Mozilla Unleashes Firefox 2.0 as IE7 Faceoff Begins

The Mozilla Foundation this week made available its Firefox 2.0 browser, adding enhanced search and security features to its open source alternative to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. That program was updated itself last week, with Redmond’s release of IE7.

New Firefox features include an updated user interface with more visible toolbar buttons, built-in phishing protection and improved search capabilities. The latest version also boosts tabbed browsing functionality and adds spell check for Web forms.

Facing Off

Mozilla may face more formidable competition from the latest Explorer version, which has finally come around to offering such Firefox features as tabbed browsing. In addition, Firefox continues to be mainly a consumer play, while Explorer enjoys a great deal of use among enterprises.

Firefox stands to benefit, however, from the attention being paid of late to browser applications in general, and its reputation for providing greater security to users, in particular. Microsoft, which has struggled with IE security in the past, is getting credit for hardening its browser against online attacks, but some skepticism remains regarding IE7 security issues.

“For both [Mozilla and Microsoft], these releases are about PR … and trying to keep relevant in peoples’ minds, rather than the actual features,” Burton Group Vice President Craig Roth told LinuxInsider.

Reinvigorating the Browser Battle

Firefox has made gains in the face of Microsoft’s IE security fumbles and its lag in adding browser features to the point where it has grabbed more than 10 percent of the consumer browser market. The alternative browser is likely to continue its success streak even against an updated IE7, Roth said.

“I think they’re invigorated, knowing browsers are in the news again,” he said of Firefox maker Mozilla. “They want to have something to show if people are going to pay attention to them.”

Firefox users will be getting new search functionality and additional protection against spoofing and phishing ploys that can dupe Internet users, added Roth, who said the next update from Mozilla — Firefox 3.0, which is expected next year — will be a much more significant update than 2.0.

Equal Footing

Some of the new features offered in IE7, such as increased functionality with Really Simple Syndication, or RSS, may introduce Explorer security vulnerabilities of old, suggests IT-Harvest Chief Research Analyst Richard Stiennon.

New Explorer security measures that may limit its functionality with Web sites may also break Explorer’s universal compatibility, he noted, so “that puts [Firefox] on the same footing all of a sudden.”

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