Firefox celebrated its ninth birthday yesterday. Despite not having been a web developer or web enthusiast for nearly as long as that, I have been using Firefox for about eight years since Firefox 1.5 was released and some local enthusiast put up a poster advertising it in my local grocery store. I stumbled upon it by complete accident, and if I hadn't seen that poster, there's a chance I wouldn't have heard of it until several years later.
When Firefox 1.5 was released in 2005, I was 14 years old and mildly interested in the web, but wouldn't have considered myself an enthusiast. At home, I only had access to the computer for an hour or two a day, and my mum was in no way interested in technology. I vividly remember her thinking the new Firefox icon on the desktop was a virus, and demanded the immediate uninstallation of it. Even after explaining what Firefox was, she still insisted it was less secure than IE and wanted me to get rid of it.
I wasn't about to get rid of Firefox that easily, though. After playing with it for an hour, I loved it. It had groundbreaking features like tabs! It let you clear your browsing history selectively and really easily! It was super quick!
Fortunately, young kids have persistence, and I … found a way to conceal my lovely Firefox installation. I think it was by deleting the desktop icon, but my memory's a bit fuzzy. Sorry, mum.
Despite Chrome making massive inroads in the browser market lately, I have still stuck with Firefox as my primary browser the last eight years. Chrome does a lot of things very well, including better use of limited resources (especially on OS X), vastly superior automatic updates, and more evolved native development tools.
So what's in it for Firefox? It gets a lot of flak, but here is why I'm still in love with Firefox after eight years:
- Mozilla's ethos, as a non-profit, transparent entity, fighting for your privacy, whilst Google is continously turning from a little startup starting off with a slogan of 'don't be evil', now turning into a giant Kraken of unpleasantness in order to mine money from your personal information. While Google has done many good things for the web as a whole, especially for web makers, I'm slowly trying to wean myself off their services and products. Not switching to Chrome certainly accomplishes this.
- While the Firefox of the past has had large issues with memory consumption and speed, these have largely been resolved for me. Using Firefox feels just as snappy as Chrome on my Macbook Air and Nexus 5.
- The UI. Chrome is a bit too stripped down for me—I like having some window chrome. Having a separate search bar is something I take advantage of, and actually being able to see the full title of a site without hovering over the active tab is a blessing. As well, I vastly prefer Firefox' more structured preferences pane (despite suffering from too many destructive preferences).
- The native web development tools and utilities are getting a lot better a lot quickly, and the Responsive View with development tools docked to the right is an excellent way to develop responsive sites on a single monitor. While I doubt Firebug is going to get a lot quicker soon (one of my main concerns with it), I can easily see the native tools becoming good enough to use very soon. They've come a long way in the past year.
And most importantly, my all-time favourite reason:
Firefox and its vast addon ecosystem turned me into a web tinkerer. Some of my first CSS knowledge came from wanting to extend the default Adblock Plus rules to include an annoying advert on a forum I frequented. I still have a bookmark stored somewhere that detailed how to horizontally center things in CSS to replace the use of the
Here's to hoping Mozilla won't let that happen, though. Happy birthday, Firefox! Thanks for everything you've done for the web. I'm deeply grateful.