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Firefox

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Mozilla Firefox
Mozilla Firefox IconMozilla Firefox wordmark
Firefox5.png
Firefox 5 running on Windows 7
Original author(s) Mozilla Corporation
Developer(s) Mozilla Corporation
Mozilla Foundation
Initial release November 9, 2004 (2004-11-09)
Stable release 5.0.1  (July 11, 2011; 31 days ago (2011-07-11)) [+/−]
Preview release 6.0 Beta 5  (August 5, 2011; 6 days ago (2011-08-05)) [+/−]
Written in C/C++, JavaScript,[1] CSS,[2][3] XUL, XBL
Operating system Cross-platform
Engine Gecko
Size 12 MB – Windows[4]
27 MB – Mac OS X[4]
13 MB – GNU/Linux (i686)[4]
15 MB – GNU/Linux (x86_64)[4]
63 MB – source code[4]
Available in 86 languages
Development status Active
Type Web browser
FTP client
Gopher client
License Since version 3.0.6: MPL, GNU GPL or GNU LGPL, version 3.0.5 and Earlier executable code version Mozilla Firefox EULA 1.0/1.1, version 3.0.5 and Earlier source code version of certain Firefox functionality: MPL[5][6]
Website firefox.com
Firefox.svg
(category)
Contents
Origins and lineage
This box: view · talk · edit

Mozilla Firefox is a free and open source web browser descended from the Mozilla Application Suite and managed by Mozilla Corporation. As of August 2011, Firefox is the second most widely used browser, with approximately 30% of worldwide usage share of web browsers.[7][8][9] The browser has had particular success in Germany and Poland, where it is the most popular browser with 55% usage[10] and 47%[11] respectively.

To display web pages, Firefox uses the Gecko layout engine, which implements most current web standards in addition to several features that are intended to anticipate likely additions to the standards.[12]

The latest Firefox features[13] include tabbed browsing, spell checking, incremental find, live bookmarking, a download manager, private browsing, location-aware browsing (also known as "geolocation") based exclusively on a Google service[14] and an integrated search system that uses Google by default in most localizations. Functions can be added through extensions, created by third-party developers,[15] of which there is a wide selection, a feature that has attracted many of Firefox's users.

Firefox runs on various operating systems including Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, Mac OS X, FreeBSD, and many other platforms. Its current stable release is version 5.0, released on June 21, 2011.[16] Firefox's source code is tri-licensed under the GNU GPL, GNU LGPL, or Mozilla Public License.[17]

Contents

History

The Firefox project began as an experimental branch of the Mozilla project by Dave Hyatt, Joe Hewitt and Blake Ross. They believed the commercial requirements of Netscape's sponsorship and developer-driven feature creep compromised the utility of the Mozilla browser.[18] To combat what they saw as the Mozilla Suite's software bloat, they created a stand-alone browser, with which they intended to replace the Mozilla Suite. On April 3, 2003, the Mozilla Organization announced that they planned to change their focus from the Mozilla Suite to Firefox and Thunderbird.[19]

Early versions

German build of Firefox 1.0.8

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.[20][21][22] In response, the Mozilla Foundation stated that the browser should always bear the name Mozilla Firebird to avoid confusion with the database software. After further pressure from the database server's development community, on February 9, 2004, Mozilla Firebird became Mozilla Firefox,[23] often referred to as simply Firefox. Mozilla prefers that Firefox be abbreviated as Fx or fx, though it is often abbreviated as FF.[24] 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. Firefox 1.5.0.12 is the final version officially supported under Windows 95.

Version 2.0

On October 24, 2006, Mozilla released Firefox 2. This version includes updates to the tabbed browsing environment; the extensions manager; the GUI (Graphical User Interface); 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,[25][26] and later merged into the program itself.[27] 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.[28] Firefox 2.0.0.20 is the final version which can run under an unmodified installation of Windows NT 4.0, Windows 98, and Windows ME.[citation needed]

Version 3.0

Firefox 3 was released on June 17, 2008,[29] by the Mozilla Corporation. Firefox 3 uses version 1.9 of the Mozilla Gecko layout engine for displaying web pages. This version fixes many bugs, improves standard compliance, and implements new web APIs.[30] 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 latest version under 3.0 is Firefox 3.0.19.

