Goodbye Internet Explorer, Hello Mozilla Firefox

My SiteMeter reports tell me that 90% of you are viewing this site with Microsoft Internet Explorer.

Why? Perhaps you just aren’t aware that there is a much better and free browser choice out there. Or maybe you’ve heard the buzz about Mozilla Firefox and are scared to use it. Perhaps you are scared because it doesn’t come with the Microsoft seal of approval. Or that it is still in beta development (version 0.8).

If you are using IE I think it must be largely out of ignorance. If you use Mozilla, or especially it’s latest browser incarnation Mozilla Firefox you won’t go back to Internet Explorer. Rather you will realize how annoying IE was, rather like having to live with Windows Me before Windows 2000 hit the market.

Microsoft seems to have stopped enhancing IE. Occasionally a new patch will come out to plug the latest security hole. But it’s been years since they’ve added any new functionality to the browser. Perhaps with the browser market sewn up they figure why bother: they give the browser away for free anyhow. Microsoft has abandoned plans to make IE available for the Mac OS X. It figures the Mac community is content with the bundled Safari browser. Ironically Microsoft is now emulating Netscape, which lost interest in its browser around 1998 when it couldn’t figure out a way to make money from it anymore. You may recall the rest of the story: Netscape was bought by AOL and the Netscape project was allowed to flounder.

Well times have changed. As a parting gift the Netscape developers gave the original Netscape code to the open source community. For a while Netscape/AOL provided resources to keep the browser development going. But a couple years back they even stopped doing that. So for a year or two now the open source community has been improving the old Netscape code. It is called Mozilla. Mozilla is the same name Netscape gave to the project before they stuck a marketing brand on it. And a year or so back Mozilla 1.0 was released.

The Netscape web site is still around. The Netscape browser is still available. It is currently in version 7.0. But it’s really Mozilla 1.0 under the hood. You can download the latest Netscape 7 browser, but why bother? Do you really want to see pop up ads by default? Do you really want numerous links and advertising pitches to try AOL? You are probably just like me and want a browser that lets you do what you need to do quickly and efficiently.

So download the Mozilla Suite if you wish (includes email client and newsreader) and block pop up windows by default. You will also get a Google search field right next to the address bar and tabbed browsing. Once you try tabbed browsing you’ll wonder why it took so long to introduce such an obvious feature.

But most likely you are happy with Outlook Express to handle your email, so you don’t need the Mozilla email client. And you probably don’t care about the newsreader either. You just want a better browser. The Mozilla community recognizes this and has been working on a browser only product. It’s had many names including Phoenix, Firebird and now Firefox. But it doesn’t matter. Mozilla Firefox may be version 0.8 but it is ready for prime time. If you value your own time you will download it and use it. The browser will easily make you at least 10% more efficient when you are surfing the World Wide Web.

I have to think hard of any features I think work better in Internet Explorer. If pressed I could say that IE loads faster. This is because Microsoft integrated the browser into the operating system, so much of what IE needs to run is already resident in memory when you boot your machine. I also think IE has better features for accommodating the handicapped. But that’s it.

Aside from obvious and subtle improvements to the user interface that will make you markedly more productive, Firefox is also extremely standards compliant. This is really important because the arbiter of web standards is the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). IE attempts but doesn’t quite succeed in the standards department. I noticed this recently when I was editing some cascading style sheets. I could get them to work in IE but I couldn’t get them to work in Firefox. What was the problem? I went over to the W3C CSS validator site, tried to validate the file and realized that I shouldn’t put semicolons at the end of my statements. Firefox was saying “this is ambiguous; you need to be more precise or I won’t render it”. But this is an excellent approach. IE allows you to be sloppy when you code your cascading style sheets. Sloppiness means you have no way of knowing how your code will actually be rendered. It is far better to require a web developer to be precise up front than allow such ambiguities.

IE, how do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways. I hate most of all that you let pop up windows blossom faster than dandelions in my backyard. And I can’t do much about it other than buy third party software that usually but does not always succeed in blocking them. I hate the way IE is used as a large Microsoft marketing machine, leaving bookmarks to Hotmail and MSN and all their partner sites that I don’t want. I hate the endless security problems with the browser. I hate installing the constant patches I need to supposedly keep me secure, but which often introduces new vulnerabilities. On a technical level I hate the way Microsoft, just because it can get away with it, is making web standards harder to enforce. The browser’s document object model, for example, is non-standard. It allows HTML tags like the marquee tag that were never approved by the W3C. I hate that so many web developers are so spineless that they will tweak their Javascript to use the IE document object model. I hate the way that we so willingly and in most cases naively do what Microsoft tells us to do.

Not only does it not have to be that way, you can get rid of all these annoying hassles simply by downloading, installing and using Mozilla Firefox. Here is a real browser that works the way I think. But also here is a true internet-based web development platform I can extend. I’ve installed a number of the many extensions available for Firefox. For example I downloaded an extension that will highlight my block oriented tags so I can see them when I am designing a web page. The same extension also allows me to validate my HTML against a number of standards (XHTML, accessibility to the handicapped etc) with just one or two clicks.

If you try Firefox I assure you that you won’t go back to IE. It’s a no brainer. It also helps that Firefox is free and available for virtually every operating system.

So what are you waiting for? Give Mozilla Firefox a test drive today!

2 responses to “Goodbye Internet Explorer, Hello Mozilla Firefox”

  1. I went looking for an alternitive to IE because it kept locking my machine at the wrong moment. found opera. that went great until i discovered that no matter how hard they tried they just couldn’t get java to cooperate with their technology. then it was back to IE for a couple of years. enter FireFox… wow… web surfing is fast and fun again. every chance i get i preach the FireFox gosple to anyone that will listen. i’ve personally installed it on many of my friends machines and they now refuse to use IE. I just have one question left. Is there a way to coax windows to integrate FireFix instead of IE? I believe that would be all i need to have a completely stable machine.


  2. I love Mozilla Firefox and have been using it for over a year now. I’ve got a few people to switch over to it and they absolutely love it!


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