netscape's sponsorship and developer-driven feature creep compromised the utility of the Mozilla browser.[12] To combat what they saw as the Mozilla Suite's software bloat, they created a stand-alone browser, with which they intended to replace the Mozilla Suite. On April 3, 2003, the Mozilla Organization announced that they planned to change their focus from the Mozilla Suite to Firefox and Thunderbird.[13]

The Firefox project has undergone several name changes. Originally titled Phoenix, it was renamed because of trademark issues with Phoenix Technologies. The replacement name, Firebird, provoked an intense response from the Firebird free database software project.[14][15][16] In response, the Mozilla Foundation stated that the browser should always bear the name Mozilla Firebird to avoid confusion with the database software. Continuing pressure from the database server's development community forced another change; on February 9, 2004, Mozilla Firebird became Mozilla Firefox,[17] often referred to as simply Firefox. Mozilla prefers that Firefox be abbreviated as Fx or fx, though it is often abbreviated as FF.[18] The Firefox project went through many versions before 1.0 was released on November 9, 2004. After a series of stability and security fixes, the Mozilla Foundation released its first major update, Firefox version 1.5, on November 29, 2005.

Version 2.0

On October 24, 2006, Mozilla released Firefox 2. This version includes updates to the tabbed browsing environment; the extensions manager; the GUI (Graphical User Interface); and the find, search and software update engines; a new session restore feature; inline spell checking; and an anti-phishing feature which was implemented by Google as an extension,[19][20] and later merged into the program itself.[21] In December 2007, Firefox Live Chat was launched. It allows users to ask volunteers questions through a system powered by Jive Software, with guaranteed hours of operation and the possibility of help after hours.[22]

Version 3.0

Mozilla Firefox 3 was released on June 17, 2008,[23] by the Mozilla Corporation. Firefox 3 uses version 1.9 of the Mozilla Gecko layout engine for displaying web pages. This version fixes many bugs, improves standard compliance, and implements new web APIs.[24] Other new features include a redesigned download manager, a new "Places" system for storing bookmarks and history, and separate themes for different operating systems. The latest version under 3.0 is Firefox 3.0.17.

Development stretches back to the first Firefox 3 beta (under the codename 'Gran Paradiso'[25]) which had been released several months earlier on 19 November 2007,[26] and was followed by several more beta releases in spring 2008 culminating in the June release.[27] Firefox 3 had more than 8 million unique downloads the day it was released, setting a Guinness World Record.[28]

Version 3.5

Version 3.5, codenamed Shiretoko,[29] adds a variety of new features to Firefox. Initially numbered Firefox 3.1, Mozilla developers decided to change the numbering of the release to 3.5, in order to reflect a significantly greater scope of changes than originally planned.[30] The final release was on June 30, 2009. The changes included much faster performance thanks to an upgrade to SpiderMonkey JavaScript engine called TraceMonkey and rendering improvements,[31] and support for the <video> and <audio> tags as defined in the HTML 5 specification, with a goal to offer video playback without being encumbered by patent issues associated with many video technologies.[32] Cross-site XMLHttpRequests (XHR), which can allow for more powerful web applications and an easier way to implement mashups, are also implemented in 3.5.[33] A new global JSON object contains native functions to efficiently and safely serialize and deserialize JSON objects, as specified by the ECMAScript 3.1 draft.[34] Full CSS 3 selector support has been added. Firefox 3.5 uses the Gecko 1.9.1 engine, which includes a few features that were not included in the 3.0 release. Multi-touch support was also added to the release, including gesture support like pinching for zooming and swiping for back and forward.[35] Firefox 3.5 also features an updated logo.[36]

Version 3.6

Version 3.6 is the release codenamed Namoroka.[37] Development for this version started on December 1, 2008,[38] and it was released on January 21, 2010.[10] This release uses the new Gecko 1.9.2 rendering engine. The first alpha of version 3.6 was released on August 7, 2009,[39] the first beta was released on October 30,[40] Beta 2 was released on November 10, Beta 3 was released on November 17, Beta 4 was released on November 26, Beta 5 was released on December 17,[41] Release Candidate 1 was released January 8, Release Candidate 2 was released on January 17,[42] and the final version was released on January 21.[10]

