Mozilla Firefox

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Mozilla Firefox

Mozilla Firefox running on Windows XP, displaying the English Wikipedia main page
Developer: Mozilla Foundation / Mozilla Corporation
Stable release:
Date: YYYY-MM-DD (ISO 8601); Update: Do a click!
Preview release:
Date: YYYY-MM-DD (ISO 8601); Update: Do a click!
OS: Cross-platform
Available language(s): Multilingual
Use: Web browser
License: MPL, MPL/ GPL/ LGPL tri-license

Mozilla Firefox is a free, open source, cross-platform graphical web browser developed by the Mozilla Corporation and hundreds of volunteers. Started as a fork of the browser component (Navigator) of the Mozilla Application Suite, Firefox has replaced the Mozilla Suite as the Mozilla Foundation's flagship product. Firefox is often abbreviated as FF; officially it is Fx.

Firefox had gained acclaim from numerous media outlets, including Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, even before its 1.0 release on November 9, 2004. With over 25 million downloads in the 99 days after the initial 1.0 release, Firefox became one of the most downloaded free and open source applications, especially among home users. Firefox 2 was released on October 24, 2006 and downloaded over 2 million times within 24 hours.

As of September 2006, Firefox's usage share is around 12% of overall browser usage (see market adoption below), with its highest usage in Germany (about 39% as of July 2006).


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

The Firefox project has gone through many name changes through its history. Originally titled Phoenix, it had to be 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 in order to avoid confusion with the database software. However, continuing pressure from the database server's development community forced another change, and on February 9, 2004, Mozilla Firebird became Mozilla Firefox (or Firefox for short).

The Firefox project went through many versions before 1.0 was released on November 9, 2004. Aside from stability and security fixes, the Mozilla Foundation released just one major update to Firefox—version 1.5, on November 29, 2005—before the debut of Firefox 2.

On October 24, 2006, Mozilla released Firefox 2. This version includes changes to the tabbed browsing environment; enhancements to the extensions manager; enhancements to the GUI (including a more glossy-looking default theme); improvements to the find, search and software update engines; a greater level of accessibility; session and download restore; and new anti-phishing features. Firefox 1.5 users will not be automatically updated to Firefox 2, because automatic updates are for security and stability releases only. Firefox 1.5 users will be notified of the update to Firefox 2 a few weeks after the release of Firefox 2.

Future development

According to the roadmap, future Firefox development will include version 3.0. Development on version 3.0, which will be based on Gecko 1.9, occurs simultaneously on the Mozilla trunk. Newer versions of Firefox will use Cairo as the rendering layer instead of GDI+.

Version 3.0

Mozilla Firefox (codename Minefield), version 3.0a1 (pre-Alpha) running on Windows XP
Mozilla Firefox (codename Minefield), version 3.0a1 ( pre-Alpha) running on Windows XP

The development name for Mozilla Firefox 3 is Gran Paradiso. The precursory releases are currently codenamed "Minefield", as this is the name of the trunk builds. "Gran Paradiso", like other Firefox development names, is an actual place. " Gran Paradiso" is the name of a national park in Italy. When Firefox 3 branches, it will adopt the "Gran Paradiso" codename. The release timeframe for Firefox 3 is May 2007.

The largest change for Firefox 3 will be the implementation of Gecko 1.9, an updated layout engine (more correctly big changes to the reflow code and migration of nsTextFrame to the Thebes infrastructure). Firefox 3 will also include several new features and some that were bumped from Firefox 2, such as the overhauled Places system for storing bookmarks and history in an SQLite backend. Due to Microsoft's decision to end support for Windows 98 and Windows Me on July 11, 2006, and because Cairo does not support Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows Me, and Windows NT 4.0, Firefox 3 will not run on those operating systems. Unlike previous versions, Firefox 3 on Mac OS X will use native Cocoa widgets.

The development team is also asking that Firefox users submit feature requests that they wish to be included in Firefox 3.

Version 4.0

On October 13, 2006, Brendan Eich, Mozilla's Chief Technology Officer, wrote about the plans for Mozilla 2.0, the platform on which Firefox 4 is likely to be based. These changes include improving and removing XPCOM APIs, switching to standard C++ features, just-in-time compilation with JavaScript 2 (known as the Tamarin project), and tool-time and runtime security checks.


The developers of Firefox aim to produce a browser that "just works" for most casual users. User-created extensions and plugins can be installed to integrate with Firefox giving a wide range of choice for the end-user. The main features included with Firefox are tabbed browsing, incremental find, live bookmarking, a customizable download manager and a built-in Search toolbar. The user can customize their version of Firefox with downloadable extensions, a variety of different themes and skins, and many hidden preferences that are easily accessible to the advanced user.

Mozilla Firefox claims support for many software standards, including but not restricted to: HTML, XML, XHTML, CSS, ECMAScript ( JavaScript), DOM, MathML, DTD, XSL, SVG, XPath and PNG images with variable transparency. Firefox release builds do not yet pass the Acid2 standards-compliance test. However, there are developmental versions of Firefox that currently pass the Acid2 test, and Firefox 3 is expected to pass Acid2.

