'The Guardian' Recommends Mozilla Firebird/Thunderbird, Criticises Mozilla Development Decisions

Thursday July 10th, 2003

Ian Deeley and A Wood both wrote in to tell us that today's edition of The Guardian, the UK broadsheet newspaper, features a column by Jack Schofield that recommends Mozilla Firebird and Mozilla Thunderbird. The article states that "Mozilla's Firebird browser and Thunderbird standalone mail software could make Microsoft's offerings look very shabby indeed." The bulk of the rest of the feature critically examines Netscape's and's browser development decisions (it is particularly damning of the team's cross-platform aspirations) and discusses Microsoft's plans to abandon development of the standalone version of Internet Explorer. Readers of the print edition of The Guardian can find the column on page 22 of the Life/Online supplement.

#20 Cross-platform

by Ascaris <>

Friday July 11th, 2003 4:36 AM

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I see the cross-platform nature of Mozilla to be a strength. While Microsoft continues to push its monopoly, unimpeded by the courts, and centered on its Windows platform, Mozilla is silently working toward being the de facto default browser on all non-MS platforms, even with the Safari debacle. And while none of the other platforms comes close to the numbers of Windows, if all of them together use a browser that is, for all intents and purposes, identical, then it keeps MS from being able to single-handedly dictate the web standards as it sees fit.

Microsoft wants to continue the Windows stranglehold on the desktop, certainly. Now that IE is the clear choice of just about everyone, they are using the same technique that made IE the dominant browser to continue the Windows dominance-- that is, tighter and tighter integration with the Windows desktop, and dropping development of IE on other platforms. If you want the newest IE browser, you will have to get the newest Windows version... and since MS just about owns the browser market, they will be sure that most people are going to want or need the newest IE browser, and they will do that by setting their own standards, as always. It is the goal of MS to make the web into a place that is compatible only with Windows and IE.

That is where Mozilla can become a big pain for MS. If it were a bunch of different niche browsers for each of the different operating systems, it would be far easier to get web designers to ignore those "insignificant" browsers, and develop only for the new version of IE. But since Mozilla renders the same regardless of platform, it is not a bunch of niche browsers... it is a single entity, greater than the sum of its parts. And by being the best choice for non-MS operating systems, that ensures that the Windows users that would choose Mozilla (like me) will have a browser that has great enough numbers to make web designers at least consider developing according to W3C standards, not MS standards.

The Guardian article is written from the perspective of someone that considers the Windows platform to be the only viable one, and that will always be the only viable one. Windows is the home turf of Microsoft; a full frontal assault based only on Windows is not what I would call a winning idea. By being cross-platform, Mozilla has a better chance of capturing enough market share to keep MS from dictating its own standards and ignoring the W3C... and that is a very good thing. The W3C standards are based on an egalitarian ethos, while the MS standards are based on continuing to convert computerdom and the net into a bigger and bigger MS cash cow-- stifling the common good for their own financial gain. As such, the cross-platform nature of Mozilla benefits all, including users of the Windows versions of Mozilla.

If the Mozilla/Netscape developers had done as the article suggested and spent the resources they had developing a Windows-only browser, I think that I, and the scores of other Windows Mozilla users, would be worse off, not better. The browser itself may have been faster, less buggy, or otherwise superior to the product I am using right now, but I don't know that it would be as viable a browser. Evangelizing Mozilla and its W3C support (to web page designers) would be a lot harder if it was not cross-platform.

The writer of the Guardian piece clearly missed the big picture.