You want a reliable safe flexible Web browser. Firefox is reliable, safe, flexible, and free. Here is why Firefox 3.6 is better than the alternatives plus notes on installing Firefox in Windows 2000 Professional Edition.
This article is updated to Firefox 3.6 from one originally written about Firefox 0.8. Firefox 0.8 was an improvement on the previous Mozilla browser named Firebird and a step or more ahead of Internet Explorer 6.0. Firefox was originally named Firebird, someone else was already using Firebird for another product, and the developers renamed Firebird to Firefox.
In 2005 Firebird 0.7 was about equal to other browsers with a mixture of good features and important features that were lacking or incomplete or inaccurate. Firefox 0.8 became slightly more useful and accurate than the competitors so I switched to Firefox permanently. Subsequent releases of Firefox added features, increased the accuracy and completeness of existing feature plus kept Firefox at the top of the security rating.
In Firefox, select Help then About Mozilla Firefox. The pop up screen shows the logo for Firefox and some basic information including the version. The last bit is the identification string sent by Firefox when Firefox requests a page. Web sites can use the string to alter the content for specific browsers. When you are about to use Firefox on an unknown computer, you can check the version to make sure it is up to date. you can also select Help, Check for Updates if your logon allows checking for updates.
CSS standards compliance
One of the things that makes web browsers reliable and safe is standards compliance. Opera is often the leader in CSS standards compliance because one of the Opera developers helped develop the standard for CSS. Firefox is a close second on CSS standards compliance and is often out front in other areas.
The Acid2 test is at www.webstandards.org/files/acid2/test.html#top. You compare that page with the reference page at www.webstandards.org/files/acid2/reference.html. The only difference in Firefox 3.6 is a slight change in the size of the nose. Firefox 3.7 is already in alpha release and shows better Acid test compliance.
Other standards compliance
There is an Acid3 test at acid3.acidtests.org. You can compare the results to acid3.acidtests.org/reference.html. The Acid3 test does not comply with accessibility standards because there is a hidden link to find the test results. Pass your cursor over the A in Acid3 on the results page to find a link. Select the link to see the results.
The following results are from Firefox 3.6. Firefox 3.7 passes three more tests. Perhaps Firefox 3.8 will have a perfect score.
Failed 6 tests.
Test 26 passed, but took 112ms (less than 30fps)
Test 71 failed: expected '1' but got '2' - wrong number of children in HEAD (first test)
Test 75 failed: anim.beginElement is not a function
Test 76 failed: expected '0' but got '100' - Incorrect animVal value after svg animation.
Test 77 failed: expected '4776' but got '5560' - getComputedTextLength failed.
Test 78 failed: expected '90' but got '0' - getRotationOfChar(0) failed.
Test 79 failed: expected '34' but got '33' - SVGSVGTextElement.getNumberOfChars() incorrect
Total elapsed time: 0.69s
Note that one of the results is a performance score, not a fail. Performance depends on your hardware speed and this type of graphic rendering depends especially on your graphics chip. I watched processor usage during the test and the test used just 10% of one CPU. The test used only a tiny fraction of the available memory. There was no disk activity. The remaining delay would have to be the graphic chip. This test was on a machine using the built in graphic chip. The built in chips are consistently slow because they have to share memory plus they make everything else slow.
Why replace Internet Explorer with Firefox?
I replaced Microsoft's Internet Explorer with Firefox because I was tired of Internet Explorer doing stupid things.
Internet Explorer has a lot of default actions that are stupid, dangerous, or both. Internet Explorer looks as if it was built by a marketing team to dazzle buyers. There seems to be no attempt at making Internet Explorer either reliable or secure or to work with the Internet standards. Early versions of Internet Explorer let you turn off stupid behaviour but in each release the options were buried deeper. Now Internet Explorer's options are so complex and obtuse that it is impossible to know if the settings will make the product safe.
There is a rumour that Internet Explorer 8 will be changed to comply with standards by default but nothing in writing and no one has tested the change because a/ IE 8 arrived defaulting to not comply with standards, and b/ IE automatically switches to silly-guessing-mode the instant IE cannot understand something in your Web page. There is no suggestion that Microsoft will supply a way to lock IE into the standards mode.
Over the last few years the security patches for Internet Explorer were simply copies of the default settings used in Firebird. You might as well start with Firebird and be 6 to 12 months ahead of IE.
Firefox is the standard for Web browser safety. If you are asking Microsoft about the safety and security of Internet Explorer, ask them
Is it as safe as Firefox?.
Firefox is built to work reliably and safely. If you do not build in security holes, you do not have to apply security patches. The basic download of Firefox does less than Internet Explorer but what it does do, it does reliably and safely. Firefox with a small selection of popular add on modules does more than IE and still it does reliably and safely.
Less is More
One person estimated that more than sixty percent of Internet Explorer's code is to fix up mistakes made in earlier versions of IE. Every IE tries guess what Web side developers want and often makes stupid assumptions. The next IE has to fix the mistakes but then bloats out with code that tries to make IE work both the correct way and the way it worked previously. Web site developers have to perform unnatural HTML acts to make their site work with one release of IE and then have to remove the unnatural stuff for the next release of IE but then have to put some of the errors back in because the new IE only half fixed the problems.
Firefox does the right thing with HTML the first time around and only corrects a small number of obvious HTML errors where they do not conflict with the standard. They put less in to the code so you get more reliability, Web site developers get less problems, and you get easier viewing of Web pages. You might find the odd page looks weird in Firefox because the page contains errors designed to counteract errors in one specific release of Internet Explorer but those pages are disappearing because smart Web site developers now test with Firefox.
Software Licence Agreement
Firefox is so free that they do not worry about a software license agreement. One less step to worry about during the installation.