WEB | Even if you are Microsoft, a fiery fox can still cause you a headache, Ahmad Humeid reports.
Just a few years ago, it seemed that the Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has achieved absolute and final victory in the browser wars. With the advent of the commercial internet a decade ago, the king of browsers was, of course, Netscape. But uncle Bill and his Microsoft army kept making IE better and better (while Netscape was getting decidedly worse). Moreover, Microsoft used its dominance of the world of operating systems to chip away at Netscape’s share until, well, Netscape was history. But the story does not end here.
Before Netscape died (the company lives on as a rather sad and forgotten AOL property) it decided to give its core engine to the open source community. Thus the Mozilla project was born.
Why is that important? Because today, Netscape’s legacy, in the form of a number of browsers, is back to haunt Microsoft! Just consider this: when I checked the statistics of my own web site earlier this week I found out that over 20% of visitors are actually using Firefox, which is a Mozilla-based browser. This is no joke and it is keeping Microsoft on its toes.
If you have still not caught the Firefox bug then be warned: you might be soon be seen as technically uncool, which will not be in your favour at dinner parties! So go to www.mozilla.com/firefox/ and download a free copy for your Window, Mac or Linux machine (ok, if you have the latter, chances are you are already using Firefox!). The real power of this browser is its amazing extensibility. There are all kind of plug-ins you can add to make the browser even more useful, such as ad blockers, a weather forecast toolbar widget, download assistants and many more. Web developers utilize special Firefox extensions to do all kinds of cool things like checking how a particular web page was stylized.
One important aspect of today’s renewed browser war is that browsers are evaluated on how close a particular browser adheres to so-called web standards; the industry wide agreements on the technical standards of web page building technologies. It was only in the past few years that browser makers have come round to correctly implementing these global standards in their products. There used to be a time when a web designer had to build several, browser specific, versions of a web page to make sure it visually looked and behaved the same across different platforms. Today things are much better, but compared to IE, Firefox is more standards-compliant, adding to its popularity among tech geeks and, increasingly, non geeks too.
But it’s not only Firefox that’s eating into IE market share. If you are a Mac user, you are probably using Apple Safari, an elegant, fast browser, whose release a few years ago promoted Microsoft to give up on the development of IE on the Mac. On my web statistics, Safari was garnering a respectable 12% share of visitors.
As an alternatives to both Safari and Firefox on the Mac you can use Camino (which is also Mozilla at heart). One of the things I love about Camino and Firefox is their ability to remember my username and passwords for different sites. This takes the pain out of re-entering the login information on sites that continually ask you to identify yourself.
The rise of the IE killers has shown that in tech, no one is immune to competition. Not even the guys in Redmond who seemed, not long ago, to have crushed their opponents with a 95% market dominance.
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