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Mozilla vs. Microsoft

Alyce Lomax of Motley Fool fame has posted an article (sorry, registration required) highlighting the continued migration away from Microsoft Internet Explorer and toward the more OSS-friendly Mozilla, citing security as one of the major reasons for this slow defection....

Alyce Lomax of Motley Fool fame has posted an article (sorry, registration required) highlighting the continued migration away from Microsoft Internet Explorer and toward the more OSS-friendly Mozilla, citing security as one of the major reasons for this slow defection.

What Alyce doesn't examine, however, is the feature set differentiation between the browsers. To blame security entirely for the defection is too easy. It isn't just about security, that's the straw that's breaking the camel's back. It's about features and functionality.

Yes, yes. IE 6 has pop-up blockers too. But the feature is hidden in the menuing system and isn't easily accessible like the ones available for Mozilla/Firefox. Sometimes you *need* to allow pop-ups. WebEx/MeetingPlace are prime examples of sites that require the ability to randomly pop up windows at will. It's easier to just click a checkbox on the toolbar before loading the site than it is to navigate through the menu system to find the option and turn it off, then hope you remember to turn it back on again. The lack of tabbed browsing has been cited numerous times by convertees. "Once you experience browsing in a tabbed environment you'll wonder how you lived without it." And with no upgrade to IE in sight in terms of features/functions, it's difficult to advocate staying with a 1999 browser in a 2004 world.

Standards compliance - not support - has become a big issues as well. Most of the blog sites, which have grown very popular of late - are based on CSS. IE supports CSS, but then only implements a subset of level 1. Mozilla, on the other hand, supports CSS to the letter, making it more compliant than IE in this respect. When you're trying to support a wide variety of browsers OUTSIDE the corporate environment, where you have no control over the user's decisions on browsers, it is generally best to fall back on standards. When IE doesn't truly support those standards, what is a developer to do?

You can put a big sign on your site "You must use IE to access this site", but the more savvy of us will simply use the masquerading feature of Mozilla/Netscape to change our user-agent to fool you or, worse, we'll simply write you a nasty letter and take our business elsewhere. IN a world of shrinking profit margins, every customer counts - and that means those customers who won't use IE for whatever reason.

Alyce makes some interesting points, but she's stuck on the security hype and that may be a motivator to move from IE to ABM (anything but Microsoft) but that isn't the reason people stay with an alternative browser or push at corporations to provide support for both IE and gecko-based browsers.

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