December 24, 2004 4:00 AM PST

New Year's resolution for Firefox: Grow

Forty-five days and some 13 million downloads after its official release, Mozilla's Firefox browser is showing undeniable momentum--but does it signal the beginning of the end to Microsoft's monopoly over the basic software used to access the Web?

Even as Firefox gathers steam, powerful brakes are poised to kick in that could limit its long-term growth: Interoperability has long dogged non-Microsoft browsers, which are often glitchy on some Web sites. Firefox claims some significant progress on this front, but a handful of sites, including Microsoft's Windows Update site, are still inaccessible.

In addition, Microsoft's deep hooks in corporate IT departments could make it impractical for many businesses to consider switching from Internet Explorer for the foreseeable future. Microsoft, for one, sees those hooks as a staunch bulwark against corporate defections, keeping its most profitable customers close to the fold.

"We hear from many thousands of business customers that Internet Explorer is an extensible and reliable platform upon which thousands of line-of-business applications have been built," a Microsoft representative said in a statement.

Since its launch last month, Firefox has already nudged Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) browser below the 90 percent mark for the first time in years, according to one survey. Now the question is whether the Web browser can surmount thorny market dynamics to become more than just another niche player among the crowd of lilliputian rivals that have long stood in IE's shadow.

After spending years on the sidelines mired in delays, Mozilla has seen its star rise suddenly with the emergence of Firefox. The group was created by Netscape Communications in 1999 to develop its browser following the open-source development model and was spun off in 2003 as a nonprofit foundation by Netscape parent Time Warner. Now, from seemingly out of nowhere, the group has set its sights on achieving 10 percent market share in the browser market by 2005.

"Our goal for the next year is to keep market share growth on pace with what's happened over 2004," said Chris Hofmann, Mozilla's director of engineering. "The Mozilla Foundation has provided the funding to help push this along."

Considering IE's current share, the realization of those ambitions would represent a breakout number, given the current dynamics of the browser market, where numerous second-tier browsers--like Apple Computer's Safari, Opera Software's browser and other Mozilla-based browsers such as Mozilla and Netscape remain squarely in the single digits.

A major problem for Mozilla in growing Firefox's market share is the lingering tendency of Web authors to code their sites to work with IE. Despite the existence of Web standards as promulgated primarily by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), examples abound on the Web of sites and applications that don't work well with Firefox or other non-IE browsers.

With the successful launches of both Firefox and the Thunderbird e-mail application behind it, Mozilla is looking ahead to 2005 with both of these problems in mind.

To attack the compatibility problem, Mozilla plans to hire new staff to ferret out IE-only sites and advocate standards-based coding methods to their authors.

A similar group existed at Netscape before Mozilla's spin-off, and Mozilla has continued its work using volunteers since then. In the coming year, the full-time, paid staffers will double down on the work of convincing Web authors, one by one, to code to standards.

By targeting the Web's most trafficked Web sites, Mozilla claims to have boosted compatibility on the Web not just for its own browsers, but for other standards-compliant

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48 comments

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Browsers not always to blame for "glitches"
"interoperability has long dogged non-Microsoft browsers,
which are often glitchy on some Web sites"

It would be more correct to spread the blame out to all parties -
Interoperability mostly affects non-Microsoft browsers
sometimes because the browsers are glitchy but more regularly
because the sites are poorly designed without adherence to
accepted standards or to work with Microsoft specific
technologies.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Agreed...
I switched our company from IE to Firefox as the default browser starting with the 0.9 release of Firefox. People love Firefox - and so do I. Built-in pop-up blocker, tabbed browsing - and most importantly - less vulnerable to the many, many IE security exploits.
On the other hand, I had to leave IE installed on everyone's PC because some web site programmers, for whatever reason, chose not to adhere to common web standards and instead chose to create their web sites so that they will only work using IE on Windows. Wells Fargo Bank's online business banking site being on of them. Other companies shows that it is possible to create web sites that run on any plaform using any browser.
As a result of this, users still have access to IE if they need it, but Firefox is now the default web browser.
Posted by akuehnemund (8 comments )
Link Flag
poorly designed
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/citroen_saxo_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/citroen_saxo_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by George Cole (314 comments )
Link Flag
The little browser that could... huh?
QUOTE: "Our goal for the next year is to keep market share growth on pace with what's happened over 2004," said Chris Hofmann, Mozilla's director of engineering. "The Mozilla Foundation has provided the funding to help push this along."

I'm confused. Since when did the "Mozilla Foundation" begin sporting market shares? Where is Mozilla's money coming from? Where is it going to (besides NYT ads and into the pockets of mystery men)? Who's investing in this company (that isn't a company)? How much more shady can this get?

