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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 October 2006, 13:34 GMT 14:34 UK
Firefox browser for web 2.0 age
Woman using net in a cafe, BBC
Net use is becoming central to many people's lives
A new version of the Firefox browser for the web 2.0 age is to make its debut on 24 October.

Built in to the updated software is anti-phishing technology, to prevent fraud, as well as built-in spell checking and a search engine manager.

It is released less than a week after Microsoft unveiled Internet Explorer 7.

The Mozilla Corporation, which oversees the development of Firefox, says more than one million people helped refine the final release.

Firefox 2 is released at 1700 PST (0100 BST).

User testing

The first version of Firefox was released in November 2004 and since then has steadily been chipping away at the dominance of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser.

Now it is believed to enjoy a 12-15% market share of the net browsing market globally. But, said Mike Schroepfer, vice-president of engineering at Mozilla, in some nations the share is far higher.

We live and die by whether each individual wants to download and run it
Mike Schroepfer, Mozilla

Mr Schroepfer said that there were about 12 big improvements in Firefox 2.0 along with thousands of minor tweaks and bug fixes.

Big changes include a phishing finder that alerts people when they stray on to a site that tries to trick them into handing over login details for a bank or other valuable service.

Another change was a spell checker that keeps an eye on every bit of text typed in almost any Firefox browser box be it in a web-based e-mail program or an add-on that lets people post blog updates directly.

Firefox 2.0 also has an improved session restoration system that will let users resurrect tabbed webpages they accidentally closed or will re-start a net session at the point before a crash.

Other changes include improvements to the web feed, search engine and add-ons manager.

The project to create Firefox 2.0 kicked off in June 2006, said Mr Schroepfer and the software was released once the work was finished. It was mere coincidence that the work was done so close to the release of IE 7, he said.

'Didn't target'

"We really didn't target a specific date," said Mr Schroepfer.

David Weeks, Windows client marketing manager, said IE7 had been downloaded two million times in the first four days since it was made available to the general public.

It's great to have the Firefox people out there keeping us on our toes
David Weeks, Windows client marketing manager

The number of users is also likely to get a boost in early November when the software is automatically downloaded as part of that month's security updates. Those downloading automatically will get the choice of installing the software.

He said that the development of IE 7 was driven in part by the work Microsoft was doing on Vista - the next release of the Windows operating system. Those adopting IE7 would find that the "Internet Explorer experience" would remain the same on XP and Vista.

Although IE7 was the first new version of Microsoft's browser since 2001, Mr Weeks pointed out that the software changed significantly in the two big updates, or service packs, that had been released for Windows XP.


"But," he added, "since IE6 came out the world has changed a lot. Broadband has taken off and so has exploitation by less desirable characters on the net."

He denied that the near simultaneous release of IE7 and Firefox 2.0 was a return to the days of "browser wars" when Microsoft and Netscape slugged it out for dominance.

"It's great to have the Firefox people out there keeping us on our toes," he said. "We can learn a lot from each other."

Mr Schroepfer said the browser had been developed with the demands for a rich web 2.0 age in mind.

Customising software

As an open-source software project, the development of Firefox is led by the non-profit, Mozilla Foundation, but most of the development work is done by keen volunteers.

Mozilla Corporation is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation which generates revenue from the success of Firefox and other actitivies.

"We live and die by whether each individual wants to download and run it," said Mr Schroepfer.

Many have contributed to the project by customising the software for their own language, said Mr Schroepfer. At launch the software will be available in 36 languages.

Many users also create add-ons for the browser which add all kinds of functions that people see a need for. There were now more than 1,900 add-ons for Firefox, said Mr Schroepfer, which made it possible to keep the core software slim.

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