Development stretches back to the first Firefox 3 beta (under the codename 'Gran Paradiso'[31]) which had been released several months earlier on 19 November 2007,[32] and was followed by several more beta releases in spring 2008 culminating in the June release.[33] Firefox 3 had more than 8 million unique downloads the day it was released, setting a Guinness World Record.[34]

Version 3.5

Firefox 3.5 on Ubuntu

Version 3.5, codenamed Shiretoko,[35] adds a variety of new features to Firefox. Initially numbered Firefox 3.1, Mozilla developers decided to change the numbering of the release to 3.5, in order to reflect a significantly greater scope of changes than originally planned.[36] The final release was on June 30, 2009. The changes included much faster performance thanks to an upgrade to SpiderMonkey JavaScript engine called TraceMonkey and rendering improvements,[37] and support for the <video> and <audio> tags as defined in the HTML 5 specification, with a goal to offer video playback without being encumbered by patent issues associated with many video technologies.[38] Cross-site XMLHttpRequests (XHR), which can allow for more powerful web applications and an easier way to implement mashups, are also implemented in 3.5.[39] A new global JSON object contains native functions to efficiently and safely serialize and deserialize JSON objects, as specified by the ECMAScript 3.1 draft.[40] Full CSS 3 selector support has been added. Firefox 3.5 uses the Gecko 1.9.1 engine, which includes a few features that were not included in the 3.0 release. Multi-touch trackpad support was also added to the release, including gesture support like pinching for zooming and swiping for back and forward.[41] Firefox 3.5 also features an updated logo.[42]

Version 3.6

Version 3.6 (latest version 3.6.18) is the release codenamed Namoroka.[43] Development for this version started on December 1, 2008,[44] and it was released on January 21, 2010.[16] This release uses the Gecko 1.9.2 rendering engine.

New features for Firefox 3.6 include built-in support for Personas (toolbar skins), notification of out-of-date plugins,[45] full screen playback of Theora video, support for the WOFF open webfont format,[46] a more secure plugin system, and many performance improvements.[16]

Out-of-process plug-ins

A crashed Adobe Flash plugin

One minor update to Firefox 3.6, version 3.6.4 (code-named Lorentz) features "Crash Protection"[47] (also called out-of-process plug-ins, or OOPP), which isolates execution of plug-ins such as Adobe's Flash or Apple's QuickTime into a separate process, preventing a plug-in crash from bringing down the whole browser.

In the initial release only 3 plug-ins were isolated by default: Adobe Flash Player, Apple Quicktime, and Microsoft Silverlight, and the feature was available only in the Windows and Linux builds. Mac OS X 10.6 support was added in Firefox 4. Firefox 3.6.6 increased the amount of time a plug-in is allowed to be unresponsive to the point before the plug-in would quit.[48]

Starting with Lorentz, Mozilla plans to release non-intrusive changes as minor updates that previously included only stability and security fixes.[49]

Version 4.0

Firefox 4.0 displaying Wikipedia on Windows 7.

Released on March 22, 2011,[50][51] Firefox 4 was codenamed "Tumucumaque" after Tumucumaque National Park.

Version 4 brought a new user interface and is said to be faster.[52] Early mockups of the new interface on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux were first made available in July 2009.[53][54][55] Other new features included improved notifications, tab groups, application tabs, a redesigned add-on manager, integration with Firefox Sync, and support for multitouch displays.[56][57][58][59][60]

On October 13, 2006, Brendan Eich, Mozilla's Chief Technology Officer, wrote about the plans for "Mozilla 2", referring to the most comprehensive iteration (since its creation) of the overall platform on which Firefox and other Mozilla products run.[61] Most of the objectives were gradually incorporated into Firefox through versions 3.0, 3.5, and 3.6. The largest changes, however, were planned for Firefox 4.

Firefox 4 was based on the Gecko 2.0 engine, which added or improved support for HTML5, CSS3, WebM, and WebGL.[62][63] Also, it included a new JavaScript engine (JägerMonkey) and better XPCOM APIs.[64]

Version 5.0

Firefox 5 is currently the latest stable release. It was released on June 21, 2011,[65] only three months after the major release of Firefox 4. Firefox 5 is the first release as part of Mozilla's new rapid release plan, matching Google Chrome's rapid release schedule and rapid version number increments.[66]

Firefox for mobile

Firefox for mobile, codenamed Fennec, is a web browser for smaller non-PC devices, mobile phones and PDAs. It was first released for the Nokia Maemo operating system (specifically the Nokia N900) on January 28, 2010.[67] Version 4 for Android and Maemo was released on March 29, 2011.[68] The browser's version number was bumped from version 2 to version 4 to more closely match desktop releases of Firefox since the rendering engines used in both browsers are the same.[69] The user interface is completely redesigned and optimized for small screens, the controls are hidden away so that only the web content is shown on screen, and it uses touchscreen interaction methods. It includes the Awesomebar, tabbed browsing, Add-on support, password manager, location-aware browsing, and the ability to synchronize with the user's computer Firefox browser using Firefox Sync.[70]

