When the World Wide Web really started to
gain popularity, there were basically two web browsers to choose
from: Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer. These
two products jockeyed for dominance. Originally, Netscape Navigator
was the superior product. But Microsoft made some sweeping changes
to its browser, making it the better browser, and decided to
give it away for free to users of the Windows operating system.
To secure the top spot for its product, Microsoft extended Internet
Explorer to support several useful, but non-standard, functions
for web pages -- functions that Netscape Navigator did not support.
Over time, Netscape lost marketshare and Microsoft continued
to sit at the top of the web browser market. In an effort to
remain competitive, Netscape, too, released their browser for
free to users; but they went one crucial step further and released
the source code, or blueprints, to Navigator for free, too. Thus
was born the Mozilla project.
The Mozilla project is a coordinated effort
by volunteers all over the world to continue work on the Navigator
browser. People contributed time and talent for a great many
reasons: personal fulfilment, anti-Microsoft sentiment, community
interaction, or just because it was a chance to work on something
genuinely interested for them. Under the Mozilla moniker, the
Navigator browser grew and matured. Without a profit motive the
Mozilla developers were free to focus on producing a high-quality,
innovative product according to the schedule that best fit their
needs, not the needs of shareholders.
What Is Firefox?
Mozilla Firefox is the latest -- and greatest!
-- web browser evolved from the original Navigator. During its
development, it has undergone some radical changes, and has emerged
as a mature, highly functional product suitable for all internet
Firefox 1.0 was released in November, 2004,
and was downloaded over 11 million times within 30 days. Supporters
from all over the world, eager to spread the news of Firefox,
donated money to run a two-page
ad in the New York Times.
What's so great about Mozilla Firefox, and
why should you care? Here are a few brief reasons.
Searching for a specific word
or phrase inside a web page in Firefox is as easy as pressing
the forward slash (/) key. An unobtrusive panel is displayed
at the bottom of the window with controls to search forward and
backward through the document. Searching the entire internet
is just as easy: simply enter the search term(s) into the text
box at the top right of the Firefox window, and press enter!
The default search will query Google, but also available are
Yahoo!, Ask Jeeves, dictionary.com, even Amazon and eBay! Plus,
users can add their own favorite search engines to the list.
Firefox supports tabbed
browsing, where multiple web pages can be displayed inside
a single window. Each page is available by clicking a tab at
the top of the window, similar to tabs on file folders inside
a filing cabinet. Tabs make it vastly easier to pursue multiple
web pages. For example, to open a list of search results, each
page in its own tab, simply click the middle button of a 3-button
mouse on each link.
Firefox blocks unrequested pop-up
windows. When Firefox was first introduced, this was one of its
strongest selling points. Now it's less compelling, since the
version of Internet Explorer included with Windows XP Service
Pack 2 includes pop-up blocking as well. Google's Toolbar
for Internet Explorer blocks pop-ups, also. Nonetheless, this
is a terrific Firefox feature, and it's on by default.
One of the ways that Microsoft
won the original Browser Wars was to tightly integrate Internet
Explorer with the internals of Windows itself. If Internet Explorer
crashes, it can lead to severe system instability, as the portions
of Windows that rely on Internet Explorer suffer the effects
of the crash as well. This leads to system lockups, blue screen
errors, and more. Mozilla Firefox is a stand-alone application,
and does not provide deeply integrated functionality for the
underlying operating system. If Firefox crashes, Windows itself
ought not be impaired. Of course, if Windows crashes, it can
still affect Firefox; but the reverse is much less likely to
Many flaws in Internet Explorer
have been exploited to install adware,
is more resilient against malicious activity. To my knowledge,
adware, malware, and spyware have not yet found any ways to hijack
Firefox. That's not to say that it's impossible -- just far less
Firefox is an open
source project, which means anyone can download the source
code, as well as view the list of unresolved problems. Users
can report new bugs to the Firefox development team and the developers
(and other users!) can quickly see which problems are the most
common. Not only can users report bugs, but they can also request
and help build new features.
Firefox, and most open source software, is almost exclusively
developed by volunteers. Developers coordinate by email, online
chat, and scheduled events.
Coordinated volunteer efforts have made Firefox available in
languages! New volunteers are encouraged to contribute
in whatever way they can: advocacy, testing, documentation and
translation, or programming.
Many internet observers recognize that the
Browser Wars are starting again. In the few months that Firefox
has been available, Microsoft Internet Explorer's dominance has
already slipped several percentage points. Users everywhere are
recognizing the benefits of using Firefox: useful innovative
features with enhanced system stability and security.
Mozilla Firefox is the web
browser to use for GNU/Linux, Macintosh, and Windows. Download
Training for managers of volunteers,
leading to a certificate, is being held April 26-29, 2005. Sponsored by
Washington State University, the Volunteer Management Certificate Program
will be held in Port Hadlock, Washington, in the shadow of the Olympic
Mountains. Topics include:
Management and Supervision
Diversifying the Volunteer Pool
The Internet as the Manager's Next
Interactive Case Models based on student process
is the focus of Learning Activities.
For more information, visit the website at: http://www.emmps.wsu.edu/volunteer.
Scott Merrill is an information technology professional with
demonstrated success in a variety of diverse environments, including
healthcare, for-profit, and non-profit. He has participated in
large-scale deployments for national and international corporations,
and has successfully managed the introduction of a complete technology
solution for a mid-sized non-profit mental health facility.
In addition to technology implementation, he facilitates technology
education and advocacy in a variety of ways. Scott currently
sits on the technology advisory committee for a community non-profit
organization. He is a contributor to the technology section of
CharityChannel.com, and has published several articles at Newsforge.com.
Scott is a strong advocate for GNU/Linux and Free
Software, and is the Presentation Coordinator for the Central Ohio Linux User Group.
He works hard to recommend and support creative, open solutions
for budget-conscious, socially-minded organizations.
Scott lives in lovely Columbus, Ohio with his wife and twin
daughters. He occasionally blogs his thoughts at http://skippy.net.
You may reach him by email at email@example.com.