Take Back the Web


This is the bit where I talk about Mozilla Firefox for a while

Mozilla Firebird has reached version 0.8 and has been renamed Firefox; Mozilla has an FAQ explaining why. That gets the obligatory announcement out of the way; now on to the original content.

Still To Do

Ben Goodger's Firefox roadmap outlines what will actually be included in the 1.0 release; this is a collection of other noteworthy shortcomings (a.k.a. pet bugs).

Don't Steal Image Associations

Currently, when you set Firefox as the default browser (in Windows, at least), it automatically assigns itself as the default application for PNG, JPEG and GIF images. In the days when Microsoft Paint only handled BMP bitmaps, this sort of thing was OK; but now the ability to not only view, but also edit these types of images is built in to Windows, Firefox has no business associating itself with them.

Uninstall Extensions

Firefox won't be widely adopted by businesses and workplaces until one can easily remove any extensions that are installed. Bosses don't like their minions making any changes to their standardised computing environment, let alone irrevocable ones.

Single Window Mode

This one's a bit chewy. When its developers say Firefox is a tabbed browser, they mean it has the capacity to open multiple pages in one window. However, some folk interpret tabbed browsing as where all documents are opened in the same window - always; there have even been complaints that tabbed browsing is broken because this isn't the case.

Until Firefox does have the option for single window mode - which won't be until after version 1.0 - the developers should go easy on describing Firefox as a tabbed browser, to avoid disappointment.


There are various other minor improvements that would easily and quickly make Firefox friendlier, and just plain better. The Windows installer should ask before creating Start Menu, Quick Launch and desktop shortcuts - it's only polite. The link toolbar present in Mozilla should be there in Firefox, too; perhaps then more people would start using <link>. And finally, MNG support. There's really no excuse for its absence - there's a patch waiting which only needs the thumbs up.

The Location Bar

The location bar is, in my opinion, Firefox's best feature, and the one thing that stops me from liking other browsers too much.

Any phrase typed into the location bar gets I'm-Feeling-Luckied, courtesy of Google UK, except for phrases which include dots. These are interpreted as URLs and invalid URLs generate an error page... but I can get around this using smart keywords.


Firefox's bookmarks can be assigned keywords, which you then type into the location bar and - Hey, Presto! - the bookmark loads. This is great, but smart keywords are even greater.

If the URL of a bookmark contains %s, and the bookmark is assigned a keyword, anything you type into the location bar after the keyword (and a space), will replace the %s in the URL.

So, if I want to I'm Feeling Lucky some search terms (including ones with dots in them), I type goto followed by a space, and then the terms - simple. To enable this, all I had to do was create a bookmark whose URL is http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=%s&btnI=I'm+Feeling+Lucky and assign it the keyword goto. When I type, for example, goto hell into the location bar, Firefox converts this to http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=hell&btnI=I'm+Feeling+Lucky, which results in Google sending me to its first match for hell. The whole process takes less than a second.

I've also got other smart keywords set up for Google Image Search, Mozilla's Bugzilla database, Dictionary.com and IMDb.

All of this means I've practially done away with URLs. If I want the BBC's website, I just type BBC, and Firefox and Google do the rest. This ludicrous ease of use is, for me, Firefox's killer feature.

Google UK

By default, Firefox uses Google USA, but you can change this in about:config; it's pretty easy to do.

First, type about:config into Firefox's location bar and press Enter. You'll be presented with a plethora (or two) of settings. Into the box next to Filter:, toward the top of the window, type keyword and press Enter; this filters out the other settings we won't be using.

Double-click the line containing keyword.URL and enter http://www.google.co.uk/search?btnI=I'm+Feeling+Lucky&q= into the dialogue box that pops up. (I'd copy and paste it.) Finally, make sure keyword.enabled is set to true, and Bob's your uncle.

Brand New

As mentioned above, along with the new version came a new name and brand, Firefox. The previous plan was that Mozilla Firebird would be the project's code-name, and it would eventually be known simply as Mozilla Browser. Gladly, that's now changed, and we have a browser whose logo looks like this:

[A blue, Earth-like globe with a fox curled around and facing it, its tail morphing into flames towards its tip]

The new identity lays to rest previous dissent over the icon/logo Firebird was using - an image of red and orange flames, whose form was also reminiscent of a bird's feathers (this logo is still visible in Firefox 0.8's Help > About > Credits screen). While I always liked it, some felt it stood out too much from other Windows icons (which in my opinion is good), or that it became an amorphous red blob when shrunk to 16×16 pixels.

This name will stick - it's been thoroughly researched, and no-one else is using it for anything resembling a web browser. This means you can start posting your favourite Firefox propaganda about the web (and anywhere else), in good conscience that it'll still make sense in a few years' time. All of which is lovely, as the logo looks bloody brilliant!

Doing the Job

The purpose of a web browser is to display web pages. Mozilla Firefox uses the Gecko layout engine, which displays pages more properly than, say, Internet Explorer. By more properly, I mean Gecko better conforms to web standards, as described by the World Wide Web Consortium. Firefox displays web pages better than many other browsers - it does the job better.

Incidentally, Mooquackwooftweetmeow conforms to these web standards (as should all websites), with no regard for how Internet Explorer mangles its pages, so Mooquackwooftweetmeow looks better (i.e. decent) in Firefox.