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Frustrated because you want to try the Firefox internet browser, but your company’s IT staff won’t let you use it at work?

You are not alone. Most large corporations have held back from adopting Firefox, a open source browser that rivals Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Companies don’t want to provide simultaneous support for two or more browsers.

But that doesn’t mean you should shy away from Firefox at home. It’s easy to download and there are plenty of reasons to install it on your family PC.

First off, Firefox is far more secure than Microsoft’s browser. It also has a lot of neat features the current version of IE doesn’t offer. And for those who are uneasy about Microsoft’s dominance, Mozilla Foundation, the tiny non-profit group behind Firefox, is a counter-weight to the Redmond giant.

The main reason people prefer Firefox is that it is generally more secure than IE, which has been plagued by a spate of hacker and virus attacks that brought down websites and slowed internet traffic.

Some 80m internet users, looking for some peace of mind, have downloaded Firefox so far. Some market research said the browser had captured 9 per cent of the market, although recent figures suggest Microsoft has started to claw back a fraction of that.

Mozilla has been forced to acknowledge that its browser isn’t immune from hacker attacks either. In a practice reminiscent of Microsoft, the tiny non-profit group has churned out more than half a dozen security patches to fix vulnerabilities in its code.

Firefox also has such nifty features as tab browsing. This makes it easier to switch between websites and allows users take advantage of a new technology known as Really Simple Syndication by delivering news and web log headlines directly to their bookmarks menu.

Mozilla also encourages independent open-source programmers to develop software plug-ins that increase a browser’s capabilities in interesting and useful ways.

Firefox does have a crucial limitation, however: it is not compatible with all websites. Mozilla says it works with the vast majority of sites. A growing number of companies and agencies are also waking up to the problem.

So, should you download Firefox?

Why not? Installation is easy. Go to Mozilla’s home page, www.mozilla.org, find the Firefox download prompt and follow the directions. It takes a few minutes to download over a slow connection and only seconds over a fast one.

The installer program sets up the browser quickly and will allow you automatically to import your favourite settings, passwords and other data from Internet Explorer.

Microsoft says its newest version of IE will enable it to catch up with Firefox.

After years of neglecting browser innovation, it’s to everyone’s benefit that Mozilla has spurred the giant into action.

Firefox has grabbed Microsoft’s attention. It should grab yours too.

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