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In defence of the Firefox Web Browser

In the current Linux Format Magazine (LXF86) there are some comments and a review of Firefox. The articles aren’t really critical of the browser, and in fact still put Firefox ahead of the competition. What they do criticise the version change to version 2, and suggest that Firefox should be doing more. I have therefore sent the following letter to the magazine in defence of Firefox.

Dear Editor,

I’m writing in response to the comments by Paul Hudson “Damp squib-Fox” and the Firefox review in lxf 86.

I’m not directly involved with the Firefox project, but feel that they should have some defence against some of the comments in the magazine. I have been using the beta versions for a while and I’m very happy with it, especially release 2 now all the bugs have been ironed out.

I think that some good points are raised but that there are more important issues at stake.

I guess the biggest gripe is why is this called Firefox 2 and not Firefox 1.6. Now as a techy my first instinct is to agree that this is probably not a significant enough change to call it firefox 2, but from a marketing point of view I think it is important. Marketing is one of the areas where OpenSource software has to get smarter to compete with the companies that have the financial clout, there is a whole history of better software failing because it just didn’t have the marketing.

Firefox is far more than a browser for Geeks or Techies. It is used throughout the world by people that don’t know or care what OpenSource is. What they do care about is having a good web browser, and perhaps a bit of street cred thrown in. The street cred of Firefox would look pretty thin at still only a 1.6 release when Microsoft released IE Version 7. Now obviously firefox has a longer vintage in that it comes out of the original Mozilla codebase, and I don’t think they want to be trying to match the version numbers of any other software, but they do need to remind users that in terms of features it is still ahead of Internet Explorer.

As for new features there are some new features and some things that have been improved. The most important thing is that they haven’t broken the browser. If the browser was unstable then they’d lose users, so thankfully the browser is still extremely stable. If that means we don’t get a few new features we never really wanted anyway, then so be it.

As for the features that have been added, but not mentioned in the review, there is the automatic spell checking of forms. Admittedly Konqueror has had that for a while, but it’s the one big difference that I’m using.

The other thing is that the tabbed browsing has been improved. Not just moving the close cross to the actual tab, but it also handles exceeding the number of tabs that fit on the screen properly, and gives a pull down menu for the tabs.

This is not a massive upgrade compared to the number of changes in some other applications, but it is still improving and is still staying ahead. If the new version number encourages new users to give it a go then I’m happy.

Stewart Watkiss
Coventry, England.