Free web browser worth looking at
Mozilla Firefox is a classic, free web browser that’s been around since 2004. It fell out of favor in recent years, being overtaken by Chrome, newcomers to the browser scene, and even the new, improved version of Internet Explorer which, despite misgivings, was actually making a very good impression. Firefox took a little longer to get back on its feet. It’s here now, but has it done enough?
A browser that puts privacy first
Mozilla Firefox is no newcomer to the browser scene. It’s been around for many years and was once as popular - if not more - than Google Chrome. As Chrome thrived, however, it seemed to lose its shine and post-2013 seemed to slip further and further down the ratings. Well, Firefox is back with an all-new browser that really focuses on privacy. Will it be enough to save the veteran browser or is it too little, too late?
Download and install Firefox
The Firefox download is as easy and fast as you’d expect, as is the install. There are very few hoops to jump through - rather than offering you the set-up and sync options in the installation process, it simply installs the browser and offers sync subtly when it is done. The downside of this, of course, is that if you want any fine-grained control over the set-up of Firefox, you’re going to have to dive into the options yourself. We’d definitely recommend this because Firefox offers a lot of control over various options, especially privacy. Since this is possibly one of the main reasons you’ve downloaded it, it’s worth taking some time over. Check out your options by clicking on the three horizontal bars in the top left of the window >Privacy Protections.
What Mozilla Firefox offers users
The first thing you’ll notice when you open Firefox is just how fast and attractive it is. The purple and orange color scheme has really been polished up and all the menus and options look clean, minimalist, and easy to navigate. Firefox’s speed, which is one of the major selling points, also pleases. It’s all very well for Firefox and testers to tell us, precisely, how fast it is (and they do), but it looks and feels fast when you’re using it, which is arguably the most important point.
Connected to this, Firefox also uses less memory and, together, they have an impressive effect on resource-hungry tasks, like playing games or running other programs on your computer. Firefox also makes special mention of tabs, saying that they’ve changed the way the browser deals with tab processes to unlink them, which makes them faster, more agile, and less likely to crash or hang.
The browser also continues to support a huge library of add-ons, which are a great way of extending the functionality of the browser. There are also plenty of themes, so even if you’re not keen on the purple and orange, there are other options available to you.
Firefox Quantum, Nightly, and more
A quick detour - when you do your research on Firefox, you may see other versions up for grabs and wonder which you should pick. Here’s what’s on offer:
Firefox Lockwise, the password manager
One thing that we weren’t so keen on is this: when you look at Firefox’s features either on the Mozilla website or on the welcome page once you’ve installed the browser, you’ll see mention of some cool-sounding features like Lockwise, Monitor, and Send. They’re sort of integrated into the browser - Lockwise is the password managers, but to use all its features, you need to sync your browser. Monitor is not part of the browser, but it is a service you need to have a Firefox account to access and, finally, Send is a totally separate website. All this isn’t clear from the homepage and can look like they are all standard Firefox features, which isn’t quite true.
Firefox and your privacy
For most people who look to Firefox, the privacy gains are the main event - especially if you’re looking to make a change from Chrome. When it comes to ad blockers, Firefox has some heavy-duty weapons under the hood. You choose the level of protection you need from the browser, picking from highly-configurable Standard, Strict, and Custom modes, and there are also a number of Firefox-approved ad-blocking extensions you can add to up the level of protection.
You’ll also be able to exercise plenty of control over Firefox privacy by delving into the settings options - in both the Privacy Protections and Options menus. Here you can tweak the ad blockers, as we mentioned, as well as changing permissions for things like the camera, allowing or preventing Firefox from collecting data, and deciding when and how you deal with dangerous downloads and security certificates. There’s also a super-charged, tracker blocking private mode and a default password manager (although you can get more sophisticated password managers as separate downloads or add-ons).
Finally, although it’s not a feature, Firefox has a specific, detailed, and seemingly transparent official approach to privacy, laying out clearly what data it tracks, who it shares it with, and why it does so. It’s nice to see this straightforward approach.
Firefox is back in the running as a great browser
We were impressed by Firefox and consider it to be a fully-fledged top browser once again. It looks good, moves fast, and has every single feature you could possibly want from a browser. It’s got add-ons and Firefox for Android, scores highly on transparency, and works hard to keep updating the features it offers users. Obviously, privacy is a major component of Firefox’s charm, but it’s this aspect that confuses us a little. If you’re not at all interested in privacy, it’s unlikely that Firefox will offer enough to tempt you from your existing browser.
If privacy is of major importance to you, there’s a good chance you’ll go for something more hard-core than Firefox, like Firefox Focus, or one of the entirely new browsers that have been built with privacy in mind, like Tor. For everyone else, Firefox is probably a good choice, but only if you’re pushed away from your old browser - without the encouragement, there’s just not enough that’s different to force us to make the jump. Other important alternatives are UC Browser, Brave, or Opera.
The latest version of Firefox made various security fixes and added Notifications when Firefox blocks cryptominers, a running tally of blocked trackers, integrated breach alerts from Firefox Monitor are now available to users with screen readers and Firefox now suggests saved logins from other subdomains of a site. Finally, Firefox will now ship with new languages such as Tagalog (tl), and Triqui (trs).