Mozilla Firefox

Mozilla Firefox

Download Editors' Rating:
5
Spectacular
Average User Rating:
4.3
out of 15577 votes

Quick Specs

  • Version:
    9.0.1
  • Total Downloads:
    45,969,864
  • Date Added:
    December 21, 2011
  • File Size:
    34.79MB
  • Downloads Last Week:
    69,927
  • Operating Systems:
    Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista/7

Editors' Review

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The bottom line: Firefox 9 is a worthy expression of Mozilla's ideals. The browser is competitively fast, sports a new minimalist look, and includes some excellently executed features. Unfortunately, that describes most of Firefox's competition, too.

Please note that the First Look video below is still applicable to Firefox 9, as is this Firefox How To collection, even though it features Firefox 4.

Review:
For those of you who spent 2011 away from the Internet, it's the year that Firefox went from annual major-point updates to a Chrome-style quick-release cycle. How quick? A new major version number along with a spate of performance and feature improvements lands in Firefox stable every six weeks. So, Firefox is on version 9 at the time this review was written. As a point of comparison, Chrome is currently on version 16 even though it only launched in 2008.

To put it bluntly: Firefox has benefited from the rapid-release cycle. Both fixes and features get out to users faster than before, which puts a safer, sleeker browser in your hands with fewer delays. A vocal, minuscule minority has pooh-poohed the increase in version numbers, but that's hardly a legitimate complaint in a world where mobile apps update silently and effectively.

These major changes first landed in Firefox 4, released in March 2011, so we're going to be referencing it a fair bit. The browser that you can download now is in the same speed category as its competition; offers many similar features (stronger in many areas and slightly weaker in others); includes broad, cross-platform support for hardware acceleration and other "future-Web" tech and standards; and is a must-have for Android users (download for Android).

Where Firefox 8 brought some useful feature updates, such as new options for searching, controlling tabs, and managing add-ons, the new Firefox 9 focuses more on performance. Mozilla is claiming around a 30 percent faster page-render time on sites with heavy JavaScript. See the Features and Support and Performance sections below for more details.

It's important to point out that there are four versions of Firefox available at the moment, and this review only addresses the "stable" branch, intended for general use. Firefox's other channels--Firefox beta (download for Windows | Mac | Linux); Firefox Aurora, analogous to Google Chrome's dev channel (download Aurora for Windows | Mac | Linux); and the bleeding-edge, updated-nightly Firefox Minefield (download for all versions)--are respectively progressively less stable versions of the browser, and aimed at developers.

Installation
Installing Firefox 9 was a fine, quick experience. Keep in mind that Firefox now has four "channels," so if you've been on the beta channel since the days of 3.6, you will stay on it until you download the installer for a different channel. There's no in-channel way to switch channels. If you're updating from version 3.6 to version 9, the process is likely to take several minutes because of the significant code changes.

Firefox uses automatic updates, although Windows users will still see their User Account Control box appear.

Careful Firefox observers will notice that the browser no longer ships with a separate icon for Safe Mode. Simply hold down Shift; when you click on the Firefox icon to open a box, you will be allowed to customize which settings carry over to Safe Mode.

Firefox automatically installs a Windows 7 taskbar icon if you choose it as your default browser. Uninstalling the browser does not leave behind any icons or folders if you choose to remove your settings at the same time.

A new feature checks your add-ons to see which ones you installed and which ones come from third-party vendors, such as security suite makers. The browser will now ask you if you'd like to disable any of these third-party add-ons when you upgrade to at least version 8. On top of that, all future third-party add-ons will be blocked from autoinstalling. Instead, you'll be presented with the option to allow them or block them on a per-case basis. This squarely puts Firefox on the side of the user.

Interface
If you're a big Firefox fan, you'd better hope that you weren't very attached to the 2010's version 3.6 look. Falling in love with the new design won't hurt you, either. The main interface is now completely different from what's come before, retaining only the larger back button that debuted in version 3. Not surprisingly, the new design also brings the browser significantly closer to the minimalist style first adopted by Google Chrome in 2008, although it actually looks most similar to Opera 11.

