From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Mozilla Firefox is a free, open source, cross-platform graphical web browser developed by the Mozilla Corporation and hundreds of unpaid workers. Started as a fork of the browser component (Navigator) of the Mozilla Application Suite, Firefox has replaced the Mozilla Suite as the Mozilla Foundation's flagship product. Firefox is often abbreviated as FF; officially it is Fx or fx.
Firefox has been positively reviewed in various media outlets, including Forbes and the Wall Street Journal,. 1.0 was released on November 9, 2004. With over 25 million downloads in the 99 days after the initial 1.0 release, Firefox became one of the most downloaded open source applications, especially among home users. Firefox 2 was released on October 24, 2006 and downloaded over 2 million times within 24 hours.
As of September 2006, 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).
- For more details on this topic, see History of Mozilla Firefox.
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. On April 3, 2003, The Mozilla Organization announced that they planned to change their focus from the Mozilla Suite to Firefox and Thunderbird.
The Firefox project has gone through many name changes through its history. Originally titled Phoenix, it had to be renamed because of trademark issues with Phoenix Technologies. The replacement name, Firebird, provoked an intense response from the Firebird free database software project. In response, the Mozilla Foundation stated that the browser should always bear the name Mozilla Firebird in order to avoid confusion with the database software. Continuing pressure from the database server's development community forced another change, and on February 9, 2004, Mozilla Firebird became Mozilla Firefox (or Firefox for short).
The Firefox project went through many versions before 1.0 was released on November 9, 2004. Aside from stability and security fixes, the Mozilla Foundation released one major update to Firefox—version 1.5, on November 29, 2005—before the debut of Firefox 2.
On October 24, 2006, Mozilla released Firefox 2. This version includes improvements to the tabbed browsing environment; improvements to the extensions manager; improvements to the GUI; enhancements to the find, search and software update engines; a new session restore feature; inline spell checking; and anti-phishing features which were implemented by Google as an extension and later merged into the program itself.
The developers of Firefox aimed to produce a browser that "just works" (in their own words)  for most users. User-created extensions and plugins can be installed to integrate with Firefox giving a range of choices for the 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 customize their version of Firefox with downloadable extensions, a variety of different themes and skins, and many advanced preferences that are accessible via the about:config page.
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 on 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.
The fact that Firefox has fewer and less severe publicly known unpatched security vulnerabilities than Internet Explorer (see Comparison of web browsers) is generally considered to be due to the much greater popularity of IE, though has been cited as a reason to switch from Internet Explorer to Firefox for improved security. A 2006 Symantec study showed that Firefox had surpassed other browsers including Internet Explorer in the number of vendor-confirmed vulnerabilities that year through to September, though these were patched more quickly than vulnerabilities found in IE and other browsers. Symantec later clarified their statement, saying that Firefox still had fewer security vulnerabilities, as counted by security researchers.
Firefox uses SSL/TLS to protect communications with web servers using strong cryptography when using the HTTPS protocol. 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. Official guidelines for handling security vulnerabilities discourage early disclosure of vulnerabilities so as not to give potential attackers an advantage in creating exploits. 
Internet Week ran an article in which many readers reported high memory usage in Firefox 1.5. Mozilla developers said the higher memory use of Firefox 1.5 is sometimes at least partially an effect of the new fast backwards and forwards (FastBack) feature. Other known causes of memory problems are misbehaving extensions, such as Google Toolbar and some old versions of Adblock  or plug-ins, such as older versions of Adobe Acrobat Reader. When PC Magazine compared memory usage of Firefox, Opera, and Internet Explorer, they found that Firefox seemed to use only about as much memory as the other browsers. Tests performed by PC World and Zimbra indicate that Firefox 2 uses less memory than Internet Explorer 7.
Softpedia notes that Firefox takes longer to start up than other browsers and browser speed tests confirm this to be the case. IE also launches slightly faster than Firefox on Microsoft Windows since many of its components are built into Windows and are loaded during system startup.
According to the roadmap, future Firefox development will include version 3.0. Development on version 3.0, which will be based on Gecko 1.9, occurs simultaneously on the Mozilla trunk. Newer versions of Firefox will use Cairo as the rendering layer instead of GDI+.
The development name for Mozilla Firefox 3 is Gran Paradiso. The precursory releases were codenamed "Minefield", as this was the name of the trunk builds. "Gran Paradiso", like other Firefox development names, is an actual place; in this case a national park in Italy. With the release of version 3.0 alpha 1 on December 8, 2006, it adopted the "Gran Paradiso" codename. The estimated release date for Firefox 3 is in November 2007.
The largest change for Firefox 3 will be the implementation of Gecko 1.9, an updated layout engine (more correctly big changes to the reflow code and migration of nsTextFrame to the Thebes infrastructure). Firefox 3 will also include several new features and some that were bumped from Firefox 2, such as the overhauled Places system for storing bookmarks and history in an SQLite backend. Due to lack of support for Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows Me, and Windows NT 4.0 in Cairo, and because Microsoft decided to end support for Windows 98 and Windows Me on July 11, 2006 , Firefox 3 will not run on those operating systems. Unlike previous versions, Firefox 3 on Mac OS X will use a Cocoa widget implementation.
The development team is also asking that Firefox users submit feature requests that they wish to be included in Firefox 3.
Firefox is an open-source application, whose source-code is tri-licensed under the Mozilla Public License (MPL), GNU General Public License (GPL), and the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL). The licenses permit anyone to view the source code, as well as modifying and redistributing it. Netscape and Flock are examples of software based on Firefox code. Mozilla Firefox as an end-user product however is licensed under the Mozilla EULA and contains several elements with copyright and trademark restrictions (amongst others the Firefox brand name and logo images) that do not fall under the tri-license.
