Firefox 2.0: Not Radical, but Just Right

Mozilla's return volley isn't as strong as Microsoft's serve, but does it need to be?

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In the end, being angry that Firefox 2.0 doesn't support your pet extension is akin to blaming Microsoft because a new version of Windows doesn't support your 10-year-old printer. It's up to hardware makers to support operating systems, and it's up to Firefox extension developers to support new versions of Firefox. Mozilla and Microsoft are both pretty good about communicating their intentions. And remember, Firefox extensions are free. The best advice I can give you is to stick to simpler extensions in the future.

Some of the popular extensions whose use is rendered either unworkable or unneeded by Firefox 2.0 include Feedview, SessionSaver, Resize Search Box, UndoCloseTab, FirefoxView, and Disable Targets for Downloads. Many others are affected, and already extensions are being updated or others are sliding in to take the place of others. Give it a few weeks; things will settle back into place.

Along with a minor update to the way the extensions manager works -- a user interface tweak that merges extensions and themes into one dialog box called Add-ons -- Mozilla has heavily revamped the Web site that supports things you add on to Firefox, including extensions, themes, search engines and plug-ins. The organization is welcome, although it's a bit harder to find extensions than it used to be.

The new Add-ons dialog box has integrated control of both extensions and themes
 

The new Add-ons dialog box has integrated control of both extensions and themes

(Click to see larger view)

More secure with Phishing Protection

Mozilla's built-in Phishing Protection may be its most important new feature. It's very similar on paper to Internet Explorer 7's antiphishing functionality. Both browsers warn their users when they load suspected counterfeit Web pages. Both also have a local list of suspect sites that connect with a larger, regularly updated list of sites. Although both offer protection, of the two, Microsoft's code seems a bit more advanced out of the box. On the other hand, Microsoft's code is also more prone to false positives. Even so, this may be the one feature on which Mozilla is playing a bit of catch-up with Microsoft.

The Phishing Protection warning icon
So how does the Firefox tool work? Mozilla offers details on its Phishing Protection page, but it's really quite simple. A large comic-strip word balloon emanates from the Phishing Protection warning icon -- the red circle with the white dash that appears in the icon area at the right side of the Location bar (which also shows icons for things like secure sites, and so forth).

The word balloon reads "Suspected Web Forgery," and you have the options to "Get me out of here!" and "Ignore this warning." Unless you know the site, it's best to get out of Dodge. Doing so returns you to your home page, hopefully before the scam site sniffs out any personal data.

Mozilla chose a dramatic notification system for its Phishing Protection feature
 

Mozilla chose a dramatic notification system, with

a "Get me out of here!" option for its Phishing

Protection feature (Click to see larger view)

The warning in Microsoft's latest browser is nowhere near as obvious. Firefox's more dramatic approach is the better one. To see this in action, for yourself without risking a real phishing site, point Firefox 2.0 at Mozilla's safe phishing protection test page.

The Firefox browser may not be the target of much malware or many phishing scams yet, but as its market share grows and it becomes more mainstream, that may change. It's much better to be prepared.

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