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Mozilla Firefox Raises the Browser Bar

Tabs and toolbar search top the list of must-have features in Firefox that put the catch-up ball finally back in Microsoft's court.


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or the past several years, browser development for Windows has been more or less stalled. Sure, there have been under-the-hood improvements; but the basic browsing feature set has remained nearly identical across browser versions since Microsoft released IE 4. That was when, if you remember, IE's DHTML capabilities so completely eclipsed those available in Netscape's browser that people flocked to IE in droves.

The loss of clientele and revenue drove Netscape to try an open-source model based on the "Gecko" layout engine, under the Mozilla project. Because the project could use very little of the code from the original Netscape browser (because it didn't use Gecko), Mozilla had a long road to travel to build a product that would compete with IE. Progress has been slow but steady over the past few years. Last year's Mozilla browser (the 1.2 version) was a little buggy, but clearly showed that Mozilla was rapidly catching up with IE.

Editor's Note (Updated 10/4/04): Firebird was an early name for the browser released in October 2004 as Firefox. The headline has been updated to reflect the new name but in the rest of this article, all instances of Firebird should be replaced by Firefox.



Mozilla Catches Up
I recently tried out the newest build of the Mozilla Firebird browser, and I'm impressed. It's fast, it's easy to get running (unzip the download), it runs most Web pages—even those that were designed expressly for Internet Explorer (IE)—without complaints, errors, or much loss of functionality (in a few instances JavaScript that runs in IE does not run in Mozilla Firebird), and it has four features that make it a must-have download for everyone who uses the Web seriously:

  • It blocks popups
  • It implements an idea called "tabbed browsing"
  • It has a search feature that lets you get directly to Google
  • It's far more customizable than IE



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