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ZDNet Notes Continuing Efforts and Innovation of Alternative Browser Developers

Saturday February 21st, 2004

In a ZDNet editorial, Alex Kidman discusses how the developers of alternative browsers continue to fight on, despite Microsoft Internet Explorer having such a huge market share. Comparing alternative browser developers to fanatical guerrilla fighters, Kidman notes that most current browser innovation comes from these small players, while IE continues to coast. Thanks to Adam Hauner for the link.


#1 Nice li'l article.

by Gnu

Saturday February 21st, 2004 9:41 PM

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I think the point he was trying to make was that while people who use non-MS browsers on Windows platforms may seem fanatical on the surface -- solely existing to resist against IE's market dominance -- we actually just want a better browser. I'm hardly anti-Microsoft; I use their products daily, and my Windows machines coexist happily among other platforms. But their browser left a lot to be desired for me, and I found what I needed in Mozilla. People wouldn't stay long with a product out of sheer rebellion if it didn't fit their needs.

Has anyone else noticed that since Mozilla has started getting big press over the past year, you see less and less "recommended browser/best viewed with" statements on sites? "Niche" browsers like Safari and Mozilla may fill a minority market share, but when the minority screams standards compliance, developers tend to stand up and take notice. Evangelism is starting to take hold, and that's probably the most important goal of the Mozilla project.

#2 Browser Wars

by dave532

Sunday February 22nd, 2004 1:34 AM

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I hate the term browser war, why is writing a better browser considered such a pointless exercise to some people. I don't think of Mozilla as an alternative browser, I think of IE as the alternative because I've never used IE as a primary browser (one reason is I was exclusively Linux pre-Win2k and after that I just didn't want to support a one-browser internet).

Now these days I can run IE under Linux (through Codeweavers Crossover Office) but why would I want to, it's the inferior product, the only time I do use IE at all is for my company's timesheet system which still relies on the MS JVM (and giving the choice between getting paid and using IE once a month I go for the getting paid option ;)).

So to me it's not a fight, the makers of these non-IE browsers have already won any war in my eyes, because they've made better products that those in the know like better. I hope more people find out about these products but if they don't it won't stop me from using it. Switching browsers is no big deal. When Firefox reaches 1.0 it should even import all of IE's settings making the switch over for people a whole lot easier.

#3 Re: Browser Wars

by dave532

Sunday February 22nd, 2004 1:39 AM

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Note the above comment was not specifically directed at the above article, although it does mention the browser wars the author does admt that Mozilla makes for a more pleasant browser experience over IE, but I think the key is to make people think switching browsers is entirely normal.

If we had support from the likes of Google in this effort then I suspect we'd see a larger market share. (rather than promoting a Google toolbar for IE, promote a Google branded firefox)

#4 Re: Re: Browser Wars

by Gnu

Sunday February 22nd, 2004 1:53 AM

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But Firefox already is Google-branded -- the built-in search bar uses the Google "G". Surely they're not doing this illegally?

If it is with Google's blessing, a bit of promotion from Google would go a long way, and be mutually beneficial.

#5 Re: Re: Re: Browser Wars

by MvD

Sunday February 22nd, 2004 2:37 AM

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Agreed, Google needs to lift their dependency on IE because MS is going to kick their ass soon. It would even be in google's intrests to promote other OSs. Doesn't MS want to implement an OS-intergrated search system? Google should really be worried!

#6 Re: Re: Re: Re: Browser Wars

by Gnu

Sunday February 22nd, 2004 3:08 AM

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Technically, Windows already has an integrated search system, albeit in the form of forwarding queries to MSN Search. Windows' search function is integrated into Explorer/IE, just like nearly every other part of the system.

#8 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Browser Wars

by MvD

Sunday February 22nd, 2004 3:46 AM

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Well yeah but it's not that aggressive is it? I mean you don't get some msn toolbar with IE do you? OK the 'search' function is MSN based, but still it doesn't force itself on you does it?

#9 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Browser Wars

by borggraefe

Sunday February 22nd, 2004 4:13 AM

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MSN Search currently uses Google. Netscape Search, too, by the way.

Stefan

#10 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Browser Wars

by dave532

Sunday February 22nd, 2004 4:56 AM

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Where did you get that MSN search uses Google?

Yes, Netscape (and AOL) has for quite a while now.

#11 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Browser Wars

by borggraefe

Sunday February 22nd, 2004 5:13 AM

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Umm, sorry, this was wrong. MSN uses Yahoo!.

Stefan

#17 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Browser Wars

by AlexBishop <alex@mozillazine.org>

Sunday February 22nd, 2004 2:16 PM

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"MSN uses Yahoo!."

Not exactly. MSN uses Inktomi (now owned by Yahoo!), Overture (formerley GoTo, again now owned by Yahoo!) and LookSmart. However, they are developing their own in-house search technology, centering around their new crawler, MSNBot <http://www.msnsearch.com/msnbot.htm>.