Future versions

A draft roadmap indicates that Mozilla hopes to release versions 6 and 7 in 2011 following the release of Firefox 5 in June 2011. Despite the incremented major version numbers, these versions will be smaller incremental updates, primarily focusing on improving speed, stability and security.[71] As of July 2011, Firefox 6 is in beta testing, Firefox 7 is in the "Aurora" channel (see "Development" section below), and Firefox 8 is in the "Nightly Test Build" channel.[72] Firefox 8 is 20% faster than Firefox 5, measured on several metrics, placing it on par with the performance of the in-development Google Chrome 14.[73]

Development

The "About Nightly" window from Mozilla Firefox 6 Nightly.

Prior to April 2011, the precursory builds of upcoming Firefox releases were usually codenamed "Minefield", as this was the name of the trunk builds.

In April 2011, the development process was split into several channels, each working on a build in a different stage of development. The most recent available build is called "Nightly" and offers the latest, untested features and updates. The "Aurora" build is six weeks behind Nightly and offers functionality that has undergone basic testing. The "Beta" channel is another six weeks away. It provides improved stability over the nightly builds and is the first development milestone that has the "Firefox" logo. "Release" is the current official version of Firefox. New releases are planned to occur in six to sixteen week intervals.[74] The aim of this faster-paced process is to get new functions to users faster.[75]

