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12/16/2004
09:17 AM
Edward Moltzen
Edward Moltzen
Commentary
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Back To The Browser Wars

The move from Internet Explorer to Firefox is more like a mass exodus among tech-savvy users. Will a real competitive threat breathe some life back into Internet Explorer?

Remember a few years ago, when the folks at Netscape were all hot and bothered about Microsoft's potential domination of the browser market? Remember the big argument over whether the Redmond Giant should be allowed to marry Internet Explorer to Windows? Try to remember, anyway, as you watch the emergence and adoption of the competing Firefox browser.

Colby Cosh examined the breakdown of browser users who clicked on Instapundit, one of the most heavily trafficked Web sites and blogs, and found that 15 percent of its visitors used Firefox. That's about five times the rate of the market as a whole.

Who clicks on Instapundit? Some of the most hard-core Web users and blog readers, that's who. Noted Cosh:

It seems like Firefox users are over-represented among people who read Web logs, who may be relatively savvy and Internet-immersed. Internet Explorer, of course, can last a long time as the Browser for People Who Don't Know Any Better. (AOL, which occupies a similar position among ISPs, is still chugging along.) But Microsoft must at least be a little bit unnerved about all this.

The response to Cosh's observation was what you might expect, including, as he noted, one Web developer who said this:

... Here's the serious footwork Microsoft would have to do to "catch up": 1. Put the Explorer control in a tabbed shell. The end. Well, by god, I don't know if the boys in Redmond are capable.

Of course, Firefox is about more than tabs. It can be viewed as more RSS-friendly, more secure and simply more elegant than IE. Blogger Trevor Bauknight put it this way:

Problems with spyware, pop-up ads, security flaws, indifference and downright hostility to standards-compliant behavior have made Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser one of the most widely reviled pieces of software ever.

And think, Microsoft gives IE away for free.

Browser market-share numbers might not move the financial markets as they did in the late '90s, but if the numbers keep moving in Firefox's direction, expect the rhetoric--and innovation--to heat up.

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