I will host a Web
chat starting at 2 p.m. ET today, with topic A
being Web browsers, and one in particular: Mozilla
Firefox, the subject of my column yesterday.
So please fire up your Web browser, whatever one you happen
to use, at that time, or submit your questions early.
In the meantime, I have some questions for you all. This
coming Sunday we'll be running our annual guide to
technology -- in print, we'll cover home computers, MP3
players, digital photography and handheld organizers, while
online we'll have additional details about consumer
electronics. That means now's the time to tell me what you'd
like to know about each of these categories. What sort of
things would you like to know that you haven't seen in our (or
others) prior coverage? Drop
me a line with your requests.
NOTE: No matter how nicely you ask, I can't give you
specific product recommendations. Only rarely do you see
one product good enough to recommend to people
A Walk Down the Mozilla Memory Lane
On the other hand, my review of Firefox 1.0 in yesterday's
column was one of those unconditional approvals. I
don't think I could have written a stronger recommendation
for that browser without the copy desk running a headline
like, "I heart Firefox" or "Firefox: I'm In the Tank." (That's
journalese for "this writer is in a total swoon over this subject,
so let's make fun of him for it.")
My rave about Firefox, however, shouldn't have been
much of a surprise if you've been reading this space regularly.
One of the pleasant side effects of reviewing an open-source
application such as this has been the chance to see the
application grow up over time in response to bug reports and
feature requests -- a process that most commercial software
My first mention of Firefox came in my Dec. 29, 2002, year-in-review
column: "Mozilla gave me a Web without pop-up ads, at
the price of the rare site-specific glitch; better yet, it's already
spawned both a couple of useful upgrades and speedy
offshoots, including Phoenix and Chimera."
Phoenix was Firebird's name at the time (Phoenix
Technologies, a BIOS manufacturer, later squawked about the
overlap), and Chimera was the name of a still-in-
development, Mac-only version that's since been rechristened
as Camino (try out the current .81 release).
I returned to the subject in a review of Apple's Safari browser in
June of 2003: "Mozilla Firebird, a browser-only offshoot of the
Mozilla open-source Internet suite, features a similar focus on
speed and simplicity and even looks like Safari, with its
search-engine shortcut at the top right corner."
Firebird was this browser's second name; it, too, was
discarded after the developers of an open-source database of
the same moniker complained. Lesson learned: Teach your
kids to be trademark lawyers, because apparently there's a lot
of business to be had.
Firefox got an even stronger plug in a column I wrote back in February
about the problem of browser hijacking: "For most people, the
best IE replacement is a free copy of Mozilla (www.mozilla.org), the descendant of
Netscape. If you don't mind using a preview release, however,
the faster, simpler and also free Mozilla Firefox will be a
Before long, though, I started recommending Firefox to
coworkers, readers and friends outright, and wrote a newsletter saying as much in
In that piece, however, I critiqued a few of Firefox's
workings, such as the way it would not open links passed over
from other programs in a new tab: "Firefox is overdue to steal
Safari's sensible approach to tabbed-browsing management,
in which a link you click on in some other program -- for
example, your e-mail client -- will automatically open in a
new tab instead of overwriting whatever page you were
As it happened, Firefox users had already opened a bug
report complaining about this same behavior, one of which cited my
review as evidence that the program needed to be fixed.
That either proves some sort of journalist Heisenberg
principle -- that reviewing something will always affect it --
or it just verifies that people sometimes read my stuff. Either
way, it was interesting, and somewhat weird, to see such a
feedback loop at work so openly.
In two newsletters this summer and fall, I noted minor
updates to Firefox that added such features as the newly streamlined Options
window and the Find
interface, to which I have now grown helplessly addicted.
I actually get annoyed when this same command in other
browsers and word processors doesn't bring up Firefox's
elegant little "Find bar."
Curious about how far Firefox has come? Walk down
Firefox's memory lane, and get a glimpse of where it's headed
next, by viewing the roadmap laid out by Firefox's lead
A Final Note on Security
One of the big reasons to use Firefox instead of Internet
Explorer is the way IE can make drive-by downloads and
browser hijacks so easy. But what do you do if you think your
PC has already been infected in those ways? Run an anti-
spyware utility -- or three. We're planning an updated
comparison of those, but in the meantime this review offers
an in-depth comparison of several alternatives, as well as
technical details about this problem: spywarewarrior.com/asw-test-guide.htm.
-- Rob Pegoraro (firstname.lastname@example.org)