Friday, February 10, 2006

Proof Firefox is better than IE

I really should write some more meaningful posts, but I'm in the middle of scenario write-ups, a new Delta Green scenario, and I've stayed up too late the last few nights. Instead, here's some stuff I took from Slashdot.

I use the Mozilla Firefox web browser almost exclusively. I have Internet Explorer on my computer, of course, and I also have Opera installed in order to test my web site. My main browser, though, is Firefox. Firefox is faster to load and operate than IE, and has tab browsing (you can open web pages in tabs instead of whole new windows). Best of all, it has a lot of open source extensions that let you do neat stuff and customize your browser.

Mozilla Firefox grabbed some attention last year in the media as a viable replacement for IE, but lost some ground when some serious security holes were discovered. Forget the fact that IE has bigger holes, Firefox was supposed to be better than IE. Recently, Slashdot ran an article stating that the Mozilla team were faster at fixing bugs than the Internet Explorer team. According to the article, the Mozilla team patches critical flaws in about three weeks. Microsoft, on the other hand, took on average 130+ days to fix critical flaws.

Now another study, this one mentioned on Yahoo (which I found via Slashdot), says that people will have a safer experience surfing the web with Firefox than with IE. IE can be as much as 21 times as likely to infect your computer with spyware as Firefox.

The author of the study set up two configurations to automatically surf the web. One configuration was that of a "newbie" who blindly answers "yes" when a web site asks if it can load something potentially malicious. The other configuration was set to give strong security. 1.6% of domains infected the PC running IE with the newbie configuration. 0.6% of domains planted spyware in what is called a "drive-by download attack" (that is, it installed spyware even though the user clicked "no" when asked for installation permission). Doesn't sound like much, but there are an awful lot of web sites out there. By comparison, Firefox allowed the computer to be infected 0.09% of the time in the newbie configuration, and did not let it happen in the secure configuration.

A lot of sites are doing weird things to get around pop-up blocking., a roleplaying site, now adds links to peoples messages without their permission. A number of sites (such as my favourites and bring up new browser windows with ads in them when you click on a control on the page. Firefox has a wonderful extension called Adblock which kills all of these ads. It's more than just a pop-up blocker; it can kill ads at the source.

The only pain with using Firefox is that some awful people (including someone at my work!) code their web sites so that they only work properly with IE. This is for a couple of reasons. Firefox adheres more closely to the web browser standard than IE, but a lot of lazy web designers have coded for Microsoft's broken standard. Microsoft supports special controls (ActiveX controls) that are outside the web browser standard. Now Firefox comes to the rescue. The Mozilla team can't make people write proper web sites, and they don't want to break the standard and do the rotten things that Microsoft does. So, there's now an extension for Firefox that lets you select a web site and open it in IE. It's not opening a new browser, it's actually running the web site in Internet Explorer from within Firefox!

This extension has saved my sanity at work, but I notice (surprise, surprise) that the horribly designed State of Louisiana employees web site — which only works correctly in IE, and half the time not even then — only sort of works with this extension.

You can find Mozilla Firefox at The extensions are found here:

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