There is much unknown about the Mozilla Foundation. What happened to the little browser that could?

Mystery "foundation" (not company!), mystery "funding" (not money!). Stay tuned next week -- same Bat time, same Bat channel.
Posted by katamari (310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yup
Mozilla was spun off from Netscape a while back (who in turn was annexed by AOL). They received a good jump start, and they started modifying the Netscape browser, thereby turning it into the "Mozilla" browser.

Many of the people in the Mozilla crew are working to create a better browser out of a NEED for a better browser. They're sicked and tired of Internet Explorer and Opera just doesn't seem to cut it (to them). Also, note that Mozilla was spun off from Netscape, after Netscape's fall. It could be a sort of revenge, to do what Netscape could not - overcome Microsoft and their monopolizing tactics by building an open source browser (Microsoft WORST enemy, of course).

It's no surprise how many people, especially those from companies ousted from the market by Microsft, joined the foundation.

As for this "Market share", it's a goal of the Mozilla Foundation to topple Microsoft and their Internet Explorer. If Mozilla can manage 60% "market share", then they've effectively reached their goal at defeating Microsoft.

If I were you, I'd consider Microsoft to be the more shady company. They've got so much power and plenty of places to use it. Microsoft has deliberatly locked out users of the Opera browser before, they bundled Internet Explorer with Windows and in doing so, strangled Netscape to death (the Netscape browser of course required it to be downloaded first). And recently, Microsoft was ordered by the EU to remove Windows Media Player from the standard Operating system because it is yet another monopolizing scheme.

Just look at all the antitrust cases against Microsoft and tell me WHO is the more shady company.
Posted by hion2000 (115 comments )
Link Flag
Why don't you read cnet.com and find the answer?
They published an article about 2 months ago on how they make money... Search this site for the article.
Posted by saleen351 (36 comments )
Link Flag
Do you google?
You might want to do a quick search before posting:
I found the following link which sort of answers some of your questions:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.mozilla.org/press/mozilla-foundation.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.mozilla.org/press/mozilla-foundation.html</a>

--
Firefox bugmenot - when you don't want to give personal details that aren't any of anyones business.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is one of my points...
Why would I even concider using a browser that is so "in-bed" with AOL that AOL's crap code and advertising is part of. How long will it be before Firefox users start seeing some kind of advertising through a firefox update? How long before we find out that AOL is capable of directly tracking all firefox movement accross the web? With all the hacks, backdoors, and problems in general with AOL software...how long before these same issues become part of Firefox and any of the rest of the mozila software?

I will not use this until it has proven itself worthy...
I'll just sit back and wait....
Posted by Prndll (382 comments )
Link Flag
quick search
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/fiat_bravo_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/fiat_bravo_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by Al Johnsons (157 comments )
Link Flag
Garbage code == garbage output
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://validator.w3.org/check?uri=http://v5.windowsupdate.microsoft.com/v5consumer/default.aspx?ln=en-us" target="_newWindow">http://validator.w3.org/check?uri=http://v5.windowsupdate.microsoft.com/v5consumer/default.aspx?ln=en-us</a>

Windows Update isn't a valid webpage. It seems only natural that if you send garbage data to a program, that it'll spit out garbage in response. IE just messes with people's perceptions, as it handles garbage code better than it does correct code. See <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.meyerweb.com/eric/css/edge/" target="_newWindow">http://www.meyerweb.com/eric/css/edge/</a> for some pretty basic pages that IE slaughters.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/CurrentDL.aspx" target="_newWindow">http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/CurrentDL.aspx</a> will let you download all the patches from Windows Update, without sending MS a bunch of your personal data, and it even works without IE.
Posted by (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Garbage code...
This is excatly what I mean.
Posted by Prndll (382 comments )
Link Flag
Firefox slipping IMO
I manage several rather large sites - just the statics portion really. I see the percentages dropping every month for firefox. How is it they are increasing like so many articles are describing lately? I see more of an increase in Netscape than any other browser.
Posted by (35 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Its so much hype
News.com loves giving firefox press time over and over. Its old news....and boring.

13 million downloads does not mean, 13 million people still using it. I personally downloaded it and its nice the tabbed feature is great. Then I ran into pages not working properly that work with IE....so I removed it. That and all of those plugins you must download....no thanks.

Honestly I see web browsers like coffe stir sticks...I dont pay attention unless something does not work.

IE securtiy is so overblown, if you dont patch your systems automatically and you use Windows.....its like driving in a storm with no seat belt on. Essentially you become a victom of your own stupidity. I use IE all the time, but my systems are patched.

