Ever since it’s early days when it was called Phoenix Firebird until version 1.6 when it became Firefox, it has slowly but surely been gaining traction in the web browser market, and it took it 7 years, but it has finally obtained a respectable market share.
Given the attention that Microsoft has been giving to it’s own Internet Explorer, which remained perfectly still for 5 years with not significant updates, it’s safe to say that they aren’t comfortable with their diminishing market share.
Every year or so new contenders appear to compete for a small share of the browser market, Google’s own browser: Chrome, has received a lot of attention lately (I use it myself) and took only a few months to overtake Apple’s Safari browser, which arguably stands as the most advanced browser in terms of standards compliance.
So now that Firefox has become “hip” in Europe, should you download it?
You should never download a browser, or any other program for that matter, simply because it’s becoming popular. People recommend Firefox for a good number of reasons, (I hope) one of them isn’t “it’s cool”.
Firefox is fully compliant with W3C’s specifications (W3C is the entity that regulates the internet protocols). What this means for you is that you can be certain that websites will appear and look as intended.
Most programmers develop websites with standards in mind, and it’s safe to say that one of the first browsers they test their sites with is Firefox. Not just because it’s standards compliant, but also because it has some very powerful development tools, which makes it the preferred browser to work with.
If I were to say which Firefox feature I appreciate the most I’d have to say it’s extensibility and customization.
In Firefox you can change add, change and remove functionality as you wish. No questions asked, no proprietary software needed. And you can find all of the addons you need in one page, rather than searching through Google.
Have you ever wished you could take a screenshot of a webpage you’re using?
Change the music you’re playing?
Optimize your internet connection for web browsing? Block and remove from all/most webpages unwanted advertising?
Have you ever wanted to make your browser look like a Mac Application?
These are only a few of the options you can choose from, as Firefox’s addon page has thousands more of themes and addons to choose from.
Just because Firefox has become the most popular it doesn’t necessarily it’s the best browser in the market. As previously mentioned, Safari is currently the most cutting-edge browser in terms of standards compliance.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that websites will look better on it (although they usually do), but it means that it will be safe to continue using it for years to come and not worry about it not being compatible with the new protocols that will emerge like HTML 5 or CSS 3. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t update your browser, all programs you use regularly on your computer, specially the ones that connect to the internet, should be updated as soon as possible.
Safari’s standard’s compliance is so good that a lot of other browsers decided to use it’s rendering engine. One of the most popular browser’s that emerged from it is Chrome.
Google’s very own browser that was put together thinking about the future of the internet, stability and security. In a recent hacking event, where hackers tried to exploit all of the current browsers, Chrome was the only one they couldn’t hack in the duration of the event.
So, in this case, you shouldn’t be scared of being an early adopter for this wonderful browser.
Another alternative is the Opera browser. Opera is much more than a browser because it integrates e-mail, a download manager, bittorrent program and a plentitude of various features. Despite not having a very high market share, the browser is fully standards compliant, it’s incredibly fast, customizable (in terms of looks) and responsible for creating some of the most enjoyed features seen in modern browsers like “Tabs”, “Mouse Gestures” and the increasing popular “Speed Dial” default pages as seen in Safari and Chrome.