Mozilla Firefox is an open source web browser descended from the Mozilla Application Suite and managed by Mozilla Corporation. Firefox had 22.51% of the recorded usage share of web browsers as of May 2009, making it the second most popular browser in terms of current use worldwide, after Internet Explorer.
To display web pages, Firefox uses the Gecko layout engine, which implements some current web standards in addition to a few features which are intended to anticipate likely additions to the standards.
Firefox features include tabbed browsing, a spell checker, incremental find, live bookmarking, a download manager, and an integrated search system that uses the user's desired search engine (Google by default in most localizations). Functions can be added through add-ons, created by third-party developers, of which there is a wide selection, a feature that has attracted many of Firefox's users.
Firefox runs on various versions of Linux, Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, and many other Unix-like operating systems. Its current stable release is version 3.0.10, released on April 27, 2009. Firefox's source code is free software, released under a tri-license GNU GPL/GNU LGPL/MPL. Official versions are distributed under the terms of a EULA.
|Origins and Lineage|
|This box: view • talk • edit|
The Firefox project has undergone several name changes. Originally titled Phoenix, it was 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 to avoid confusion with the database software. Continuing pressure from the database server's development community forced another change; on February 9, 2004, Mozilla Firebird became Mozilla Firefox, often referred to as simply Firefox. Mozilla prefers that Firefox be abbreviated as Fx or fx, though it is often abbreviated as FF. The Firefox project went through many versions before 1.0 was released on November 9, 2004. After a series of stability and security fixes, the Mozilla Foundation released its first major update, Firefox version 1.5, on November 29, 2005.
On October 24, 2006, Mozilla released Firefox 2. This version includes updates to the tabbed browsing environment; the extensions manager; the GUI; and the find, search and software update engines; a new session restore feature; inline spell checking; and an anti-phishing feature which was implemented by Google as an extension, and later merged into the program itself. In December 2007, Firefox Live Chat was launched. It allows users to ask volunteers questions through a system powered by Jive Software, with guaranteed hours of operation and the possibility of help after hours.
Mozilla Firefox 3 was released on June 17, 2008 by the Mozilla Corporation. Firefox 3 uses version 1.9 of the Mozilla Gecko layout engine for displaying web pages. The new version fixes many bugs, improves standard compliance, and implements new web APIs. Other new features include a redesigned download manager, a new "Places" system for storing bookmarks and history, and separate themes for different operating systems. The current version is Firefox 3.0.10. Development stretches back to the first Firefox 3 beta (under the codename 'Gran Paradiso') which had been released several months earlier on 19 November 2007, and was followed by several more beta releases in spring 2008 culminating in the June release. Firefox 3 had more than 8 million unique downloads the day it was released, setting a Guinness World Record.
Features included with Firefox are tabbed browsing, spell checker, incremental find, live bookmarking, an integrated download manager, keyboard shortcuts, and an integrated search system that uses the user's desired search engine.
Users can customize Firefox with browser "add-ons". Mozilla maintains a repository of these developed extensions and themes at addons.mozilla.org with nearly 6,500 available as of December 2008.
Firefox can also be installed in an USB drive and run directly from it.
Firefox uses a sandbox security model, and limits scripts from accessing data from other web sites based on the same origin policy. It uses SSL/TLS to protect communications with web servers using strong cryptography when using the HTTPS protocol. It also provides support for web applications to use smartcards for authentication purposes.
The Mozilla Foundation offers a "bug bounty" to researchers who discover severe security holes in Firefox. Official guidelines for handling security vulnerabilities discourage early disclosure of vulnerabilities so as not to give potential attackers an advantage in creating exploits.
Because Firefox has fewer and less severe publicly known unpatched security vulnerabilities than Internet Explorer (see Comparison of web browsers), improved security is often cited as a reason to switch from Internet Explorer to Firefox.The Washington Post reports that exploit code for critical unpatched security vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer was available for 284 days in 2006. In comparison, exploit code for critical security vulnerabilities in Firefox was available for 9 days before Mozilla shipped a patch to remedy the problem.
