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Six flavors of Firefox

Last week, Mozilla introduced Firefox Campus edition, a special version of the open-source browser with extensions preloaded for students. Check out six other customized versions of Firefox.

Firefox is the second-most-popular browser on the Internet, and with good reason--it rocks. Want to try out some specialized versions of it? Here are six flavors of Firefox, ranging from the Mac-centric all the way to bird-themed music jukeboxes.

Firefox Campus Edition
The Campus edition is the most recent of the branded/sponsored/partnered Firefoxes. There's nothing particularly special or amazing about this version of Firefox that's different from the regular one, besides a bundle of extensions and add-ons that give Firefox a notably "social" feel. Campus edition ships with a trifecta of extensions, including Zotero, StumbleUpon (also for Internet Explorer), and Foxytunes. Clearly the most useful one of the bunch for education is Zotero, a note-taking tool that lets you collect sources while doing Internet research. StumbleUpon and FoxyTunes remain in the entertainment realm.

Firefox eBay edition
Firefox eBay edition actually came out before the Campus edition, but the idea is similar--it's just Firefox with a smattering of themed add-ons. In the case of eBay edition, you get an integrated eBay sidebar that lets you keep track of your profile and any auctions you're watching. Likewise, you get an Alert Box tool, which will let you know if you've been outbid. These are solid tools if you're a heavy eBay user, and if you're already a Firefox user you can download an extension bundle that gives you the same functionality. Also coming soon for eBay buffs: an eBay buying and selling application that runs sans browser on Adobe's AIR platform.

Netscape Navigator 9
Don't let the name fool you--Netscape 9 looks and plays just like Firefox. It even works with Firefox add-ons and extensions. So what's the big difference? For one, the browser shares tight integration with Netscape's social bookmarking and news site, along with some cool tweaks such as URL correction and built-in integration to Netscape mail. Webware.com took a look at the service when it launched in early June.

Flock
Flock is probably the most specialized of the customized browsers built off of Firefox. It calls itself the "social" browser, which is somewhat true, considering Web browsing is almost always a one-person affair. Flock ties into several social Web services, like Del.icio.us, Flickr, and Technorati. There's also a customized way to bookmark content you like, using a starring system similar to that of Gmail. If you find anything you like, give it a star, and you'll be able to come back to it quickly without having to bother saving it to your bookmarks folder. Similar to Netscape Navigator, Flock will still work with most Firefox extensions, although some are unsupported and can cause instability.

Songbird
Songbird is probably the most experimental browser of the bunch, in the sense that it's not really a browser as much as a music player. The service is still built with Firefox technologies, and lets you browse the Web as you would on Firefox. The easiest way to explain it is that Songbird is a marriage of your Web browser with a music jukebox of the likes of iTunes. If you run into any page that includes music files, Songbird will pull them out and let you listen to them in any order you want with its built-in player. The service is still growing and adding features on an almost daily basis. While stable it may not be at all times, it's a great way to mix browsing the Web with other activities.

Camino
Camino (formerly known as Chimera) is an open-source Web browser that uses Mozilla's Geko rendering engine (the same as used in Firefox) to create a Mac-optimized browsing experience. At first glance it doesn't seem too different from the Mac version of Firefox, but there are a handful of Mac-centric additions, such as using the operating system's built-in Cocoa programming environment, a dictionary application for spell check, and the use of OS X's key chain application instead of Firefox's proprietary system to save site passwords. If you really love your extensions, don't ditch Firefox for this, but if you'd like to use some of your native Mac services, Camino makes for a great secondary to Safari or Firefox.

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