Firefox



Mozilla Firefox is a free, open source, cross-platform, graphical web browser developed by the Mozilla Corporation and hundreds of volunteers. Beginning as a fork of the browser component (Navigator) of the Mozilla Application Suite, Firefox has since become the Mozilla Foundation's main development focus (along with the Thunderbird mail and news client), replacing the Mozilla Suite as the foundation's official main software release.

Before the November 9, 2004 1.0 release, Firefox had already gained acclaim from numerous media outlets, including Forbes and the Wall Street Journal. With over 25 million downloads in the 99 days after the initial 1.0 release, Firefox became one of the most downloaded free and open source applications, especially among home users. On October 19, 2005, Firefox had its 100 millionth download, less than 1 year (just 344 days) after the release of version 1.0. Firefox 1.5 was released on November 29, 2005, with more than 2 million downloads within the first 36 hours. Firefox hit 200 million downloads in August 2006 according to the spreadfirefox website. Firefox 2.0 is due for release on October 24, 2006.

Firefox includes an integrated pop-up blocker, tabbed browsing, live bookmarks, support for open standards, and an extension mechanism for adding functionality. Although other browsers have some of these features, Firefox became the first such browser to include them all and achieve wide adoption. Firefox has attracted attention as an alternative to other browsers such as Microsoft Internet Explorer and Apple Safari, which are included as standard browsers with versions of Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X, respectively.

As of July 2006, estimates suggest that Firefox's usage share is around 12% of overall browser usage (see market adoption below), with its highest usage in Germany (about 39% as of July 2006).

Dave Hyatt and Blake Ross began working on the Firefox project as an experimental branch of the Mozilla project. They believed that the commercial requirements of Netscape's sponsorship and developer-driven feature creep compromised the utility of the Mozilla browser. To combat what they saw as the Mozilla Suite's software bloat, they created a pared-down browser, with which they intended to replace the Mozilla Suite.

Mozilla Firefox retains the cross-platform nature of the original Mozilla browser by using the XUL user interface markup language. Through Firefox's support of XUL, users may extend their browser's capabilities by applying themes and extensions. Initially, these add-ons raised security concerns, so with the release of Firefox 0.9, the Mozilla Foundation opened Mozilla Update, a website containing themes and extensions "approved" as not harmful.

The Mozilla Foundation intended to make the Mozilla Suite obsolete and to replace it with Firefox. On April 12, 2006, the Foundation announced that official releases of Mozilla would cease with version 1.7.13. The Foundation continues to support the 1.7.x branch because of its continued use by many corporate users, and because producers of other software continue to include the product. The Mozilla community (as opposed to the Foundation) continues to release new versions of the suite using the product name SeaMonkey to avoid any possible confusion with the original Mozilla Suite.

The project which became Firefox started as an experimental branch of the Mozilla Suite called m/b (or mozilla/browser). When sufficiently developed, binaries for public testing appeared in September 2002 under the name Phoenix.

The Phoenix name survived until April 14, 2003, when it changed because of trademark issues with the BIOS manufacturer, Phoenix Technologies (who produce a BIOS-based browser called Phoenix FirstWare Connect). The new name, Firebird, provoked mixed reactions, particularly since the free database software Firebird uses the same name. In late April, following an apparent name change to Firebird browser for a few hours, the Mozilla Foundation stated that the browser should always bear the name Mozilla Firebird in order to avoid confusion with the Firebird database server. However, continuing pressure from the FLOSS community forced another change, and on February 9, 2004, Mozilla Firebird became Mozilla Firefox (or Firefox for short).

The Mozilla Foundation chose the name "Firefox" for its similarity to "Firebird" but also for its uniqueness in the computing industry. To avoid any potential further name changes, the Mozilla Foundation began the process of registering Firefox as a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in December 2003. As "Firefox" already existed as a registered trademark in the United Kingdom, the Mozilla Foundation licensed the name from the trademark's owner.