Mozilla Firefox is a multi-platform browser, providing support for various versions of Microsoft Windows, including 98, 98SE, Me, NT 4.0, 2000, XP, and Server 2003. It also runs on Mac OS X, and the Linux-based operating systems using the X Window System. Although not officially released for certain operating systems, the freely available source code works for many other operating systems, including but not restricted to: FreeBSD , OS/2, Solaris, SkyOS, BeOS and more recently, Windows XP Professional x64 Edition.

Firefox also provides an environment in which web developers can use built in tools (from extensions). These include a JavaScript Console, a DOM Inspector, Venkman JavaScript debugger, and an integrated development toolkit called Web Developer .

The fact that Firefox has fewer and less severe publicly known unpatched security vulnerabilities than Internet Explorer (see Comparison of web browsers) is often cited as a reason to switch from Internet Explorer to Firefox for improved security. A 2006 Symantec study showed that Firefox had surpassed Internet Explorer in the number of vendor-confirmed vulnerabilities that year through to September, though these were patched more quickly than vulnerabilities found in other browsers. Symantec later clarified their statement, saying that Firefox still had fewer security vulnerabilities, as counted by security researchers.

Firefox uses SSL/TLS to protect communications with web servers using strong cryptography. It also supports smartcards for secure login to web servers. It uses a sandbox security model and the developers use a "bug bounty" scheme, for finding fixes for some security and feature additions.


Internet Week ran an article in which many readers reported high memory usage in Firefox 1.5. Mozilla developers said the higher memory use of Firefox 1.5 is sometimes at least partially an effect of the new fast backwards and forwards (FastBack) feature. Other known causes of memory problems are misbehaving extensions, such as Google Toolbar and Adblock or plug-ins, such as older versions of Adobe Acrobat Reader. However, when PC Magazine compared memory usage of Firefox, Opera, and Internet Explorer, they found that Firefox seemed to use only about as much memory as the other browsers. Tests performed by PC World and Zimbra indicate that Firefox 2 uses less memory than Internet Explorer 7.

Softpedia notes that Firefox takes longer to start up than other browsers and browser speed tests confirm this to be the case. IE also launches slightly faster than Firefox on Microsoft Windows since many of its components are built into Windows and are loaded during system startup.


Firefox is an open-source application, tri-licensed under the Mozilla Public License (MPL), GNU General Public License (GPL), and the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL). The licenses permit anyone to view the source code, as well as modifying and redistributing it (though with trademark restrictions). Netscape and Flock are examples of software based on Firefox code.

In the past, Firefox was licensed solely under the MPL. The Free Software Foundation (FSF) criticizes the MPL for being weak copyleft; the license permits, in limited ways, proprietary, derivative works. Code under the MPL also cannot be legally linked with code under the GPL or the LGPL. To address these concerns, Mozilla tri-licensed Firefox under the MPL, GPL, and LGPL, which permits developers to use whichever license they wish in creating derivative works. The effect of the tri-licensing is that developers can legally link Firefox code with GPL or LGPL code, but still allows them to create proprietary, derivative works (though not both at once).

The FSF considers the official Firefox binaries released by Mozilla to not be free software because they include the proprietary crash reporter Talkback, have trademark restrictions on the Firefox name and artwork, and force the user to accept a clickwrap agreement (the latter only applies to the Windows version). Google and Mozilla developers are working on Airbag, an open-source replacement for Talkback, that will allow official Firefox builds to be entirely free of proprietary software.

In September 2006, Mozilla requested Debian not to use the official Firefox name for its own patched version. Mozilla requires that distribution of builds called "Firefox" include the official artwork and that any changes made to the Firefox code required approval by Mozilla. Since the official artwork is trademarked and copyrighted, thus going against the Debian Free Software Guidelines, and since Debian didn't want to go through Mozilla to make changes, Debian decided to fork Firefox into IceWeasel.

Market adoption

Usage share of Mozilla Firefox over time
Usage share of Mozilla Firefox over time
A graph of Firefox 1.x and 2.x cumulative downloads in millions
A graph of Firefox 1.x and 2.x cumulative downloads in millions

Usage share

Statistics reference: Usage share of web browsers

Web-surfers have adopted Firefox rapidly, despite the dominance of Internet Explorer in the browser market. Internet Explorer has seen a steady decline of its usage share since Firefox's release. According to several sources (as listed in statistics reference), by July 2006, Firefox had around 12% of global usage share.

Europe, according to a study released by the firm XiTi on 2006- 06-16, generally had higher percentages of Firefox use, with an average of 20%.

Download count

Downloads have continued at a steady rate since Firefox 1.0 was released in November 2004. No other Mozilla Foundation product has experienced such growth.