Release history

Browser name Gecko version Version Support status Codename Release date Significant changes
Phoenix 1.2 0.1 Red XN Pescadero September 23, 2002 First release; customizable toolbar, quicksearch.[76]
0.2 Red XN Santa Cruz October 1, 2002 Sidebar, extension management.
0.3 Red XN Lucia October 14, 2002 Image blocking, pop-up blocking whitelist, tabbed browsing.
1.3 0.4 Red XN Oceano October 19, 2002 Themes, pop-up blocking improvements, toolbar customization.
0.5 Red XN Naples December 7, 2002 Multiple homepages, sidebar and accessibility improvements.
Firebird 1.5 0.6 Red XN Glendale May 17, 2003 New default theme (Qute), bookmark and privacy improvements, smooth scrolling, automatic image resizing.
0.7 Red XN Indio October 15, 2003 Automatic scrolling, password manager, preferences panel improvements.
Firefox 1.6 0.8 Red XN Royal Oak February 9, 2004 Windows installer, offline working, bookmarks and download manager improvements, rebranded with new logo.
1.7 0.9 Red XN One Tree Hill June 15, 2004 New default theme (Winstripe), comprehensive data migration, new extension/theme manager, reduced download size, new help system, Linux installer, mail icon (Windows only).
Firefox 1 1.0 Red XN Phoenix November 9, 2004 Added new features such as RSS/Atom feed support, find toolbar, plugin finder. Reached its end of life on April 13, 2006 with the release of version 1.0.8.[77] (support for older versions of Firefox typically ends six months after a new major version is available).[78]
1.0.8 Red XN April 13, 2006 Regular security and stability update.
Firefox 1.5 1.8 1.5 Red XN Deer Park November 29, 2005 Added support for SVG and canvas, UI adjustments and improvements in JavaScript 1.5 and CSS 2/3. Reached its end of life on May 30, 2007 with the release of Firefox 1.5.0.12. Firefox 1.5.0.12 was the final version officially supported under Windows 95.[79]
1.5.0.12 Red XN May 30, 2007 Regular security and stability update
Firefox 2 1.8.1 2.0 Red XN Bon Echo October 24, 2006 Added new features such as session restoration after a browser crash, search suggestion for Google and Yahoo!, new search plugin manager and add-on manager, web feed previewing, bookmark microsummaries and Google's anti-phishing protection.[80] Winstripe theme refresh. Included support for JavaScript 1.7. Reached its end of life on December 18, 2008 with the release of Firefox 2.0.0.20. Firefox 2.0.0.20 is the final version officially supported under Windows NT 4.0, Windows 98, and Windows ME.[81]
2.0.0.20 Red XN December 18, 2008 Off-cycle security update.
Firefox 3 1.9 3.0[82] Red XN Gran Paradiso June 17, 2008 Cairo used as a graphics backend. Cocoa Widgets included in OS X builds. APIs implemented from WHATWG specs. Changes to how DOM events are dispatched, how HTML object elements are loaded, and how web pages are rendered. New SVG elements and filters, and improved SVG specification compliance. Acid2 test compliant. New UI improvements, including default themes for different operating systems and new download manager. Introduction of Smart Location Bar (a.k.a. Awesome Bar).[83] Windows 95, 98, ME, Mac OS X v10.3.9[84] and lower, and GTK+ 1.2 and lower[85] no longer supported. addons.mozilla.org integration in the Add-ons window. Support for APNG files. Google's "malware protection".[86] Reached its end of life on March 30, 2010 with the release of Firefox 3.0.19.[87]
3.0.19 Red XN March 30, 2010 Regular security and stability update.
Firefox 3.5 1.9.1 3.5[88] Red XN Shiretoko[89] June 30, 2009 Web standards improvements in the Gecko layout engine. Upgrade to SpiderMonkey JavaScript engine called TraceMonkey and rendering improvements. Text API for the <canvas> element. Support for using border images. Support for JavaScript query selectors. Support for the <video> and <audio> elements defined in the HTML 5 draft specification, including native support for Ogg Theora encoded video and Vorbis encoded audio. Several improvements to the Smart Location Bar.[90] Private browsing mode. Google-based location-aware browsing (geolocation).[14]
3.5.19 Red XN April 28, 2011 Regular security and stability update. Predated by 3.5.1 to 3.5.18
Firefox 3.6 1.9.2 3.6 Green tickY Namoroka[91] January 21, 2010[16] Improved performance to the TraceMonkey JavaScript engine. Support for -moz-background-size CSS property, CSS Gradients, and multiple background images. Support for the WOFF, built-in support for Personas. Notification of out-of-date plugins. Version 3.6.4 and later features out-of-process plug-ins (OOPP).
3.6.19 Green tickY July 11, 2011 Off-cycle stability update. Predated by 3.6.2 to 3.6.18
Firefox 4 2.0 4.0 Red XN Tumucumaque[92] March 22, 2011[93] New default theme on all platforms, redesigned extension manager and notifications, tabs on top, new Firefox menu on Windows, app tabs, integration with Firefox Sync and Panorama, WebM support, WebGL support, GPU-based hardware acceleration of web content, additional optimization to the TraceMonkey engine called JägerMonkey, improved support for HTML5 and CSS3 features.
4.0.1 Red XN April 28, 2011 Regular security and stability update.
Firefox 5 5.0 5.0 Green tickY June 21, 2011[94] Added support for CSS Animations; the Do-Not-Track header preference has been moved to increase discoverability; tuned HTTP idle connection logic for increased performance; improved Canvas, JavaScript, memory, and networking performance; improved standards support for HTML5, XHR, MathML, SMIL, and Canvas; improved spell checking for some locales; improved desktop environment integration for Linux users; WebGL content can no longer load cross-domain textures; Background tabs have setTimeout and setInterval clamped to 1000 ms to improve performance.
5.0.1 Green tickY July 11, 2011 Off-cycle stability update.

Features

Principal Firefox features[13] include tabbed browsing, spell checking, incremental find, live bookmarking, a download manager, private browsing, location-aware browsing based on a Google service[14] and an integrated search system that uses Google by default in most localizations. Functions can be added through extensions, created by third-party developers,[15] of which there is a wide selection, a feature that has attracted many of Firefox's users.

Additionally, Firefox provides an environment for web developers in which they can use built-in tools, such as the Error Console or the DOM Inspector, or extensions, such as Firebug.

Standards

Firefox implements many web standards, including HTML, XML, XHTML, MathML, SVG 1.1 (partial),[95] CSS (with extensions),[96] ECMAScript (JavaScript), DOM, XSLT, XPath, and APNG (Animated PNG) images with alpha transparency.[97] Firefox also implements standards proposals created by the WHATWG such as client-side storage,[98][99] and canvas element.[100]

The results of the Acid3 test on Firefox 5.0

Firefox passes the Acid2 standards-compliance test from version 3.0.[101] Firefox versions 3.6.17, 4.0.1 and newer do not pass the Acid3 test; they score 94/100[102] and 97/100[103] respectively. Mozilla no longer intends for Firefox to pass the Acid3 test fully because it believes that the SVG fonts part of the test has become outdated and irrelevant due to WOFF being agreed upon as a standard by all major browser makers.[104]

Firefox also implements[86] a proprietary protocol[105] from Google called "safebrowsing" (used to exchange data related with "phishing and malware protection"), which is not an open standard.

