Firefox Is Heading Toward Trouble

Opinion: I think Firefox is the best browser on the planet, but it's not going to stay that way long unless the team behind it gets their act together sooner rather than later.

I love Firefox.

It is, without a doubt, my favorite browser ever, and Ive used almost every one that ever rendered a Web page. No matter what the operating system—Windows, Linux, heck, even NetBSD—one of the first things I do now with any of my boxes is to install Firefox on it.

Im not alone. There have been over 25 million downloads of Firefox since version 1.0 hit the streets in fall of 2004. It has come out of nowhere to shrink Internet Explorers share of the Web-browser space for the first time in years.

Firefox is also gaining software support. In addition to smaller open-source add-on programs, mainstream helper applications like Yahoo Toolbar and Google Desktop Search are now coming to Firefox.

Last, but never least, Firefox is more secure than Internet Explorer.

So, whats not to like?

Well, several things if you must know.

First, I said Firefox is more secure. That doesnt mean its perfectly secure. You still must practice safe Web surfing to avoid phishing attacks and the like, and make sure to keep the browser patched up to avoid known security problems like the IDN (International Domain Name) bug.

Unfortunately, Firefox hasnt done a great job of making it easy to get its patches.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read about Mozillas recent security upgrade, Firefox 1.0.1.

While Firefox does have an auto-update feature, the rollout of its first security patch, Firefox 1.0.1, was delayed for several days because of server overload problems.

Then, when it was rolled out, it was done slowly—20,000 downloads an hour—so as not to overwhelm the servers.

This is not good. In February, according to WebSideStory, Firefox was up to 5.69 percent of the Web browser market. Mozillas avowed goal for Firefox is to get it up to 10 percent of the market this year. If Firefox does hit those kind of numbers, its back-end infrastructure must be built up or theres no way it can mount a serious threat to IE.

Quality assurance back at the servers also needs improvement. When the Mozilla Foundation first started pushing the automatic updates to Windows users out on Feb. 28, what actually ended up happening was that the Windows update was served up to Mac and Linux users!

Boy, did that do them a lot of good!

Besides, this update isnt really an update. Its a complete new installation of Firefox 1.0.1. Can you say annoying?

To further confuse Windows users, the default installation of this patch leaves you with entries for both the now-gone older version and the new one in Windows Add or Remove Programs control panel.

Its a known bug thats been around since June of 2004 and its still not been fixed. I am not amused.

Next Page: Is Firefox burning out?