New features for Firefox 3.6 include built-in support for Personas (toolbar skins), notification of out-of-date plugins,[43] full screen playback of Theora video, support for the WOFF open webfont format,[44] more secure plugin system, and many performance improvements.[41]

Next on Mozilla's schedule after Firefox 3.6 is a minor update to Firefox 3.6 code-named Lorentz. The major feature of this release will be out-of-process plug-ins (OOPP), which isolates execution of plug-ins like Adobe's Flash or Apple's Quicktime into a separate process. Starting with Lorentz, Mozilla also plans to release non-intrusive changes as minor updates that previously included only stability and security fixes.[45]

This new development approach means that Mozilla's product road map will also be updated. Mike Beltzner, Mozilla's director of Firefox, and Mike Shaver, Mozilla's vice president of engineering, hope to release a new roadmap that reflects the changes.[45]

Firefox for mobile

Firefox for mobile, codenamed Fennec, is a web browser for smaller non-PC devices, mobile phones and PDAs. It was released for Nokia Maemo (specifically on the Nokia N900) on January 28, 2010,[46] and is in development for Windows Mobile and Android.[47]

Firefox for mobile 1.0 uses the same version of the Gecko layout engine as Firefox 3.6. The user interface is completely redesigned for small screen optimization, the controls are hidden away so that only the web content is shown on screen and it uses touchscreen interaction methods. Its features include the Awesomebar, tabbed browsing, Add-on support, password manager, location-aware browsing, and the ability to synchronize with the user's computer Firefox browser using Mozilla Weave.[48]

Future developments

File:Minefield about.png
The "About Minefield" box from a typical nightly build of Minefield.

The precursory builds of upcoming Firefox releases are usually codenamed "Minefield", as this is the name of the trunk builds. Development on the Mozilla trunk (mozilla-central) is currently directed towards Version 3.7.

Version 3.7

On July 17, 2009, Mozilla posted mockup designs for the Windows version of Firefox 3.7. Updates include use of Aero glass effects on Windows Vista and Windows 7.[49] Mockups for Linux and Mac OS X have also been posted.[50][51] Firefox 3.7 may be released in May-June 2010, and use the Gecko 1.9.3 engine.[52] Mozilla has made unofficial "nightly builds" (the trunk builds referred to as Minefield)[53] available for download on the Mozilla FTP Server.[54][55]

On January 15, 2010 Mike Beltzner responded in a blog post to rumors that Mozilla planned "to drop Firefox 3.7 from its schedule",[56] stating that "The rumours of Firefox 3.7’s demise have been greatly exaggerated."[57]

Version 4.0

Firefox 4.0 has been tentatively scheduled to use the Gecko 1.9.4 rendering engine. It has had preliminary user interface mockups for Windows,[58] Mac OS X,[59] and Linux[60] as a continuation of the ones for version 3.7. Mozilla's product road map has dated the release of Firefox 4.0 for October-November 2010, but it might not be released before early 2011.[61] This version will offer a new user interface and multi-touch gesture support.[62] The official firefox forums have also given indication that this release will see a 64-bit version of the browser appearing.

Mozilla 2.0

On October 13, 2006, Brendan Eich, Mozilla's Chief Technology Officer, wrote about the plans for Mozilla 2, referring to the most comprehensive iteration (since its creation) of the overall platform on which Firefox and other Mozilla products run. These changes include improving and removing XPCOM APIs, switching to standard C++ features, just-in-time compilation with JavaScript 2 (known as the Tamarin project), and tool-time and runtime security checks.[63][64] It has also been announced that support for the Gopher protocol will be removed by default to lessen attack vectors, although it has also been suggested that the protocol could be retained if someone were to implement Gopher support in a memory-safe programming language.[65] However, it is unclear which Firefox release will include Mozilla 2.

