Browsers: Choice Is Yours

The browser market lives, and IT executives should be open-minded about using Firefox and other alternatives.

The browser market lives. the Mozilla Foundations stand-alone browser, Firefox, now comprises 3 percent of the market. That number compares with Internet Explorers 92.9 percent, the remainder being consumed by several smaller players. Those figures, reported by Web analytics provider WebSideStory, represent significant inroads into Microsofts browser market dominance and indicate, however tentatively, the presence of meaningful competition.

While we dont take sides in market share battles, we do believe strongly that competition is best for you, our readers. Last year in this space, we noted with dismay the stagnation in browser evolution that was due to Microsofts long lead time for "Longhorn" and, with it, that companys next great leap forward in browser technology. Its refreshing to see offerings such as Firefox and Apples Safari, even with a reported 1 percent market share, step up to the plate.

Will the competition last?

Two years ago, Microsoft vowed it would adopt new competitive practices, with CEO Steve Ballmer saying, "Microsoft has learned and grown through the experience of the last four years. We must be aware of how our actions affect others and are perceived by them." We call upon Microsoft to live out these words as new browser competition emerges. There is plenty of room for enhancements to IE and no need for Microsoft to fall back on the predatory practices of former times. We encourage IT pros to be open-minded about browser choices. As companies build more Web applications and Web services, it makes sense to use a state-of-the-art browser that powerfully interacts with these applications and services.

Browser functionality is not the only issue, however. Using IE ties a company to the latest Windows version. Microsoft officials stated that there will be no new IE versions for older Windows versions, meaning users must upgrade to Windows XP Service Pack 2 to gain new security and capability improvements in IE. For this reason, it may make sense for some users to seek independence from IE. For example, an IT pro who goes with Firefox and Mozillas Thunderbird e-mail client can set up call center users on Linux-based thin clients, designers on Mac OS workstations and cubicle dwellers on Windows machines. Such a move would enable optimal user platform choice while preserving the kind of consistency that will cut retraining time and expense.

/zimages/6/28571.gifTo read about a recent exploit of Windows XP Service Pack 2 that allows programs to be planted and executed on fully-patched systems, click here.

IT pros would be wise to recall Web browser history. Not so long ago, the popularity of Netscape browsers spurred Microsoft to a whirlwind of IE innovation—even though that innovation, regrettably, came hand in hand with anti-competitive behavior. This time, if Microsoft keeps its word, browser innovation stands a good chance to enhance the Internet experience of everyone. IT pros and the companies they serve are getting a rare second chance, and they should make the most of this window of innovation and opportunity. The browser market lives.

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