Why Firefox Is My Default Browser
These days there is no shortage of blog entries or technical articles in newspapers listing reasons why you should be using Firefox instead of Internet Explorer. Generally these articles and blog postings list the same handful of reasons:
- Firefox is free
- Firefox is faster
- Firefox is secure
- Firefox is open source
- Firefox has tabbed browsing
- You can extend Firefox
Linux in the Late 90s
Like many in the late 90s I decided to take a closer look at Linux. There had been quite a buzz going around about this somewhat new operating system and since it was free, trying it out would be relatively painless. I settled on Mandrake 6.1 as my distro of choice and began learning my way around the system. After getting accustomed to the KDE desktop environment I decided to see what browsing the web was like with Linux. Back then the choices were very limited. There was Lynx, a console-based browser. Opera had not yet been ported to Linux yet. The office suite Star Office, precursor to the popular Open Office, also had a built in web browser. The remaining option was Netscape Navigator. This was at a time when the browser wars were still being waged between Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator, at least on the Windows platform. I began using Netscape primarily out of familiarity. It could be unstable at times and if you tried to launch two copies of the browser they both would lock up. However, given the alternatives Netscape was the better option. Eventually java and flash plugins were available for Netscape on Linux providing basic multimedia capabilities, greatly improving the browsing experience on Linux. For almost three years this is where browsing the web on Linux remained.
The Beginning of the Mozilla Project
I began using Linux about the same time that Netscape announced it was going to open source its browser. This was good news for Linux users however it was several years before a usable product became available. By the summer of 2000 I had decided to make Linux my main desktop operating system and I was still using Netscape to browse the web. I had mostly adapted and accepted the fact that not all sites were compatible with my browser (this is still true today.) Eventually beta code began to appear for Mozilla; usable beta code. This also gave rise to other open source projects making use of the gecko rendering engine. By this time I was using Gnome instead of KDE so I settled on using Galeon as my browser. Galeon is basically a fast front end for gecko. You still had to install Mozilla but Galeon loaded and browsed much faster.
The Mozilla project was making steady progress but it was still slow and unstable. Meanwhile, development on KDE 2 was nearing completion and I was drawn back to KDE by the new file manager and browser component Konqueror. Konqueror showed a lot of promise although it was missing a lot of features in its first release. It was faster and more stable than Mozilla and it rendered pages well. Even though it was still in heavy development I stayed with the Konqueror/KDE combination for several years with the exception of a short period of time back in Gnome when the 1.4 release came into existance.
Back to Mozilla
When the 1.0 version of Mozilla was released I felt compelled to switch back. Finally a modern browser was available for Linux. It was still a bit slow and wasn't as stable as it could have been but it supported modern standards and most Netscape plugins worked well. For the most part I was satisfied but eventually I became frustrated with the slowness of the browser. After a while I found myself using Mozilla for some sites and Konqueror for others.
The Rise of Phoenix
In order to address the concerns of users who complained about the speed of Mozilla, the Mozilla Project announced the development of a new browser designed to render pages quickly and be much less resource intesive than Mozilla. This new project was titled Phoenix and as with all new projects the first few betas were less than impressive. THe project quickly moved ahead and by the end of 2002 I was using Phoenix 90% of the time. Some preferences were not available and since it was beta software it was somewhat crash prone but it was light and fast. It also added tabbed browsing. Eventually the name Phoenix was dropped and it became known as Firebird before the name was again changed to Firefox. I am still using Firefox as my default browser to this day.
I have not yet really explained why I use Firefox as my default browser, have I? The history lesson above was necessary to give you the proper background. I use Firefox mostly because ever since I've been using Linux I have used a Netscape-based browser and mostly because it was the only good choice. I still use it today because I feel it is the best browser for me. I like the features it offers and with a few extensions it's even better. Actually, I like Firefox for many of the reasons cited in various blog postings and articles you see today. So what is my point to all of this? It's simple really. A big part of the reason that I use Firefox on Linux is the same reason most people who use Windows choose Internet Explorer. For better or worse it has always been there and most of the time it was the best tool for the job.