Firefox becomes a contender

15 May 2006

Up until a few months ago, Firefox was never on my list of browsers that I flirted with. It was never opened, not even for the hallowed web developer toolbar that so many swear by.

But then a few things changed. I discovered the Tails extension (for revealing Microformats) and the Firebug extension (sooo good). Combining this with Neil Lee’s G4 optimised build (with cocoa style widgets), Tab Sidebar and one of Aronnax’s pro themes I had something that looked and acted pretty much like my ideal browser. The sheer flexibility of Firefox was starting to outweigh the lack of Mac feel and behaviour.

Now, we all know that Firefox’s greatest asset is it’s extensions, but a benefit of this has only just got through to me. It allows for developers to add support for fledgling web 2.0 services (such as CoComment and the aforementioned Tails) without relying on the browser vendor to implement integration (if indeed it ever came). This flexibility is mind-blowing.

Now take a look at the new features being implemented in the Firefox 2.0 developer previews (Known as ‘Bon Echo’). SVG Text, Microsummaries, Inline Spell Checking (although I guess not using the OS X dictionary) and search suggestions. Most exciting of all, is the move to the Cairo graphics library, which on OS X, will allow Firefox (and Camino) to use the new shiny Quartz renderer, rather than the old Quickdraw, which should make a real difference to looks. I’m looking forward to this!

My hope is that the Firefox Mac theme sees an update too. Less stripes, more recent style preferences tabs and generally more Tiger styling. Aronnax has put together a proposal theme for the Bon Echo builds, but I strongly suggest setting up a new profile or user account for trying out Bon Echo. It’s not called a developer preview for nothing.

Sure, there are still plenty of annoyances, and its not seeing as much action as current faves Omniweb 5.5 and Camino, but it’s now a contender, which it’s never been before. So the browser indecision continues, only much worse, and I feel more than ever that I really should try and get out more.

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