Firefox will always be a superior to Internet Explorer, even if Microsoft eventually decides to modernize its browser with features like tabbed browsing.
That’s because Firefox opens up the browser to the collective intelligence of the entire Internet, something that Microsoft will never do. And the collective intelligence of the Internet trumps Microsoft programmers every time.
Let me be specific. One of Firefox’s niftiest little features is its built-in Google search box in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. Type in a search term, press Enter, and you do a Google search.
Even better, you can add any search engine or site to the box - Yahoo!, Amazon, Microsoft, encyclopedias…pretty much any site or search engine on the Internet.
Firefox comes with a few of these search engines built in, but you can add more by clicking the down arrow to the left of the search box, choosing Add Engines, and you’ll come to a site that will let you add any of hundreds of search engines via search plug-ins.
Here’s what’s best about those plug-ins: Anyone can write one, and then have it posted on the search engine plug-in site. It doesn’t take programming experience. Public documentation provides a quick start.
Using it, my 14-year-old son Gabe wrote a search plug-in that lets you search WindowsDevCenter from inside Firefox. Download this Zip file, unzip it and put it into the C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\searchplugins folder. (That’s assuming that you used the default folder for Firefox installation.) Then restart Firefox, and you’ll be able to choose the WindowsDevCenter search engine from the drop-down list to the left of the search box.
Firefox extensions are another example of collective intelligence applied to the browser. It’s tougher to write an extension than a search plug-in, but it’s not killer programming, and so people have written dozens or hundreds of these useful extensions. And more keep coming all the time. (For more information about extensions, see Using Extensions in Firefox .)
Firefox builds on the collective creativity of the Internet, and it’s very unlikely that Microsoft will ever open up its browser in the same way that Firefox has. And because of that, Firefox will always be at least a step ahead of IE.
What do you think of Firefox search plug-ins and extensions? Let us know.