Mozilla Firefox is a free and open source web browser descended from the Mozilla Application Suite, managed by the Mozilla Corporation. Firefox had 19.46% of the recorded usage share of web browsers as of September 2008, making it the second-most popular browser in current use worldwide, after Internet Explorer.
Firefox runs on various versions of Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and many other Unix-like operating systems. Its current stable release is version 3.0.3, released on September 26, 2008. Firefox's source code is free software, released under a tri-license GPL/LGPL/MPL.
Dave Hyatt and Blake Ross began working on the Firefox project as an experimental branch of the Mozilla project. They believed 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 stand-alone browser, with which they intended to replace the Mozilla Suite. On April 3, 2003, the Mozilla Organization announced that they planned to change their focus from the Mozilla Suite to Firefox and Thunderbird.
The Firefox project has undergone several name changes. Originally titled Phoenix, it was 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 to avoid confusion with the database software. Continuing pressure from the database server's development community forced another change; on February 9, 2004, Mozilla Firebird became Mozilla Firefox, often referred to as simply Firefox. Mozilla prefers Firefox to be abbreviated as Fx or fx, though it is often abbreviated as FF.
The Firefox project went through many versions before 1.0 was released on November 9, 2004. After a series of stability and security fixes, the Mozilla Foundation released its first major update, Firefox version 1.5, on November 29, 2005. On October 24, 2006, Mozilla released Firefox 2. This version includes updates to the tabbed browsing environment, the extensions manager, the GUI, and the find, search and software update engines; a new session restore feature; inline spell checking; and an anti-phishing feature which was implemented by Google as an extension, and later merged into the program itself. In December 2007, Firefox Live Chat was launched. It allows users to ask volunteers questions through a system powered by Jive Software, with guaranteed hours of operation and the possibility of help after hours.
Mozilla Firefox 3 was released on June 17, 2008 by the Mozilla Corporation. Firefox 3 uses version 1.9 of the Mozilla Gecko layout engine for displaying web pages. The new version fixes many bugs, improves standard compliance, and implements new web APIs. Other new features include a redesigned download manager, a new "Places" system for storing bookmarks and history, and separate themes for different operating systems.
Development stretches back to the first Firefox 3 beta (under the codename 'Gran Paradiso') which had been released several months earlier on 19 November 2007, and was followed by several more beta releases in spring 2008 culminating in the June release.
The precursory releases of upcoming Firefox releases are codenamed " Minefield", as this is the name of the trunk builds. Development of Firefox after version 3.0 is split over two milestones: version 3.1 and version 4.0. Development for the 3.1 releases takes place on the Mozilla trunk, with releases and pre-release nightly builds coming from the Mozilla 1.8.1 branch (2.0) and the Mozilla 1.9 branch (3.0). Development for 4.0 will be based on Mozilla 2.
<audio>tags as defined in the HTML 5 specification. Cross-site XMLHttpRequests (XHR), which would allow for more powerful web applications and an easier way to implement mashups, is also in planning. Native JSON DOM binding, a powerful feature for web developers, may also be included, together with full CSS 3 selector support. Firefox 3.1 will use the Gecko 1.9.1 engine, which includes a few features that were not included in the 3.0 release.
Baker also discussed the Mozilla Foundation's project to create a version of Firefox, codenamed Fennec, that will run reliably on mobile phones, as well as a strategy for syncing content downloaded on a PC with mobile handsets.
Meanwhile, offline application support technology — similar to Gears — is also being built as part of Firefox. Baker said in an interview that given so much investment has now been made in the web as a platform, in order to take it to the next step, applications must continue to work when a computer's internet connection is offline.
