firefox – i’ll make it easy for you

Every so often, I check the statistics for my site, who’s reading what, where they come from, and also what platform and browser they use. (Why so many searches for Miss Tiffany?) As an avid mac user, I always want to see the percentage of visitors using a mac be more than they are, though at 20% overall, that’s ok. But come on!!! everyone, using Internet Explorer?!?!? on a PC?!?!? what are you trying to do? make sure everyone in the world who uses a windows box is infected with viruses and trojans?

Knowing that most of you aren’t going to go out and by a G5 or PowerBook and then use Safari, here is what I’d like you to do: ditch Internet Explorer. Get Firefox. You wouldn’t trust your credit card with a two-bit hood holding a rap-sheet for multiple fraud, so why are you still using Explorer? Take 1/2 an hour off whatever you’re doing right now and read the news, or just read what Washington Post has to say. Then start using Firefox. And remember, switching is easy, and it’s free!

Firefox displays an elegant simplicity within and without. Its toolbar presents only the basic browsing commands: back, forward, reload, stop, home. Its Options screen consists of five simple categories of settings — most of which don’t need adjusting, since the defaults actually make sense.

One in particular should delight many long-suffering Web users: Firefox blocks pop-up ads automatically.

But Firefox’s security goes deeper than that. It doesn’t support Microsoft’s dangerous ActiveX software, which gives a Web site the run of your computer. It omits IE’s extensive hooks into the rest of Windows, which can turn a mishap into a systemwide meltdown.

Firefox resists “phishing” scams, in which con artists lure users into entering personal info on fake Web pages, by making it easier to tell good sites from bad. When you land on an encrypted page — almost no phishing sites provide this protection — Firefox advertises that status by highlighting the address bar in yellow. It also lists that page’s domain name on the status bar; if that doesn’t match what you see in the address bar, you’re probably on a phishing site.

To keep Firefox current with any security fixes, the browser is designed to check for updates automatically.

A “Find” bar at the bottom of Firefox’s window lets you search for words on a page without blocking your view of the page itself; as you type a query, the first matching item is highlighted in green. “Find Next” and “Find Previous” buttons jump to other matches, and a “Highlight” button paints all of them in yellow.

For searches across the entire Web, a box at the top right provides a shortcut to Google queries, and a menu lists five other sites, including Yahoo, Amazon and eBay. Downloadable plug-ins offer access to such resources as the Internet Movie Database.

What if that Google search yields four interesting sites? Hold down the Control key as you click each link, and they will open behind separate tabs in your existing window. This tabbed browsing — a feature shared with almost all non-IE browsers — is far more efficient and far less cluttered than the old one-page-per-window approach.

Busy readers can also use Firefox’s built-in RSS (Really Simple Syndication) newsreader to fetch updates from Web sites that publish their content using this standard. This “Live Bookmarks” feature lacks the flexibility of a stand-alone newsreader, but it’s also simpler.


Switching from IE to Firefox is nearly painless. Download a 4.7-megabyte installer, run it, and let it import your existing IE data. Your plug-ins, bookmarks, browsing history and even cookies should transfer over (IE’s home page and any saved passwords should be imported, but were not in my tests); you can then pick up in Firefox exactly where you left off in IE.

I think anybody using Internet Explorer should switch to Firefox today. Seriously. Even if you’ve loaded every IE security update, Firefox will give you a faster, more useful view of the Web. If you haven’t — or if you use a pre-XP version of Windows ineligible for Service Pack 2’s security fixes — it would be lunacy to stick with IE.