It seems somewhat ironic that Internet Explorer’s reign should be undermined by Firefox. After all, this is a browser that rose from the ashes of the team that developed Netscape Navigator, a program which IE ousted to claim the monopoly on the web.
It’s somewhat bizarre that a non-for-profit developer should be in a position to strike fear into world’s biggest software producer, especially while still in the 1.x stage of development of its product. Yet, as many predicted, this eagerly-anticipated release represents a real threat to Microsoft’s dominance of the browser market, with the Mozilla team pumping plenty more into the program and thus upping the bar for IE7.
Firefox was already a class product, delivering a fast and simple way to browse the web in comfort. So much so in fact that existing users might be wondering why they even need to upgrade when the current version is so much better than anything else out there.
Picture it like sitting in business class and being offered another pillow. The app now allows you to browse the web faster and more securely than ever, while retaining the incredible simplicity of previous versions of Firefox. Cosmetically, you won’t notice much difference between this and the last incarnation, but the changes that have been made are quite welcome, if not essential.
First up, is a new-and-drop facility for browser tabs, allowing you to sort and reorder your tabs just by clicking and dragging. The Preferences menu also gets an overhaul, making the options clearer and easier to access. The developers have also tweaked the ´Back’ and ´Forward’ tools, preloading cached pages to speed up surfing.
However, the main changes to the program are all hidden within the back-end of Firefox 1.5. The app comes armed with a series of security fixes, making it the safest surfing tool on the block. What’s more, all updates and security patches, including extensions, now take place in the background, meaning that you don’t have to manually install every new release – a process which can become pretty tiresome.
There’s also a new extension management system which makes it a lot easier to manage the expanding wealth of cool plug-ins for the browser. On the down-side, the new version renders many extensions and themes redundant as they are incompatible with version 1.5. That said, we all know how keen Firefox developers can be to keep up with technology, so it shouldn’t take long for the updates to these extensions to be completed.
Of course, the application retains all of the cool features that have helped make it so popular including integrated searching (now with support for Answers.com), tabbed browsing, pop-up killer, live bookmarks and support for the latest web technology.
While the tweaks within this release are reasonably subtle, Firefox is making incredible strides towards conquering the browser market. I development continues at the current pace then Microsoft is going to have its work cut out, especially as we haven’t seen a release of IE since before Osama Bin Laden went missing.