January 25, 2005 4:02 AM PST

Google snaps up top Firefox programmer

Google has hired the lead programmer of the Firefox Web browser, the newest step in the search engine powerhouse's encroachment on Microsoft's turf.

Ben Goodger announced Monday on his blog that he took a job with Google on Jan. 10. The move is the latest of several that are fueling speculation that Google plans its own Web browser.


Ben Goodger

Firefox, which has cut into the dominant market share enjoyed by Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, is a variant of the open-source Mozilla browser project begun in 1998 by Netscape Communications. Despite no longer being employed by the Mozilla Foundation, "my role with Firefox and the Mozilla project will remain largely unchanged," Goodger said on his blog.

At Google, Goodger will continue work on the browser. Since the release of Firefox 1.0 in 2004, he's been focusing on "successful 1.1, 1.5 and 2.0 releases," he said on the blog.

Among other clues pointing to browser interest at Google are the registration of the gbrowser.com Internet address, the hiring of some key programmers, and sponsorship of a Mozilla programmer meeting.

Even without a browser, Google is involved in significant competition with Microsoft. Both companies are working on desktop search tools, and Microsoft is pushing its MSN Search service as an alternative to Google.

Firefox also has a built-in search box that offers Google's search engine as its default option.

Goodger himself complained about Microsoft's software in a December posting on his blog.

"I've set up a new personal e-mail address, and as soon as I can figure out how, I will make it so that it cannot receive e-mail from Microsoft Outlook users. Why? Because Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express are the unsung security hole in most people's systems," the posting said. "Microsoft would like you to continue not to think about your software and continue to use theirs, paying what amounts to extortion fees on ISP filtering solutions."

Goodger's hiring at Google this month explains a Jan. 22 blog posting in which he said he had just returned to Firefox 1.1 development after being "incredibly busy this past two weeks taking care of some important matters." He indicated earlier in the month that he hoped the version would be released in March.

According to the plans published on the Firefox Wiki page, version 1.1 is called Deer Park. Plans for that new version include tools to help users of several Mac OS X browsers move their settings to Firefox. Also being discussed are localization ideas to make Firefox better able to work in multiple languages.

Version 1.5, called The Ocho, is slated to get improvements in accessibility and for use on large groups of computers.

Planned version 2.0 features include improvements to tabbed browsing, password management, software updates, software downloads and performance on Apple Computer systems.

13 comments

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Mozilla Firefox
Firefox elicits a "must use newer version of Internet Explorer.." or similar message from some calls at various websites. Are the Mozillites planning to address this, or has it already been addressed? I have version 1.0. Thanks
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
The Fix
Just send a message back to the site that says, "Must use smarter Web developers."
Posted by nealda (105 comments )
Link Flag
Let's see
You can install an extention for Firefox that changes your browsers ID to IE. You could try that and see what it does. Unfortunatly some web developers use IE's proprietary extention and this will create a compatibility problem.

Personally I liked the comment about just e-mailing them and telling them to hire smarter developers.

I can tell you as a web developer myself that I try to stick to standards. I will use browser extention if it is supported by 3 or more browsers and doesn't cause problems in ones that don't.
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Link Flag
Solution
prefbar.mozdev.org

Install it. From the drop down list of user agents, pick Internet Explorer. Now the site thinks you are using IE, and should display. Note that this only changes what the site thinks you're running -- it may still not work, since IE isn't very compliant and sites may depend on it
Posted by tharcod (22 comments )
Link Flag
Google browser?
So, a mozilla based Google web browser...interesting thought. Google insists with each new technology that their focus is always search. But it seems a stretch to me to claim that a Google branded web browser could be focused on search. Sure, they'd have a google toolbar or something like that, and lots of Google bookmarks loaded by default. But a web browser is a complex piece of software that does a LOT more than use search engines. Even if they build extensions that allow you to search your browser history and such, it still seems like they are moving beyond search.

But either way, I welcome it. As a web developer that is frustrated with Microsoft's non-standards compliant yet market dominating web browser, I love to see some successful competition entering the market.
Posted by (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Such a fundamental error in analysis...
.... does not bode well for this fellow's architectural skills.

Seriously, what qualitative difference is there between a spam
message received from a WinXP zombie that acquired its target
addresses from an Outlook address book, and a *nix-hosted
zombie that uses addresses acquired from somwhere else? I'll
save you the trouble: There's none. So someone who makes a
big deal out of refusing to receive messages from Outlook
because outlook is a security risk (which it is, to the Outlook
user) is making a fundamental analytical error.

And I don't know why it shoudl surprise me that he should be
making this error. This is, after all, a guy who LEFT the Mozilla
team because they didn't respect his architectural ideas. Guess
what: Mozilla works, Firefox only mostly works.

But hey, Firfox is Kewl, so I guess that makes up for everything,
right?

Google is welcome to him. Maybe the Firefox team will replace
him with someone who values stability a little more.
Posted by lodurr (26 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Re-read
Mr. Goodger wants to block all mail from Outlook users so that he doesn't receive any Outlook targeted viruses, the ones that are sent to all people in your Outlook address book.

And he isn't leaving Mozilla. The article clearly states that Ben Goodger will still work on Firefox. He has done an excellent job there, and will continue his good work for them. If you read his blog entry on the matter (<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://weblogs.mozillazine.org/ben/archives/007366.html" target="_newWindow">http://weblogs.mozillazine.org/ben/archives/007366.html</a>), he says he will even be physically working at the Mozilla Foundation on occasion.
Posted by (6 comments )
Link Flag
GBrowser and FireFox against IE
Google should adopt Firefox as their browser instead of creating one. By hiring firefox's lead programmer, if they think that they can create a clone of it, the new GBrowser, should it exists, will most likely draw people from Firefox instead from IE. The only way more "competition" can diminish IE strangle on the market is to make sure that this "competition" does not compete with themselves.
Posted by (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They aren't
They've said publicly there is no plan for a web browser.

Ben is having 50% of his time sent to the Mozilla foundation according to his weblog, which means that there is 30% of his time being devoted to google projects (google requires 20% of their developers time to be spent on their own pet projects).

Simply branding the browser wouldn't make a lot of sense.

However if you look at the google desk bar, the google tool bar, etc. for Internet explorer, it would make a lot of sense for google labs to split these features off into a separate domain with separate servers that is both easily rememberable and bookmarkable. For example, for the XPI install tool to be able to automatically permit installs from their site.

I think it's much more likely that they are going to port the Internet Explorer tools to FireFox, and wanted to obtain a technical expert, and that going forward they want to introduce more plug ins, etc. as has been their traditional style.

The media has been speculating based on the purchase of a domain name, and an assumption it would be "the right thing" for Google to do. But I think it's much more logical that they want to split off all the existing browser tools that they are developing to make them more accessible, instead of having them buried.
Posted by tharcod (22 comments )
Link Flag
 

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