The adoption of a new visual identity marks one of Firefox's most visible enhancements from its previous versions. Some people have noted that free software frequently suffers from poor icon and user interface design and from a lack of a strong visual identity. Such opinion held that the early releases of Firefox sported "reasonable" visual designs but did not regard them as of a standard equivalent to many "professionally" released software packages. The release of Firefox 0.8 in February 2004 saw the introduction of new branding efforts, including new icons. Jon Hicks designed the icon for Firefox 0.8 and up.

The logo depicts a stylized fox, since the Red Panda (to which the term "Firefox" originally referred) did not "conjure up the right imagery" for Hicks. The specific logo won selection because it makes an impression while still not "shouting" with overdone artwork.

The Firefox icon functions as a trademark used to designate the official Mozilla build of the Firefox software. Although Firefox uses open source core software, free licensing does not extend to the artwork. For this reason, software distributors who distribute patched or modified versions of Firefox cannot use the Firefox icon. However, versions based on the unmodified source code may be allowed.

Firefox has developed considerably since its first release as Phoenix on September 23, 2002. Pre-1.0 releases suffered many issues with extensions, as the code for handling them changed from version to version.

Throughout its development, Firefox versions have had internal codenames. These have a basis in real locations, with codenames such as Three Kings, Royal Oak, One Tree Hill, Mission Bay, and Greenlane all referencing suburbs in Auckland, New Zealand, and the name Whangamata coming from a small seaside town on the Coromandel Peninsula, southeast of Auckland in New Zealand. Ben Goodger, the lead developer of Firefox, who grew up in Auckland, chose these codenames. The other codenames included in the Firefox roadmap derive from an actual roadmap of a journey through California to Phoenix, Arizona, United States.

Several builds codenamed "Deer Park" were released in 2005. According to Goodger, "Deer Park is not Deer Park, Victoria, but just a symbolic name. I was riding LIRR a few weeks ago and saw the name go by and I thought it sounded nice." Therefore, this name probably references Deer Park, New York, a CDP on Long Island, United States.

"Deer Park" was originally destined to become Firefox 1.1. However, Mozilla Foundation decided to change the version number of the next major release from "1.1" to "1.5", since it contained more new features than originally planned. In an attempt to dissuade end-users from downloading the preview versions, "Deer Park" versions do not use the standard Mozilla Firefox branding. As of the release of Firefox 1.5.0.2 on March 8, 2006, Deer Park 1.6a1 is the only 64-bit version of Firefox for Windows, though it is still in alpha and is quite buggy. On November 29, 2005, Firefox 1.5 was officially released. Some of the changes:

* An improved Software Update System that will ease distribution of important security patches and help keep users up-to-date.

* Firefox supports a subset of Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), but not any of the official profiles (Tiny, Basic, Full). This makes Firefox the second major browser to support some form of SVG natively (Opera 8.0, released on April 19, 2005 supported most of the SVG 1.1 Tiny Specification).

* Support for the WHATWG's canvas HTML element.

* A new, reorganized options dialog box for changing settings of the browser (similar to preferences windows in Mac OS X).

* A "Clear Private Data" action to allow a person to clear their privacy related information without manually clicking the "Clear All" button. Users will have the option of clearing all privacy-related settings simply by exiting the browser or by using a keyboard shortcut, depending on their settings.

* Gecko 1.8, an updated version of Firefox's rendering engine.

* Firefox 1.5 also includes a backlog of bug fixes that were fixed between the 0.9 and the 1.0 release which were previously unavailable due to branching from the trunk around the 0.9 release.

According to the roadmap, future Firefox development will include version 2.0 and version 3.0. Development for version 2.0 will occur on the Gecko 1.8 branch from which version 1.5 was released, with the release starting the Gecko 1.8.1 branch, while development on version 3.0, which will be based on Gecko 1.9, occurs simultaneously on the Mozilla trunk. Mozilla is developing versions 2.0 and 3.0 simultaneously in order to ship front-end innovation in version 2.0 built on a more stable back-end, while completing major architectural and user interface changes for version 3.0.