A 2006 Symantec study showed that although Firefox had surpassed other browsers in the number of vendor-confirmed vulnerabilities that year through September, these vulnerabilities were patched far more quickly than those found in other browsers. Symantec later clarified their statement, saying that Firefox still had fewer security vulnerabilities than Internet Explorer, as counted by security researchers. As of April 23, 2009, Firefox 3 has no security vulnerabilities unpatched according to Secunia. Internet Explorer 7 has nine security vulnerabilities unpatched, the most severe of which was rated "moderately critical" by Secunia.
Browsers compiled from Firefox source code may run on various operating systems, however officially distributed binaries are meant for: Microsoft Windows (Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 or Windows Vista), Mac OS X 10.4 (or later) and Linux (with the following libraries installed: GTK+ 2.10 or higher, GLib 2.12 or higher, Pango 1.14 or higher, X.Org 1.0 or higher *or any TinyX server implementation*). Official minimum hardware requirements are Pentium 233 MHz and 64 MB RAM for Windows version or Macintosh computer with an Intel x86 or PowerPC G3, G4, or G5 processor and 128 MB RAM for Mac version.
As of Firefox 3.0, Mozilla does not have any official 64-bit builds available. Although unofficial third-party builds exists for Windows and unofficial "nightly builds" (referred to as Minefield) exists for Linux. 64-bit builds are being worked on for Windows and Mac
Firefox source code is free and open source software, and is tri-licensed under the Mozilla Public License (MPL), GNU General Public License (GPL), and the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL). These licenses permit anyone to view, modify and/or redistribute the source code, and several publicly released applications have been built on it; for example, Netscape, Flock, Miro, Iceweasel, and Songbird make use of code from Firefox.
The official end-user builds of Firefox distributed from mozilla.com are licensed under the Mozilla End User License Agreement (EULA). Several elements do not fall under the scope of the tri-license and have their use restricted by the EULA, including the trademarked Firefox name, the proprietary artwork, and the proprietary closed-source Talkback crash reporter in Firefox version prior to 3. Because of this and the clickwrap agreement included in the Windows version, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) consider these builds proprietary software. However, BreakPad, an open source crash reporting system, has replaced Talkback in Firefox 3.0.
In the past, Firefox was licensed solely under the MPL, which the FSF criticizes for being weak copyleft; the license permits, in limited ways, proprietary derivative works. Additionally, code under the MPL cannot legally be linked with code under the GPL or the LGPL. To address these concerns, Mozilla re-licensed Firefox under the tri-license scheme of MPL, GPL, and LGPL. Since the re-licensing, developers have been free to choose the license under which they will receive the code, to suit their intended use: GPL or LGPL linking and derivative works when one of those licenses is chosen, or MPL use (including the possibility of proprietary derivative works) if they choose the MPL.
The name "Mozilla Firefox" is a registered trademark; along with the official Firefox logo, it may only be used under certain terms and conditions. Anyone may redistribute the official binaries in unmodified form and use the Firefox name and branding for such distribution, but restrictions are placed on distributions which modify the underlying source code.
Mozilla not only forbids creating derivative works from Firefox logo (i.e. modifying it), but also strongly discourages creating independent, but similar logos.
There has been some controversy over the Mozilla Foundation's intentions in stopping certain open source distributions from using the "Firefox" trademark. Former Mozilla CEO Mitchell Baker explained in an interview in 2007 that distributions could freely use the Firefox trademark if they did not modify source-code, and that the Mozilla Foundation's only concern was with users getting a consistent experience when they used "Firefox".
To allow distributions of the code without using the official branding, the Firefox source code contains a "branding switch". This switch allows the code to be compiled without the official logo and name, for example to produce a derivative work unencumbered by restrictions on the Firefox trademark (this is also often used for alphas of future Firefox versions). In the unbranded compilation the trademarked logo and name are replaced with a freely distributable generic globe logo and the name of the release series from which the modified version was derived. The name "Deer Park" is used for derivatives of Firefox 1.5, "Bon Echo" for derivatives of Firefox 2.0, and "Gran Paradiso" is used for derivatives of Firefox 3.0. The codename Minefield and a modified version of the generic logo stylized to look like a bomb is used for unofficial builds of version 3.0 and later, and for nightly builds of the trunk.
