Sysinternals Newsletter Editor Mark Russinovich Switches to Mozilla

by MARK RUSSINOVICH | I finally did it. I switched from Internet Explorer to Mozilla ( Bryce Cogswell (my Sysinternals and Winternals cofounder) has been using Mozilla for a couple of years now and he's periodically updated me about all the cool features it has that IE doesn't. Most obviously, instead of opening new pages in separate windows you can have them open in tabbed pages of the same browser window. If you have multiple pages you want the browser to open when you launch it, just make a group of tabs your startup group.

Whereas IE has a global setting for remembering web page passwords, Mozilla lets you specify web pages for which you want it to remember passwords and you can use the password manager to remove remembered passwords at any time. Add in a built-in download manager, integrated e-mail client (which I don't use), multiple profiles, a built-in chat program, integration with popular search engines, and the distance between Mozilla and IE starts to look impressive.

However, Mozilla really shines when it comes to annoying web sites. It includes a built-in popup manager where you can configure popup filtering on a site-by-site basis if you desire. It has a cookie manager you use to block cookies, also by site if you want, and to view the cookies that have been dropped on your system. You can also configure Mozilla's behavior when it comes to images. Most sites that have obnoxious banners pull the graphic files from external sponsor sites and you can configure Mozilla to ignore external images, again, site-by-site if you want. Finally, a nice visual touch is Mozilla's skinning support, with numerous skins freely available.

I'm sure this sounds like a sales pitch, but its not. Its more a commentary on what lack of competition does to a product segment. Why doesn't IE have features like cookie management and popup blocking that consumers have to spend money for when Mozilla includes those features and more for free? Why did IE change so little between version 5 and 6 and why hasn't it been updated in two years? The vast majority of consumers uses whatever software they have on their computers and don't read open-source newsgroups or visit and so they are unaware that better, freely available alternatives exist. Microsoft and Netscape made browsers free in their competition to dominate the web server application market so there's no financial benefit in Microsoft improving IE — they don't lose any money when a power user like me switches to Mozilla.

You can see the same effect even in Microsoft's add-on software. I used to use Eudora as my e-mail client, but about two years ago switched to Outlook. It seemed like everyone was using Outlook and I wanted to take advantage of its calendaring feature. I immediately found a number of small annoyances. For instance, you can configure Eudora to leave e-mail over a certain size on the server, which is helpful when you're dialed in at 25 Kb in a hotel room. Outlook has a similar feature, but Eudora downloads the first few lines of message text so that you see what the e-mail is about and use that information to decide whether or not to suffer a long download. Outlook doesn't.

I could go on, but you've got my message by now and can probably add a list of your own anecdotes. The bottom line is that competition is good for the computer consumer. Maybe IE "Longhorn" will blow Mozilla away?

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