Security

Firefox uses a sandbox security model,[106] and limits scripts from accessing data from other web sites based on the same origin policy.[107] It uses SSL/TLS to protect communications with web servers using strong cryptography when using the HTTPS protocol.[108] It also provides support for web applications to use smartcards for authentication purposes.[109]

The Mozilla Foundation offers a "bug bounty" to researchers who discover severe security holes in Firefox.[110] Official guidelines for handling security vulnerabilities discourage early disclosure of vulnerabilities so as not to give potential attackers an advantage in creating exploits.[111]

Because Firefox generally has fewer 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.[112][113][114][115] 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 issued a patch to remedy the problem.[116]

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.[117] Symantec later clarified their statement, saying that Firefox still had fewer security vulnerabilities than Internet Explorer, as counted by security researchers.[118] As of February 11, 2011, Firefox 3.6 has no (known) unpatched security vulnerabilities according to Secunia.[119] Internet Explorer 8 has five unpatched security vulnerabilities, the worst being rated "Less Critical" by Secunia.[120]

In October 2009, Microsoft's security engineers acknowledged that Firefox was vulnerable since February of that year due to a .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 Windows update that silently installed a buggy 'Windows Presentation Foundation' plug-in into Firefox.[121] This vulnerability has since been patched by Microsoft.[122]

All patched vulnerabilities of Mozilla products are publicly listed.[123]

Localizations

Firefox is the most heavily localized web browser to date.[124] The first official release in November 2004 was distributed in 28 different languages, including British English/American English, European Spanish/Argentine Spanish and Chinese in Traditional Chinese characters/Simplified Chinese characters. Firefox 5.0 is available for 83 locales and in 75 languages. Including Firefox 3.6, Firefox is available for 86 locales and in 76 languages.

Portable versions

There is a portable edition of Firefox for Windows, which can be used from a USB Flash drive. This particular distribution makes it possible to run Firefox (and many of its extensions) on corporate/government networks in lieu of the default browser. This can be especially helpful for any user who does not possess administrative rights on the system being used.

System requirements

Browsers compiled from Firefox source code may run on various operating systems; however, officially distributed binaries are meant for the following: Microsoft Windows (2000, XP, Server 2003, Vista or 7), Mac OS X 10.5, Mac OS X 10.6 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 (1.7 or higher is recommended), libstdc++ 4.3 or higher). Official recommended hardware requirements are a Pentium 4 or newer that supports SSE2 and 512 MB RAM for the Windows version or Macintosh computer with an Intel x86 processor and 512 MB RAM for Mac version.[125]

Official minimum hardware requirements are a Pentium 233 MHz and 64 MB RAM for the Windows version or Macintosh computer with an Intel x86 or PowerPC G3, G4, or G5 processor and 128 MB RAM for Mac version.[126]

64-bit builds

The official releases of Firefox for OS X are universal builds that include both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the browser in one package[127]. A typical browsing session uses a combination of the 64-bit browser process and a 32-bit plugin process, because the popular Adobe Flash Player is still 32-bit, as of version 10.3.

64-bit nightly builds for Windows are available[128], but due to incompatibilities, including with popular plugins, official 64-bit releases are not provided.[129]

For Linux, vendor-backed, performance optimized, stable 64-bit builds exist (such as for Novell-Suse Linux, Red Hat Linux, and Ubuntu Linux), in addition to the nightly builds.

Older operating systems

Firefox 1.5.0.12 is the last version to work on Windows 95 and Firefox 2.0.0.20 is the last version to work on Windows 98, Windows Me and Windows NT 4.0. Although not officially supported, a utility called KernelEx can run Firefox 3.x versions on Windows 98 and Windows Me. These versions/lines are no longer supported by Mozilla.

Firefox 2.0.0.14 is the last version to work on OS/2 Warp 3. Later Firefox versions requires a libc 0.6.3 based version of the GCC runtime library. libc 0.6.2 and later require Warp 4.

Firefox 3.6.19 is the last version to work on Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger), as well as PowerPC Macs running Mac OS X 10.5.[130][131]

Unofficial ports

Ports have been developed for other platforms, including RISC OS.[132][133][134] The RISC OS port is no longer being actively developed.[citation needed]

Licensing

Firefox source code is free and open source software, and is tri-licensed under the Mozilla Public License (MPL), GNU General Public License (GPL), or the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL).[17] 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.

