Another nice feature is a built-in RSS reader. In other words, Firefox delivers automated updates of news or blog content from sites that you subscribe to in advance. Internet Explorer offers no such beast. Mozilla calls these RSS feeds Live Bookmarks because the content is dynamic. With Live Bookmarks in place, we were able to read the latest headlines from sites such as News.com, Slate.com, and Slashdot.org. There are third-party RSS readers that work with IE 6.0, but it's nice to have this functionality built into your browser.
Firefox is more secure than Internet Explorer, in part because most criminal hackers look for holes in the industry leader--that's just efficient business. But there are also several structural differences that make Firefox an inherently more secure browser. First, Firefox doesn't support VBScript and ActiveX Controls, which are often the source of attacks and vulnerabilities within IE. Unfortunately, the lack of ActiveX support also affects the performance of some Web sites. For example, the pop-up menu at Slate.com, a Microsoft site, didn't work within Firefox, but we were still able to navigate the site. Also, while Outlook Web Access did work, some of its features were missing or rendered differently. But at most sites, Firefox worked just as well as IE 6.0.
Another difference from Internet Explorer is in how Firefox handles secure Web sites, such as e-commerce or online banking sites. When visiting a secure site, Firefox highlights the address bar's URL in yellow and shows the Lock icon. If you click the Lock icon, you can review the site's security information and decide whether to continue. The domain name of the site you are visiting is also listed in the right-hand corner of secure windows, so you know the true source of every page. A criminal hacker might be able to spoof the location bar address, but he or she won't be able to spoof this secondary address display. Given all this security, we were still able to log on to secure financial sites, including Citibank.com and Fidelity.com, without any problems.
Like Microsoft, Mozilla has developers building helper applications for Firefox. While there are more plug-ins available for Internet Explorer, the Firefox plug-ins, called extensions, are much more varied in nature. For example, Chatzilla is an IRC chat client, Adblock blocks flash advertising from Web sites, and Mouse Gestures lets you navigate using simple mouse movements. There are currently 170 extensions available for Firefox, compared to several hundred plug-ins currently available for Internet Explorer.During our three-week test period, Firefox didn't crash once, which was encouraging, considering it was still a prerelease version. Firefox is based on open-source code, which is both a good and a bad thing when it comes to getting support. On one hand, hundreds of open-source developers worldwide are working to create new apps and troubleshoot bugs. You can reach many of them through Mozilla's Web site, which features a rich knowledge base of potential problems and fixes, plus numerous message boards where experts can answer your tech-support problems. For example, we had difficulty using Launch.com with Firefox, and after consulting the message boards, we were able to identify the problem quickly. Mozilla can also connect you with real-time chats. Unfortunately, telephone support from Mozilla costs $39.99 per incident. Microsoft charges $35 per incident for both e-mail and telephone technical support.