The menu bar has been squished into an orange button on the upper left, with menu options spread across two columns. Nearly all the submenus have been redesigned as well, although the hot keys remain the same, so the learning curve isn't particularly steep. In fact, the menu redesign makes it much easier to get to bookmarks, add-ons, and history, as they now all live on one Menu pane. The Menu button is not available to Mac users, to keep with the Mac OS X theme.

In addition to the major changes to the menu, smaller changes have greatly improved usability. For example, there's now a Get Bookmark Add-ons link in the Bookmarks submenu. The History submenu now has Recently Closed Tabs and Recently Closed Windows sections.

Tabs are now on top by default, and while the forward and back navigation buttons haven't moved, the stop and refresh buttons are now attached to the right side of the location bar, next to the bookmark star. When you're typing a URL, the "Go" button appears at the end of the location bar as an arrow. While resolving a URL, the box changes from the "Go" arrow to an "X" for the new Stop button. It might be hard for some to see since the traditional stop-and-go colors of red and green have been removed. You can customize the Firefox skin with the restartless Personas add-ons.

Right of the location bar lives the traditional search box, with its drop-down list of search engines. Above that on the tab bar there is a new button that lists all your open tabs, and you can add a button to access the Panorama tab-grouping feature. If you don't see the button, you can add it by right-clicking on the interface and choosing Customize, then dragging and dropping the Tab Groups icon next to the List All Tabs button. We don't consider many customizations to be essential, but this one is.

The Status bar that lives at the bottom of the interface is now hidden by default, again in keeping with the minimalist philosophy and the competition. There's a new Add-on bar as well, also hidden by default, to which extension icons can be added if you want to keep add-on icons easily available but out of the way of the main interface.

One of Firefox's singular strengths is its capacity for customization, which remains unparalleled and which is accessible even to novice users. While competing browsers do offer add-ons and extensions, Firefox remains far ahead of all of them in interface customization. And so, if you don't like the new interface, it's quite easy to revert it to an older style--or just about any other look--using add-ons and themes.

Features and support
Firefox's features are robust and generally competitive. There is some minor functionality missing in a few cases where the browser remains behind the competition, but Firefox is generally one of the most progressive major browsers available, an early adopter if not always an innovator.

The most important feature in the modern Firefox is Sync. As with many recent Firefox features, it started off as a rough add-on, and often deleted data. If you were scared off by its early bad behavior, you'll be glad to know that Mozilla has worked out its birthing pains. Sync now smoothly syncs your bookmarks, passwords, preferences, history, and tabs, not only with other computers, but also with your Android version of Firefox.

To use it, click on the Menu button and choose Set Up Sync from the left column. That will take you to a window where you can connect an existing Firefox Sync account or create a new one. Within Firefox Sync, there are two important security points. One is that Firefox encrypts your data before sending it over an encrypted connection to its servers, where it remains encrypted. Mozilla says that the company would not be able to access it even if somebody there wanted to. The second is that you have the option of setting up your own personal sync server. In an age when private data stored by corporations gets hacked and stolen with shocking regularity, setting up a personal sync server is one way to ensure that you bear the responsibility for your own data.

Another big new feature in 2011 has been support for restartless add-ons. These add-ons are written differently from standard Firefox add-ons, and are expected to become the format for add-ons in the future. As such, relatively speaking, not many restartless add-ons exist--about 530 at the time of this review, compared with the thousands of "standard" add-ons. However, this is an improvement of more than 400 add-ons since Firefox 4 debuted in March 2011.

Add-ons continue to pose a big problem for Mozilla, as older add-ons become a bottleneck for Firefox that other browsers, with their newer add-on frameworks, don't have to manage. The Add-on SDK is designed to confront this problem directly.

Firefox's add-on manager has been completely overhauled. There's a lot of useful new technology here, as compared with the version 3.6 manager. Not only can you search for add-ons from within the add-on window using the search box in the upper-right corner, you can add them without having to jump to the external Mozilla Add-on Web site, also known as AMO. The manager calls out the AMO add-on collections, which you can create more explicitly in the Get Add-ons tab. The add-on manager also allows you to browse Personas. It's slightly annoying that clicking on an add-on group or collection opens the page in a new browser window, whereas clicking on a specific add-on opens that add-on's download page within the add-on manager. That's a very minor criticism, though.