In the past, Firefox was licensed solely under the MPL,[135] which the FSF (Free Software Foundation) 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.[136][137] To address these concerns, Mozilla re-licensed Firefox under the tri-license scheme of MPL, GPL, or 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.[135]

The generic globe logo used when Firefox is compiled without the official branding

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.[138]

Mozilla not only forbids creating derivative works from the Firefox logo (i.e. modifying it),[139] but also strongly discourages creating independent but similar logos.[140]

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".[141]

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, "Gran Paradiso" for derivatives of Firefox 3.0 and "Shiretoko" is used for derivatives of Firefox 3.5. Derivatives of Firefox 3.6 are referred to as "Namoroka". 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.[142] Ultimately, Debian switched to branding their modified version of Firefox "Iceweasel", along with other Mozilla software.

Advertising

The rapid adoption of Firefox, 100 million downloads in its first year of availability,[143] followed a series of aggressive marketing campaigns starting in 2004 with a series of events Blake Ross and Asa Dotzler called "marketing weeks".[144]

On September 12, 2004,[145] 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. A two-page ad in the December 16th edition of the New York Times, placed by Mozilla Foundation in coordination with Spread Firefox, featured the names of the thousands of people worldwide who contributed to the Mozilla Foundation's fundraising campaign to support the launch of the Firefox 1.0 web browser.[146] SFX 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 was an attempt to break the world download record with the release of Firefox 3.[147]

The "World Firefox Day" campaign started on July 15, 2006,[148] the third anniversary of the founding of the Mozilla Foundation,[149] and ran until September 15, 2006.[150] 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.[151]

Some of Firefox's contributors made a crop circle of the Firefox logo in an oat field near Amity, Oregon, near the intersection of Lafayette Highway and Walnut Hill Road.[152]

Market adoption

Firefox.svg
market share overview
According to StatCounter data

August 2011[153]

Browser  % of Fx  % of Total
Firefox 1 -- --
Firefox 1.5 0.07% 0.02%
Firefox 2 0.46% 0.13%
Firefox 3 2.86% 0.8%
Firefox 3.5 3.22% 0.9%
Firefox 3.6 30.28% 8.45%
Firefox 4 8.74% 2.44%
Firefox 5 53.74% 15%
Other[FF 1] 0.03% 0.01%
All variants[154] 100.00% 27.91%
  1. ^ Other mostly consists of Firefox 3.1
    which is a series of betas for 3.5.
This box: view · talk · edit
2011 01 Europe Browser share crop.png

As of August 2011, Firefox is the second most widely used browser, with approximately 30% of worldwide usage share of web browsers.[7][8][9]

Downloads have continued at an increasing rate since Firefox 1.0 was released in November 2004, and as of July 31, 2009 Firefox has been downloaded over one billion times.[155] This number does not include downloads using software updates or those from third-party websites.[156] 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 400 million users as of November 2010.[157]

In July 2010, all IBM employees (about 400,000) were asked to use Firefox as their default browser.[158]

Reception

Europe usage share of web browsers according to Stat Counter. For December 2010, Firefox is the most used browser.[159]

Forbes.com called Firefox the best browser in a 2004 commentary piece,[160] and PC World named Firefox "Product of the Year" in 2005 on their "100 Best Products of 2005" list.[161] After the release of Firefox 2 and Internet Explorer 7 in 2006, PC World reviewed both and declared that Firefox was the better browser.[162] Which? Magazine named Firefox its "Best Buy" web browser.[163] In 2008, CNET 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.[164]

Performance

In December 2005, Internet Week ran an article in which many readers reported high memory usage in Firefox 1.5.[165] 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.[166] Other known causes of memory problems were malfunctioning extensions such as Google Toolbar and some older versions of Adblock,[167] or plug-ins, such as older versions of Adobe Acrobat Reader.[168] When PC Magazine compared memory usage of Firefox 2, Opera 9, and Internet Explorer 7, they found that Firefox used approximately as much memory as the other two browsers.[169]

Softpedia noted that Firefox 1.5 took longer to start up than other browsers,[170] which was confirmed by further speed tests.[citation needed] IE 6 launched more swiftly than Firefox 1.5 on Windows XP since many of its components were built into the OS and loaded during system startup. As a workaround for the issue, a preloader application was created that loaded components of Firefox on startup, similar to Internet Explorer.[171] 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 in 2006 indicated that Firefox 2 used less memory than Internet Explorer 7.[162][172] Firefox 3 used less memory than Internet Explorer 7, Opera 9.50 Beta, Safari 3.1 Beta, and Firefox 2 in tests performed by Mozilla, CyberNet, and The Browser World.[173][174][175] In mid 2009, Betanews benchmarked Firefox 3.5 and declared that it performed "nearly ten times better on XP than Microsoft Internet Explorer 7".[37]

