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New browser to challenge Microsoft

Mozilla hopes Firefox will attract Web users away from Internet Explorer.
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(CNN) -- Microsoft's dominance of the Web browser market faces a fresh challenge on Tuesday with the release of the final version of Mozilla's Firefox browser.

The Mozilla Foundation, a California-based non-profit organization dedicated to developing open source software, hopes Firefox 1.0 will attract millions of users away from Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

Last month more than eight million people downloaded the preview edition of the browser, contributing to its final development.

Like other open source software, such as the operating system Linux, Firefox's code is freely available for any programmer to examine and improve.

"We are delighted to be announcing this major milestone for the Mozilla Foundation and for the Firefox browser, which has been made possible thanks to the tireless effort of hundreds of community volunteers and developers around the world," said Mozilla president Mitchell Baker.

"Now millions more will be able to enjoy a better web experience."

Although development editions of Firefox have existed for several years, 1.0 is the first version intended for a full release.

Its developers claim it is more stable than previous editions and more secure than Explorer, which has become a popular target for hackers because of its near-ubiquitous presence on PCs.

Firefox features a pop-up ad blocker, online fraud protection and the ability to display several web pages in a single window, using "tabbed browsing."

"Open source projects have a much higher standard," Mozilla director of engineering Chris Hofmann told Reuters. "It's the engineers that actually build the software that label when it's done."

Mozilla has already made inroads into Explorer's share of the browser market. According to the Web usage tracker WebSideStory, Microsoft's share has slipped to 92.9 percent from 95.5 percent since June. In the same period Mozilla's share increased from 3.5 percent to six percent.

Explorer, which is packaged with Microsoft's Windows operating system, hasn't been seriously challenged since usurping Netscape, the browser instrumental in the development of the Internet, in the late 1990s.

Mozilla was set-up to complete a project set-up by Netscape, which stopped development last year, to make the code of its browser publicly available.

Explorer's critics argue that Microsoft stopped making developments once it had achieved market dominance. Microsoft says a new version with enhanced security features will be ready for the next edition of Windows, currently scheduled for release in 2006.

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