firefox 2, now available

October 23, 2006

It’s been quite a long road for the Firefox development team, starting off in Fall 2004 with the release of version 1.0 (though I had been using it for quite a while before that) and now continuing with version 2.0, which updates the browser to be even more competitive with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 7, the market leader, and various lesser-known offerings like Safari and Opera. Its market share, too, has grown immensely, sitting now at 12% or more from essentially zero two years ago.

New features for the 2.0 release include anti-phishing features, better management of extensions and themes, built-in spell checking, and numerous other graphical and technical updates. While release day is, at least officially, tomorrow, the final build has been uploaded to the development trunk and is accessible here (win32) and here (Linux). Before upgrading, consider that some extensions and themes have not yet been adjusted to work correctly with the new version, so you may be stuck with a rather minimal feature set until various third-party developers can take care of those issues.

I am writing this in in the new version, actually, and have found it (so far) competently designed. The spell check in particular is well thought out, with small red lines appearing under words the browser thinks are misspelled; a right click brings up a list of possible replacements. It’s simple, clear, and elegant. So too is the new default theme, which adds some nifty gloss to many of the buttons and tabs while retaining the character of the skin it replaces. It’s a good thing, too, since none of the other themes I had installed worked with 2.0 and the ones that have been updated are decidedly deficient in that all-important area of good taste. (Judge for yourself here and here.)

While Internet Explorer is no longer the dinosaur it once was, I still prefer the flexibility of a plug-in architecture to Microsoft’s more exhaustive approach. Version 2.0 takes Firefox ahead just enough to make using it nearly a foregone conclusion for the technically inclined and all those they can sway.

–D. S. W.


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