|Browser name||Gecko version||Version||Support status||Codename||Release date||Significant changes|
|Phoenix||1.2||0.1||Pescadero||September 23, 2002||First release; customizable toolbar, quicksearch, tabbed browsing.|
|0.2||Santa Cruz||October 1, 2002||Sidebar, extension management.|
|0.3||Lucia||October 14, 2002||Image blocking, pop-up blocking whitelist.|
|1.3||0.4||Oceano||October 19, 2002||Themes, pop-up blocking improvements, toolbar customization.|
|0.5||Naples||December 7, 2002||Multiple homepages, sidebar and accessibility improvements, history.|
|Mozilla Firebird||1.5||0.6||Glendale||May 17, 2003||New default theme (Qute), bookmark and privacy improvements, smooth scrolling, automatic image resizing.|
|0.7||Indio||October 15, 2003||Automatic scrolling, password manager, preferences panel improvements.|
|Mozilla Firefox||1.6||0.8||Royal Oak||February 9, 2004||Windows installer, offline working, bookmarks and download manager improvements, rebranded with new logo.|
|1.7||0.9||One Tree Hill||June 15, 2004||New default theme (Winstripe), comprehensive data migration, new extension/theme manager, reduced download size, new help system, Linux installer, mail icon (Windows only).|
|1.0||Phoenix||November 9, 2004||Added new features such as RSS/Atom feed support, find toolbar, plugin finder. Reached its end of life on April 13, 2006 with the release of version 1.0.8. (support for older versions of Firefox typically ends six months after a new major version is available).|
|22.214.171.124||September 23, 2008||Added security fixes.|
|Mozilla Firefox 3||1.9||3.0||Gran Paradiso||June 17, 2008||Cairo used as a graphics backend. Cocoa Widgets included in OS X builds. APIs implemented from WHATWG specs. Changes to how DOM events are dispatched, how HTML object elements are loaded, and how web pages are rendered. New SVG elements and filters, and improved SVG specification compliance. Acid2 test compliant. New UI improvements, including default themes for different operating systems and new download manager. Windows 95, 98, ME, Mac OS X v10.3.9 and lower, and GTK+ 2.8 and lower are no longer supported. Addons.mozilla.org integration in the Add-ons window. Support for APNG files.|
|3.0.1||July 16, 2008||Security and stability fixes. Fixed problems with updating of phishing and malware database, saving of SSL certificate exceptions list, printing a selected region. Updated public suffix list.|
|3.0.2||September 23, 2008||Security and stability fixes. Fixed problems with screen readers. Improved internationalizarion and language support.|
|3.0.3||September 26, 2008||Security release due to regression that caused a bug in the Firefox Password Manager.|
|1.9.1||3.1a2||Shiretoko||September 05, 2008||Web standards improvements in the Gecko layout engine. Text API for the|
The developers of Firefox aimed to produce a browser that "just surfs the web and delivers the "best possible browsing experience to the widest possible set of people.
Users can customize Firefox with extensions and themes. Mozilla maintains an add-on repository at addons.mozilla.org with nearly 6000 add-ons in it as of September 2008.
Firefox passes the Acid2 standards-compliance test from version 3.0. Like all other stable browsers , Firefox 3.0 does not pass the Acid3 test; it scores 71/100 and does not render the image correctly.
The Mozilla Foundation offers a "bug bounty" to researchers who discover severe security holes in Firefox. Official guidelines for handling security vulnerabilities discourage early disclosure of vulnerabilities so as not to give potential attackers an advantage in creating exploits.
Because Firefox has fewer and less severe publicly known unpatched security vulnerabilities than Internet Explorer (see Comparison of web browsers), improved security is often cited as a reason to switch from Internet Explorer to Firefox. The Washington Post reports that exploit code for critical unpatched security vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer was available for 284 days in 2006. In comparison, exploit code for critical security vulnerabilities in Firefox was available for 9 days before Mozilla shipped a patch to remedy the problem.
A 2006 Symantec study showed that although Firefox had surpassed other browsers in the number of vendor-confirmed vulnerabilities that year through September, these vulnerabilities were patched far more quickly than those found in other browsers. Symantec later clarified their statement, saying that Firefox still had fewer security vulnerabilities than Internet Explorer, as counted by security researchers. As of July 18, 2008, Firefox 3 has zero security vulnerabilities unpatched according to Secunia. Internet Explorer 7 has ten security vulnerabilities unpatched, the most severe of which was rated "moderately critical" by Secunia.
The official end-user builds of Firefox distributed from mozilla.com are licensed under the Mozilla End User License Agreement (EULA). Several elements do not fall under the scope of the tri-license and have their use restricted by the EULA, including the trademarked Firefox name, the proprietary artwork, and the proprietary closed-source Talkback crash reporter in Firefox version prior to 3. Because of this and the clickwrap agreement included in the Windows version, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) consider these builds proprietary software. However, BreakPad, an open source crash reporting system, has replaced Talkback in Firefox 3.0.
