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Firefox’s “Killer Ap” Part 1

Posted by libhom Saturday, May 14, 2005

Much attention has been given to this open-source upstart browser, focusing on its security advantages, superior user interface, and reduce file size compared to Internet Explorer. In the general U.S. web public, Firefox now has nearly 7% of the market share, bouncing IE to below 89%, down from 95.5% a year ago. Given that most users do not bother to even install a browser, this is remarkable.

In Europe, where people tend to be better educated than here in the U.S., Firefox has over 13% of the market (30% in Finland and almost 23% in Germany). Firefox’s share on the O’Reilly web sites was recently reported at 35%, which is hardly surprising given the tech-savvy nature of that audience.

With all the media buzz, the best feature of the browser is being underemphasized. Extensions are what truly separate Firefox not only from IE, but from Opera and all other proprietary browsers. This is where the strength of the open source model has its greatest effect. Any sufficiently skilled programmer who wants a new feature or to change the browser’s behavior has the ability to design extensions to the browser. The Firefox Extensions site also has a user rating system, with comments, which help you evaluate whether or not you wish to add them.

“Paste and Go” is my favorite. If you copy a Web address, you can right-click and choose “Paste and Go,” meaning you don’t have to then click on Go after pasting or hit the enter key. Even more useful is that extension’s “Paste and Search” feature, which allows you to paste your keywords into the browser’s search box and get results with a single right-click. Other extensions improve bookmarking, get rid of animated gifs, and change the behavior of tabbed browsing, something Microsoft has yet to even implement in its browser.

There are serious developer tools, like validation of code, a color picker, and a screen reader validator. There are sublimely silly extensions, including one that makes the text on the pages sound like they were uttered by the Swedish Chef.

Part 2

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