Mozilla Firefox has undergone an enormous rebirth over the past two years. Since Firefox 4 debuted in March 2011, the browser has been hell-bent on improvements. These have come in large part on the rapid-release cycle, which sees a new version of Firefox every six weeks. Many people like them, but a vocal minority has pooh-poohed the increase in version numbers. That’s hardly a legitimate complaint in a world where mobile apps also update silently and effectively, but the transition for Firefox hasn’t been an easy one.
As you can see, Firefox is on version 15 at the time of this review. As a point of comparison, Chrome is currently on version 21 even though it only launched in 2008. The benefit, of course, is a browser that is safer and sleeker, with fewer problems because bugs get fixed on a regular basis.
The best feature of Firefox is without any doubt its ability to integrate third party addons, making the original software expanding in unimaginable ways.
I am a Firefox power user and this means that mostly I need functions that are not available in the default package. The add-ons community is so large that it’s almost impossible to want something and not find it.
Another important feature of Firefox is the Awesome bar. Maybe it has a flashy name, but I have to give props to Mozilla. It’s pretty awesome! It uses all the history to make searching easier, it modifies according to usage to make links that are accessed more frequently pop up at the top of the list, and users can just type some of the words and not the exact link.
The third and probably one of the features I wanted most and which came to Firefox a year ago is Firefox Sync, a functionality that is not yet perfect, but is getting close. This function makes a backup of your bookmarks, cookies, history, and most importantly, add-ons, in the Mozilla cloud server.
Before Firefox Sync, when transiting from one operating system to another, there were some third party solutions, but they never worked quite the way they should and just moving a profile from one OS to another produced some problems.
The best feature of Firefox, the multitude of add-ons, is also its greatest problem. The fact of the matter is that some features should be available by default and not introduced with third party extensions.
In theory, add-ons sound great, but they can also slow down the browser and even the operating system, especially when there are a lot of them, like in the case of a power user.
The other major issue with Firefox is the fact that it’s quite a resource hog. One of the improvements I noticed when I reviewed Firefox 4.0 was a slight improvement in resource management and it got better over the past year, but it’s still a major problem.
Some users have criticized the version policy of Mozilla and I even have friends that still use Firefox 3.5. I can safely say that it was a great decision to increase the pace of development, and it shows in the number of features and the overall feeling of the application.
I hated Firefox in the pre 3.5 versions because of the memory issues and because I had to install numerous addons just to make it the way I like it. Now, I can’t imagine how I could do my work with any other browser, although there is some fierce competition out there.