Microsoft have decided that they really want to make inroads into the search arena, in the same way they made inroads into browsers, digital media, instant messaging etc. They don't want to base that on third-party technology, so they've either got to buy someone or develop their own. Google didn't want to be purchased (they previously turned down Yahoo! too*) so in-house it is. It'll take them a while but Microsoft have enough money to keep on trying and eventually they'll get it right.

Google today is about where Netscape was in 1995. Innovative, successful, on the verge of an IPO that might just change the whole economy, and about to feel the full force of Redmond.

Alex

* I believe Yahoo! still owns a small stake in Google and have done ever since the company started. They were quite critical in providing Google with start-up funding and assistance.

#15 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Browser Wars

by anthropolemc

Sunday February 22nd, 2004 11:19 AM

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There's an MSN Toolbar Beta now available, so there you go...has popup blocking. Basically an MSN clone of Google's toolbar.

#7 Re: Re: Re: Browser Wars

by dave532

Sunday February 22nd, 2004 3:37 AM

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> But Firefox already is Google-branded -- the built-in search bar uses the Google "G". Surely they're not doing this illegally?

By Google branded, I mean more than just a google icon, I mean an entire Google browser promoted on google.com just like their current IE toolbar has. It'd integrate the features that are not in the current Firefox (e.g. pagerank) that make the google toolbar popular.

And before someone points to googlebar.mozdev.org: 1. This is more about Google promoting Firefox not the fact that there's alternatives to the official google toolbar - just about everyone has heard of Google, it's a bigger name on the net than Netscape, if Google promoted this amazing popup blocking, tabbed Google browser then people would download and try it. 2. The unofficial Googlebars can't do all the official one does (pagerank specifically) 3. MS are taking on Google like they did with Netscape in the past, Google are still the most popular, so getting people to jump ship to a better browser will help Google when MS decides to make even tighter integration with MSN in IE.

Here's some people who think it's a good idea: <http://simon.incutio.com/…03/07/17/theGoogleBrowser> <http://www.dashes.com/ani…003/07/15/upon_the_demise> <http://slashdot.org/comme…sid=95978&cid=8218061>

#12 Re: Re: Re: Re: Browser Wars

by jgraham

Sunday February 22nd, 2004 6:40 AM

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Here's some people who don't think it's a good idea: Google <http://forums.mozillazine…pic.php?p=p=205303#205303>

Firefox would have an awful to lot gain from being promoted by Google, however it's hard to see what Google would have to gain by promoting Firefox. I wouldn't expect Google to support FF (or Opera or Safari or anything other than IE) unless they start loosing significant visitors to MSN. The IE Google toolbar is a good defence against that, whereas a FF toolbar isn't. A Google branded FF would be even harder to justify (as it would lead to thought processes like "what's this piece of crap browser that doesn't let me visit $RANDOM_IE_ONLY_SITE? Gogle sucks; I'm using MSN")

#13 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Browser Wars

by jgraham

Sunday February 22nd, 2004 6:45 AM

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#14 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Browser Wars

by dave532

Sunday February 22nd, 2004 11:15 AM

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Well Google have one major advantage of switching to firefox - they're switching to a browser that's not made by a company that's trying to compete with Google.

All they have to do is to integrate MSN search into IE in the visible way that Google search is integrated into Firefox then people will use it as soon as MSN search stops returning crap results. So MS improve their search results and Google becomes redundant, but if before people MSN becomes a useful tool people get used to downloading Firefox for all the excellent features not in IE then people will not have MSN rammed down their throats as much.

As for problems with sites not working in Firefox, IE had similar problems when they were the underdog it did not stop them becoming successful. Not many web designers are going to leave their pages broken if Google is promoting the browser.

#16 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Browser Wars

by mlefevre

Sunday February 22nd, 2004 1:17 PM

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"but if before ... MSN becomes a useful tool people get used to downloading Firefox for all the excellent features not in IE"

I can see that that would probably make it in Google's interests to back Firefox. However, that would require Firefox to have a chunky market share - something at least comparable with IE's. Same applies to sites being designed for IE, as you say.

But how sure are you that Firefox will have a 40-50% share of browser users (even with Google's backing) before Microsoft's search technology is able to compete with Google's? Doesn't sound like a good bet to me.

#19 Re: Re: Re: Re: Browser Wars

by Waldo_2

Sunday February 22nd, 2004 4:42 PM

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#21 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Browser Wars

by jgraham

Monday February 23rd, 2004 12:52 AM

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Oh well, I guess people are at least in talks again. It'll certianly be A Good Thing if anything comes of it.

#18 People look at this all wrong!

by pizzach

Sunday February 22nd, 2004 3:03 PM

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Why do people think there can only be one browser? That is like living in a small shell and never coming out. This is the kind of thinking that would kill the internet. Gee, I guess only windows users can browse the web since Explorer is not available on Linux...Mac....Solaris......

#20 *sigh*

by Jugalator

Sunday February 22nd, 2004 10:22 PM

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"Comparing alternative browser developers to fanatical guerrilla fighters"

Uh, or developers programming for fun, who for some reason doesn't like (or can't even use) IE?