In the past, Firefox was licensed solely under the MPL, which the FSF criticizes for being weak copyleft; the license permits, in limited ways, proprietary derivative works. Additionally, code under the MPL cannot legally be linked with code under the GPL or the LGPL. To address these concerns, Mozilla re-licensed Firefox under the tri-license scheme of MPL, GPL, and LGPL. Since the re-licensing, developers have been free to choose the license under which they will receive the code, to suit their intended use: GPL or LGPL linking and derivative works when one of those licenses is chosen, or MPL use (including the possibility of proprietary derivative works) if they choose the MPL.
The name "Mozilla Firefox" is a registered trademark; along with the official Firefox logo, it may only be used under certain terms and conditions. Anyone may redistribute the official binaries in unmodified form and use the Firefox name and branding for such distribution, but restrictions are placed on distributions which modify the underlying source code.
There has been some controversy over the Mozilla Foundation's intentions in stopping certain open source distributions from using the "Firefox" trademark. Former Mozilla CEO Mitchell Baker explained in an interview in 2007 that distributions could freely use the Firefox trademark if they did not modify source-code, and that the Mozilla Foundation's only concern was with users getting a consistent experience when they used "Firefox".
To allow distributions of the code without using the official branding, the Firefox source code contains a "branding switch". This switch allows the code to be compiled without the official logo and name, for example to produce a derivative work unencumbered by restrictions on the Firefox trademark (this is also often used for betas and alphas of future Firefox versions). In the unbranded compilation the trademarked logo and name are replaced with a freely distributable generic globe logo and the name of the release series from which the modified version was derived. The name "Deer Park" is used for derivatives of Firefox 1.5, "Bon Echo" for derivatives of Firefox 2.0, and "Gran Paradiso" is used for derivatives of Firefox 3.0. The codename Minefield and a modified version of the generic logo stylized to look like a bomb is used for unofficial builds of version 3.0 and later, and for nightly builds of the trunk.
Outside of certain exceptions made for "community editions", distributing modified versions of Firefox under the "Firefox" name requires explicit approval from Mozilla for the changes made to the underlying code, and requires the use of all of the official branding. For example, it is not permissible to use the name "Firefox" without also using the official logo. When the Debian project decided to stop using the official Firefox logo in 2006 (because of copyright restrictions on its use incompatible with the project's guidelines), they were told by a representative of the Mozilla Foundation that this was not acceptable, and were asked either to comply with the published trademark guidelines or cease using the "Firefox" name in their distribution. Ultimately, Debian switched to branding their modified version of Firefox "Iceweasel", along with other Mozilla software.
On September 12, 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. As a part of the Spread Firefox campaign, there is an attempt to break the world download record with the release of Firefox 3. The idea is to have the newest version downloaded by as many people as possible within a 24 hour time period.
The "World Firefox Day" campaign started on July 15, 2006, the third 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.
| Firefox market share by version|
— NetApplications.com, September 2008
Mozilla Firefox's market share has grown for each growth period since inception, mostly at the expense of Internet Explorer; Internet Explorer has seen a steady decline of its usage share since Firefox's release. By early 2008, Firefox had approximately 15% global usage share of web browsers. Market shares break down as following: 43% for Internet Explorer 7, 32% for Internet Explorer 6, 16% for Firefox 2.0, 4% for Safari 3.0, and less than half a percent for both Firefox 1.x and Internet Explorer 5.x versions.
As one article noted after the release of Firefox 2.0 in October 2006, "IE6 had the lion's share of the browser market with 77.22%. Internet Explorer 7 had climbed to 3.18%, while Firefox 2.0 was at 0.69%."
A Softpedia article, however, noted in July 2007 that "Firefox 2.0 has been also expanding its share constantly in spite of IE7. From just 0.69% in October 2006, Firefox 2.0 is now accounting for 11.07% of the market. Mozilla has even sacrificed version 1.5 of its open source browser for Firefox 2.0. With support cut at the end of June, Firefox 1.5 dropped to just 2.85%."
Downloads have continued at an increasing rate since Firefox 1.0 was released in November 2004, and as of February 21, 2008 Firefox has been downloaded over 500 million times. This number does not include downloads using software updates or those from third-party websites. They do not represent a user count, as one download may be installed on many machines, one person may download the software multiple times, or the software may be obtained from a third party. According to Mozilla CEO John Lilly, Firefox had about 140 million users as of February 2008.
Softpedia also noted that Firefox 1.5 took longer to start up than other browsers, which was confirmed by browser speed tests. IE 6 launches faster than Firefox 1.5 on Microsoft Windows since many of its components are built into Windows and are loaded during system startup. As a workaround for the issue, a preloader application was created that loads components of Firefox on startup, similar to Internet Explorer. A Windows Vista feature called SuperFetch performs a similar task of preloading Firefox if it is used often enough.