Future features

Integral offline application support technology—similar to Gears—is being developed for Firefox. Mitchell Baker, Mozilla's former Chief Executive Officer, has said that given the level of investment made in the web as a platform, taking applications to the next level will require that they continue to work when a computer is offline.[32][66]

Mozilla development team has also announced a project named "Electrolysis" to make Firefox multiprocess, similar to implementations done by Google Chrome and Internet Explorer 8.[67][68]

Release history

Browser name Gecko version Version Support status Codename Release date Significant changes
Phoenix 1.2 0.1 Template:N Pescadero September 23, 2002 First release; customizable toolbar, quicksearch, tabbed browsing.[69]
0.2 Template:N Santa Cruz October 1, 2002 Sidebar, extension management.
0.3 Template:N Lucia October 14, 2002 Image blocking, pop-up blocking whitelist.
1.3 0.4 Template:N Oceano October 19, 2002 Themes, pop-up blocking improvements, toolbar customization.
0.5 Template:N Naples December 7, 2002 Multiple homepages, sidebar and accessibility improvements, history.
Mozilla Firebird 1.5 0.6 Template:N Glendale May 17, 2003 New default theme (Qute), bookmark and privacy improvements, smooth scrolling, automatic image resizing.
0.7 Template:N Indio October 15, 2003 Automatic scrolling, password manager, preferences panel improvements.
Mozilla Firefox 1.6 0.8 Template:N Royal Oak February 9, 2004 Windows installer, offline working, bookmarks and download manager improvements, rebranded with new logo.
1.7 0.9 Template:N One Tree Hill June 15, 2004 New default theme (Winstripe), comprehensive data migration, new extension/theme manager, reduced download size, new help system, Linux installer, mail icon (Windows only).
1.0 Template:N Phoenix November 9, 2004 Added new features such as RSS/Atom feed support, find toolbar, plugin finder. Reached its end of life on April 13, 2006 with the release of version 1.0.8.[70] (support for older versions of Firefox typically ends six months after a new major version is available).[71]
1.8 1.5 Template:N Deer Park November 29, 2005 Added support for SVG and canvas, UI adjustments and improvements in JavaScript 1.5 and CSS 2/3. Reached its end of life on May 30, 2007 with the release of Firefox 1.5.0.12.[72]
Mozilla Firefox 2 1.8.1 2.0 Template:N Bon Echo October 24, 2006 Added new features such as session restoration after a browser crash, search suggestion for Google and Yahoo!, new search plugin manager and add-on manager, web feed previewing, bookmark microsummaries and Google's anti-phishing protection.[73] Winstripe theme refresh. Included support for JavaScript 1.7. Reached its end of life on December 18, 2008 with the release of Firefox 2.0.0.20.[74]
Mozilla Firefox 3 1.9 3.0[75] Template:Y Gran Paradiso June 17, 2008 Cairo used as a graphics backend. Cocoa Widgets included in OS X builds. APIs implemented from WHATWG specs. Changes to how DOM events are dispatched, how HTML object elements are loaded, and how web pages are rendered. New SVG elements and filters, and improved SVG specification compliance. Acid2 test compliant. New UI improvements, including default themes for different operating systems and new download manager. Introduction of Smart Location Bar(aka Awesome Bar).[76] Windows 95, 98, ME, Mac OS X v10.3.9[77] and lower, and GTK+ 2.8 and lower[citation needed] no longer supported. Addons.mozilla.org integration in the Add-ons window. Support for APNG files. Google's "malware protection".[78]
3.0.17 Template:Y January 5, 2010 Security and stability update. Predated by 3.0.1 to 3.0.16.
1.9.1 3.5[79] Template:Y Shiretoko[80] June 30, 2009 Web standards improvements in the Gecko layout engine. Text API for the <canvas> element. Support for using border images. Support for JavaScript query selectors. Several improvements to the Smart Location Bar.[81] Private browsing mode. Google-based location-aware browsing (geolocation).[8]
3.5.7 Template:Y January 5, 2010 Security and stability update. Predated by 3.5.1 to 3.5.6.
1.9.2 3.6 Template:Y Namoroka[82] January 21, 2010[10] The TraceMonkey JavaScript engine has continued to get faster. Support for -moz-background-size CSS property, CSS Gradients, and multiple background images. Notification of out-of-date plugins.
1.9.3 3.7a1pre Template:Y N/ATemplate:Refun N/ATemplate:Refun 3.7 is focused on changes to the user interface. The browser will be given a home tab similar to those found in Internet Explorer 8 and Google Chrome. The preferences and add-ons manager windows will also be redesigned to better assist users. The Gecko layout engine will be improved to support more HTML5 and CSS3 features.
  • ^  Builds of Mozilla Firefox 3.7 are not yet separate from "Minefield" nightly builds and thus have not yet been assigned a codename other than "Minefield" as they are practically one and the same. Firefox 3.7 builds will likely receive a separate codename after its builds are distinct from Minefield's bleeding edge builds. As with branches, builds are produced on a daily and hourly basis. A date has not yet been set for 3.7 to be branched off of Trunk.