Other changes to the add-on manager include forward and back buttons specific to the manager, in the upper-left corner, and left-side navigation tabs specifically focusing on Extensions, Appearance, and Plug-ins. Meanwhile, two little improvements to the manager will impress keyboard junkies. There's a new hot key for pulling up the add-on manager, Control-Shift-A, and you can type "about:addons" directly into the location bar to access the add-ons manager in a tab. And of course, there's the third-party add-on guard as mentioned above.

Other changes include Twitter as an option for Firefox's built-in search box, setting the browser to initially reload only the active tab after a crash, and an update to dragging tabs that makes it easier to identify them with simple animations.

The tab-grouping feature called Panorama, presents your tabs as an array of thumbnail images. The thumbnails reside in rectangular boxes that constitute a group. Tabs can be dragged from one group to another, and groups can be named and moved as well. You can add a tab to an existing group or create a new group by right-clicking on the tab and choosing Move to Group. The hot-key combo Control-Shift-E will also jump between the main interface and the Tab Group window.

The overall idea is to make it easier to switch from one tab to another, to group or regroup related tabs, and to get a global view of what's going on with your tabs. It's potentially a big improvement in browser usage, compared with aiming a mouse at an ever-skinnier tab, cycling through a list with Alt-Tab keystrokes, or pecking at a drop-down menu to reach the tabs that overflowed off into the deep. Firefox 6 changed how Panorama interacted with the browser's memory management, so that tabs now load at launch only for the active group.

The Bookmarks and History menus have been redesigned, and now the hot keys open them by default as sidebars. Go through the Menu button to get the full menus. We were actually quite impressed with the layout of the menu button options for Bookmarks and History, finding it much more useful with quick access to recently closed tabs and new bookmark tags. This is probably the most useful in-browser bookmark manager around, especially if you enable Sync and use it with your Android phone or tablet.

Another relatively new feature is App Tabs, which reduces the width of a tab to its favicon and pins the tab permanently on the left. The tab will glow when updated, a useful indicator for things like Web mail. And when you start typing into the location bar, one of the search choices will be related open tabs so that you can quickly switch to an existing tab.

Under the hood, Firefox is an much different critter. The biggest is full hardware acceleration across all platforms, which means that Firefox draws on your graphics card to speed up complex rendering. You'll see dramatic HTML5 support, including for high-definition WebM video, and broad support for the HTML5 canvas, video, audio, geolocation, drag and drop, and form tags. OpenType fonts are supported, as are CSS3 and newer JavaScript values. WebGL and hardware acceleration give the browser a massive boost, which we'll discuss in the Performance section below.

Recent HTML5 improvements include additional support for the new Window.matchMedia API for Web optimization, WebSockets and server-sent APIs for building more-interactive and responsive real-time Web-based apps and games, a new version of hardware-accelerated Canvas for faster HTML5 games and animations, and improvements for Web developers. These include support for the W3C navigation timing API, which allows developers to measure page load time and site navigation against factors like bandwidth, and a new set of Firefox tools for developers.

The short version of all this is that Firefox is on the cutting edge of the next generation of Web standards, and that benefits you immensely by offering faster rendering times of Web sites that can do more.

A new Web Developer menu collates tools for building and debugging Web sites in one location. These include the Scratchpad tool, which browsers like Opera and Chrome have had for some time. It allows developers to test JavaScript before implementing it. The Web console feature also has a new autocomplete option and can have its location customized.

There's a decent list of other, smaller changes to Firefox that are worth pointing out because they'll enhance your work flow in one way or another. One of these is Switch to Tab. Open a new tab, start typing the name of an already-open tab, and the URL will appear in the drop-down with "Switch to Tab" beneath it. Select that one, and the new tab closes and you're whisked to the pre-existing tab. It's a great trick for cutting down on the amount of time it takes to sift through 45 open tabs, and removes the chance of accidentally having the same tab open twice or more.

The location bar--or as Mozilla calls it, the Awesome Bar--retains familiar features, such as the options to search your history and bookmarks and to tap your default search engine to provide you with quick results. However, the "feeling lucky" instant jump to what it thinks is the Web site you're most likely to be looking for has been disabled because of internal Mozilla concerns about accidentally sending personal information to the search provider.

