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Time to ditch Windows IE?
by justin 02:21PM Friday Oct 17 2003
Bad memories of Netscape version 4.x from the AOL days and before, have been laid to rest! Firebird officially rocks! Many people probably do not realize that Opera is not the only alternative to windows Internet Explorer. Heck, many people probably don't realize, as they contemplate yet another IE security hole in the news, that even Opera itself is available as an alternative.

Firebird (see the end of this article for useful links) has quietly become an exceedingly good browser, one that has been adding features that you want, rather than advertisers, spy-ware writers, and microsoft prefers you to have.

I've been testing firebird 0.7 out recently and came away very impressed. It is now my preferred browser above Opera (and way above IE). Despite improvements in stability made by Opera over the last year, I still found that it would crash from time to time, Opera would also fail in strange ways on the javascript in use at some sites. A browser should NEVER crash during regular usage. I am very pleased to say goodbye to Opera, and settle on firebird.

Why Switch? Here are my top reasons:

Firebird blocks popups but still provides you access to them if you wish, and also blocks those annoying javascript tricks that some sites use to scroll messages, change the size of your browser window to full screen, or deactivate the back or close buttons (and more). All this good supression stuff would require doubtful 3rd party tools to be bolted onto IE, tools that often just do not work quite right.

Despite being a pre-release version (0.7), firebird feels stable, fast and looks clean. In the sites I have visited, pages render identically to IE. And the interface is familiar, compact, and easy to use (anyone who tried the Mozilla 6 release, with its strange default 'skin' will be pleased to hear that).

Offering the best of both worlds, firebird supports tabbed-browsing and new window browsing at the same time. Which paradigm you prefer to use is entirely up to you.

Worried about your bookmarks? firebird automatically finds and imports your IE bookmarks. So right from the initial install, everything you need is there.

Flash, Java and Quicktime plugins worked for me exactly as they were working under IE. I disliked trying new releases of Opera because it seemed their plug-in fetch interface was just NOT intuitive and required NEW installs, even though the plugins were working fine under IE already.

Firebird is small. If you have ever had the misfortune to watch the upgrade process of IE from one version to another, wondering whether your computer will ever even come back after the multitude of rubbish and upgrades that get forced upon you during the upgrade (media player? why is it updating media player?), you'll appreciate that the entire download of firebird is just six megabytes. Today it seems like a new windows theme is bigger than six megabytes. 6mb is tiny.

Firebird has themes, and extensions. Being a dullard, I've not had time to play with these, but the lengthy menu of extensions (such as Live HTTP Headers and Bookmark Links Checker) look very tasty!

Security appears to be good. So far, the milestone releases of firebird have been feature improvements and bug fixes, but few if any urgent security updates have been necessary. This could be because the browser just contains far less code than IE, which in recent years has grown to be somewhat of a monstrosity, it could be because the browser does NOT support "Active-X". (in my view, this particular conscious incompatibility with IE is a very good thing. It seems to me that Active-X is the primary way mal-ware companies like Gator Inc get their code quietly installed on your PC with little significant warning. Very few if any sites of importance REQUIRE Active-X in order to work. Many of the Microsoft emergency bug fixes for IE revolve around Active-X holes). Another plus on the security side is this: because IE will maintain its market share for some time to come, worms and other nasty-ware will probably be written FOR those who use IE, and NOT for those who are using firebird (or other browsers). Software diversity enhances survivability! Get a free security ride for a few years, let someone else be the lowest common denominator for a change.

You should at least give Firebird a try. If you like it, then set it as your default browser: one click in the Tools->Options->General section. (although - I had some trouble making desktop shortcuts call firebird up properly. It is hard to completely unglue IE!).

This is the Firebird home page. Other important pages are why you should switch to firebird and The firebird windows installer page (I used the first link under Download Mozilla Firebird to get the installer). You can keep an eye on all things mozilla related at the MozillaZine. MozillaZine has a Frequently Asked Questions topic that helps with some common questions and plug-in issues. Firebird is available for Windows, Linux and MacOS X.

Firebird is, of course, free. Not even advert-supported free (like Opera), but community-built and supported free. (although tax deductable donations are welcome).

Now, where can I get my $39 Opera refund?

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