Firefox 3.0: Where is it now?

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This summer, Mozilla Corp. announced the launch of a beta test for its Firefox Web browser, version 3.0. Starting at the end of July, early adopters began trying several new security features, many of them invisible to online surfers. A new bookmark manager, enhanced download tools and an automatic block of sites suspected of harboring malware are included in the updated browser, as well.

Firefox 3.0 is scheduled for rollout by the end of the year. To support the security certificates coming into favor with large online retailers, banks and financial institutions such as PayPal, the Firefox browser will present “Larry,” a character seen holding up a passport.

“Security is one of the key benefits of Firefox,” said Doug Hopkins, principal of the interactive marketing practice at Brulant, an interactive marketing firm in Beachwood, Ohio. “There are always new security features and enhancements being made as new threats emerge.”

And the company is not just shutting out black hats.

“Some of the things they’re doing with additions and enhancements that complement widgets, that benefit the online and offline experience, has a lot of interest,” he said. “Everybody’s starting to look to extend the online session outside of the browser with Web 2.0 features.”

Mozilla is not commenting on why it has 3.0 in the works now, but some developers hypothesize that Mozilla’s marketing department wants to remain competitive with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer — Firefox commands impressive market share, Hopkins said.

“The attention paid to the Firefox browser doesn’t require a lot of push on our part,” he said, primarily because the 8 percent to 10 percent of people who use Firefox instead of Internet Explorer represent favorable demographics (Firefox fans are highly educated, more likely to convert to sales and more confident in their PC mastery than users of the pre-installed Internet Explorer).

Hopkins predicts Firefox’s market share might rise to the teens with the release of 3.0, the latest battle in the competitive browser wars.

“Mozilla already has a solid following and will continue to grow simply because of what they stand for,” said Conrad Ayala, developer and designer at Milwaukee-based Spin Group, who speaks from the IT professional’s perspective.

“I need to make sure that my code and Web site is successfully viewed by my target audience,” he said. “I utilize specific plug-ins available to Firefox more than ones I have seen for the other browsers. This helps me to lower my development time frame and maximize my efforts, in other words, increase revenue.

“Developers love Firefox. It Firefox boasts of a better Web experience: improved tabbed browsing, spell-checking, search suggestions, session restore, Web feeds (RSS), pop-up blocker, accessibility. Also, it’s more secure and can allow users to personalize the browser. These extensions speak for themselves.”

He also said Firefox is recognized as an alternative to browsers such as Netscape, Internet Explorer and Safari for the Mac operating system.

“Each browser has taken notice of Firefox and is now enabling plug-ins for its users,” he said. “The browser war is back on!”

And Hopkins said it likely will wage for a while.

“I don’t see Microsoft relenting any time soon,” he said. “Based on what Firefox has done, it would take more of a groundswell of demand generated from corporate users and demand for standards-based enterprise implementation of Internet Explorer [to end the war].”

But all is not lost with the beta test and 2007 release of Firefox 3.0.

“Firefox can become the leverage point for those people to go to Microsoft to say, ‘We’re going to switch or not buy an upgrade unless Internet Explorer becomes standards-based,’” Hopkins said.

Kelly Shermach is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, N.Y., who frequently writes about technology and data security. She can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.

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