Features

  • Firefox provides an environment for web developers in which they can use built-in tools, such as the Error Console or the DOM Inspector, or extensions, such as Firebug.

Standards

Mozilla Firefox implements many web standards, including HTML, XML, XHTML, MathML, SVG 1.1 (partial),[83] CSS (with extensions[84]), ECMAScript (JavaScript), DOM, XSLT, XPath, and (animated) PNG images with alpha transparency.[85] Firefox also implements standards proposals created by the WHATWG such as client-side storage,[86][87] and canvas element.[88]

File:Fx Acid3.png
The results of the Acid3 test on Firefox 3.6

Firefox passes the Acid2 standards-compliance test from version 3.0.[89] Firefox 3.6 does not pass the Acid3 test; it scores 94/100.[90] Firefox 3.7a1pre does not pass the Acid3 test either; it scores 96/100.[91]

Firefox also implements[78] a proprietary protocol[92] from Google called "safebrowsing" (used to exchange data related with "phishing and malware protection"), which is not an open standard.

Security

Firefox uses a sandbox security model,[93] and limits scripts from accessing data from other web sites based on the same origin policy.[94] It uses SSL/TLS to protect communications with web servers using strong cryptography when using the HTTPS protocol.[95] It also provides support for web applications to use smartcards for authentication purposes.[96]

The Mozilla Foundation offers a "bug bounty" to researchers who discover severe security holes in Firefox.[97] Official guidelines for handling security vulnerabilities discourage early disclosure of vulnerabilities so as not to give potential attackers an advantage in creating exploits.[98]

Because Firefox has fewer and less severe publicly known unpatched security vulnerabilities than Internet Explorer (see Comparison of web browsers), improved security is often cited as a reason to switch from Internet Explorer to Firefox.[99][100][101][102] The Washington Post reports that exploit code for critical unpatched security vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer was available for 284 days in 2006. In comparison, exploit code for critical security vulnerabilities in Firefox was available for 9 days before Mozilla shipped a patch to remedy the problem.[103]

A 2006 Symantec study showed that although Firefox had surpassed other browsers in the number of vendor-confirmed vulnerabilities that year through September, these vulnerabilities were patched far more quickly than those found in other browsers.[104] Symantec later clarified their statement, saying that Firefox still had fewer security vulnerabilities than Internet Explorer, as counted by security researchers.[105] As of October 29, 2009, Firefox 3.5 has no unpatched security vulnerabilities according to Secunia.[106] Internet Explorer 8 has two unpatched security vulnerabilities, where one is rated "not critical" and the other "less critical" by Secunia.[107]

In October 2009 Microsoft's security engineers acknowledged that Firefox was vulnerable since February of that year due to a .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 Windows update that silently installed a buggy 'Windows Presentation Foundation' plug-in into Firefox.[108]

Portable versions

There is a portable edition of Firefox for Windows, which can be used from a USB Flash drive. This particular distribution makes it possible to run Firefox (and many of its extensions) on corporate/government networks in lieu of the default browser. This can be especially helpful for any user who does not possess administrative rights on the system being used.

System requirements

Browsers compiled from Firefox source code may run on various operating systems; however, officially distributed binaries are meant for the following: Microsoft Windows (Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista or Windows 7), Mac OS X 10.4 (or later) and Linux (with the following libraries installed: GTK+ 2.10 or higher, GLib 2.12 or higher, Pango 1.14 or higher, X.Org 1.0 or higher *or any TinyX server implementation*). Official minimum hardware requirements are Pentium 233 MHz and 64 MB RAM for Windows version or Macintosh computer with an Intel x86 or PowerPC G3, G4, or G5 processor and 128 MB RAM for Mac version.[109]

64-bit builds

As of Firefox 3.6, Mozilla does not have any official 64-bit builds available. However, unofficial third-party builds do exist for Windows.[110] In Linux, both vendor-backed performance optimized stable 64-bit builds exist (such as for Novell-Suse Linux, Red Hat Linux, and Ubuntu Linux) in addition to the nightly builds. Official 64-bit builds from Mozilla are being worked on for Windows[111] and Mac.[112]

Licensing

Firefox source code is free and open source software, and is tri-licensed under the Mozilla Public License (MPL), GNU General Public License (GPL), and the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL).[11] These licenses permit anyone to view, modify, and/or redistribute the source code, and several publicly released applications have been built on it; for example, Netscape, Flock, Miro, Iceweasel, and Songbird make use of code from Firefox.