Goals for Firefox include changes to the tabbed browsing environment, enhancements to the extensions manager, enhancements to the GUI, improvements to the find, search and software update engines; a greater level of accessibility, session and download restore, and new improved Anti-phishing features. Newer versions of Firefox will use Cairo as the rendering layer instead of GDI+. Mozilla Firefox 1.5 and future releases of Camino will also include the Java Embedding plugin, which allow Mac OS X users to run Java applets with the latest 1.4 and 5.0 versions of Java (the default Java software shipped by Apple is not compatible with any browser, except its own Safari).

The code name for Mozilla Firefox 2.0 was Bon Echo, but for the official Beta 1 release it was branded with the Firefox 2 name. It still retains the Bon Echo name for the unofficial builds. "Bon Echo", like other Firefox development names, is the name of a public park, Bon Echo Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. The first alpha version (2.0a1) was released on March 21, 2006, the second alpha version (2.0a2) was released on May 12, 2006, and the third alpha version (2.0a3) was released on May 27, 2006. The first beta version (2.0b1) was released on July 12, 2006, and the second beta will ship on August 30, 2006. The first release candidate is scheduled to be released on September 19, 2006, and may become the final release if there are no new bugs found.

The alpha and beta releases are aimed primarily at the developer and testing community as there are still some bugs present. Some of the new features that the Mozilla Firefox 2 browser will bring are:

* New Windows installer using the Nullsoft Scriptable Install System (NSIS)

* New anti-phishing features

* There are now several hidden options for how the tabs are displayed, and the close behaviour is slightly different

* A History of recently closed tabs and the ability to "Undo" closed tabs

* Automatic restoration of the user's browsing session if there is a crash

* New default theme with new icons and a new tab bar design

* Inline spell checking in text boxes and the ability to search in these areas

* Search suggestions now appear in the search box auto-complete for Google and Yahoo!

* New search service that supports Sherlock and OpenSearch engines

* Combining the extensions and themes managers into an "Add-ons" manager, updating it to provide enhanced security and to allow for easier localization of extensions

* New search plugin manager for removing and re-ordering search engines

* Improved support for previewing and subscribing to Web feeds

* New microsummaries feature for bookmarks

* Support for scalable vector graphics (SVG) text using svg:textPath

* Client-side session and persistent storage

* Updated browser appearance, including an improved default theme

The development name for Mozilla Firefox 3.0 is Gran Paradiso. The precursory releases are currently codenamed "Minefield", as this is the name of the trunk releases. "Gran Paradiso", like other Firefox development names, is an actual place. "Gran Paradiso" is the name of a national park in Italy. When Firefox 3.0 branches, it will adopt the "Gran Paradiso" codename. The release timeframe for Firefox 3.0 is first quarter 2007.

The largest change for Firefox 3 will be the implementation of Gecko 1.9, an updated layout engine. It will also include several new features and ones that were bumped from Firefox 2, such as the overhauled Places system for storing bookmarks and history in an SQL backend. Due to Microsoft's decision to end support for Windows 98 and Windows Me on July 11, 2006, and because Cairo does not support Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows Me, and Windows NT 4.0, Firefox 3.0 will not run on those operating systems. Unlike previous versions, Firefox 3 on Mac OS X will be written in Cocoa.

The developers of Firefox aim to produce a browser that "just works" for most casual users. User created Extensions and plugins can be installed to integrate with Firefox giving a wide range of choice for the end-user. The main features included with Firefox are tabbed browsing, incremental find, Live bookmarking, a customizable download manager and a built-in Search toolbar. The user can customise their version of Firefox with downloadable extensions, a variety of different themes and skins, and many hidden preferences that are easily accessible to the advanced user.

Mozilla Firefox claims support for many software standards, including but not restricted to: HTML, XML, XHTML, CSS, ECMAScript (JavaScript), DOM, MathML, DTD, XSL, XPath and PNG images with variable transparency. Firefox release builds do not yet pass the Acid2 standards-compliance test. However, there are developmental versions of Firefox that currently pass the Acid2 test, and Firefox 3 is expected to pass Acid2.

