Firefox’s Growth as a Platform

I know I’m not the only one having flashbacks of 1999. The browser wars are back and long dead concepts like “get paid to surf” are rising from the grave like zombies. Both dotcom millionaires that survived the crash and burned in the crash are coming out of the woodworks heading their 2.0 reincarnations. It’s really scary at times.

Although I wouldn’t skip a heartbeat if bubble 2.0 crashed, I certainly hope Browser Wars 2.0 has a different outcome.

Even with IE7 claiming 100 million downloads and accounting for 25% of visits to US sites according to InformationWeek, Firefox’s market share remains unaffected at 14% and is still growing. In other words, IE7 is cannibalizing IE6 as upgrades do. This isn’t particularly surprising and there’s no reason you can’t have both on one computer. In fact, I have Safari, Firefox, and a host of other embedded WebKit browsers on the mac as well as IE6 via parallels. Firefox remains my choice despite the resources it takes up on the Mac (a combination of Firefox’s need for cross-platform compatibility and my use of suboptimal third-party plugins I can’t live without) because of the extensive customization options. It also works cross platform without any surprises too.

Even as people upgrade IE7 it’s going to take a long time to convince people who have been kicked in the teeth by all the security holes and went through the nightmare of removing the plethora of viruses and “warez” infecting their computer (with a horrific re-installation of Windows) from the gaping holes in IE and Windows once they experience the speed, security and convenience of Firefox.

Before I switched, I remember discovering Firefox and renewing my hope in the Windows platform until I realized that it only highlighted how bankrupt the platform was. It was a really fantastic discovery to see my browser catch up with all the wonderful things web application developers were doing. Here are a group of talented hackers producing a really fantastic application off the ashes of Netscape.

I honestly think that if anything Firefox is the best thing that happened to Windows in the last 5 years and Bill Gates should be grateful to Blake Ross. It’s the single biggest update to the Windows operating system that allowed people to fully experience the web without looking over their shoulder. Would we have IE7 today if Firefox wasn’t around? It’s going to be hard convincing people to use IE7 as their primary browser once they get used to the comfort and customization offered by Firefox as well as the security.

IE7 with all the money poured into it introduces new kinks into web standards compliance as they try to fix long-standing issues. It’s still more like a public beta or a 1.0 release compared to Firefox which has matured over the last couple of years.

What’s fascinating is that Firefox or more appropriately Mozilla has evolved into a cross-platform development framework. Check out this choice bit regarding Joost, the P2P television:

“Running on top of these core technologies is a highly modified version of Mozilla browser, which makes it easy for the company to port its client to any operating system – Mac, Linux or even mobile operating systems. “

NewTeeVee » Exclusive: Inside The Venice Project, Built On Mozilla

Even Blake Ross, the wonder behind Firefox’s reinvention, is hard at work to bring us a “web operating system” through Parakey.

Just think about that. A cross-platform development framework that bridges the desktop and web. That’s the power that propels Firefox and it’s all open source. Even if Internet Explorer knocked Firefox as a browser, you’ll never see it ever come close to matching the power of Firefox’s code base to launch new and exciting apps. Just like Firefox rose from the ashes of Netscape, I think the next big thing from this lineage is right around the corner and it wont be a browser. If Parakey doesn’t deliver, something else will.

Interview with Firefox Founder and Creator Blake Ross » Opera Watch

Despite 100 Million IE 7 Installs, Microsoft’s Browser Still Loses Ground – News by InformationWeek

GigaOM » Firefox Kid’s New Start Up, Parakey

Categories: web