Distributing modified versions of Firefox under the "Firefox" name requires explicit approval from Mozilla for the changes made to the underlying code, and requires the use of all of the official branding. For example, it is not permissible to use the name "Firefox" without also using the official logo. When the Debian project decided to stop using the official Firefox logo in 2006 (because of copyright restrictions on its use incompatible with the project's guidelines), they were told by a representative of the Mozilla Foundation that this was not acceptable, and were asked either to comply with the published trademark guidelines or cease using the "Firefox" name in their distribution. Ultimately, Debian switched to branding their modified version of Firefox "Iceweasel", along with other Mozilla software.
The rapid adoption of Firefox, 100 million downloads in its first year of availability, followed a series of aggressive marketing campaigns starting in 2004 with a series of events Blake Ross and Asa Dotzler called "marketing weeks".
On September 12, 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. As a part of the Spread Firefox campaign, there is an attempt to break the world download record with the release of Firefox 3. The idea is to have the newest version downloaded by as many people as possible within a 24 hour time period.
The "World Firefox Day" campaign started on July 15, 2006, the third 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.
On February 21, 2008 in honor of reaching 500 million downloads, the Firefox community celebrated by visiting FreeRice to earn 500 million grains of rice.
|Firefox usage share by version|
Downloads have continued at an increasing rate since Firefox 1.0 was released in November 2004, and as of November 3, 2008 Firefox has been downloaded over 700 million times. This number does not include downloads using software updates or those from third-party websites. They do not represent a user count, as one download may be installed on many machines, one person may download the software multiple times, or the software may be obtained from a third party. According to Mozilla, Firefox had more than 220 million users as of January 2009.
Forbes.com called Firefox the best browser in a 2004 commentary piece, and PC World named Firefox "Product of the Year" in 2005 on their "100 Best Products of 2005" list. After the release of Firefox 2 and Internet Explorer 7 in 2006, PC World reviewed both and declared that Firefox was the better browser.Which? Magazine named Firefox its "Best Buy" web browser. In 2008, CNET.com compared Safari, Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer in their "Battle of the Browsers" in terms of performance, security, and features, where Firefox was selected as a favorite.
In December 2005 Internet Week ran an article in which many readers reported high memory usage in Firefox 1.5. Mozilla developers said that the higher memory use of Firefox 1.5 was at least partially due to the new fast backwards-and-forwards (FastBack) feature. Other known causes of memory problems were malfunctioning extensions such as Google Toolbar and some older 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 used approximately as much memory as the other two browsers.
Softpedia also noted that Firefox 1.5 took longer to start up than other browsers, which was confirmed by browser speed tests. IE 6 launches faster than Firefox 1.5 on Microsoft Windows since many of its components are built into Windows and are loaded during system startup. As a workaround for the issue, a preloader application was created that loads components of Firefox on startup, similar to Internet Explorer. A Windows Vista feature called SuperFetch performs a similar task of preloading Firefox if it is used often enough.
Tests performed by PC World and Zimbra indicate that Firefox 2 uses less memory than Internet Explorer 7. Firefox 3 uses less memory than Internet Explorer, Opera, Safari, and Firefox 2 in tests performed by Mozilla, CyberNet, and The Browser World.
In 2005, the Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation had a combined revenue of US$52.9 million, with approximately 95 percent derived from search engine royalties. In 2006, the Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation had a combined revenue of US$66.9 million, with approximately 90 percent derived from search engine royalties. In 2007, the Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation had a combined revenue of US$75 million, with 88 percent of this sum (US$66 million) from Google. Mozilla Foundation is being audited by the IRS and some believe its non-profit status may be called into question.
Microsoft's head of Australian operations, Steve Vamos, stated in late 2004 that he did not see Firefox as a threat and that there was not significant demand for the feature set of Firefox among Microsoft's users. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has used Firefox, but has commented that "so much software gets downloaded all the time, but do people actually use it?"