Mozilla Firefox is a multi-platform browser, providing support for various versions of Microsoft Windows, including 98, 98SE, Me, NT 4.0, 2000, XP, and Server 2003. It also runs on Mac OS X and Linux-based operating systems using the X Window System. Although not officially released for certain operating systems, the freely available source code works for many other operating systems, including but not restricted to: FreeBSD, OS/2, Solaris, SkyOS, BeOS and more recently, Windows XP Professional x64 Edition.

Firefox also provides an environment in which web developers can use built in tools (from extensions). These include a Javascript Console, a DOM Inspector, Venkman JavaScript debugger, and an integrated development toolkit called Web Developer.

The fact that Firefox has fewer and less severe security vulnerabilities than Internet Explorer is often cited as a reason to switch from Internet Explorer to Firefox for improved security.

Firefox uses SSL/TLS to protect communications with web servers using strong cryptography. It also supports smartcards for secure login to web servers. It uses a sandbox security model and the developers use a "bug bounty" scheme, for finding fixes for some security and feature additions.

Some note that Firefox takes longer to launch than other browsers such as Internet Explorer or Opera on Windows. Other Gecko-based browsers such as K-Meleon, which use platform-native user interface implementations, generally run faster than Firefox. IE also launches slightly faster than Firefox on Microsoft Windows since many of its components are built into Windows and are loaded at startup. On Microsoft Windows, this can be addressed by using the open-source FFPreloader Utility.

Some users complain that Firefox uses more memory than other browsers. This has been reported as memory leaks. Mozilla developers claim it is sometimes at least partially an effect of the fast backwards and forwards (FastBack) feature. Other known causes of memory problems are misbehaving extensions, such as Google Toolbar and Adblock.

Users switching from Internet Explorer sometimes find that certain websites do not render as expected in Firefox. This, however, is rarely a Firefox-specific problem and is usually caused by the respective websites using code that does not adhere to W3C standards — such as code specific to Internet Explorer, utilizing ActiveX controls or VBScript scripts, which are both proprietary Microsoft technologies and are not W3C standards.

There is a Firefox extension called "IE Tab" that allows the Internet Explorer rendering engine to be embedded into Firefox on the Windows platform. This aims to solve rendering issues for those pages that use Microsoft specific technologies, but it puts the user at risk from vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer.

Mozilla Firefox does not provide an MSI package, although some third parties created one. Administrators who want to deploy Firefox on many Microsoft Windows computers at once would need an MSI installer to do it centrally, without having to manually install it on each computer. The absence of this feature makes it difficult to rapidly distribute the browser on large networks (as in a corporate setting), and is cited frequently as an obstacle to the wide adoption of the browser in professional workgroups. This feature is currently planned for a future release.

Web-surfers have adopted Firefox rapidly, despite the dominance of Internet Explorer in the browser market. Internet Explorer has seen a steady decline of its usage share since Firefox's release. According to several sources, by July 2006, Firefox had around 12% of global usage share.

Europe, according to a study released by the firm XiTi on 2006-06-16, generally had higher percentages of Firefox use, with an average of 20%.

Cumulative downloads have increased in a near-linear fashion since the time Firefox 1.0 was released in November 2004 until July 2006. In other words, the download rate has remained fairly stable. None of the Mozilla Foundation's previous product releases experienced that kind of growth.

These download counts do not include downloads using software updates and downloads from third-party websites. The download counter is available as an RSS feed, so that the Firefox download can be added on websites to keep track of the number of downloads in near-realtime.

It should be noted that a download count is not a user count, as a single download can be installed over many machines, or one person can download the software multiple times. Assuming that Firefox users browse about as many pages as the average Internet user, Firefox users make up about 120 million of the Internet's one billion users.

The rapid adoption of Firefox apparently accelerated in part because of a series of aggressive marketing campaigns since 2004. For example, Blake Ross and Asa Dotzler organized a series of events dubbed "marketing week".

