The attraction of Firefox goes far beyond being free. It does not use ActiveX, the curse of IE, which makes it inherently safer. It follows then that it will not need the endless chore (and serious cost) of keeping patches up to date. Firefox is a browser program which can be adapted to various operating systems, at the moment Windows, Linux and MacOS. There aren't enough desktop Linux users yet and the Mac has its own superior browser, so it is Windows that is the critical market. Here Firefox scores heavily over IE because the same product runs on Windows 98 and later releases. In contrast, while IE runs on most Microsoft releases, it is only Windows XP with service pack 2 installed that has any protection from virus attacks. In practice about half of the Windows users do not have XP and SP 2, so they will be much better off with Firefox.
The usual problem with replacing the incumbent Microsoft product on Windows is compatibility and the problems of setting up directories, folders, etc. But the download of Firefox installs itself and imports the IE settings automatically. Since it is a standalone program, it can co-reside in a Windows PC with IE. The look-and-feel of Firefox is not compatible with IE, simply because it is far more advanced! It won't take long for anyone using Firefox to refuse to return to IE. This is a very critical comment because it obviously won't take long for Firefox to filtrate the Universities and Colleges and hence the home. The key in the corporate world, for whom the improvement in security problems is very important, will be the compatibility with the existing Web servers, which have been developed and tested to work with IE. First reports claim that Firefox works with a majority of existing Web applications. To quote one reviewer "any site which does not conform to Firefox is one to avoid". This is a very good maxim for normal users, but may not be enough for corporates who have been foolish enough to build ActiveX functionality into their Web applications.
Firefox must be one of the biggest challenges yet to face Microsoft. They are all too aware that they have ignored development of IE for too long. There are signs that they are aware that they ignored Netscape and Mozilla for too long and have set up a team of 100 programmers working on enhancements to IE. This sort of reaction from Microsoft makes me laugh. I can never conceive what all those expensive programmers do at Microsoft, given the poor quality of their output and this is yet another example. The Mozilla Foundation has a full-time staff of 12 people! The development of this superb product, so significantly superior to IE, has been largely done by part-time volunteers!
In summary, every corporate organization (and any capable individuals) must immediately set up a project team to investigate Firefox. It must be seriously considered as a compulsory replacement for IE as soon as possible. For all those Windows 98 users it is inexcusable to continue with IE when Firefox is available.< BR>
Martin Healey, pioneer development Intel-based computers en c/s-architecture. Director of a number of IT specialist companies and an Emeritus Professor of the University of Wales.