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The History of Mozilla's Firefox Web Browser

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Mozilla's Firefox continues to gain momentum in the web browser wars, steadily eating away at Internet Explorer's market share. The browser, which has garnered high praise from both users and developers alike, carries with it a cult-like following. Some users of the Mozilla application tend to be very passionate about their browser of choice, and this is perhaps most evident when looking at things like this Firefox crop circle.

Where It Began

Long before this runaway train of adoration left the station, there was the release of Phoenix v0.1 in September 2002. The Phoenix browser, which would eventually become known as Firefox in later releases, started out looking like a stripped down version of the browser we know today.

Although lacking many of the features that make Firefox so popular today, the initial release of Phoenix did contain tabbed browsing and a download manager which were far from commonplace in browsers at that time. As later versions of Phoenix were made available to beta testers, the enhancements began to come in bunches. By the time Phoenix v0.3 was released in mid-October of '02, the browser already contained support for extensions, a sidebar, an integrated search bar, and more.

Let's Play The Name Game

After several months of polishing the existing features and fixing bugs, Mozilla ran into a roadblock with the name of the browser in April 2003. It turned out that a company named Phoenix Technologies had developed their own open-source browser and they in fact owned a trademark for the name. It was at this point Mozilla was forced to change the project's name to Firebird.

The first release under the browser's new moniker, Firebird 0.6, became the first version available for Macintosh OS X in addition to Windows, giving the Mac community a taste of what was to come. Released May 16, 2003, version 0.6 introduced the very popular Clear Private Data feature and also included a new default theme. For the next five months, three more versions of Firebird would come out containing tweaks to plugin control and automatic downloading among others, as well as a collection of bug fixes. As the browser inched closer toward its first public release, another naming snafu would cause Mozilla to shift gears once again.

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