Firefox was created in 2002 under the codename "Phoenix" by the Mozilla community members who desired a standalone browser, rather than the Mozilla Application Suite bundle. During its beta phase, Firefox proved to be popular with its testers and was praised for its speed, security, and add-ons compared to Microsoft's then-dominant Internet Explorer 6. Firefox was released on November 9, 2004, and challenged Internet Explorer's dominance with 60 million downloads within nine months. Firefox is the spiritual successor of Netscape Navigator, as the Mozilla community was created by Netscape in 1998 before their acquisition by AOL.
The project began as an experimental branch of the Mozilla project by Dave Hyatt, Joe Hewitt, and Blake Ross. They believed the commercial requirements of Netscape's sponsorship and developer-driven feature creep compromised the utility of the Mozilla browser. To combat what they saw as the Mozilla Suite's software bloat, they created a stand-alone browser, with which they intended to replace the Mozilla Suite. On April 3, 2003, the Mozilla Organization announced that they planned to change their focus from the Mozilla Suite to Firefox and Thunderbird. The community-driven SeaMonkey was formed and eventually replaced the Mozilla Application Suite in 2005.
Early Firebird and Phoenix releases of Firefox were considered to have reasonable visual designs but fell short when compared to many other professional software packages. In October 2003, professional interface designer Steven Garrity authored an article covering everything he considered to be wrong with Mozilla's visual identity.
Firefox was adopted rapidly, with 100 million downloads in its first year of availability. This was followed by a series of aggressive marketing campaigns starting in 2004 with a series of events Blake Ross and Asa Dotzler called "marketing weeks".
Shortly afterwards, the Mozilla Foundation invited Garrity to head up the new visual identity team. The release of Firefox 0.8 in February 2004 saw the introduction of the new branding efforts. Included were new icon designs by silverorange, a group of web developers with a long-standing relationship with Mozilla. The final renderings are by Jon Hicks, who had worked on Camino. The logo was later revised and updated, fixing several flaws found when it was enlarged. The animal shown in the logo is a stylized fox, although "firefox" is usually a common name for the red panda. The panda, according to Hicks, "didn't really conjure up the right imagery" and was not widely known.
Firefox 0.8 – 0.10, from February 9, 2004 to November 8, 2004
The Firefox project has undergone several name changes. The nascent browser was originally named Phoenix, after the mythical bird that rose triumphantly from the ashes of its dead predecessor (in this case, from the "ashes" of Netscape Navigator, after it was side-lined by Microsoft Internet Explorer in the "First Browser War"). Phoenix was renamed due to a trademark claim from Phoenix Technologies. The replacement name, Firebird, provoked an intense response from the Firebird database software project. The Mozilla Foundation reassured them that the browser would always bear the name Mozilla Firebird to avoid confusion. After further pressure, Mozilla Firebird became Mozilla Firefox on February 9, 2004. The name Firefox was said to be derived from a nickname of the red panda, which became the mascot for the newly named project. For the abbreviation of Firefox, Mozilla prefers Fx or fx, though it is often abbreviated as FF.
Firefox continued to heavily market itself by releasing a marketing portal dubbed "Spread Firefox" (SFX) on September 12, 2004, It debuted along with the Firefox Preview Release, creating a centralized space for the discussion of various marketing techniques. The release of their manifesto stated that "the Mozilla project is a global community of people who believe that openness, innovation and opportunity are key to the continued health of the Internet." A two-page ad in the edition of December 16 of The New York Times, placed by Mozilla Foundation in coordination with Spread Firefox, featured the names of the thousands of people worldwide who contributed to the Mozilla Foundation's fundraising campaign to support the launch of the Firefox 1.0 web browser. SFX portal enhanced the "Get Firefox" button program, giving users "referrer points" as an incentive. The site lists the top 250 referrers. From time to time, the SFX team or SFX members launch marketing events organized at the Spread Firefox website. As a part of the Spread Firefox campaign, there was an attempt to break the world download record with the release of Firefox 3. This resulted in an official certified Guinness world record, with over eight million downloads. In February 2011, Mozilla announced that it would be retiring Spread Firefox (SFX). Three months later, in May 2011, Mozilla officially closed Spread Firefox. Mozilla wrote that "there are currently plans to create a new iteration of this website [Spread Firefox] at a later date."
