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Firefox Flames Internet Explorer

By Cynthia L. Webb
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Monday, November 15, 2004; 10:03 AM

Anyone who thought the browser wars were over when Microsoft overpowered Netscape in the 1990s should think again.

Internet users have downloaded more than a million copies of Firefox, the free, open-source Web browser that was spearheaded by the Mozilla Foundation, since it was released last week (Note that Netscape started the Mozilla project in 1998). So far the early reviews are glowing like, well, fox fire. It's a feather in the cap of the open source movement, which continues to chip away at Microsoft's market share.

_____About Filter_____
Filter looks at the day's top technology news through snapshots and analysis of what the world's media outlets are covering. Washingtonpost.com's new Mon.-Fri. feature is penned by technology reporter Cynthia L. Webb. If a technology story breaks, a company falters or triumphs, or there's a new trend in technology, Filter wants you to know about it.

_____Filter Archive_____
VoIP: A Shot in Telecom's Arm (washingtonpost.com, Nov 16, 2004)
The Election That Never Ends ... Online (washingtonpost.com, Nov 12, 2004)
Techs Can't Find Hangover Cure (washingtonpost.com, Nov 11, 2004)
Is Google the Next Netscape? (washingtonpost.com, Nov 10, 2004)
Microsoft's Legal Cleanup Day (washingtonpost.com, Nov 9, 2004)
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"Does anyone remember the browser wars?," the New York Times asked. "In the rapid-fire pace of the technology business, Microsoft's successful, though illegal, campaign to thwart competition in the market for Web browsing software during the 1990's seems to be ancient history. The corporate target, Netscape Communications, is all but a memory today, a tiny unit of Time Warner. And the last thread of the epic federal antitrust suit -- a case focused on the browser market -- fell away last week when a longtime Microsoft foe made peace with its old adversary. The Computer and Communications Industry Association said it would not request a Supreme Court review of the remedies against Microsoft, which it had believed to be too lenient, and instead would welcome Microsoft as a member of the trade group. Yet a few refugees from the original Netscape and a new generation of software developers believe that browser software -- the gateway to information and commerce on the Internet -- still matters."
The New York Times: In The Battle of the Browsers '04, Firefox Aims At Microsoft (Registration required)

CNET's News.com wrote on Friday that "After 19 months of development, two name changes and more than 8 million downloads of its preview release, the Firefox browser finally turned 1.0. The browser, based on the Mozilla Foundation's open-source development work, was made available for free download early Tuesday. Firefox 1.0 isn't significantly different from the preview releases launched in recent months. Mozilla changed its default start page to appeal to new users, but other changes involve minor performance improvements and bug fixes... The release could nonetheless have a big effect if prerelease trends propel the open-source browser into serious contention with Microsoft's Internet Explorer."
CNET's News.com: This Week In Firefox News

The Associated Press called Firefox a "feisty new kid on the block that's worth a serious look." More from the wire: "Officially released this week, Firefox packs security protections and other welcome features that emphasize just how little Microsoft has innovated its aging Microsoft browser in recent years. True, Microsoft made significant security improvements to IE when it released Service Pack 2 for Windows XP computers in August. But the improvements aren't available for older Windows systems. Nor does the updated IE offer a versatile search box, a pop-up blocker, feeds of frequently visited Web pages or the ability to open windows within windows... The biggest reason to consider Firefox is security."

The Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro gave Firefox a rousing review. "Internet Explorer, you're fired. That should have been said a long time ago. After Microsoft cemented a monopoly of the Web-browser market, it let Internet Explorer go stale, parceling out ho-hum updates that neglected vulnerabilities routinely exploited by hostile Web sites. Not until August's Windows XP Service Pack 2 update did (some) users get any real relief. And yet people found reasons to stick with IE -- alternative browsers cost money, were too slow, too complicated, or didn't work with enough Web sites. No more. Tuesday, the answer to IE arrived: a safe, free, fast, simple and compatible browser called Mozilla Firefox. Firefox (available for Win 98 or newer, Mac OS X and Linux at www.mozilla.org) is an unlikely rival, developed by a small nonprofit group with extensive volunteer help. Its code dates to Netscape and its open-source successor, Mozilla, but in the two years since Firefox debuted as a minimal, browser-only offshoot of those sprawling suites, it has grown into a remarkable product."

More from the review, which praises Firefox's simple and easy-to-understand design interface, automatic pop-up blocker and built-in security features: "[Firefox] doesn't support Microsoft's dangerous ActiveX software, which gives a Web site the run of your computer. It omits IE's extensive hooks into the rest of Windows, which can turn a mishap into a systemwide meltdown. Firefox resists 'phishing' scams, in which con artists lure users into entering personal info on fake Web pages, by making it easier to tell good sites from bad. When you land on an encrypted page -- almost no phishing sites provide this protection -- Firefox advertises that status by highlighting the address bar in yellow. It also lists that page's domain name on the status bar; if that doesn't match what you see in the address bar, you're probably on a phishing site." Pegoraro will be online this afternoon to talk about Firefox.
The Associated Press via washingtonpost.com: Firefox Browser Alternative To Microsoft (Registration required)
The Washington Post: Firefox Leaves No Reason To Endure Internet Explorer (Registration required)

Paul Andrews made a quite interesting finding, as he reported in a Seattle Times article. "During a recent six-week period, I conducted a small spyware experiment on my Windows computer. I kept track of days I opened Microsoft Internet Explorer. At the close of each day, I ran Spybot, a detection and prevention program. Here's what happened: On nearly every day I used Internet Explorer, I was infected with a new batch of malware -- spyware or adware. On days I used Mozilla Firefox for browsing and avoided IE, without exception I remained uninfected," he wrote. "As for Firefox, it can be downloaded and installed for free in a minute or two from mozilla.org. You need to configure it to block cookies from third-party sites. That means the occasional inconvenience of having to re-enter logins and passwords on certain Web pages. But the payoff is worth it. You also can avoid spyware by switching to a Macintosh or Linux PC. And other non-IE browsers can be configured to block spyware. Microsoft has made spyware prevention one of its missions as well, so IE may improve in that regard."
The Seattle Times: Tired of Spyware? Try Another Browser

The Fox and the Hounds

Expect Microsoft to release the attack dogs to run this fox to ground. ZDNet Australia reported last week, in an article posted on the Web site MozillaZine, that "Microsoft Australia's managing director, Steve Vamos, said that he did not believe IE's market share was under threat after the recent high profile launch of Mozilla's Firefox browser. Vamos said that although he has heard other people mention the threat posed by Firefox, he does not believe the threat is real... 'I'm not sure that that is the reality. I have seen comments around that but there is nothing I can refer to that really supports that,' he said. Instead, Vamos added, users needed educating about all the features already offered by Microsoft's browser."
ZD Net Australia: Microsoft: Firefox Does Not Threaten IE's Market Share

A dispatch from Information Week indicates Microsoft isn't resting on its laurels. "What can Microsoft do about it? The company introduced a major upgrade to Internet Explorer in August, but it works only on PCs running Windows XP Service Pack 2, which is about 20% of what's out there. Other Windows users are stuck with an older version of Internet Explorer that's vulnerable to security breaches. Microsoft officials say Internet Explorer has its advantages, including compatibility with most business applications. They promise incremental security improvements to it before 2006, when a new version debuts as part of Microsoft's Longhorn operating system. Until then, new add-on functionality will mostly come from third-party developers. If Firefox continues to gain share, that could change. Says a Microsoft manager, 'We could always rethink our plans,'" Information Week reported.
Information Week: Firefox Could Give IE A Run For The Money


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