In the past, Firefox was licensed solely under the MPL,[113] which the FSF criticizes for being weak copyleft; the license permits, in limited ways, proprietary derivative works. Additionally, code under the MPL cannot legally be linked with code under the GPL or the LGPL.[114][115] To address these concerns, Mozilla re-licensed Firefox under the tri-license scheme of MPL, GPL, and LGPL. Since the re-licensing, developers have been free to choose the license under which they will receive the code, to suit their intended use: GPL or LGPL linking and derivative works when one of those licenses is chosen, or MPL use (including the possibility of proprietary derivative works) if they choose the MPL.[113]

Trademark and logo

File:Deer Park Globe.png
The generic globe logo used when Firefox is compiled without the official branding

The name "Mozilla Firefox" is a registered trademark; along with the official Firefox logo, it may only be used under certain terms and conditions. Anyone may redistribute the official binaries in unmodified form and use the Firefox name and branding for such distribution, but restrictions are placed on distributions which modify the underlying source code.[116]

Mozilla not only forbids creating derivative works from Firefox logo (i.e. modifying it),[117] but also strongly discourages creating independent, but similar logos.[118]

There has been some controversy over the Mozilla Foundation's intentions in stopping certain open source distributions from using the "Firefox" trademark. Former Mozilla CEO Mitchell Baker explained in an interview in 2007 that distributions could freely use the Firefox trademark if they did not modify source-code, and that the Mozilla Foundation's only concern was with users getting a consistent experience when they used "Firefox".[119]

To allow distributions of the code without using the official branding, the Firefox source code contains a "branding switch". This switch allows the code to be compiled without the official logo and name, for example to produce a derivative work unencumbered by restrictions on the Firefox trademark (this is also often used for alphas of future Firefox versions). In the unbranded compilation the trademarked logo and name are replaced with a freely distributable generic globe logo and the name of the release series from which the modified version was derived. The name "Deer Park" is used for derivatives of Firefox 1.5, "Bon Echo" for derivatives of Firefox 2.0, "Gran Paradiso" for derivatives of Firefox 3.0 and "Shiretoko" is used for derivatives of Firefox 3.5. Derivatives of Firefox 3.6 will most likely be referred to as "Namoroka". The codename Minefield and a modified version of the generic logo stylized to look like a bomb is used for unofficial builds of version 3.0 and later, and for nightly builds of the trunk.

Distributing modified versions of Firefox under the "Firefox" name requires explicit approval from Mozilla for the changes made to the underlying code, and requires the use of all of the official branding. For example, it is not permissible to use the name "Firefox" without also using the official logo. When the Debian project decided to stop using the official Firefox logo in 2006 (because of copyright restrictions on its use incompatible with the project's guidelines), they were told by a representative of the Mozilla Foundation that this was not acceptable, and were asked either to comply with the published trademark guidelines or cease using the "Firefox" name in their distribution.[120] Ultimately, Debian switched to branding their modified version of Firefox "Iceweasel", along with other Mozilla software.

Advertising

The rapid adoption of Firefox, 100 million downloads in its first year of availability,[121] followed a series of aggressive marketing campaigns starting in 2004 with a series of events Blake Ross and Asa Dotzler called "marketing weeks".[122]

On September 12, 2004,[123] a marketing portal dubbed "Spread Firefox" (SFX) debuted along with the Firefox Preview Release, creating a centralized space for the discussion of various marketing techniques. The portal enhanced the "Get Firefox" button program, giving users "referrer points" as an incentive. The site lists the top 250 referrers. From time to time, the SFX team or SFX members launch marketing events organized at the Spread Firefox website. As a part of the Spread Firefox campaign, there is an attempt to break the world download record with the release of Firefox 3. The idea is to have the newest version downloaded by as many people as possible within a 24 hour time period.[124]

The "World Firefox Day" campaign started on July 15, 2006,[125] the third anniversary of the founding of the Mozilla Foundation,[126] and ran until September 15, 2006.[127] Participants registered themselves and a friend on the website for nomination to have their names displayed on the Firefox Friends Wall, a digital wall that will be displayed at the headquarters of the Mozilla Foundation.

