Security-minded plug-ins. Now here is where Firefox starts to shine, at least for my needs. Im a huge fan of the popular and free plug-in, NoScript (available from noscript.net). NoScript provides a script whitelisting capability in the entire Mozilla family of browsers, including Firefox.
With NoScript, I can allow individual sites that I have some level of faith in to run script content in my browser, while defaulting to disallowing scripts for all others. I find this approach to be very workable, as I only have to teach NoScript once per site I visit.
To be fair, however, some people find NoScript to be very annoying for the same reasons that I find it liberating. And its certainly not perfect. It provides trust per domain, not per IP. That means that, for example, I could allow (say) mac.com to run scripts in my browser, and anything within that entire domain space would be allowed to run clearly something that I want to avoid.
I understand there are similar (and no doubt more) similar plug-ins available for IE, but I have yet to find something that suits my needs as well as NoScript does. Perhaps someone out there can set me straight on this.
Qualitative score: IE gets a D while Firefox gets an A-.
Open source scrutiny. Ok, this one is a bit shakey, but what the heck. Im a big fan of open source. I like the fact that the entire Firefox source tree is out there. While I dont place a lot of weight in this as a security feature for most software indeed, numerous published studies would dismiss it I just have to believe that Firefox has been studied quite closely by a lot of people. And Im not just talking about people directly affiliated with Mozilla.
My rationale for this opinion is that Firefox is very high profile, as open source projects go. Its also a prime target for phishers and other miscreants (notwithstanding my statements above about market share).
The same cant be said for IE.
Qualitative score: IE gets an F while Firefox gets a C+.
So thats how I decided Firefox is a better choice for me and my PC users versus IE. How do other browsers fare? I mentioned, after all, that Im now an OS X desktop user how about Safari? I also have a few friends whose opinions I trust who use Opera. Well dive into those browsers at a later date here.
For now, Im happy using Firefox with NoScript protecting me from the vast majority of nasty stuff that can happen in Internet applications. Until, that is, something better comes along.