Tests performed by PC World and Zimbra indicate that Firefox 2 uses less memory than Internet Explorer 7. Firefox 3 uses less memory than Internet Explorer, Opera, Safari, and Firefox 2 in tests performed by Mozilla, CyberNet, and The Browser World.
The Associated Press has noted that Firefox has significant problems with the Adobe Flash plugin using considerable CPU cycles, which can eventually hang the browser. This problem is more prominent in Firefox 3 than in Google Chrome.
In 2005, the Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation had a combined revenue of US$52.9 million, with approximately 95 percent derived from search engine royalties. In 2006, the Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation had a combined revenue of US$66.9 million, with approximately 90 percent derived from search engine royalties.
A Microsoft SEC filing on June 30, 2005 acknowledged that "competitors such as Mozilla offer software that competes with the Internet Explorer Web browsing capabilities of our Windows operating system products. The release of Internet Explorer 7 was fast tracked, and included functionality that was previously available in Firefox and other browsers, such as tabbed browsing and RSS feeds.
Despite the cold reception from Microsoft's top management, the Internet Explorer development team maintains a relationship with Mozilla. They meet regularly to discuss web standards such as extended validation certificates. In 2005 Mozilla agreed to allow Microsoft to use its Web feed logo in the interest of common graphical representation of the Web feeds feature.
In August 2006, Microsoft offered to help Mozilla integrate Firefox with the then-forthcoming Windows Vista, which Mozilla accepted.
In October 2006, as congratulations for a successful ship of Firefox 2, the Internet Explorer 7 development team sent a cake to Mozilla. As a nod to the browser wars, some readers joked about the cake being poisoned, while others jokingly suggested that Mozilla send a cake back along with the recipe, in reference to the open-source software movement. The IE development team sent another cake on June 17, 2008, upon the successful release of Firefox 3.
In November 2007, Microsoft employee Jeff Jones criticized Firefox, claiming that Internet Explorer experienced fewer vulnerabilities and fewer higher severity vulnerabilities than Firefox in typical enterprise scenarios. Mozilla developer Mike Shaver discounted the study, citing Microsoft's bundling of security fixes and the study's focus on fixes, rather than vulnerabilities, as crucial flaws.
On the whole, Firefox security vulnerabilities have been patched relatively quickly. Symantec's Internet Security Threat Report Vol. 10, based on data from the first half of 2006, reported that while Firefox had more vulnerabilities than Internet Explorer during that time period (47 vs. 38), Firefox's vulnerabilities were fixed on average one day after the exploit code was made available, as compared to nine days for Internet Explorer.
Some have speculated that as Firefox becomes more popular, more vulnerabilities will be found, a claim that Mitchell Baker, president of the Mozilla Foundation, has denied.
There is this idea that market share alone will make you have more vulnerabilities. It is not relational at all.
There are a number of significant vulnerabilities in technologies relating to the IE domain/zone security model, local file system (Local Machine Zone) trust, the Dynamic HTML (DHTML) document object model (in particular, proprietary DHTML features), the HTML Help system, MIME type determination, the graphical user interface (GUI), and ActiveX... IE is integrated into Windows to such an extent that vulnerabilities in IE frequently provide an attacker significant access to the operating system.
Some security experts, including Bruce Schneier and David A. Wheeler, recommended that users should stop using Internet Explorer for normal browsing, and switch to a different browser instead; Wheeler specifically recommended Firefox.
Several technology columnists have suggested the same, including Wall Street Journal columnist Walter S. Mossberg, Washington Post columnist Rob Pegoraro, USA Today’s Byron Acohido and Jon Swartz, Forbes's Arik Hesseldahl, eWEEK.com Senior Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, and Desktop Pipeline’s Scot Finnie.
| Firefox (Mozilla Firefox)|
|Foundation • Corporation|
|Community / Customization|
|Firefox 3 • Features • Extensions (Mozilla extensions) • Spread Firefox • Adoption|
|Forks and Related Projects|
|Flock • Gnuzilla • GNU IceCat • IceApe • IceDove • Iceweasel • Netscape 9 • Portable Edition • Swiftfox • Swiftweasel • Miro • Songbird • XeroBank|
|Origins and Lineage|
|Mozilla Suite • Netscape Navigator • Netscape Communicator • Netscape Communications Corp.|