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6/18/2008
12:04 PM
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Firefox 3.0 Doesn't Focus On Business IT

However, a lack of enterprise support won't stop employees from downloading and using the browser on their own, with or without the backing of IT.

Mozilla released Firefox 3.0 this week, but don't expect the new version to come entirely business-ready. The company's approach is to keep the end user first in mind, not the IT manager.

"Give people the things they want and then they’ll take it into the enterprise," Mike Schroepfer, Mozilla's VP of engineering, said in an interview. "Our approach for a long time now has been pull rather than push." Mozilla has no enterprise sales or support staff to speak of, and the company relies on third-party add-ons such as FrontMotion Firefox MSI, CCK Wizard, or FirefoxADM for business features like centralized deployment and management.

That approach won't win any quick converts among IT management. Engineering company Ericksen, Roed & Associates discourages downloading Firefox but doesn't disallow it. "It's just one more app to support," Ericksen VP of technology David Pluke said in an e-mail. He just hasn't seen any compelling reason to switch from Internet Explorer or add support for Firefox.

Southwest Airlines takes a similar tack, though it doesn't allow Firefox on public-facing and shared computers such as ticket counter or aircraft maintenance kiosks.

Many corporate Web apps were originally written for Microsoft Internet Explorer and its previously quirky approach to Web standards, so some don't work properly in Firefox. Web app developer BST Global's ERP and project management software, for example, doesn't work with Firefox. So engineering company Wright-Pierce, a BST Global customer, prevents employees from downloading the browser.

However, unless outright prevented from doing so, a lack of enterprise support won't stop employees from downloading and using the browser on their own, with or without the backing of IT. Firefox 3.0 was downloaded more than 7 million times in its first 21 hours after being released on Tuesday despite the download site being down for more than an hour. Boeing and Fidelity Investments are among the companies that support or encourage Firefox use.

Mozilla hopes consumers will be enticed with a number of new features, including a first in a Web browser: malware detection. The browser steers users away from sites known by StopBadware.org to be attack sites. There are also improved password manager, bookmarking, download manager, and anti-phishing tools, and the company says it's also worked hard to get rid of pesky memory leaks that sometimes had Firefox consuming hundreds of megabytes of RAM.

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