On February 21, 2008 in honor of reaching 500 million downloads, the Firefox community celebrated by visiting FreeRice to earn 500 million grains of rice.[128]

Some of Firefox's contributors made a crop circle of the Firefox logo in wheat near Unionvale, Oregon, near the intersection of Lafayette Highway and Walnut Hill Road.[129]

Market adoption

File:Web browser usage share.svg
The usage share of web browsers.
Source: Median values from summary table.      Internet Explorer (58.69%; Usage by version number)      Mozilla Firefox (28.04%; Usage by version number)      Google Chrome (5.63%)      Safari (4.97%)      Opera (2.05%)      Other (1.32%)
File:Usage share of alternative web browsers.svg
Usage share of (non-IE) web browsers according to Net Applications data:[5]
     Firefox      Safari      Opera      Netscape
     Mozilla      Chrome      Other

Template:Firefox usage share

Mozilla Firefox's usage share has grown for each growth period since inception, mostly at the expense of Internet Explorer; Internet Explorer has seen a steady decline of its usage share since Firefox's release. As of January 2010, according to Net Applications, Firefox had 24.41% worldwide usage share of web browsers, making it the second most-used browser, after Internet Explorer.[5] It also reported that Firefox 3.5 is among the top three web browser versions surpassing Internet Explorer 7.

Downloads have continued at an increasing rate since Firefox 1.0 was released in November 2004, and as of July 31, 2009 Firefox has been downloaded over one billion times.[130] This number does not include downloads using software updates or those from third-party websites.[131] They do not represent a user count, as one download may be installed on many machines, one person may download the software multiple times, or the software may be obtained from a third party. According to Mozilla, Firefox had more than 300 million users as of June 2009.[132]

Reception

Forbes.com called Firefox the best browser in a 2004 commentary piece,[133] and PC World named Firefox "Product of the Year" in 2005 on their "100 Best Products of 2005" list.[134] After the release of Firefox 2 and Internet Explorer 7 in 2006, PC World reviewed both and declared that Firefox was the better browser.[135] Which? Magazine named Firefox its "Best Buy" web browser.[136] In 2008, CNET.com compared Safari, Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer in their "Battle of the Browsers" in terms of performance, security, and features, where Firefox was selected as a favorite.[137]

Performance

In December 2005, Internet Week ran an article in which many readers reported high memory usage in Firefox 1.5.[138] Mozilla developers said that the higher memory use of Firefox 1.5 was at least partially due to the new fast backwards-and-forwards (FastBack) feature.[139] Other known causes of memory problems were malfunctioning extensions such as Google Toolbar and some older versions of Adblock,[140] or plug-ins, such as older versions of Adobe Acrobat Reader.[141] When PC Magazine compared memory usage of Firefox 2, Opera 9, and Internet Explorer 7, they found that Firefox used approximately as much memory as the other two browsers.[142]

Softpedia also noted that Firefox 1.5 took longer to start up than other browsers,[143] which was confirmed by browser speed tests. IE 6 launches more swiftly than Firefox 1.5 on Microsoft Windows since many of its components are built into Windows and are loaded during system startup. As a workaround for the issue, a preloader application was created that loads components of Firefox on startup, similar to Internet Explorer.[144] A Windows Vista feature called SuperFetch performs a similar task of preloading Firefox if it is used often enough.

Tests performed by PC World and Zimbra indicate that Firefox 2 uses less memory than Internet Explorer 7.[135][145] Firefox 3 uses less memory than Internet Explorer 7, Opera 9.50 Beta, Safari 3.1 Beta, and Firefox 2 in tests performed by Mozilla, CyberNet, and The Browser World.[146][147][148]