In January 2010, Lifehacker compared the performance of Firefox 3.5, Firefox 3.6, Google Chrome 4 (stable and Dev versions), Safari 4, and Opera (10.1 stable and 10.5 pre-alpha versions). Lifehacker timed how long browsers took to start and reach a page (both right after boot-up and after running at least once already), timed how long browsers took to load nine tabs at once, tested JavaScript speeds using Mozilla's Dromaeo online suite (which implements Apple's SunSpider and Google's V8 tests) and measured memory usage using Windows 7's process manager. They concluded that Firefox 3.5 and 3.6 were the fifth and sixth fastest browsers respectively on startup, 3.5 was third and 3.6 was sixth fastest to load nine tabs at once, 3.5 was sixth and 3.6 was fifth fastest on the JavaScript tests. They also concluded that Firefox 3.6 was the most efficient with memory usage followed by Firefox 3.5.[176]

Relationship with Google

The Mozilla Corporation's relationship with Google has been noted in the popular press,[177][178] especially with regard to their paid referral agreement. The release of the anti-phishing protection in Firefox 2 in particular raised considerable controversy:[179] anti-phishing protection enabled by default is based on a list updated by twice-hourly downloads to the user's computer from Google's server.[180] The user cannot change the data provider within the GUI,[181] and is not informed who the default data provider is. The browser also sends Google's cookie with each update request.[182] Some[who?] internet privacy advocacy groups have expressed concerns surrounding Google's possible uses of this data, especially that Firefox's privacy policy states that Google may share information gathered with "safebrowsing" service with third parties, including business partners.[183] Following Google CEO Eric Schmidt's comments in December 2009 regarding privacy during a CNBC show,[184] Asa Dotzler, Mozilla's director of community development suggested that users use the Bing search engine instead of Google search.[185] Google also promoted Firefox through YouTube until the release of Google Chrome. In August 2009, Mozilla Security assisted Google by pointing out a security flaw in Google's Chrome browser.[186] As of July 2011, Firefox's default search provider is Google.

In 2005, the Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation had a combined revenue of US$52.9 million, with approximately 95% derived from search engine royalties.[187][188] In 2006, the Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation had a combined revenue of US$66.9 million, with approximately 90% derived from search engine royalties.[187][189] In 2007, the Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation had a combined revenue of US$81 million, with 88% of this sum (US$66 million) from Google.[190][191] In 2008, both Mozilla organizations had a combined revenue of US$78.6 million, with 91% coming from Google.[192] The Mozilla Foundation and Corporation are being audited by the IRS with the possibility of having its non-profit status called into question.[190][192][193]

Response from Microsoft

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.[194] Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has used Firefox, but has commented that "it's just another browser, and IE [Microsoft's Internet Explorer] is better".[195]

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."[196] 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.[197]

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.[198] 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.[199]

In August 2006, Microsoft offered to help Mozilla integrate Firefox with the then-forthcoming Windows Vista,[200] an offer Mozilla accepted.[201]

In October 2006, as congratulations for a successful ship of Firefox 2, the Internet Explorer 7 development team sent a cake to Mozilla.[202][203] As a nod to the browser wars, some jokingly suggested that Mozilla send a cake back along with the recipe, in reference to the open-source software movement.[204] The IE development team sent another cake on June 17, 2008, upon the successful release of Firefox 3,[205] again on March 22, 2011, for Firefox 4,[206] and yet again for the Firefox 5 release.[207]

In November 2007, Jeff Jones (a "security strategy director" in Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing Group) criticized Firefox, claiming that Internet Explorer experienced fewer vulnerabilities and fewer higher severity vulnerabilities than Firefox in typical enterprise scenarios.[208] 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.[209]

Firefox was one of the twelve browsers offered to European Economic Area users of Microsoft Windows in 2010 – see BrowserChoice.eu.[210]