Firefox is a widely localized web browser. The first official release in November 2004 was available in 24 different languages and for 28 locales, including British English, American English, European Spanish, Argentine Spanish, and Chinese in Traditional Chinese characters and Simplified Chinese characters. As of September 2020 , currently supported versions 80.0.1, 80.0 for Android, 78.2.0esr and 68.12.0esr are available in 89 locales (79 languages).
Downloads have continued at an increasing rate since Firefox 1.0 was released on November 9, 2004, and as of 31 July 2009 Firefox had already been downloaded over one billion times. This number does not include downloads using software updates or those from third-party websites. They do not represent a user count, as one download may be installed on many machines, one person may download the software multiple times, or the software may be obtained from a third-party.
Firefox 1.0 – 3.0, from November 9, 2004 to June 29, 2009
Version 1.0 of Firefox was released on November 9, 2004. This was followed by version 1.5 in November 2005, version 2.0 in October 2006, version 3.0 in June 2008, version 3.5 in June 2009, version 3.6 in January 2010, and version 4.0 in March 2011. From version 5 onwards, the development and release model changed into a "rapid" one; by the end of 2011 the stable release was version 9, and by the end of 2012 it reached version 17.
In December 2005, Internet Week ran an article in which many readers reported high memory usage in Firefox 1.5. Mozilla developers said that the higher memory use of Firefox 1.5 was at least partially due to the new fast backwards-and-forwards (FastBack) feature. Other known causes of memory problems were malfunctioning extensions such as Google Toolbar and some older versions of AdBlock, or plug-ins, such as older versions of Adobe Acrobat Reader. When PC Magazine in 2006 compared memory usage of Firefox 2, Opera 9, and Internet Explorer 7, they found that Firefox used approximately as much memory as each of the other two browsers.
Because Firefox generally has fewer publicly known security vulnerabilities than Internet Explorer (see Comparison of web browsers), improved security is often cited as a reason to switch from Internet Explorer to Firefox. The Washington Post reported that exploit code for known critical security vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer was available for 284 days in 2006. In comparison, exploit code for known, critical security vulnerabilities in Firefox was available for nine days before Mozilla issued a patch to remedy the problem.
Distributing modified versions of Firefox under the "Firefox" name required explicit approval from Mozilla for the changes made to the underlying code, and required the use of all of the official branding. For example, it was not permissible to use the name "Firefox" without also using the official logo. When the Debian project decided to stop using the official Firefox logo in 2006 (because Mozilla's copyright restrictions at the time were incompatible with Debian's guidelines), they were told by a representative of the Mozilla Foundation that this was not acceptable and were asked either to comply with the published trademark guidelines or cease using the "Firefox" name in their distribution. Debian switched to branding their modified version of Firefox "Iceweasel" (but in 2016 switched back to Firefox), along with other Mozilla software. GNU IceCat is another derived version of Firefox distributed by the GNU Project, which maintains its own separate branding.
Tests performed by PC World and Zimbra in 2006 indicated that Firefox 2 used less memory than Internet Explorer 7. Firefox 3 used less memory than Internet Explorer 7, Opera 9.50 Beta, Safari 3.1 Beta, and Firefox 2 in tests performed by Mozilla, CyberNet, and The Browser World. In mid-2009, BetaNews benchmarked Firefox 3.5 and declared that it performed "nearly ten times better on XP than Microsoft Internet Explorer 7".
The Firefox community has also engaged in the promotion of their web browser. In 2006, some of Firefox's contributors from Oregon State University made a crop circle of the Firefox logo in an oat field near Amity, Oregon, near the intersection of Lafayette Highway and Walnut Hill Road. After Firefox reached 500 million downloads on February 21, 2008, the Firefox community celebrated by visiting Freerice to earn 500 million grains of rice.
The first official release (Firefox version 1.0) supported macOS (then called Mac OS X) on the PowerPC architecture. Mac OS X builds for the IA-32 architecture became available via a universal binary which debuted with Firefox 18.104.22.168 in 2006.