The relatively new Do Not Track feature indicates via a header notification that you want to opt out of targeted advertisements. However, it requires that the Web site you're viewing, and therefore that site's developers, respect the header itself. While this is great for future-proofing the Web, as implemented at the time of writing, not many Web sites have taken notice of it. That doesn't mean it won't eventually have a big impact, but that time is not now, and it's better to install an add-on like Adblock Plus to get more complete ad-tracking protection.

There are two smaller yet important changes to the way that Firefox protects you. One is the Content Security Policy, which is designed to block one of the most common types of browser threats, cross-site scripting attacks, by allowing sites to tell the browser which content is legitimate. Though CSP also places the burden on the sites' developers, it's backward-compatible and aimed mostly at well-known sites hosting immense volumes of data and content.

Another security improvement is the implementation of HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS). This prevents your log-in information from being intercepted by telling Firefox to automatically create a secure connection to a site's servers.

The "identity block," the colored left-most section of the URL, has been given a refresh to better call out the Web site you're on, and the URL bar itself now changes the text color of the URL you're on so that the domain is black, for easy identification, while the rest of the URL is gray. This is a small security change, and one that's been previously available to people who are comfortable changing their about:config, but it's definitely a strong visual cue that helps you avoid getting spoofed.

The new feature set alone makes it worth upgrading to the latest version of Firefox. While some older Firefox users may feel that these features add unnecessary bloat to a browser that offers add-ons specifically so that you can customize your browsing experience, Firefox 4 was actually dramatically faster than Firefox 3.6, and Firefox 9 made major improvements on Firefox 4. We address the browser's behavior in the section below.

Performance
As mentioned earlier, Firefox 9's performance has been greatly improved by the addition of graphics processing unit (GPU) hardware acceleration. It allows the browser to shove certain rendering tasks onto the computer's graphics card, freeing up CPU resources while making page rendering and animations load faster. These tasks include composition support, rendering support, and desktop compositing.

You ought to see the memory improvements in Firefox 9 manifest, or more specifically, not manifest, when the browser is kept open for long periods of time, when multiple tabs are open at once, and when the browser is used concurrently with other programs that also use a lot of memory. The company also noted that its MemShrink initiative was successful in part because of the rapid release cycle that a vocal minority of Firefox users have been criticizing.

Installing Firefox 9 prompts you to opt in to a new anonymous reporting measure called Telemetry. Not unlike security suites, which use your data anonymously to improve threat detection rates, Mozilla plans to crowdsource its performance data to learn more about how the browser performs in real-world situations. Unlike the security suites, Telemetry is opt-in, so Mozilla won't be collecting data without permission. Not surprisingly given Mozilla's reputation for openness, Telemetry is far more open about what it collects and why than similar features from competitors like Apple, Google, or Microsoft. Currently, it looks at four categories: memory usage, CPU core count, cycle collection times, and startup speed. Curious readers can install the About:telemetry add-on to see the personal statistics that Firefox is gathering.

If you've enabled Telemetry and would like to disable it, you can go to Options, Advanced, and uncheck the Submit Performance Data box at the bottom of the General tab.

JavaScript plays a major role in the Web, and changes to the JaegerMonkey engine combined with the GPU acceleration give the browser some serious juice. Ongoing improvements in browser technology make regular browser testing a challenge, but March 2011's browser benchmark battle placed Firefox 4 ahead of Chrome 11 and Internet Explorer 9. It wouldn't be surprising to find that Chrome and Firefox currently test much closer to each other because of their regular updates.

One interesting publicly available benchmark is JSGameBench from Facebook, which looks to test HTML5 in real-world gaming situations. JSGameBench hasn't posted new results since April 2011, but the ones it did post gave strong marks to the Firefox 4 beta both with and without WebGL. The stable version of Firefox 4 also did well in JSGameBench tests once it was released.

Note that to effectively use hardware acceleration, you must make sure that your graphics card drivers are up-to-date.

Browser benchmarks are a notoriously fidgety lot, and often come up against legitimate complaints that they look at too narrow a set of features--such as checking only JavaScript rendering times. In hands-on use, at least, Firefox 9 can more than hold its own. It's not clear that it's enough to counter the past three years of Chrome decisively winning the fastest-browser PR campaign, but that may no longer be the point. All five major browsers are now similarly fast at JavaScript tests, and you may want to start looking at other criteria to determine which browser is best for you.

