Happy Birthday, Firefox

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the official 1.0 release of Firefox. It had a colorful history leading up to that release. I remember when Dave Hyatt and Blake Ross first suggested the very ambitious idea of re-writing the core code base from the Mozilla internet suite into a lightweight dedicated browser. I used every 0.x build leading up to the final 1.0 release and was astonished at how quickly they were able to shed the legacy deadweight from Netscape Navigator and produce a browser fit for heavy, regular use.

Since those heady early days, the browser has been jarred by its fair share of bumps in the road but has also made staggering achievements at the same time. The development team has not only maintained an unwavering dedication to open standards but in many cases has had a pivotal role in pioneering them as well. Go ahead and peruse that list at the Mozilla Hacks blog.

I have been tempted by the relative newcomers, the other modern browsers which wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for Firefox. None of them has provided me the ability to customize the browsing experience to meet my own unique needs for performance, capability and security. The roadmap for the future is equally bright and likely to ensure Firefox will remain my main squeeze, my daily use browser on every computer I use for years to come.

It amazes me to see how Firefox’s role as the upstart in many ways has morphed into an incumbent against which the punk webkit browsers are reacting. This is of a piece with the ironic complaints from some quarters about its nagging performance and scalability problem. (How many tabs do these posers leave open? How many useless extensions have they installed, I wonder?) This has not phased the development team, though, who continue to work their asses off to meet the increasingly voracious demands of today’s web applications.

Producing software for a living, I don’t often get sentimental about it. This anniversary gives me good reason to pause and consider the otherwise invisible lens through which I experience the web on a daily basis. I am justifiably fond of the browser I still think of as the upstart with its adorable, fiery mascot.

How about you? How has Firefox affected your experience of the web? Today is a great excuse to share.

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