I want to encourage everyone to support the Firefox browser (3). First of all, I'm not affiliated with Mozilla in any way, and my ultimate goal is that we decrease our reliance on Internet Explorer.
I choose to recommend Firefox today because it is one browser that is in a competitive position to replace IE. In other words, many users can benefit from using it over IE.
Right now, IE has over 90% market share in the web browser market (2). This is mostly due to IE being included in Windows for free, and its relatively strong reliability and feature set.
Remember that IE is owned by a corporation whose motive is to seek profit for its shareholders. On the other hand, the Mozilla foundation is a non-profit, volunteer-supported group whose motive is a charitable desire to serve. I'm not saying one organizational structure is 'better' than the other, but what I am saying is that relying exclusively on the product created by the corporation is detrimental to society.
The best example of this is pop-up blocking, which has only been added to IE with the release of XP Service Pack 2 in 2004. The popular IE 5.0 browser allowed pop-ups, and has been available since late 1998. Since pop-up blocking is trivial, it is arguable that it could have been added back then. Despite this, Microsoft made no effort to add pop-up blocking until six years later.
Each time an unwanted pop-up window is launched, someone must spend time and energy closing it. Some sites exploited this weakness in IE to launch hundreds of popups or hijack the browser. Multiply that time lost by the millions of web users, and you can clearly see how dependence on the corporate-produced browser has been a losing proposition to society.
One can speculate the reasons why Microsoft did not add pop-up blocking. Certainly, with the concentration of hard-working and talented coders there, they did not lack the resources or ideas. Possibly, they lost their motivation once they had so handily beaten their competitors. Another conjecture is that they realized the value of pop-ups to publishers and advertisers with whom they have financial connections.
Sure, one could say that anybody could have created a browser that blocked pop-ups, and competed with IE. But remember that Microsoft offered the browser for free, and worse included it in their monopoly Windows OS. In the short term (in this case six years), that kind of unfair competition effectively out-paces all the potential competitors.
Non-professional web developers do not have the resources to write for multiple browsers, and they will tend to take the path of least resistance. That path has been to develop for the most popular browser, IE, blithely ignoring the above problems. With the arrival of Firefox as a viable competitor, you have to opportunity to change that path to developing for the most popular standard.
Everyone will gain when web sites are developed to a standard rather than to a single browser. Poorly-designed features like pop-ups would not persist as long as they have. Developers won't have to learn the vaguaries of different browsers. End-users will have a better browsing experience.
You can support Firefox by simply downloading and trying it out. Opera is a great browser, but Firefox is free! If you want to take it a step further, you can recommend it to your friends, family, and coworkers.
Hopefully, with a concerted effort, we can get non-IE browser usage up into the 25-50% range. At that point, developers will be guided to write for the standards rather than for IE, thereby spurring even greater innovation.
There is definitely room for innovation in web standards. One thing I can think of is a standard for accessing hardware besides the screen and memory, like sound cards, scanners, and digital cameras. Then we can build portable web applications that have much greater utility.
Go to http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/ to download Firefox.
(1) Internet Explorer Product Lifecycle Dates
(2) Article on Firefox in businessweek:
(3) Learn more about promoting Firefox:
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