Downloads of Firefox 1.x and 2.x since November 9, 2004
Date Number of days Downloads (millions)
November 10, 2004 1 1
February 16, 2005 99 25
April 29, 2005 171 50
July 26, 2005 259 75
October 19, 2005 344 100
March 3, 2006 479 150
July 31, 2006 629 200
November 11, 2006 732 250

These numbers do not include downloads using software updates or from third-party websites. They do not represent a user count, as one download may be installed on many machines, or one person may download the software multiple times. Mozilla Vice President of Products Christopher Beard estimates that Firefox currently has 70 million to 80 million users as of October 2006.

Spread Firefox campaigns

The rapid adoption of Firefox apparently accelerated in part because of a series of aggressive marketing campaigns since 2004. For example, Blake Ross and Asa Dotzler organized a series of events dubbed "marketing week".

On September 14, 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.

World Firefox Day 2006

The World Firefox Day campaign started on July 15, 2006, which is the 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. An e-mail is sent to the nominated friend which provides a hyperlink to download Mozilla Firefox. If the friend downloads the program from this link the nomination is accepted. The names also appear on a website. The link to this website can be found by looking in the credits of the current version of Mozilla Firefox, Firefox 2. The Firefox Wall of Friends can also be found at the World Firefox Day website

Industry adoption

Since the pre-1.0 stages, several well-known websites and web applications, including Gmail, have supported (and in some cases, required) the use of Firefox. Since March 30, 2005, the Google search engine has utilized the link prefetching feature of Firefox for faster searching. Google, Inc. also recommends Firefox as the browser for its weblog service. On May 18, 2005, eBay announced support for Firefox for its eBay Picture Manager. In 2006, Microsoft released a Firefox-compatible Windows Genuine Advantage browser plug-in.

Search engine companies including Google, Yahoo! and now also offer Firefox extensions for accessing their services, in addition to their original Internet Explorer add-ons. Google has released four Extensions for Firefox, further affirming the company's interest in Firefox.

In December 2005, the Inquirer reported that Dell UK would start shipping the Firefox browser pre-installed on their PCs, but neither Dell nor Mozilla have confirmed this.

Institutional adoption

During the FOSDEM 2005 conference, Tristan Nitot, president of Mozilla Europe, noted that Firefox has had more success in the consumer market than with institutions. He also theorized that pressure from Microsoft caused institutions who had adopted Firefox to remain silent about it.

Mozilla Firefox
I know companies that are deploying Firefox or Thunderbird, but they aren't talking about it as they don't want to see an increase in their [Microsoft] Office licence price.
Mozilla Firefox

Some observers, such as Serdar Yegulalp of TechTarget and Jim Rapooza of eWEEK note that Firefox does not provide tools that make institutional deployment easier, such as a client customization kit (which Mozilla has since released) or Microsoft Installer (MSI) packages. Furthermore, they note that Firefox does not support some technologies that are sometimes used in institutional environments, such as ActiveX and Active Directory.

While institutions may not be actively deploying Firefox in large numbers, more and more are allowing their employees to install Firefox, according to JupiterResearch. They found that in 2006, 44% of companies with more than 200 employees allowed Firefox on their employees' systems, compared with 26% in 2005.

Other versions, builds, and forks

  • Mozilla Firefox
Community and Customization
  • Spread Firefox
  • Extensions ( Main category)
Custom Distributions and Forks
  • Flock
  • IceWeasel
  • Madfox
  • Mozilla Firefox - Portable Edition
  • Netscape
  • Swiftfox
  • Torpark

Portable versions

Mozilla Firefox - Portable Edition (also known as Firefox Portable) is a repackaged version of Firefox designed to run from a USB flash drive, iPod, external hard drive, or other portable media. The newest version can be run live from a CD. It arose out of a mozillaZine thread in June 2004. John T. Haller released the first packaged version and has led its further development. It includes a specialized launcher that adjusts extensions and themes to work as it is moved between different computers. There is also a portable version of Firefox available for Macintosh computers called Portable Firefox OS X.

Here is a full list of Firefox in portable app form:

  • Firefox Portable for Microsoft Windows and Wine on Linux/Unix
  • Portable Firefox OS X for Mac OS X
  • Cross-platform Portable Firefox for Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows
  • Firefox for U3 smart drives
  • X-Firefox as part of WinPenPack (in Italian only)
  • Torpark (Portable Firefox with Tor built in)

Response from competition

Despite Firefox's apparent gains on Internet Explorer, Microsoft's head of Australian operations, Steve Vamos, stated that he did not see Firefox as a threat and that there was not significant demand for the featureset of Firefox among Microsoft's users. Vamos stated that he himself had never used it. Former Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has used Firefox, but he has commented "so much software gets downloaded all the time, but do people actually use it?"

However, a Microsoft SEC filing on June 30, 2005 acknowledged that browsers such as Mozilla are competitive threats to Internet Explorer: "Competitors such as Mozilla offer software that competes with the Internet Explorer Web browsing capabilities of our Windows operating system products."

In August 2006, Microsoft made an offer to Mozilla to help integrate Firefox with the forthcoming Windows Vista, which Mozilla accepted. Upon the release of Firefox 2, the Internet Explorer 7 development team shipped a cake to Mozilla as a sign of appreciation.


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