On September 14, 2004, 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.

Since the pre-1.0 stages, several well-known websites and web applications, including Gmail, have supported (and in some cases, required) the use of Firefox. Since March 30, 2005, the Google search engine has utilized the link prefetching feature of Firefox for faster searching. Link prefetching involves a standards-compliant optimization technique that utilizes the browser's idle time to download or prefetch documents that the user might visit in the near future. Google, Inc. also recommends Firefox as the browser for its Blogger.com weblog service. On May 18, 2005, eBay announced support for Firefox for its eBay Picture Manager.

Search engine companies including Google, Yahoo! and A9.com now also offer Firefox extensions for accessing their services, in addition to their original Internet Explorer add-ons. Google has released four Extensions for Firefox, further affirming the company's interest in Firefox.

Several commercialized versions of the Firefox browser have developed outside the not-for-profit Mozilla Foundation. The current version of Netscape, known as Netscape Browser or Netscape 8, combines the functionalities of Firefox and Internet Explorer. Flock plans to build enhancements for Firefox. Firefox is used by the 3B browser, which browses the web as a 3D city of web sites or a 3D store.

According to a CNET article published on May 12, 2005, about 30,000 of IBM's staff (about 10% of the total) already use Firefox. IBM encourages its employees to use Firefox as the company's standard web browser; support is provided by the company's help desk staff.

In December 2005, it was announced that Dell UK would start shipping the Firefox browser pre-installed on their PCs.

During the FOSDEM 2005 conference, Tristan Nitot, the president of Mozilla Europe, said that he knew "a few companies" that had deployed the Firefox browser or the Thunderbird mail client across a million seats. Those companies remained reluctant to publicize the migration because of in-house concerns that this might damage their relationship with Microsoft.

The Networking Services and Information Technology department of the University of Chicago started to include both Firefox and Thunderbird in its connectivity package for all incoming students on the third quarter of 2005.

Yale University, Boston College, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Kansas State University have recently adopted Firefox as official web browsers across the campus network. Boston College encourages all students to switch from Internet Explorer to Firefox on all student dorm computers, citing increased usability and better security features. University of New Mexico and Elmira College have Firefox installed on their lab computers and recommends their students to use it, as opposed to Internet Explorer.

Rutgers University and Penn State University have Firefox installed on lab computers in most of its branch campuses and some labs in State College.

Mozilla Firefox - Portable Edition (aka Firefox Portable) is a repackaged version of Firefox designed to run from a USB flash drive, iPod, external hard drive, or other portable media. John T. Haller's newest version can be run live from a CD. It arose out of a mozillaZine thread in June of 2004. John T. Haller released the first packaged version and has led its further development. It includes a specialized launcher that adjusts extensions and themes to work as it is moved from different computers. There is also a portable version of Firefox available for Macintosh computers called Portable Firefox OS X.

Here is a full list of Firefox in portable app form:

* Firefox Portable for Microsoft Windows and Wine on Linux/Unix
* Portable Firefox OS X for Mac OS X
* Cross-platform Portable Firefox for Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows
* Firefox for U3 for U3 smart drives
* X-Firefox as part of WinPenPack (in Italian only)

Despite Firefox's apparent gains on Internet Explorer, Microsoft head of Australian operations, Steve Vamos, stated that he did not see Firefox as a threat and that there was not significant demand for the featureset of Firefox amongst Microsoft's users. Vamos stated that he himself never used it personally. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has used Firefox, but he has commented "so much software gets downloaded all the time, but do people actually use it?"

However, according to a Microsoft SEC Filing on June 30, 2005, it acknowledged that browsers such as Mozilla are competitive threats to Internet Explorer: "Competitors such as Mozilla offer software that competes with the Internet Explorer Web browsing capabilities of our Windows operating system products."

In August 2006, Microsoft made an offer which Mozilla accepted. This offer will make Firefox run more ideally on Vista.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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