Relationship with Google

The Mozilla Corporation's relationship with Google has been noted in the media,[149][150] especially with regard to their paid referral agreement. The release of the anti-phishing protection in Firefox 2 in particular raised considerable controversy:[151] anti-phishing protection enabled by default is based on a list updated by twice-hourly downloads to the user's computer from Google's server.[152] The user cannot change the data provider within the GUI,[153] and is not informed who the default data provider is. The browser also sends Google's cookie with each update request.[154] Some[who?] Internet privacy advocacy groups have expressed concerns surrounding Google's possible uses of this data, especially that Firefox's privacy policy states that Google may share information gathered with "safebrowsing" service with third parties, including business partners.[155] Following Google CEO Eric Schmidt's comments in December 2009 regarding privacy during a CNBC show,[156] Asa Dotzler, Mozilla's director of community development advised users to switch Firefox's search from Google to Bing.[157] Google also promoted Mozilla Firefox through YouTube until the release of Google Chrome. Recently, Mozilla Security assisted the search giant by pointing out a security flaw in Google's Chrome browser.[citation needed]

In 2005, the Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation had a combined revenue of US$52.9 million, with approximately 95 percent derived from search engine royalties.[158][159] In 2006, the Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation had a combined revenue of US$66.9 million, with approximately 90 percent derived from search engine royalties.[158][160] In 2007, the Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation had a combined revenue of US$75 million, with 88 percent of this sum (US$66 million) from Google.[161][162] In 2008, both Mozilla organizations had a combined revenue of US$78.6 million, with 91 percent coming from Google.[163] Mozilla Foundation and Corporation are being audited by the IRS and some[who?] believe its non-profit status may be called into question.[161][163][164]

Response from Microsoft

Microsoft's head of Australian operations, Steve Vamos, stated in late 2004 that he did not see Firefox as a threat and that there was not significant demand for the feature set of Firefox among Microsoft's users.[165] Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has used Firefox, but has commented that "so much software gets downloaded all the time, but do people actually use it?"[166]

A Microsoft SEC filing on June 30, 2005 acknowledged that "competitors such as Mozilla offer software that competes with the Internet Explorer Web browsing capabilities of our Windows operating system products."[167] The release of Internet Explorer 7 was fast tracked, and included functionality that was previously available in Firefox and other browsers, such as tabbed browsing and RSS feeds.[168]

Despite the cold reception from Microsoft's top management, the Internet Explorer development team maintains a relationship with Mozilla. They meet regularly to discuss web standards such as extended validation certificates.[169] In 2005 Mozilla agreed to allow Microsoft to use its Web feed logo in the interest of common graphical representation of the Web feeds feature.[170]

In August 2006, Microsoft offered to help Mozilla integrate Firefox with the then-forthcoming Windows Vista,[171] an offer Mozilla accepted.[172]

In October 2006, as congratulations for a successful ship of Firefox 2, the Internet Explorer 7 development team sent a cake to Mozilla.[173][174] As a nod to the browser wars, some readers joked about the cake being poisoned, while others jokingly suggested that Mozilla send a cake back along with the recipe, in reference to the open-source software movement.[175] The IE development team sent another cake on June 17, 2008, upon the successful release of Firefox 3.[176]

In November 2007, Jeff Jones (a "security strategy director" in Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing Group) criticized Firefox, claiming that Internet Explorer experienced fewer vulnerabilities and fewer higher severity vulnerabilities than Firefox in typical enterprise scenarios.[177] Mozilla developer Mike Shaver discounted the study, citing Microsoft's bundling of security fixes and the study's focus on fixes, rather than vulnerabilities, as crucial flaws.[178]

.Net Framework 3.5 Service Pack 1

In February 2009, Microsoft released Service Pack 1 for version 3.5 of the .NET Framework. This update also installed Microsoft .NET Framework Assistant add-on (enabling ClickOnce support).[179] The update received a moderate amount of media attention after users discovered that the add-on could not be uninstalled through the add-ons interface.[180] Several hours after the website Annoyances.org posted an article regarding this update, Microsoft employee Brad Abrams posted in his blog Microsoft's explanation for why the add-on was installed, and also included detailed instructions on how to remove it.[181]

On 16 October 2009, Mozilla blocked all versions of Microsoft .NET Framework Assistant from being used with Firefox and from the Mozilla Add-ons service.[182] Two days later, the add-on was removed from the blocklist after confirmation from Microsoft that it is not a vector for vulnerabilities.[183][184] The latest version of the Microsoft .NET Framework Assistant (version 1.1, released on June 10, 2009 to the Mozilla Add-ons service) allows the user to disable and uninstall in the normal fashion.[185]

Vulnerability statistics

Firefox security vulnerabilities have been patched relatively quickly. Symantec's Internet Security Threat Report Vol. 10, based on data from the first half of 2006, reported that while Firefox had more public vulnerabilities than Internet Explorer during that time period (47 vs. 38), Firefox's vulnerabilities were fixed on average one day after the exploit code was made available, as compared to nine days for Internet Explorer.

