[guispeak] interesting post about firefox

  • From: "Laura Eaves" <leaves1@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "guispeak" <guispeak@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, "Multiple recipients of NFBnet GUI-TALK Mailing List" <gui-talk@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 27 Dec 2004 05:41:54 -0800

Hi all -- oh and Dave P, excuse me if you posted this to guispeak already 
but I thought it was very interesting...
I'm anxious to try it, if I can ever get around to it...


Yeah, it's all that is said and more but most of us who use screen readers
will find it not quite what we need in a browser.  I hope that changes soon.

Digital Domain: The Fox Is in Microsoft's Henhouse (and  Salivating)

December 19, 2004

FIREFOX is a classic overnight success, many years in  the

Published by the Mozilla Foundation, a nonprofit  group
supporting open-source software that draws upon the skills
of  hundreds of volunteer programmers, Firefox is a Web
browser that is fast and  filled with features that
Microsoft's stodgy Internet Explorer lacks.  Firefox
installs in a snap, and it's free.

Firefox 1.0 was released  on Nov. 9. Just over a month
later, the foundation celebrated a remarkable  milestone: 10
million downloads. Donations from Firefox's  appreciative
fans paid for a two-page advertisement in The New York
Times  on Thursday.

Until now, the Linux operating system was the  best-known
success among the hundreds of open-source projects  that
challenge Microsoft with technically strong, free software
that  improves as the population of bug-reporting and
bug-fixing users grows. But  unless you oversee purchases
for a corporate data center, it's unlikely that  you've felt
the need to try Linux yourself.

With Firefox, open-source  software moves from back-office
obscurity to your home, and to your parents',  too. (Your
children in college are already using it.) It is polished,
as  easy to use as Internet Explorer and, most compelling,
much better defended  against viruses, worms and snoops.

Microsoft has always viewed Internet  Explorer's tight
integration with Windows to be an attractive feature.  That,
however, was before security became the unmet need of the
day.  Firefox sits lightly on top of Windows, in a
separation from the underlying  operating system that the
Mozilla Foundation's president, Mitchell Baker,  calls a
"natural defense."

For the first time, Internet Explorer has  been losing
market share. According to a worldwide survey conducted  in
late November by OneStat.com, a company in Amsterdam that
analyzes the  Web, Internet Explorer's share dropped to less
than 89 percent, 5 percentage  points less than in May.
Firefox now has almost 5 percent of the market, and  it is

Gary Schare, Microsoft's director of product  management for
Windows, has been assigned the unenviable task  of
explaining how Microsoft plans to respond to the Firefox
challenge with  a product whose features were last updated
three years ago. He has said that  current users of Internet
Explorer will stick with it once they take into  account
"all the factors that led them to choose I.E. in the first
place."  Beg your pardon. Choose? Doesn't I.E. come bundled
with Windows?

Mr.  Schare has said that Mozilla's Firefox must prove it
can smoothly move from  version 1.0 to 2.0, and has thus far
enjoyed "a bit of a free ride." If I  were the spokesman for
the software company that included the company's  browser
free on every Windows PC, I'd be more careful about using
the  phrase "free ride."

Trying to strike a conciliatory note, Mr. Schare has  also
declared that he and his company were happy to have Firefox
as "part  of the large ecosystem" of software that runs on
Windows. In fact, Firefox is  ecumenically neutral, being
available also for both the Mac and for Linux.

Mr. Schare may be the official spokesman, but he does not
use  Internet Explorer himself. Instead he uses Maxthon,
published by a little  company of the same name. It uses the
Internet Explorer engine but provides  loads of features
that Internet Explorer does not. "Tabs are what hooked  me,"
he told me, referring to the ability to open within a
single window  many different Web sites and move easily
among them, rather than open  separate windows for each one
and tax the computer's memory. Firefox has  tabs. Other
browsers do, too. But fundamental design decisions  for
Internet Explorer prevent the addition of this and other
desiderata  without a thorough update of Windows, which will
not be complete until 2006  at the earliest.