In celebration of the third anniversary of the founding of the Mozilla Foundation, the "World Firefox Day" campaign was established on July 15, 2006, and ran until September 15, 2006. Participants registered themselves and a friend on the website for nomination to have their names displayed on the Firefox Friends Wall, a digital wall that was displayed at the headquarters of the Mozilla Foundation.
Other initiatives included Live Chat – a service Mozilla launched in 2007 that allowed users to seek technical support from volunteers. The service was later retired.
There has been some controversy over the Mozilla Foundation's intentions in stopping certain open-source distributions from using the "Firefox" trademark. Open-source browsers "enable greater choice and innovation in the market rather than aiming for mass-market domination." Mozilla Foundation Chairperson Mitchell Baker explained in an interview in 2007 that distributions could freely use the Firefox trademark if they did not modify source code, and that the Mozilla Foundation's only concern was with users getting a consistent experience when they used "Firefox".
Firefox 3.5 – 22, fromJune 30, 2009 toAugust 5, 2013
In October 2009, Microsoft's security engineers acknowledged that Firefox was vulnerable to a security issue found in the 'Windows Presentation Foundation' browser plug-in since February of that year. A .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 Windows Update had silently installed the vulnerable plug-in into Firefox. This vulnerability has since been patched by Microsoft.
In 2010, a study of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), based on data compiled from the National Vulnerability Database (NVD), Firefox was listed as the fifth-most vulnerable desktop software, with Internet Explorer as the eighth, and Google Chrome as the first.
Firefox for mobile is a web browser for mobile phones, tablets, and PDAs. It was originally first released for the Nokia Maemo operating system, specifically the Nokia N900, on January 28, 2010. On March 29, 2011, an Android version was released, being based on version 4. With the release of the mobile version, the browser's version number was bumped from 2 to 4, synchronizing it with all future desktop releases of Firefox because the rendering engines used in both browsers are the same. Version 7 was the last release for Maemo on the N900.
In July 2010, IBM asked all employees (about 400,000) to use Firefox as their default browser.
Firefox has passed the Acid2 standards-compliance test since version 3.0. Mozilla had originally stated that they did not intend for Firefox to pass the Acid3 test fully because they believed that the SVG fonts part of the test had become outdated and irrelevant, due to WOFF being agreed upon as a standard by all major browser makers. Because the SVG font tests were removed from the Acid3 test in September 2011, Firefox 4 and greater scored 100/100.
Firefox was the second-most used web browser until November 2011, when Google Chrome surpassed it. According to Mozilla, Firefox has more than 450 million users as of October 2012 .
On January 28, 2013, Mozilla was recognized as the most trusted internet company for privacy in 2012. This study was performed by the Ponemon Institute and was a result of a survey from more than 100,000 consumers in the United States.
In the past, Firefox was licensed solely under the MPL, then version 1.1, which the Free Software Foundation criticized for being weak copyleft, as the license permitted, in limited ways, proprietary derivative works. Additionally, code only licensed under MPL 1.1 could not legally be linked with code under the GPL. To address these concerns, Mozilla re-licensed most of Firefox under the tri-license scheme of MPL 1.1, GPL 2.0, or LGPL 2.1. Since the re-licensing, developers were free to choose the license under which they received most of the code, to suit their intended use: GPL or LGPL linking and derivative works when one of those licenses is chosen, or MPL use (including the possibility of proprietary derivative works) if they chose the MPL. However, on January 3, 2012, Mozilla released the GPL-compatible MPL 2.0, and with the release of Firefox 13 on June 5, 2012, Mozilla used it to replace the tri-licensing scheme.
In February 2013, plans were announced for Firefox 22 to disable third-party cookies by default. However, the introduction of the feature was then delayed so Mozilla developers could "collect and analyze data on the effect of blocking some third-party cookies." Mozilla also collaborated with Stanford University's "Cookie Clearinghouse" project to develop a blacklist and whitelist of sites that will be used in the filter.
Firefox 23 – 56, from August 6, 2013 to November 13, 2017
In September 2013, a Metro-style version of Firefox optimized for touchscreen use was introduced on the "Aurora" release channel. However, the project has since been canceled as of March 2014 , with Mozilla citing a lack of user adoption of the beta versions.
In January 2014, a benchmark testing the memory usage of Firefox 29, Google Chrome 34, and Internet Explorer 11 indicated that Firefox used the least memory when a substantial number of tabs were open.
Features include tabbed browsing, spell checking, incremental search, live bookmarking, Smart Bookmarks, a download manager, private browsing, location-aware browsing (also known as "geolocation") based on a Google service, and an integrated search system, which uses Google by default in most markets. Additionally, Firefox provides an environment for web developers in which they can use built-in tools, such as the Error Console or the DOM Inspector, or extensions, such as Firebug and more recently there has been an integration feature with Pocket. Firefox Hello was an implementation of WebRTC, added in October 2014, which allows users of Firefox and other compatible systems to have a video call, with the extra feature of screen and file sharing by sending a link to each other. Firefox Hello was scheduled to be removed in September 2016.
Besides official releases, Mozilla provides development builds of Firefox in distribution channels named, in order of most to least stable, "Beta", "Developer Edition" (formerly "Aurora", renamed on November 10, 2014 ), and "Nightly". Starting from Firefox 54, "Developer Edition" is based on the "Beta" build.
Firefox usage grew to a peak of 32.21% at the end of 2009, with version 3.5 overtaking Internet Explorer 7, although not all versions of Internet Explorer as a whole. Usage then declined in competition with Google Chrome. As of September 2020 , Firefox has 8.34% usage share as a "desktop" browser, according to StatCounter, making it the second-most popular browser after Google Chrome with 69.87%; usage share across all platforms is lower at 4.09% (third-most popular overall after Safari). According to Mozilla, in December 2014, there were half a billion Firefox users around the world. Although all countries except for two have Google Chrome as their mainly used (desktop) web browser, the exceptions are in Cuba where Firefox still has over 50% desktop usage, and in Eritrea (most used at 40.87%). Firefox also has over 40% usage in Armenia, and over 20% usage in Germany, Austria, Poland, Luxembourg, Iran, Myanmar, East Timor, Burkina Faso, Madagascar, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Mali, Togo and Uganda.
In January 2015, TorrentFreak reported that using Firefox when connected to the internet using a VPN can be a serious security issue due to the browser's support for WebRTC.
In 2016, Mozilla announced a project known as Quantum, which sought to improve Firefox's Gecko engine and other components to improve Firefox's performance, modernize its architecture, and transition the browser to a multi-process model. These improvements came in the wake of decreasing market share to Google Chrome, as well as concerns that its performance was lapsing in comparison. Despite its improvements, these changes required existing add-ons for Firefox to be made incompatible with newer versions, in favor of a new extension system that is designed to be similar to Chrome and other recent browsers. Firefox 57, which was released in November 2017, was the first version to contain enhancements from Quantum, and has thus been named Firefox Quantum. A Mozilla executive stated that Quantum was the "biggest update" to the browser since version 1.0.
According to the Firefox Public Data report by Mozilla, the active monthly count of Desktop clients has decreased from around 310 million in 2017 to 260 million in 2019.
Mozilla Firefox, or simply Firefox, is a free and open-source web browser developed by the Mozilla Foundation and its subsidiary, the Mozilla Corporation. Firefox uses the Gecko layout engine to render web pages, which implements current and anticipated web standards. In 2017, Firefox began incorporating new technology under the code name Quantum to promote parallelism and a more intuitive user interface. Firefox is officially available for Windows 7 or newer, macOS, and Linux. Its unofficial ports are available for various Unix and Unix-like operating systems including FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD, illumos, and Solaris Unix. Firefox is also available for Android and iOS; however, the iOS version uses the WebKit layout engine instead of Gecko due to platform limitations, as with all other iOS web browsers. An optimized version of Firefox is also available on the Amazon Fire TV, as one of the two main browsers available with Amazon's Silk Browser.
The Firefox port for OpenBSD is maintained by Landry Breuil since 2010. Firefox is regularly built for the current branch of the operating system, the latest versions are packaged for each release and remain frozen until the next release. In 2017, Landry began hosting packages of newer Firefox versions for OpenBSD releases from 6.0 onwards, making them available to installations without the ports system.
