Out of all the mail readers out there, I’ve now settled on Mozilla Mail. It provides me with the best filtering technology and the most secure environment against executing virus payloads. The Mozilla browser also has a large number of modules that increase its usability. What are the pros and cons of this system?
Mozilla can be found at http://www.mozilla.org. It is available on all popular platforms, and if you can’t find binaries the tech-savvy among us can compile your own from the available source code. The mail client available in Mozilla versions 1.6 and up provides an accurate junk mail filter tool. After spending a little time training the filter, you can allow it to dump the junk mail into a Junk folder so that you no longer have it filling up your Inbox. There are downsides to this however: it is not 100% accurate, so you must spend a little time glancing over the Junk folder, deleting anything that really is spam, and untraining anything that might have been falsely identified. From a service provider standpoint, the inflow of spam has not been checked since it still occupies mailbox space for a time, no matter how short a period.
Ideally, the spam must be checked before the mail server, before the clients ever get a chance to filter. This saves bandwidth on internal networks, and saves storage space on mailservers. The downside of this is that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so there is no way to accurately filter everything and maintain a way for a large number of users to manage false positives. This means blocking before the server can really only catch the most general spam and the remainder is left up to the clients. Most spam appliances that perform this service are tunable, however, and allow you to change this ratio depending on your organization.
Just as annoying as the influx of spam is the number of ads popping up from your browser windows. While Mozilla does not come with an ad filter, the module Adblock can be obtained from http://www.mozdev.org. Simply put, if you see an ad, it is most likely from a domain like doubleclick.net and you can block the top level of that domain. Internet Explorer users can use a tool like Ad-Shield, but it is a pay product with fewer features than Adblock. Mozilla has a pop-up blocker built in, but Adblock stops those large ads from displaying in web pages, which often take up large portions of the page “above the fold.”
A number of other features common for Internet Explorer is the number of toolbars. I have found that Yahoo’s Bookmark management through the toolbar gives me a centralized view of my bookmarks that I can see in Mozilla or IE regardless of what system I am on. The Companion toolbar is also available through the Mozdev site. Likewise, the Googlebar module gives you the advanced search capabilities of the IE Google toolbar. Can’t leave your homepage without them.
The commercial support for the Microsoft IE system however, beats Mozilla in further system integration. The latest Yahoo toolbar comes with the PestPatrol adware scanner. If you’re not living in the Windows world, this isn’t a problem, but without it you are at risk of installing software that might otherwise be classified as a virus or worm. Certainly there are better free scanners in Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware or Spybot, but the convenience of having it in the toolbar for most users puts it where they can remember not to download/install random garbage off the Internet, or at least scan for it afterwards. This integration is not something that Mozilla now has, but it would be nice to see it in the future as a convenience. There are a number of freeware packages out there than could potentially couple with Mozilla to offer good free anti-virus (http://www.clamwin.net/) and malware solutions. Other functions like Flash support are all there for Mozilla because of its Netscape roots.
Finally, one of the best features about Mozilla is the tabbed web browsing interface. How many times have you found your taskbar filled to the gills with IE windows? The tabbed interface allows you to reduce that clutter and organize the way you browse the web. My favorite method is to have my Feed On Feeds page open in one tab, use the “open new tab” middle-click feature to open any stories I want to read, and then read the opened tabs.
Oh, yeah, Mozilla is very very stable!