In the past, Firefox was licensed solely under the MPL. The Free Software Foundation (FSF) criticizes the MPL for being weak copyleft; the license permits, in limited ways, proprietary, derivative works. Code under the MPL also cannot be legally linked with code under the GPL or the LGPL. To address these concerns, Mozilla tri-licensed Firefox under the MPL, GPL, and LGPL, which permits developers to use whichever license they wish in creating derivative works. The effect of the tri-licensing is that developers can legally link Firefox code with GPL or LGPL code, but still allows them to create proprietary, derivative works (though not both at once). 
The FSF considers the official Firefox binaries released by Mozilla to not be free software because they include the proprietary crash reporter Talkback, have trademark restrictions on the Firefox name and artwork, and force the user to accept a clickwrap agreement (the latter only applies to the Windows version). Google and Mozilla developers are working on Airbag, an open-source replacement for Talkback, that will allow official Firefox builds to be entirely free of proprietary software.
In September 2006, Mozilla requested Debian not to use the official Firefox name for its own patched version. Mozilla requires that distribution of builds called "Firefox" include the official artwork and that any changes made to the Firefox code required approval by Mozilla. Since the official artwork is trademarked and copyrighted, thus going against the Debian Free Software Guidelines, and since Debian didn't want to go through Mozilla to make changes, Debian decided to fork Firefox into IceWeasel.
- Statistics reference: Usage share of web browsers
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 (as listed in statistics reference), 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%.
Downloads have continued at a steady rate since Firefox 1.0 was released in November 2004. No other Mozilla Foundation product has experienced such growth.
These numbers do not include downloads using software updates or from third-party websites. They do not represent a user count, as one download may be installed on many machines, or one person may download the software multiple times. Mozilla Vice President of Products Christopher Beard estimates that Firefox currently has 70 million to 80 million users as of October 2006.
Spread Firefox campaigns
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.
World Firefox Day 2006
The World Firefox Day campaign started on July 15, 2006, which is the anniversary of the founding of the Mozilla Foundation, and ran until September 15, 2006. 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. An e-mail is sent to the nominated friend which provides a hyperlink to download Mozilla Firefox. If the friend downloads the program from this link the nomination is accepted. The names also appear on a website. The link to this website can be found by looking in the credits of the current version of Mozilla Firefox, Firefox 2. The Firefox Wall of Friends can also be found at the World Firefox Day 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. 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. In 2006, Microsoft released a Firefox-compatible Windows Genuine Advantage browser plug-in.
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.
In December 2005, the Inquirer reported that Dell UK would start shipping the Firefox browser pre-installed on their PCs, but neither Dell nor Mozilla have confirmed this.
During the FOSDEM 2005 conference, Tristan Nitot, president of Mozilla Europe, noted that Firefox has had more success in the consumer market than with institutions. He also theorized that pressure from Microsoft caused institutions who had adopted Firefox to remain silent about it.
Some observers, such as Serdar Yegulalp of TechTarget and Jim Rapooza of eWEEK note that Firefox does not provide tools that make institutional deployment easier, such as a client customization kit (which Mozilla has since released) or Microsoft Installer (MSI) packages. Furthermore, they note that Firefox does not support some technologies that are sometimes used in institutional environments, such as ActiveX and Active Directory (though it does support Kerberos and LDAP for certain functions).
While institutions may not be actively deploying Firefox in large numbers, more and more are allowing their employees to install Firefox, according to JupiterResearch. They found that in 2006, 44% of companies with more than 200 employees allowed Firefox on their employees' systems, compared with 26% in 2005.
Other versions, builds, and forks
Mozilla Firefox - Portable Edition (also known as Firefox Portable) is a repackaged version of Firefox designed to run from a USB flash drive, iPod, external hard drive, or other portable media. The newest version can also run live from a CD. It arose out of a mozillaZine thread in June 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 between 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 smart drives
- X-Firefox as part of WinPenPack (in Italian only)
- Torpark (Portable Firefox with Tor built in)
IceWeasel is a generic term for unofficial builds of Firefox, and has been adopted by developers at GNU and Debian as the name for their versions.
Response from competition
Despite Firefox's apparent gains on Internet Explorer, Microsoft's 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 among Microsoft's users. In contradiction to that statement, many features that previously distinguished Firefox from competitors are now available with Internet Explorer 7 Vamos stated that he himself had never used it. 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?"
A Microsoft SEC filing on June 30, 2005 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 to Mozilla to help integrate Firefox with the forthcoming Windows Vista, which Mozilla accepted. Upon the release of Firefox 2, the Internet Explorer 7 development team shipped a cake to Mozilla as a sign of appreciation.
Relationship with Google
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- 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.
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- Browser timeline
- Comparison of web browsers
- List of Firefox extensions
- List of web browsers
- Netscape Navigator
- Wikipedia Firefox Browser Tools
- Mozilla (from which the Firefox project descends)
- Mozilla Corporation
- Mozilla Foundation
- Mozilla Add-ons
- Mozilla Firefox homepage – For end-users.
- Mozilla Firefox project page – For developers.
- Mozilla EULA
- Firefox changelogs
- ftp.mozilla.org – All releases from 1.0rc1 to the current beta/RC.
- Firefox older versions – All of the old versions from version 0.8 to the latest one
- Spread Firefox – The center for Firefox marketing
- BBC News: Internet Explorer 7.0 and Firefox 2.0 Go Head-to-Head
- Secunia.com − Vulnerability report for Mozilla Firefox 1
- Secunia.com − Vulnerability report for Mozilla Firefox 2