Some[who?] have speculated that as Firefox becomes more popular, more vulnerabilities will be found,[186] a claim that Mitchell Baker, president of the Mozilla Foundation, has denied: "There is this idea that market share alone will make you have more vulnerabilities. It is not relational at all."[187]

Expert and media coverage

The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) stated in October 2004 that Internet Explorer's design makes it very difficult to secure. In contrast, almost none of their concerns apply to Firefox.[188]

There are a number of significant vulnerabilities in technologies relating to the IE domain/zone security model, local file system (Local Machine Zone) trust, the Dynamic HTML (DHTML) document object model (in particular, proprietary DHTML features), the HTML Help system, MIME type determination, the graphical user interface (GUI), and ActiveX... IE is integrated into Windows to such an extent that vulnerabilities in IE frequently provide an attacker significant access to the operating system.

Some security experts, including Bruce Schneier[189] and David A. Wheeler,[190] recommended that users should stop using Internet Explorer for normal browsing, and switch to a different browser instead; Wheeler specifically recommended Firefox.

Several technology columnists have suggested the same, including Wall Street Journal columnist Walter S. Mossberg,[99] Washington Post columnist Rob Pegoraro,[191] USA Today’s Byron Acohido and Jon Swartz,[192] Forbes's Arik Hesseldahl,[193] eWEEK.com Senior Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols,[194] and Desktop Pipeline’s Scot Finnie.[195]

Awards

Mozilla Firefox has been given a number of awards by various organizations. These awards include:

  • PC Magazine Editors' Choice, June 2008[196]
  • CNET Editors' Choice, June 2008[197]
  • PC World 100 Best Products of 2008, May 2008[198]
  • Webware 100 winner, April 2008[199]
  • Webware 100 winner, June 2007[200]
  • PC World 100 Best Products of 2007, May 2007[201]
  • PC Magazine Editors' Choice, October 2006[202]
  • CNET Editors' Choice, October 2006[203]
  • PC World's 100 Best Products of 2006, July 2006[204]
  • PC Magazine Technical Excellence Award, Software and Development Tools category, January 2006[205]
  • PC Magazine Best of the Year Award, December 27, 2005[206]
  • PC Pro Real World Award (Mozilla Foundation), December 8, 2005[207]
  • CNET Editors' Choice, November 2005[208]
  • UK Usability Professionals' Association Award Best Software Application 2005, November 2005[209]
  • Macworld Editor's Choice with a 4.5 Mice Rating, November 2005[210]
  • Softpedia User’s Choice Award, September 2005[211]
  • TUX 2005 Readers' Choice Award, September 2005[212]
  • PC World Product of the Year, June 2005[213]
  • Forbes Best of the Web, May 2005[214]
  • PC Magazine Editor’s Choice Award, May 2005[215]

See also

References

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Further reading

  • Cheah, Chu Yeow (2005). Firefox Secrets: A Need-To-Know Guide. O'Reilly. ISBN 0-9752402-4-2. 
  • Feldt, Kenneth C. (2007). Programming Firefox. O'Reilly. ISBN 0-596-10243-7. 
  • Granneman, Scott (2005). Don't Click on the Blue e!: Switching to Firefox. O'Reilly. ISBN 0-596-00939-9. 
  • Hofmann, Chris; Marcia Knous, & John Hedtke (2005). Firefox and Thunderbird Garage. Prentice Hall PTR. ISBN 0-13-187004-1. 
  • McFarlane, Nigel (2005). Firefox Hacks. O'Reilly. ISBN 0-596-00928-3. 
  • Reyes, Mel (2005). Hacking Firefox: More Than 150 Hacks, Mods, and Customizations. Wiley. ISBN 0-7645-9650-0. 
  • Ross, Blake (2006). Firefox for Dummies. Wiley. ISBN 0-471-74899-4. 

External links

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