In hands-on experience, one of the most positive performance differences between Firefox 3.6 and the current version is that Firefox 9 crashes far, far less. That's due in no small part to improvements made to the plug-in crash protection, which prevents plug-ins like Adobe Flash, Apple QuickTime, and Microsoft Silverlight from dropping the browser dead. If one of them crashes, simply reload the page.

Conclusion
Definitely a worthy heir to the Firefox name, Firefox 9's one major drawback is that, like its competitors, it still uses massive amounts of RAM. Don't expect that to change as the browser is relied upon to perform more and more tasks that once occurred in other programs. However, it will be less of a problem as hardware improves and Mozilla continues to push initiatives like Telemetry and protection from third-party add-ons.

Firefox 9 faces a challenging and ever-advancing field of competition. Some people have probably abandoned Firefox because of the significant speed differences between version 3.6 and Google Chrome. Others might be turned off by Mozilla's open-armed embrace of the rapid-release cycle, and the diminishing importance of version numbers. Frankly, we find that a bit silly, as it's better to get newer features and fixes as soon as they're ready, instead of waiting for a once-yearly update. Competition has forced Mozilla and others to put out better browsers in order to thrive, and we think that Firefox 9 will keep the browser competitive.

 
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Publisher's Description

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User Reviews
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  • Current Version

    3.7

    out of 91 votes

    • 5 star 45
    • 4 star 18
    • 3 star 3
    • 2 star 9
    • 1 star 16
  • All Versions

    4.3

    out of 15577 votes

    • 5 star 10307
    • 4 star 2425
    • 3 star 984
    • 2 star 650
    • 1 star 1211
  • My rating

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Results 1–10 of 91

1 stars

"not as god as previous versions"

January 28, 2012  |  By brodiemagnus

 |  Version: Mozilla Firefox 9.0.1

Pros

wish I could think of something positive

Cons

can't access email from homepage

Summary

waste of time

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4 stars

"not a difficult program to use"

January 27, 2012  |  By ssh49tn

 |  Version: Mozilla Firefox 9.0.1

Pros

Works good, faster than Internet Explorere

Cons

I couldn't deaccelerate my flash player on Firefox, so had trouble with some of my Facebook games. So I reinstalled Chrome, so I could. I have a 32 bit system, & don't need a flash for a 62 bit.

Summary

I would definitely use it again, if they simply finding tools, & other options on it. It's not hard to use otherwise. i would recommend it to anyone who is fairly comfortable with computers.

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5 stars

"Most stable browser for people who use more than 20tabs"

January 27, 2012  |  By rainedragon

 |  Version: Mozilla Firefox 9.0.1

Pros

Stays stable with 100+ tabs open.
Stays stable if tabs are left open for days or weeks at a time.
Many useful extensions.
Follows web coding standards.
Faster than a number of other options.
Offers you the ability to sort tabs into groups to stay organized.

Cons

Sometimes not as stable as previous versions.
Runs heavy proportionately to the number of tabs you have open when using very few (less than 10) tabs.

Summary

I am the sort of user who will easily have 100-300 tabs open at any given time with all the things I'm testing, researching, etc. Also, I like to keep those tabs open until the project is done. That sometimes means leaving tabs open for weeks, and sometimes not looking at a particular tab for half a day while it is open.

I have not found any other browser that can handle this. Chrome "forgets" the contents of a tab and has to "wake up" the tab if it's left too many hours without being viewed (and you can't navigate chrome tabs with that many open, and it runs heavier at that point.) IE crashes long before that point, safari and opera both slow down remarkably.

Firefox isn't perfect, but it's rugged.

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2 stars

"It works but barely."

January 27, 2012  |  By bullywug

 |  Version: Mozilla Firefox 9.0.1

Pros

Standard
Non-profit

Cons

Relatively slow
Instability issues
Issues with extensions and addons not being compatible due to Firefox hyperactive version numbering scheme
Issues with PHP (a major component of most modern web sites)
Poor javascript implimentation

Summary

Firefox is not the most reliable. Firefox is not the fastest. Firefox is not the most widely used. Firefox is not the most stable. So what's the point of Firefox? With all these issues it's still a good browser, but right now, when you compaire it to IE9 and Chrome I cannot justify a higher rating than 1 1/2 stars (Poor) because compaired to the competition, Firefox is a poor choice.

