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Firefox : Does it have Internet Explorer Beaten?

In this article, the merits of both Microsoft?s Internet Explorer 7.0 and Mozilla?s Firefox will be balanced against each other By Matthew David

Lessons Learned and Unlearned from the Browser Wars
Once upon a time there was a web browser called Netscape, and it was good. If you have been surfing the Internet for more than 10 years then you will remember the catchy ?Need Netscape buttons everywhere. This was in the days when it was cool to restrict your Web site to just one web browser.

The inevitable arrival of Microsoft with Internet Explorer was the death knell for Netscape. To be fair, Microsoft came out with a series of rapid releases for Internet Explorer, each building on top of each other with standards and features that a beaten down Netscape could not compete with. The whole thing imploded for Netscape with the then disastrous release of the Netscape browser source code. The project was seemingly stalled for years. Microsoft, pleased with itself, ceased releasing updates to Internet Explorer and the once manic rate of browser releases ground to a halt.

The lesson that Microsoft had learned was to develop and release updates regularly for Internet Explorer. Unfortunately for Microsoft, it seems it believed that there would be no more competition. While Netscapes lesson was a painful one, the release of the base code to the Open Source development community was a stroke of genius. The Open Source community stripped away and re-built the browser engine over a period of several years. This new engine, dubbed Gecko, was slow at first, but, through continued development, made a healthy release in the light weight browser called Firefox 1.0.
Firefox is arguably the spark that has re-kindled the Web Browser Wars similar to those of the ?90s. The adoption of Firefox forced Microsoft to change its development plans for Internet Explorer 7.0. Today, FireFox 2.0 garners as much as 22% of web browser traffic. Microsoft is holding onto 65-70% of the web browser market. Does Firefox have Microsoft beaten?

Firefox enjoys wide popularity

The Strengths of Firefox
The core of Firefox is a ?back to basics design approach. Firefox is simply a Web Browser. The focus is on two things:

  • Support of standards
  •  Cross platform support

Standards rule the Web. Lack of standards support such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript restrict the ability for Web developers and designer to complete more compelling interfaces. Firefox has upped the ante for supporting traditional standards such as CSS Level 2.0, HTML 4.0 and JavaScript but have added support for XHMTL, SVG and RSS.
You will also find new features such as Tabs, the ability to have two or more in one browser window, spell checking in Web forms, Live bookmarks, an effective pop-up blocker and broad accessibility. In addition, you will find that there are tools that will protect you from phishing web sites and protection from spyware. Automatic updates will keep you up-to-date and current on the latest release of Firefox. Firefox is also available on many platforms including Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. The experience is the same across all of these operating systems.

Internet Explorer 7 features better security and phishing tools.

Internet Explorer 7
The original idea for Internet Explorer 7 was to release it just to the Windows Vista platform. Too many anti-monopoly court cases lead Microsoft to de-couple Internet Explorer from the core of Vista and make it available for Windows XP.
Internet Explorer 7 has finally updated the navigation interface. The new, sleek design is easier to use. Support is an increase for Internet Standards such as CSS. You will also notice better security and Web phishing tools.
There is now a tie back to Microsofts Live Bookmarks. This is a nice feature allowing you to manage your bookmarks through a central Web site. This is great if you travel a lot or work from different computers. Internet Explorer continues to be integrated into Microsoft systems such as SharePoint Services and Office 2007.
If you run both Windows Vista and Windows XP then you cannot help but think that IE 7 is ripped out of the Vista OS and forced onto Windows XP much in the same way a square peg will not fit in a round hole.  Additional features, such as browser tabs, appear to be a copy of Firefoxs innovation.

The bottom line
At the end of the day you will find that both browsers appear to be essential. I find myself jumping back and forth between each depending on which Web site and Web applications I use. For instance, Googles personalized Web site appears to work better in Firefox and Microsofts SharePoint Services work better in Internet Explorer. The important observation is that there are differences between the two browsers and companies are building around those differences. Microsoft has not released many details about the future development of Internet Explorer. It may be another five years before we see version 8. On the other hand, the Alpha release of Firefox 3 is already out with a radical overhaul of the way a developer can script the presentation layer. Adobe is also throwing its weight behind the Mozilla community that manage FireFox by giving Mozilla the scripting rendering engine for the Flash Player and the management of the Open Source version of PDF.
If I were a betting man, I would argue that Microsoft will continue to lose support in their hold of the web browser market unless they move development of Internet Explorer front and center.  Currently, the signs are indicating that Microsoft will not do this.

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Matthew has written four Flash books, contributed to a dozen Web books, and has published over 400 articles. He is passionate about exposing Internet's potential for all of us. Matthew works directly with many companies as a business strategist coaching IT architects and business leaders to work tightly with each other towards common goals.
Related Keywords:web browsers, web browser wars, IE, Firefox, web design

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