Firefox 2 review: Firefox 2

Firefox 2 also gives you the ability to correct your spelling mistakes online, just like using a word processor. This is great for typing blogs or posting to a newsgroup. Common dictionary words are checked, with misspellings identified with a squiggly red line. You can add more words and even include dictionaries available in various languages. Once you have access to inline spell-checking, you won't want to surf the Web without it.

Possibly the coolest new feature is Live Titles, formerly Microsummaries, which allows Web sites to stream updated data to your bookmarks. You can add the Live Titles functionality to the Merriam-Webster dictionary site, for example, and once you have done so, when you bookmark a page, you can choose the Live Title option to display the word of the day in your bookmark. When you drop down the bookmark menu or open the bookmark side panel, you'll see the Merriam-Webster logo followed by the word of the day. For news sites such as the BBC's, you'll see the latest headline. Think of Live Titles as RSS-like feeds for your otherwise static bookmarks.

Unfortunately extensions designed for Firefox 1.5 will probably break within Firefox 2. When you install Firefox 2, a handy wizard checks to see if there are new versions of already installed 1.5 extensions available; in our case, some but not all of our favorites had not been optimized for 2.0, but then again, we were testing ahead of public release. In general, the Firefox add-on community is much more robust than that of Internet Explorer.

Security enhancements within Firefox 2 continue. New is a dialog box informing you of cross-domain scripting, a tactic used by criminal hackers to link nonrelated sites to sites you think may be legit. And Mozilla remains very responsive to fixing its vulnerabilities, pushing out updates within a few days of public notice. Microsoft, on the other hand, parses out its vulnerability fixes a little at a time. In the five years since its release, IE 6 has accrued a large deficit, and we see no sign that Microsoft is addressing new vulnerabilities found in IE 7 any faster.

The underlying Web rendering engine within Firefox 2 is Gecko 1.8, and it is largely unchanged from the previous release, Firefox 1.5. The next release of Firefox should include a new rendering engine.

Unfortunately, Firefox 2 does not fully support all the standards supported by the W3C organization, so it fails what is called the Acid2 test, a test designed by the Web Standards Project, although Mozilla is working hard toward full compliance. For comparison, of the browsers tested by CNET, only Opera 9 passed the test; IE 7 fared the worst, unable to render the page in the correct colors or shapes.

Antiphishing technology within Firefox 2 is good, and the technology has steadily improved throughout the various betas we've seen. We tested Firefox 2 on a fraudulent Bank of America site less than one hour old; the program caught the page immediately. For comparison, IE 7 also flagged the same fraudulent banking site. Most phishing sites are removed after their initial 72 hours of existence. In general, we have found that stand-alone antiphishing filters, such as Netcraft's, perform far better at flagging brand-new phishing sites than antiphishing filters bundled with Internet browsers.

There are many enhancements within Firefox 2, making it a worthy upgrade for existing users and a fine introduction for new users. Firefox is truly innovative, yet it's also very practical for everyday use.

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    Firefox 2

    Part Number: SERVFIREFOX2 Released: Oct. 24, 2006

    Download for free from CNET Download.com.

    Quick Specifications

    • Release date Oct. 24, 2006