What exactly is this "Firefox" thing?

FAQs about Mozilla Firefox

Here we take a good look at what is Firefox and answer some of your most Frequently Asked Questions...

Q: What is Firefox?
A: It's a web browser. Like the blue "E" on your Microsoft Windows desktop, that you can use to browse web sites and surf the web, Firefox, managed by the Mozilla Corporation, serves the same purpose: allowing you to view web sites.

Q: What's the big deal? Internet Explorer works fine!
A: While Microsoft's Internet Explorer is "fine" for many people, we don't recommend it.

While IE, as Internet Explorer is also called, does come with Windows, many security experts believe that Firefox is a significantly safer web browser to use.

Q: Why do so many people think Firefox is safer?
A: While no software can ever really, truly be guaranteed to be 100% safe, many experts believe Firefox is a safer web browser for many reasons, including, perhaps most importantly, the lack of certain "hooks" into Windows itself.

In contrast to Firefox, Microsoft's Internet Explorer allows programmers direct access to certain parts of Windows.

By using these hooks--often in ways differently from that Microsoft ever envisioned or planned--computer crackers can trick Internet Explorer into downloading viruses, trojans, worms, adware and other malicious software into your computer without you ever knowing they did it!

This means your computer, many believe, is more susceptible to infection by a rogue program than if you're using Firefox.

Q: Does this mean I don't need antivirus software if I'm running Firefox?
A: Far from it. We think of using Firefox as another layer of defense against unwanted malware on our PCs. It doesn't replace anti-virus software nor is it intended to make it unnecessary. It's there to help make web surfing safer, faster, and easier, but it's not a magic silver bullet.

I've heard Firefox blocks pop-ups, right?
A: Indeed it is. Firefox has excellent built-in pop-up blocking technology that's constantly evolving. You won't need any add-on toolbars or other attachments to Firefox to have it blocking pop-ups for you. Depending on what version of Internet Explorer you're using, you may experience a 99% or more drop in the number of unwanted pop-ups you get in a day.

We think you'll be impressed.

Q: How much does Firefox cost?
A: It's free. No, really. It's free.

Not only is it free, it's also "open source." This means programmers and others who're interested in seeing the actual programming code that makes Firefox work are encouraged to see the innards in action and to contribute code back for consideration in Firefox.

This model of software development, often referred to as F/OSS (Free/Open Source Software) is new to many people but is catching on fast.

With F/OSS software like Firefox, many people believe, you often get higher quality software because more people can look at the source code and evaluate how it works. In many cases, this leads to people all across the world discovering bugs and other problems in the software and helping to notify the programmers and/or to actually fix the problem themselves.

Q: OK, it's free. I get it. How does Firefox make money though?
A: Many F/OSS projects aren't interested in making a profit. Think of them as pure non-profit agencies working towards the greater good.

Firefox relies on donations of members and also a revenue sharing arrangement with Google that allows Firefox to get a portion of proceeds Google earns from its advertisers when they access Google's advertiser links using the search box built into Firefox.

Q: I thought I heard of another browser called Firebird? What's that?
In the early days, Firefox was called Firebird, but due to naming conflicts with other F/OSS, Firebird was renamed to Firefox on February 9, 2004. Prior to being called Firebird, it was known as Phoenix.

Q: How long has Firefox been around? I want to make sure this isn't some newfangled thing-a-ma-hooey.
Firefox 1.0 was released on November 9, 2004, and has grown in popularity since then. About 1 in 4 people Internet users worldwide use Firefox.

Q: Alright, I'd like to try this Firefox thing. Now what?
Simple. Here's a link: Download Firefox

Q: Got any other good free software?
A: Funny you should ask... While you're at it downloading Firefox, we also highly recommend Mozilla Thunderbird, too. It's distributed by the same great folks responsible for Firefox, so we think you'll find it's equally terrific.

Q: What if I want to go back to IE?
A: Firefox is just like any other software you install in Microsoft Windows: if you don't like it, don't use it!

Alternately, you can also uninstall it by going to:
Start > Control Panel > Add/Remove Programs.