How fitting that Microsoft finds itself in  this
predicament. In late 1995, at a time when Netscape
Navigator was  synonymous with the Web and Internet Explorer
had yet to attract many  adopters, Microsoft made a risky
but strategically wise decision to redesign  the Internet
Explorer code from the bottom up - re-architecting,  in
industry jargon. As Michael A. Cusumano of M.I.T. and David
B. Yoffie  of Harvard chronicled in their 1998 book,
"Competing on Internet Time:  Lessons From Netscape and Its
Battle With Microsoft," that decision meant  delaying the
release of Internet Explorer 3.0, but the resulting  product
was technically far superior to Netscape's Navigator. In
Browser  Wars I, the better browser won.

Today, it's the Internet Explorer code  that is long overdue
for a top-to-bottom redesign, one that would treat  security
as integral, and Firefox is the challenger with new, clean
code.  Netscape bequeathed its software to the nonprofit
Mozilla Foundation, which  used an open-source approach to
undertake a complete rewrite that took three  years. Firefox
is built upon the Mozilla base.

All Microsoft can  offer Internet Explorer users are
incremental security improvements, new  patches to fix holes
in the old patches. In Windows XP Service Pack 2,  the
company claimed as a major security advance a notice that
is displayed  if the user takes an action within Internet
Explorer that sets off a download  of a tiny application
called an ActiveX control, which can take control of  your
PC and, in a worst-case instance, erase your hard drive.
"Users still  must make informed decisions," Mr. Schare
added. (With Firefox, users do not  have to make decisions
about these miniprograms, which are blocked by  design.)

Bruce Schneier, the chief technical officer of  Counterpane
Internet Security Inc. and an authority on security  issues,
did not hide his anger at Microsoft's claim of having
improved  Internet Explorer. "When my mother gets a prompt
'Do you want to download  this?' she's going to say yes" he
said. "It's disingenuous for Microsoft to  give you all of
these tools with which to hang yourself, and when you  do,
then say it's your fault." He lectures his clients (and his
mother):  "Don't use Microsoft Internet Explorer, period."
He has been using the  browser Opera, but having tried
Firefox declares it "a great alternative."

THIS month, officials at Pennsylvania State University
recommended  that students and staff stop using Internet
Explorer because of persistent  security problems. The
announcement said that "the threats are real,  and
alternatives exist."

Stuck with code from a bygone era when the  need for
protection against bad guys was little considered,
Microsoft  cannot do much. It does not offer a new
stand-alone version of Internet  Explorer. Instead, the
loyal customer must download and install the newest  version
of Service Pack 2. That, in turn, requires Windows XP.
Those who  have an earlier version of Windows are out of
luck if they wish to stick with  Internet Explorer.

Mr. Schare of Microsoft does have one suggestion for  those
who cannot use the latest patches in Service Pack 2: buy a
new  personal computer. By the same reasoning, the security
problems created by a  car's broken door lock could be
solved by buying an entirely new automobile.  The analogy
comes straight from Mr. Schare. "It's like buying a car,"
he  said. "If you want to get the latest safety features,
you have to buy the  latest model."

In this case, the very latest model is not a 2001  Internet
Explorer, but a 2004 Firefox.

Randall Stross is a  historian and author based in Silicon
Valley. E-mail:ddomain@xxxxxxxxxxxx

The  accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in
the same  hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary,
self-appointed,  or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition
tyranny." --James  Madison
Contribute at: _http://call2action.blogspot.com/_

** To leave the list, click on the immediately-following link:-
** [mailto:guispeak-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx?subject=unsubscribe]
** If this link doesn't work then send a message to:
** guispeak-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
** and in the Subject line type
** unsubscribe
** For other list commands such as vacation mode, click on the
** immediately-following link:-
** [mailto:guispeak-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx?subject=faq]
** or send a message, to
** guispeak-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with the Subject:- faq

Other related posts: