Firefox celebrates its fifth birthday. The popular browser must be considered both an incredible success and somewhat of a failure. The open source Web browser is a great product and quite an achievement, but has not tremendously advanced the cause of "free" software.
Indeed, Firefox has proven both open source supporters and skeptics to be correct: Yes, you can build an excellent, widely used open source application. No, it is not going to happen very often. (Brennon Slattery wrote a nice Firefox retrospective).
While Firefox is a formidable competitor, playing an important role in promoting Web standards, other open source desktop applications, such as OpenOffice, have failed to ignite much user interest.
You might think Firefox would have encouraged a wave of open source development, but from the perspective of a typical business or home user, it has not happened, PC World reports.
It was also reported, in the world of tech birthdays normally aren't that big of a deal. We tend to feel as much nostalgia toward hardware, software and services as we do toward flu shots and oil changes for the car. But even if you don't use Firefox -- and by the numbers, that's over 60% of you -- it's difficult to underestimate this once-upstart browser's impact on the way we experience the Internet, and how our software is developed in the first place.
Before Firefox came along, Internet browsing was Microsoft's game to lose. The company had successfully used its ability to bake IE into the fabric of its dominant operating system, to none-too-subtly force mainstream internauts to overlook the alternative. If IE was already sitting on the average user's desktop, the logic went, why would he or she even bother to download Netscape?
The strategy worked, as Netscape began a long, slow slide into oblivion. Users by the millions simply stuck with what their OS came with, BetaNews reports.
Meanwhile, Firefox helps users protect themselves against online fraud such as "phishing" (attempts to trick users into giving away their passwords) and "spoofing" (fraudulent sites masquerading as popular, trusted sites) by clearly displaying the true identity of secure sites. (Microsoft debuted the Phishing Filter Add-in, which helps protect customers from potential risks of phishing Web sites and online identity theft, in August 2005.)
Firefox tightly integrates support for leading search services into the toolbar, including Google search, Yahoo!, eBay, Amazon, Dictionary.com, Creative Commons, and more. (Critics of Internet Explorer considered the browser slow and bloated.)
Firefox's innovative Tabbed Browsing allows many Web pages to load within the same window, improving the speed and utility of Web browsing, ChannelWeb reports.