Browser Smackdown: Firefox

Browser Smackdown: Firefox

The first combatant in the battle of the browsers is the champion of the Open Web, Mozilla Firefox. For many of us, Firefox was our first step away from the tyranny of the big blue E.

Since its initial release in 2002, Firefox has managed to claw its way to the top, recruiting half a billion users to the Mozilla open source cause.

Firefox runs on the Gecko layout engine, developed by Mozilla themselves. It is updated quite frequently and those that are in-the-know can test and contribute to the Firefox Nightly Builds.

My week with Firefox

Since this is my first Browser Smackdown review, I figured there would be some growing pains. As I mentioned, I’m a staunch Chrome user and, as such, will make a lot of comparisons. I’m ashamed to admit that the hardest thing to get used to is that the Refresh button is on the opposite side of the browser window.

Firefox and Chrome have different locations for their Refresh buttons
Firefox (top) and Chrome put their refresh buttons on opposing sides.

I’ll just chalk that one up to common curmudgeonly-ness. The funny thing is I usually use keyboard commands to refresh but, since the button wasn’t where I’m used to it being, I found myself compelled to always hunt around for it with my mouse.

Other differences I noticed where that text seemed somehow “chunkier” in Firefox. I figured out today that it might be because contextual menus don’t have the Yosemite transparency on them that they do in Chrome (or Safari). I also found myself bugged that the address bar wouldn’t auto-populate with search results when I searched from there. It seems kind of redundant to have a search field next to the address bar (which you can also search from), although it is nice that you can customize the sources for your search (not just Google but Yahoo! and DuckDuckGo, as well as some shopping sites).

Firefox's search bar
The contextual menu on Firefox’s search bar keeps it from being (too) redundant.

Wasted away again in Migrationville

I ran into a few other snags while setting up for Firefox week. I discovered about halfway through the week that I was running a woefully outdated version of the browser, even though I dutifully updated through the “About Firefox” menu. The only way I found out I was running an old copy was when I was on the Firefox website, when a popup message informed me that I needed to download and install the latest version. Not cool.

My other major issue was that, when beginning my Firefox journey, I imported all of my bookmarks from Chrome to have as uninterrupted a browsing experience as possible (for science!). While importing, I checked the “Import browser history and cookies” option. And that has made all the difference.

I found that Gmail wouldn’t load. Twitter wouldn’t load. Videos were silent. Nothing could be done. I looked around and learned that I needed to delete the cookies for the individual sites that weren’t working to force refresh the content. Only then was the Internet back to normal.

Now, these issues could’ve been simple user idiocy but I don’t think I should’ve had to go through such trials for a simple operation. Perhaps the open source nature of Firefox lends itself too easily to individual problems.

There’s lots of good stuff, too

Firefox's inspect element feature
The native inspect element feature tells you how big things are.

Firefox is, after all, a world-class browser. It’s uncompromisingly fast. It’s very attractive. It’s infinitely customizable. And those add-ons

It’s a great and stable browser for web builders, especially with the Firebug tools enabled. I was surprised to find, though, that Firefox’s native inspection tools are very powerful, rivaling Chrome and giving the ‘Bug a run for its money.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the out-of-the-box inspector had a nifty sizing feature, telling you how big elements are on the page. That could come in very handy.


I’m sure many of you are looking for a succinct pros/cons list. Well, here it is.


Pages definitely seemed to load faster, especially when I confirmed the newest version of FF was running on my machine.
Firefox’s experience is very customizable. They boast a very robust library of add-ons and themes so you can make it your own.
Especially Firebug.
Firebug is an indispensable, robust debugging app for web builders. It kind of deserves its own entry.
Private Browsing.
Firefox was the first browser I’d heard of to offer a browsing option where your history, passwords, cookies, and other input are not saved or tracked.


I had problems signing into all kinds of my usual web apps, including Gmail and Twitter. I suspect the cookies also had a hand in videos playing without sound my first time trying them out on FF.
Saving/viewing images can be weird.
When you right-click an image and select “view image,” it opens up in a kind of Lightbox-esque window that, depending on how the image is embedded, can make the image hard to download.
May require additional support.
In the grand scheme of things, sure, it’s great to have a browser that doesn’t run on Webkit. It was frustrating, though, for some bleeding-edge features that just seem to work on Chrome not working on FF.
No iOS app.
The official Mozilla site says one is coming “soon,” and a support document says “2015,” but as of this writing, there’s no iOS version of Firefox.

Make an assessment

Firefox absolutely deserves every bit of the market share it gets. It’s a powerful, fast browser that fully embodies the spirit of the free, open web. I should embrace some of the rough patches I ran into as being evidence that Firefox is a browser for the people, by the people, and is constantly evolving to fit the needs of the users and the web.

I’ve enjoyed my week in Mozillaville and I will definitely be coming back often. For now, though, I think I’m still a Chrome guy.

Coming up next week:

Since I’ll be traveling (and using my iPad for most of my browsing), I’ve decided to tackle the ubiquitous Apple giant, Safari. Will I survive? Is there no end to this carnage?

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