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5 stars

"Very Good."

January 26, 2012  |  By hl2dapper

 |  Version: Mozilla Firefox 9.0.1

Pros

Efficiency

Cons

None, ....

Summary

Very Good.

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1 stars

"Just amazing, Google Firefox is worst then ever"

January 25, 2012  |  By TWB404

 |  Version: Mozilla Firefox 9.0.1

Pros

I am amazed just how far they have driven this once good browser into the ground.

Cons

I gave up on FF with version 4 and their efforts to copy Google. I thought I would give them a try one more time and see if they had moved back in the direction of being a good browser. BOY WAS I WRONG.

Summary

I thought with the release of version 4 they could not screw up this once great browser but they did. From the toolbar to the status bar this browser is so bad I went to the trouble restore my hard drive from an image so there would be no trace of it left on my puter. While Mozilla, opps sorry, Google FF might hold 22% of the browser market share only 15% are using the not needed and keep getting worst new versions being released. You would think they would get the message. The thing that struck me as funny was while I had the latest version installed, I thought I would send them some feedback. You can only send them feedback if you have the newest version installed. Before they started copying Google you could use an older version but I guess they got to many negative feedback and switched. To prove that point they now limit you to only 140 characters. Before you could send them an email but, and I hate to repeat myself, now that they copy Google they are getting to many negative feedback's and had to limit how many character you could use. Trust me, 140 Characters is not enough to describe just how bad it is and how far they have gone down hill.

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5 stars

"Speed better than others"

January 24, 2012  |  By cronistaq

 |  Version: Mozilla Firefox 9.0.1

Pros

It loads fact and easy to follow rest of actions like remember passwords

Cons

clumsy to load add ons, altough you must exit to reload all complements

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2 stars

"Full of bugs running on Win XP"

January 23, 2012  |  By George312

 |  Version: Mozilla Firefox 9.0.1

Pros

fine when working

Cons

Full of bugs

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4 stars

"I will give it a month...to see if I like it."

January 22, 2012  |  By peachesnjuce

 |  Version: Mozilla Firefox 9.0.1

Pros

don't crash as much.

Cons

still slow

Summary

better than explorer

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3 stars

"Was a long time User"

January 20, 2012  |  By lucycat2eyes

 |  Version: Mozilla Firefox 9.0.1

Pros

I had used Firefox for well over a year that is all the way up to just a few days ago when they decided to do some changes, all in all Firefox is still a better way to go in compare to Google Chrome esepcially for those who won't be needing certain features that is.

Cons

After the Firefox had updated itself on my computer one of the most importain features disappear on me, which I depended on very much due to my poor eyesight, so then I thought well I could learn to get along without it, then Firefox Browswer started to crash when I was right in the middle of doing something importaint, I figure that was just a clich, a one time thing, but Firefox kept on crashing without reason, Ran my anti virus program and all was clear and free right there, this went on for three days, then the last straw was when Firefox had crashed three times within an hour, I had no other choice to but uninstalled it and then reinstalled the program, it didn't make a bit of differences, and so now I am on the hunt for a new browser.

Summary

I will more and likely be back to Firefox once they get all of their problems resolved, in the meantime I am staying away from that browswer including Chrome which I don't like at all.

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Results 1–10 of 91

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Full Specifications

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What's new in version 9.0.1
Version 9.0.1 improved standards support for HTML5, MathML, and CSS, added support for querying Do Not Track status via JavaScript, and fixed several stability issues.
General
Publisher Mozilla
Publisher web site http://www.mozilla.org/
Release Date December 21, 2011
Date Added December 21, 2011
Version 9.0.1
Category
Category Browsers
Subcategory Web Browsers
Operating Systems
Operating Systems Windows, Windows 2000, Windows Vista, Windows 2003, Windows 7, Windows XP
Additional Requirements None
Download Information
File Size 34.79MB
File Name Firefox Setup 33.1.1.exe
Popularity
Total Downloads 45,969,864
Downloads Last Week 69,927
Pricing
License Model Free
Limitations Not available
Price Free

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