Techno Files...with Riley Gay

Firefox may outfox virus vulnerability of MS browser

If you have a Windows-based PC, chances are you use Internet Explorer to access the Internet.

According to current estimates, anyway, almost 95 percent of you do.

There are a couple of reasons for IEís overwhelming domination of the Web browser market, the first being that it comes with all Windows installations (itís free), and the second that it has generally been both easier to use and more functional than the alternatives (it works pretty well).

Just when itís beginning to look like Microsoft has won the browser war, though, a new contender has stepped up to challenge that dominance.

And this entrant may just be foxy enough to pull it off.

In the works for nearly two years, Mozillaís Firefox 1.0 has finally arrived, and it comes armed with all the bells and whistles found in Internet Explorer, plus a few of its own that are lacking in Microsoftís offering.

And, like Internet Explorer, Firefox is free (itís an open-source project) and decidedly functional.

The most obvious feature that sets Firefox apart from IE is tabbed browsing: The ability to open new pages as tabs within a single window.

This allows Firefox users to jump from site to site and back again without having to open multiple instances of the browser, as is the case with Internet Explorer.

Tabbed browsing can, for instance, let you check search engine results without leaving the search page. You can also set a bookmark to open multiple pages as separate tabs--a very handy feature.

Thereís a search field right on the navigation toolbar that lets you access your favorite search engine (the default is Google), and easily switch between several others.

Besieged by pop-up advertisements? Firefox will neatly block them for you. Even though Microsoft has recently added this capability to Internet Explorer, it only works on computers running Windows XP with Service Pack 2 installed. Users of other versions of Windows are simply out of luck.

Firefox is also highly customizable, allowing you to configure your browser to suit your particular tastes.

Itís easy to import your Internet Explorer settings, such as your favorites list, history cache, cookies and passwords, so making the switch to Firefox is pretty painless.

But perhaps the number one reason to make the switch is security.

If youíve been reading the news lately, youíre already aware of the almost daily reports of new vulnerabilities discovered in Microsoftís aging browser. Switching to Firefox can greatly reduce your exposure to the viruses, spyware and other malicious schemes that target Internet Explorer, and that alone should make it worth a closer look.

You can download Firefox 1.0 from www.mozilla.org, and while youíre there take a look at Thunderbird, Mozillaís free e-mail client that features enhanced junk mail screening and a host of security features.