On June 17, more than 8 million people from around the world downloaded the FireFox 3 web browser, and in the process set a Guinness World Record for the largest number of software downloads in a 24 hour period. And users didn’t stop there — in the few weeks since its release, more than 28 million people have downloaded FF3.

FireFox 3 is free, the download package small, and it takes less than sixty seconds to install. We’ve found that once an Internet Explorer user tries FireFox, they rarely look back.

Why? For starters, FireFox is fast. Four years ago it debuted as a stripped-down browser that focused on speed at a time when other browsers were adding as many features as possible. Since then, FireFox has added functionality, but speed continues to be the foremost concern of its development team.

Why else? FireFox is secure.  Many Internet attacks are perpetrated through vulnerabilities in the web browser, and Internet Explore has been compromised by hackers time and time again.  Since FireFox is open source software, hundreds of technologists review the code, test the application, and ensure it is safe and stable. While switching browsers doesn’t guarantee online security, it certainly helps.

Finally, FireFox offers a library of over 5,000 add-ons to customize your browser.  Some our our favorites include:

  • AdBlock eliminates about 99% of the ads from your web browsing experience
  • FoxMarks allows you to easily synchronize your bookmarks between multiple computers
  • Better Gmail 2 simplifies and enhances your Gmail account

If you’re already using FireFox, you’ll appreciate the 15,000 improvements that have been since the browser’s previous version.  Many of these are performance-related upgrades and bug fixes, such as plugging the memory leaks that caused FF2 to use eat memory. A lot of small things have been rethought and improved, like making storing and management of passwords less intrusive and more accurate.  And there are some brand new features, such as the enjoyably-titled “Awesome Bar,” which uses browsing history to predict which site is being typed into the location bar.

Though we are happy to spread the good news, we must admit that our FireFox evangelism is not entirely without self interest. Historically, Microsoft has interpreted Internet Explorer’s overwhelming market share as a license to disregard broadly accepted web standards.  Microsoft’s impunity has forced web developers to make special accommodations so their sites could be properly viewed in IE.  These “IE hacks” are time-consuming and temperamental, and result in web development that’s less efficient — costing everybody time, energy, and money.  As FireFox’s market share expands (it’s currently at almost 20%), IE is being pressured into playing by the rules (for example, IE 7 is much more compliant than IE 6).

As web developers, our lives would be much easier if everyone used FireFox (or if MS decided to abide by the standard).

Please, for your sake and ours, give it a try.

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