.NET Framework 3.5 Service Pack 1

In February 2009, Microsoft released Service Pack 1 for version 3.5 of the .NET Framework. This update also installed Microsoft .NET Framework Assistant add-on (enabling ClickOnce support).[211] The update received media attention after users discovered that the add-on could not be uninstalled through the add-ons interface.[212][213] Several hours after the website Annoyances.org posted an article regarding this update, Microsoft employee Brad Abrams posted in his blog Microsoft's explanation for why the add-on was installed, and also included detailed instructions on how to remove it.[214] However, the only way to get rid of this extension was to modify manually the Windows Registry, which could cause Windows systems to fail to boot up if not done correctly.[212]

On 16 October 2009, Mozilla blocked all versions of Microsoft .NET Framework Assistant from being used with Firefox and from the Mozilla Add-ons service.[215] Two days later, the add-on was removed from the blocklist after confirmation from Microsoft that it is not a vector for vulnerabilities.[216][217] Version 1.1 (released on June 10, 2009 to the Mozilla Add-ons service) and later of the Microsoft .NET Framework Assistant allows the user to disable and uninstall in the normal fashion.[218]

Vulnerability statistics

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 public 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.

InfoWorld has cited security experts saying that as Firefox becomes more popular, more vulnerabilities will be found,[219] 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."[220]

Expert and media coverage

The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) stated in October 2004 that Internet Explorer's design makes it very difficult to secure. In contrast, almost none of their concerns apply to Firefox.[221]

There are a number of significant vulnerabilities in technologies relating to the IE domain/zone security model, local file system (Local Machine Zone) trust, the Dynamic HTML (DHTML) document object model (in particular, proprietary DHTML features), the HTML Help system, MIME type determination, the graphical user interface (GUI), and ActiveX... IE is integrated into Windows to such an extent that vulnerabilities in IE frequently provide an attacker significant access to the operating system.

Some security experts, including Bruce Schneier[222] and David A. Wheeler,[223] recommended that users should stop using Internet Explorer 6 or earlier 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,[112] Washington Post columnist Rob Pegoraro,[224] USA Today’s Byron Acohido and Jon Swartz,[225] Forbes's Arik Hesseldahl,[226] eWeek.com Senior Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols,[227] and Desktop Pipeline’s Scot Finnie.[228]

Awards

Firefox has been given a number of awards by various organizations. These awards include:

  • PC Magazine Editors' Choice, June 2008[229]
  • CNET Editors' Choice, June 2008[230]
  • PC World 100 Best Products of 2008, May 2008[231]
  • Webware 100 winner, April 2008[232]
  • Webware 100 winner, June 2007[233]
  • PC World 100 Best Products of 2007, May 2007[234]
  • PC Magazine Editors' Choice, October 2006[235]
  • CNET Editors' Choice, October 2006[236]
  • PC World's 100 Best Products of 2006, July 2006[237]
  • PC Magazine Technical Excellence Award, Software and Development Tools category, January 2006[238]
  • PC Magazine Best of the Year Award, December 27, 2005[239]
  • PC Pro Real World Award (Mozilla Foundation), December 8, 2005[240]
  • CNET Editors' Choice, November 2005[241]
  • UK Usability Professionals' Association Award Best Software Application 2005, November 2005[242]
  • Macworld Editor's Choice with a 4.5 Mice Rating, November 2005[243]
  • Softpedia User’s Choice Award, September 2005[244]
  • TUX 2005 Readers' Choice Award, September 2005[245]
  • PC World Product of the Year, June 2005[246]
  • Forbes Best of the Web, May 2005[247]
  • PC Magazine Editor’s Choice Award, May 2005[248]

See also

Portal-puzzle.svg Free software portal

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Further reading

  • Cheah, Chu Yeow (2005). Firefox Secrets: A Need-To-Know Guide. O'Reilly. ISBN 0-9752402-4-2. 
  • Feldt, Kenneth C. (2007). Programming Firefox. O'Reilly. ISBN 0-596-10243-7. 
  • Granneman, Scott (2005). Don't Click on the Blue e!: Switching to Firefox. O'Reilly. ISBN 0-596-00939-9. 
  • Hofmann, Chris; Marcia Knous, & John Hedtke (2005). Firefox and Thunderbird Garage. Prentice Hall PTR. ISBN 0-13-187004-1. 
  • McFarlane, Nigel (2005). Firefox Hacks. O'Reilly. ISBN 0-596-00928-3. 
  • Reyes, Mel (2005). Hacking Firefox: More Than 150 Hacks, Mods, and Customizations. Wiley. ISBN 0-7645-9650-0. 
  • Ross, Blake (2006). Firefox for Dummies. Wiley. ISBN 0-471-74899-4. 

External links

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