The Solaris port of Firefox (including OpenSolaris) was maintained by the Oracle Solaris Desktop Beijing Team, until March 2017 when the team was disbanded. There was also an unofficial port of Firefox 3.6.x to IBM AIX and of v1.7.x to UnixWare.
In April 2017, users of Firefox 52.0.2 on Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008 who had automatic updates enabled were migrated to Firefox 52 ESR. Support for these operating systems ended in June 2018.
To promote the launch of Firefox Quantum in November 2017, Mozilla partnered with Reggie Watts to produce a series of TV ads and social media content.
Firefox 57 – 69, from November 14, 2017 to October 21, 2019
In November 2018, Firefox began using a sandbox to isolate web tabs from each other and from the rest of the system. Its lack of such a feature had previously earned it negative comparisons with Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge.
Beginning with Firefox 48, all extensions must be signed by Mozilla to be used in release and beta versions of Firefox. Firefox 43 blocked unsigned extensions but allowed enforcement of extension signing to be disabled. All extensions must be submitted to Mozilla Add-ons and be subject to code analysis in order to be signed, although extensions do not have to be listed on the service to be signed. On May 2, 2019, Mozilla announced that it would be strengthening the signature enforcement with methods that included the retroactive disabling of old extensions now deemed to be insecure. A Firefox update on May 3 led to bug reports about all extensions being disabled. This was found to be the result of an overlooked certificate and not the policy change set to go into effect on June 10.
On May 3, 2019, the expiration of an intermediate signing certificate caused Firefox to automatically disable all browser extensions (add-ons). Mozilla began the roll-out of a fix shortly thereafter, using their Mozilla Studies component.
On May 21, 2019, Firefox was updated to include the ability to block scripts that used a computer's CPU to mine cryptocurrency without a user's permission, in Firefox version 67.0. The update also allowed users to block known fingerprinting scripts that track their activity across the web, however it does not resist fingerprinting on its own.
In June 2019, Mozilla unveiled a revised Firefox logo, which was officially implemented on version 70. The new logo is part of an effort to build a brand system around Firefox and its complimentary apps and services, which are now being promoted as a suite under the Firefox brand. The logo of the Firefox family uses only the flame component of the logo, and Firefox itself (whose logo was revised to evoke the new branding style) is now being referred to in some publicity material as "Firefox Browser".
On July 2, 2019, Mozilla introduced a mechanism to allow Firefox to automatically trust OS-installed certificates to prevent TLS errors.
In October 2019, ZDNet reported Firefox version 68 ESR passed all minimum requirements for mandatory security features during an exam by the Federal Office for Information Security of Germany.
Firefox 70 and later, since October 22, 2019
On December 17, 2019, Mozilla announced a partnership with NextDNS to provide Firefox users with encrypted Domain Name System (DNS) services through its Trusted Recursive Resolver. With Cloudflare, this is the second public DNS resolver to be integrated as DoH provider in Firefox.
Firefox has had much success in some countries and continues to have it; as of June 2020 , it is the most popular browser on traditional PCs in e.g. Eritrea and Cuba, with 63.08% and 53.03% of the market share, respectively.
In August 2020, Mozilla launched a new version of its Firefox for Android app, named Firefox Daylight to the public and codenamed Fenix , after a little over a year of testing . It boasted higher speeds with its new GeckoView engine, which is described as being "the only independent web engine browser available on Android". It also added Enhanced Tracking Protection 2.0, a feature that blocks many known trackers on the Internet. It also added the ability to place the address bar on the bottom, and a new Collections feature. However, it was criticized for only having nine Add-ons at launch, and missing certain features . In response, Mozilla stated that they will allow more Add-ons with time.
Firefox was originally released for Mac OS X 10.0 and higher. The minimum OS then increased to Mac OS X 10.2 in Firefox 1.5 and 10.4 in Firefox 3. Firefox 4 dropped support for Mac OS X 10.4 and PowerPC Macs, and Firefox 17 dropped support for Mac OS X 10.5 entirely. The system requirements were left unchanged until 2016, when Firefox 49 dropped support for Mac OS X 10.6-10.8. Most recently, Mozilla ended support for OS X 10.9-10.11 in Firefox 79, with those users being supported on the Firefox 78 ESR branch until July 2021.