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In-Depth Review: What Makes Firefox 1.0 So Compelling

Mozilla's new Firefox Web browser can make believers even out of loyal Internet Explorer proponents.

Firefox 1.0 is so far the best alternative to IE of all the browsers. (Click on image to expand.)
There are a couple of additional large issues that require a few words. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 is the de facto standard for enterprise Web applications. Most content management systems, for example, require it. And that includes the one used by CMP Media and TechWeb. Firefox performs most but not all functions in that content management system. And there are many other enterprise software types that will be tripped up by the use of Firefox. Additionally, there are many Web sites out there that require the use of ActiveX controls, something that Firefox doesn't support. Microsoft's Windows Update and ClearType sites are good examples. Neither will work with Firefox. So you're not going to be able to get rid of IE entirely. Hopefully those obstacles will change with time.

What I can tell you is this: Firefox 1.0 is so far the best alternative to IE of all the browsers I've ever tested. Opera and the previous generation of Mozilla are very close, but Firefox seems to me to be the best at offering IE compatibility.

Another major advantage of this product is that Firefox is multi-platform and can be installed on multiple versions of Windows (it was tested on Windows XP for this review), Mac OS X, and Linux/Unix.

Performance and reliability of operation are an open question with Firefox. In my testing I've had very little trouble with the program. I've only had one issue, and I'm not altogether certain it was a problem with Firefox. I was ordering something on Amazon, and the site just become unresponsive to clicks. A few minutes later, it worked fine.

But some other people have reported issues to me, such as slow performance (compared to IE) and crashing when multiple browser instances are open. Nothing I can replicate, but since the browser is so new, issues like this bear watching.

This pipelining trick, provided by Mozilla as an "experimental" feature, reportedly speeds up page-load performance. For more tips like this one, see the Mozilla Firefox Support area's Tips & Tricks page. If you have a yen to customize Firefox, this is the place to start. Hey, maybe I will figure out how to add that Save Web Page to Desktop context menu item.

I think it's likely that Microsoft will, at last, upgrade Internet Explorer in some serious way. But the software giant has also said that it will no longer release versions of Internet Explorer separate from the operating system — which means it will either have to do yet another service pack release of Windows XP (I don't see this happening, other than patch roll-ups), or we'll have to wait for Windows Longhorn to get a truly upgraded Microsoft browser. And there's no guarantee that Microsoft will be able to deliver the goods in time for Longhorn with anything other than a couple of trumped up features (tabbed browsing, maybe a download manager, and I'm not holding my breath on a revamped Favorites manager). By then we'll be into some future version of Firefox.

When you get right down to it, I'm not going back to Internet Explorer 6.0. Mozilla just put paid to seven years of Microsoft browser hegemony on my desktop. How about yours?

Scot Finnie is Editor, the Pipelines and TechWeb, as well as the author of Scot's Newsletter and previously an editor with Windows Magazine, ZDNet, and PC/Computing. He has been writing about Windows and other operating systems for two decades.