Recently, Firefox went to 2.0. The upgrade isn’t mind blowing, but a good sign of progress. When you step back, its kind of an amazing story. A small team got together out of a larger organization and built a competitive browser that works on every major platform. They diverted from the larger group (that was failing, but with good intentions) in order to ship a product. I can’t think of any apps that are consumer and on every platform. Amazing. Its another rare success in the line of open-source success stories (Apache, BSD, Linux, PHP, Rails, Python, etc.). Again, the big difference is that this is an actual end consumer app. I mean, people that normally use IE can actually use Firefox.
Anyways , the other day, I did the optional upgrade to IE 7. What can I say about it? Not much. It is now on par with Firefox. They didn’t really move the needle. Is it better than IE 6.0? Yes. Is it good that they built this? YES! Just being able to use PNG images with Alpha is a great thing. Will it be my default browser? Not really.
Why? One word: EXTENSIONS!
The firefox extensions are by far the best extensions that I’ve used on a browser. When Firefox first launched, they didn’t have an extension mechanism. After they launched and iterated the extension mechanism, they had a good system. Yes, I’ve tried the ones on IE7… no comparison. I mean, there is even a Firefox extension that allows you to embed a COM IE Browser object into a Firefox window/tab.
I use about 5 extensions, but the ones that I use the most are the following:
The web developer toolbar was the first toolbar that I really took to. It is just fantastic. It has so much that it would not be possible to cover it in a single blog post. It is a mandatory install for me on every Firefox browser.
The other extension I used is now essentially built into Firefox 2.0. It was tab manager plus and session saver. This extension has set the bar for what a browser should do. Essentially, the system provides a redo-log for actions on the browser. If your browser (or computer) crashes, or you accidentally close a tab…. no worries. This extension allows you to undo a tab close. If you crash, a dialog pops up when you restart that will ask if you want to restore your windows and tabs. This has saved me SO MANY TIMES. I now feel comfortable opening more windows and tabs as I dig around the internet doing research.
Overall, I think Firefox is technically better, friendly enough for the consumer, and the price is right. I don’t see this platform becoming smaller as time rolls on. The fact that google is supporting them and incenting users to install is good news as well. I can see Firefox getting bundled with future PCs. I would also like to see Apple drop Safari and just move to Firefox… they are wasting resources by developing their own browser which is too difficult to extend technically. They could instead help the Firefox platform get even better.
So a big thank you to Firefox and all the extension makers out there!