We use SUS and SMS2003 at work and all critical updates are deployed to anyone logging into AD with in hours of their release. At home I get the emails from MS, and I have my systems setup to autoupdate.
Posted by Lindy01 (443 comments )
Link Flag
Update your code
It is likely you are running old code on your web
site that does not differentiate newer browsers.
Many sites have the following:

if IE
do IE specific stuff
else
do Netscape specific stuff

Very common.
Posted by Johnny Mnemonic (374 comments )
Link Flag
I'm not seeing it
I've downloaded every firefox build since, oh 0.6 I think, to test my sites with it. Honestly, I'm not seeing it.

I dont find firefox to be faster or to render better. I guess the tabbed browsing is nice, if you like that. I dont care for that one bit, so its not a selling point for me.

The main firefox positives I found was the popup blocking and webmaster plugin. The popup blocking in XP SP2 does the trick for me, so I dont need Firefox for that anymore. The webmaster plugin is nice, so I still use that, but infrequently. I installed a few other plugins, but they didnt work as advertised so I dont bother with them anymore.

I guess I can see Firefox being recommended to novices who dont know how to tell IE to do things like disable activex's and java.

IMO, firefox's hype is driven mainly by hate of MS, rather than it's superiority to IE.
Posted by (402 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Security is its key point
Even if you turn off all the options in IE it is still a security risk. Firefox is simply more secure, anything else is just gravy.
Posted by (242 comments )
Link Flag
Are you an IE Expert?
I have a question for the IE experts who never, never ever have a problem with IE security. How come we read about billions of dollars of damage casued by those pesky little virures that reportedly love IE? Are such reports a ploy by open source zellots to get us to drop IE? A billion dollars is no small amount and it would take many millions of insecure IE browsers to add up to the billions in damage we hear about. So they must be lying.
Posted by Not Bugged (195 comments )
Link Flag
Incorrect...
The Firefox hype is mainly 3 things:

1. Security. Not being integrated into the OS is an asset, not a liability -- if you screw up Firefox, you can uninstall it and start from scratch. You can't do that with IE.

2. Features. I've found little use for tabbed browsing, but it's nice to have available. Popup blocking in Firefox is better than it is in IE, as in it's harder to fool.

3. Web Standards compliant. This, for me at least, is the main selling point. Microsoft froze IE's W3 compliance at least 3 years ago, and that has caused innovation in HTML pages to come to a virtual standstill. Beyond that, the box model is broken to the extent that I've had to break elegant standards-compliant HTML to be an ugly hack. Innovation now comes in the form of Flash or other plugin-based technologies. I'm hoping Firefox takes a big enough chunk out of IE's marketshare that Microsoft finally considers it a threat.
Posted by rdean (119 comments )
Link Flag
Glitchy web sites refuse to render properly
Should read "glitchy web sites refuse to render properly on non-Microsoft browsers"

Since the sites are created with IE, and IE goes out of its way to correct flaws in incorrect code, these broken sites will appear to work correctly in IE but in reality they could contain quite a few flaws. IE is not W3 compliant ( <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.w3.org/" target="_newWindow">http://www.w3.org/</a> ) and should never be used to test a web page's integrity.
Posted by (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Huh?
Should I blame Sony because I bought a CRT television few years ago and now I cannot watch HDTV on that television? No, of course. So when you are reading a web site that is not compatible with your browser, use one which is compatible. Just like "buy a HDTV to watch HDTV content." Simple as that.

And you call that "buggy"?
Posted by 201293546946733175101343322673 (722 comments )
Link Flag
FireFox More Secure?
Currently there is even NO PROOF that IF FireFox becomes the dominant browser of the world, it will be MORE SECURE than other browsers in the market. Just because FireFox has a lot fewer bugs to fix NOW does not mean it will not have a lot of bugs to fix LATER. And, there are still lots of hackers/crackers trying to get into CIA's servers even though they know it is very secure. So you think they will not focus on attacking FireFox just because it is supposed to be a solid product?
Posted by 201293546946733175101343322673 (722 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The primary issue
I believe that the primary issue with IE is it's
reliance on the Windows platform, which in and of
itself is insecure. Never mind the obvious issues
of non-compliance with standards and bugs, but the
linking with Windows which exacerbates the problem.
It is much like building a house on an unstable
foundation. In software engineering this is
considered and ill-concieved notion. Firefox's
independence of the platform gives it a huge
advantage.
Posted by Johnny Mnemonic (374 comments )
Link Flag
hackers/crackers
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/jaguar_xkr_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/jaguar_xkr_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by Al Johnsons (157 comments )
Link Flag
 

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