A Microsoft SEC filing on June 30, 2005 acknowledged that "competitors such as Mozilla offer software that competes with the Internet Explorer Web browsing capabilities of our Windows operating system products." The release of Internet Explorer 7 was fast tracked, and included functionality that was previously available in Firefox and other browsers, such as tabbed browsing and RSS feeds.
Despite the cold reception from Microsoft's top management, the Internet Explorer development team maintains a relationship with Mozilla. They meet regularly to discuss web standards such as extended validation certificates. In 2005 Mozilla agreed to allow Microsoft to use its Web feed logo in the interest of common graphical representation of the Web feeds feature.
In August 2006, Microsoft offered to help Mozilla integrate Firefox with the then-forthcoming Windows Vista, which Mozilla accepted.
In October 2006, as congratulations for a successful ship of Firefox 2, the Internet Explorer 7 development team sent a cake to Mozilla. As a nod to the browser wars, some readers joked about the cake being poisoned, while others jokingly suggested that Mozilla send a cake back along with the recipe, in reference to the open-source software movement. The IE development team sent another cake on June 17, 2008, upon the successful release of Firefox 3.
In November 2007, Microsoft employee Jeff Jones criticized Firefox, claiming that Internet Explorer experienced fewer vulnerabilities and fewer higher severity vulnerabilities than Firefox in typical enterprise scenarios. Mozilla developer Mike Shaver discounted the study, citing Microsoft's bundling of security fixes and the study's focus on fixes, rather than vulnerabilities, as crucial flaws.
Firefox security vulnerabilities have been patched relatively quickly. Symantec's Internet Security Threat Report Vol. 10, based on data from the first half of 2006, reported that while Firefox had more vulnerabilities than Internet Explorer during that time period (47 vs. 38), Firefox's vulnerabilities were fixed on average one day after the exploit code was made available, as compared to nine days for Internet Explorer.
Some have speculated that as Firefox becomes more popular, more vulnerabilities will be found, a claim that Mitchell Baker, president of the Mozilla Foundation, has denied: "There is this idea that market share alone will make you have more vulnerabilities. It is not relational at all."
The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) stated in Oct 2004 that Internet Explorer's design makes it very difficult to secure. In contrast, almost none of their concerns apply to Firefox.Some security experts, including Bruce Schneier and David A. Wheeler, recommended that users should stop using Internet Explorer for normal browsing, and switch to a different browser instead; Wheeler specifically recommended Firefox.
Several technology columnists have suggested the same, including Wall Street Journal columnist Walter S. Mossberg,Washington Post columnist Rob Pegoraro,USA Today’s Byron Acohido and Jon Swartz,Forbes's Arik Hesseldahl, eWEEK.com Senior Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, and Desktop Pipeline’s Scot Finnie.
Mozilla Firefox has been given a number of awards by various organizations. These awards include:
- PC Magazine Editors' Choice, June 2008
- CNET Editors' Choice, June 2008
- PC World 100 Best Products of 2008, May 2008
- Webware 100 winner, April 2008
- Webware 100 winner, June 2007
- PC World 100 Best Products of 2007, May 2007
- PC Magazine Editors' Choice, October 2006
- CNET Editors' Choice, October 2006
- PC World's 100 Best Products of 2006, July 2006
- PC Magazine Technical Excellence Award, Software and Development Tools category, January 2006
- PC Magazine Best of the Year Award, December 27, 2005
- PC Pro Real World Award (Mozilla Foundation), December 8, 2005
- CNET Editors' Choice, November 2005
- UK Usability Professionals' Association Award Best Software Application 2005, November 2005
- Macworld Editor's Choice with a 4.5 Mice Rating, November 2005
- Softpedia User’s Choice Award, September 2005
- TUX 2005 Readers' Choice Award, September 2005
- PC World Product of the Year, June 2005
- Forbes Best of the Web, May 2005
- PC Magazine Editor’s Choice Award, May 2005