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mozilla.org Releases 0.9.2.1

Tuesday August 14th, 2001

mozilla.org today released the source code for 0.9.2.1, which is the code that matches Netscape 6.1. This comes from the 0.9.2 branch, and is being made available both as part of the MPL license requirement, and as a way for third parties to easily use it to write compatible plugins and addon features to Netscape 6.1, as well as Mozilla.


#48 Why people should use Mozilla over IE

by mhearn <mhearn@neuk.net>

Sunday August 19th, 2001 10:14 AM

You are replying to this message

Why People should use Mozilla over IE

I thought I might as well have a crack at addressing this issue once and for all and at the same time try and answer peoples questions about just why Mozilla is better than IE.

For many people using Mozilla/Netscape (i'll refer to them both as Mozilla from here on) is a disappointing experience. They expect perfect software and don't get it. They think that it is slow, buggy, and uses lots of memory. These are fair comments, and I could just go and deny them as I am a Mozilla advocate but I won't because to some extent Mozilla is still slower and buggier than IE. It's getting better, but I still use Outlook Express for email for instance because it is still better.

For those that don't have problems with speed/stability/bugs (and this has become the more common case recently as can be seen in Tanyels comments and the CNET review of Netscape 6.1) often they look at it and say, what does Mozilla have that Internet Explorer doesn't? And the answer is right now, not much. It has a pretty GUI and the sidebar which I personally find very useful, though it's not for everyone. It can do most of the things that IE does just as well, some things it does better and some things it does worse. It can't do "favourite icons" although this issue is mainly complicated by the fact that this particular feature uses the Windows icon format and so is platform specific. I've never seen page transitions, I suppose because I use Win 98. So right now at the time of writing when Mozilla is at 0.9.3 it is a pretty much even competitor to IE5. Many people have tried it and found it satisfactory but can't see any compelling reason to switch. Bugs still exist but not in numbers large enough to be worrying (Microsoft doesn't make it's bug databases open like Netscape so we will never know how many are in IE but I'd be willing to bet it's not much less). Things like standards and security all too often don't mean much to the end user. Note that it doesn't stop the 'soft trumpeting it's "support for DOM and CSS 1" for IE6 [chuckle, mozilla is working on css 3 as we speak].

So we can conclude that technology wise, there isn't currently a compelling reason to switch. But in another sense there most definately is. It's to do with the reasons they were produced in the first place. Many people never stop to question why Microsoft goes to the trouble of writing IE and giving it away for free when it clearly makes large losses. The answer is simple - it's to do with control. What came out at the infamous DOJ vs. Microsoft trial was the in the early days of the web when Netscape 3 was supreme Gates had his now legendary "conversion" when he woke up to the net and decided to reorient his company around it. But to make money out of the net, Gates needed to control it. So they started working on Internet Explorer. The famous quote "We'll give it away for free, we'll cut off [netscapes] air supply" has passed into geek history and at that point it became clear that MS was not at all interested in producing a good browser (hence the lousy and buggy standards support) but very simply in controlling the web.

This worrying desire has now come to fruition and although Microsoft does not quite utterly control the web yet, it's beginning to look that way. The most obvious and blatant example of this is IE6. If you look at the official website you can see that actually they have not really added any new or interesting features apart from perhaps P3P support. In fact, there are a lot of changes to IE6 but most of them are not desirable by the customer so they are not highlighted. Let's look first at the so-called "Smart Tags".

In Office "Smart Tags" are a good idea. They help improve an already excellent office productivity product by popping up options in the main windows when needed. In IE6 they were plugins that allowed small programs to effectively re-edit pages before they were displayed to the user. I say were because as soon as people discovered this feature all hell was raised and MS were forced to back down. They have now been disabled by default. Think about that for a moment - the sample implementation had every instance of say the phrase Microsoft Office in a document replaced by a link to an order site for it. This was the case even if you were saying, "Buy our product which is better than Microsoft Office". Needless to say, this made a lot of people very unhappy and it had no obvious use to the end user.

Now look at the decision to drop support for "Netscape-style plugins" from IE6. What Microsoft refers to as Netscape-style plugins is the EMBED tag which when placed in web pages allow authors to place animations, multimedia and more into their sites. Instead, Microsoft is telling people that all webpages should use plugins written for its (mainly proprietary) .NET platform. The fact that this change will stop millions of web pages from working does not bother them - why should it when everyone uses their browser and they effectively have control. Another change that actually disadvantages the user, not improves things for them. There are many more examples of this whereby MS uses it's control of Internet Explorer like a lever to take over aspects of computers, and the user be damned.

"So if IE is so evil then, how is Mozilla better?" you may be asking. Good question and the answer is simple. The Mozilla project was started by Netscape (although note it is not controlled by them) to make the best web browser in existence. This means that unlike Microsoft and changes made to it must benefit the user. Unlike Microsoft the Mozilla project has no hidden agenda and it frowns upon proprietary technologies controlled by any one company. This is why standards matter so much to the Mozilla developers and why when people say "This page doesn't work! Mozilla sucks" they get so irate. Because if the page was a proper webpage then it would in fact work. With each release of Mozilla it gets better for the user, whether this be through increased stability, fewer bugs or more features - contrast this with Internet Explorer which with each release has lately actually been getting worse! Mozilla was designed to be secure and has had well tested and thought through security policies (the code is available for all the study and improve), whereas Internet Explorer has a long history of serious security breaches that resulted in the Love bug virus amongst others.

So if you're an end user reading this, who isn't (and indeed shouldn't be) concerned with web standards, security or even bugs then I have only one good reason for you as to why Mozilla is better:

It's better because it makes sense. Do you want to use software built to achieve power and control for Bill Gates, or built to achieve an excellent browser?

I know which I prefer.

Thanks for reading - Mike Hearn <mhearn@neuk.net> jabber: <tweedledee@jabber.org>