Is Firefox the holy grail of web browsers?

Recently I posted about SDL Tridion’s new release, 2009. Now I work for SDL Tridion, so I will not say much about it suffice to say it has lots of new features and a much more “suite feel” than previous releases.

When I posted a screenshot and a link to the new release information I did not expect everyone to fall of their chairs but the comments I did get surprised me. It is true, SDL Tridion 2009 does not support Firefox for its management interface and 2009 is not a product and SDL Tridion is not a vendor that is unique is this; so why the reaction? Is Firefox the holy grail of web browsers?

I thought about this and I thought how I use Firefox. I use Firefox for 90% of my browser usage but of course I have IE 8 or IE 7 (depending on the computer) installed. There are indeed some applications or even websites that just won’t work correctly in one or the other browsers but these days both browsers are about the same with regard to basic functionality. Firefox leads on extensions and this is why I use it most, not because it is not a Microsoft product, but because I need gadgets.
How do I compare with other users?

According to Market Share, 66% of people use IE and this sounds like allot. This says that 66% of people either choose to use IE, are forced to or they don’t know how to change their browser because it came on the operating system. Looking at my own website I see that a coincidental percentage of users are using Firefox. With 66% of users using Firefox I can conclude the visitors to my site are probably more educated in browser types and they are.

So, I am comparable to visitors to my website?  I am educated in browsers and I have a choice so it looks like I am. IE is left to the rest, which is the majority of users (66% to be exact). So what if you work for a corporate giant? Are you in the masses? Even more so…

A bit of Googling will reveal that IE still rules the roost with the corporate giants, IE is easy to deploy, comes with the operating system and everyone will understand it as a result. Maybe Firefox is better but, for instance, it does not have an administration kit, tends to cause issues like security popups and application integration issues that do not affect IE. In short, it is harder to deploy.

Figure suggest that 80% of users in enterprises use IE and that means that applying an 80/20 rule, the browser any enterprise application should support first is IE. Within that 80% I would suspect the majority of users are perfectly happy with their browser and those who are not happy at the educated amongst us who like Firefox. But do we actually _know_ it is better or are we stuck in our ways? Are we just wanting Firefox support for everything because we think we have to? I personally do not think either browser is really that different and searching for the answer brings no conclusions .

So what is it? Is Firefox is king? Is 42 the answer? I just don’t see the need of why all applications should support all flavours, is it not making our lives difficult? I am not saying that I don’t think that applications should not be cross browser, but is it that much of an issue to only remark on that point?
Thoughts and flames are welcome below…

3 comments / Add your comment below

  1. IE may ship standard with Windows preloaded machines, but Firefox is a standard issue with desktop Linux distros. Would you change from IE to Firefox or vice versa if you did not have a clear reason to change, most likely not. Either a clear reason or ignorance are why people stick to a browser or change…

    In the past I moved away from IE because it was clunky resource hungry, slow as …well, something that is very slow and at the time had more security vulnerabilities than other browsers. Now I do all on FF and Chrome and have not had a need for IE.

  2. First, I’d like to address your point regarding making one’s web applications cross-browser compatible. In general, you would want your application to be available to the broadest audience possible while minimizing development cost. That’s why I believe it’s most advisable to develop to a single web standard, and not just a single web browser.

    While I think Tridion gets a lot right in the conceptual arena of content management, I think the choice of an IE-only implementation (and a very convoluted configuration of IE at that) should be seriously reconsidered. In light of even Microsoft’s embrace of web standards in IE8, I think Tridion’s Content Manager interface is due for a major overhaul.

    On the broader topic, I think the appeal of Firefox is its respect and responsiveness to its users and the developer community.

    That Mozilla would make Firefox easily extensible is but one way this respect is shown. This is also illustrated in how, as an open-source product, flaws are rapidly identified and corrected; web standards are held in high regard; and cross-platform availability is embraced.

    Firefox is neither king nor holy grail, but if you were asked, “Between Microsoft and Mozilla, which organization is more open to accommodating the needs and desires of its customers?”, I think that most in-the-know users would agree Mozilla has the better track record in this regard.

    Don’t get me wrong. Microsoft obviously has its share of contributions in technology, but as a corporate entity, profit and the preservation of competitive advantage is paramount. I think Firefox’s gain in browser market share demonstrates that the idea of providing real value to your customer is sometimes enough to challenge even an entrenched technological monopoly.

  3. Like you, I prefer Firefox because it is easily extendable with thousands of available extensions, some of which are so useful it is hard to get along without them. Additionally, it runs on more than a single operating system.

    To say that IE comes with the OS is only true when the OS is Windows. Granted Windows has the largest installed base and if that is the only target audience for a product, then I guess that’s fine. But as a user who prefers alternate platforms, like Linux and Mac, it is a turnoff when I find a web-based product that runs only on a single OS. If it were a desktop application, that would be one thing, because clearly it is much more involved to write a desktop application for multiple OS (though it does happen a lot), but a web-based application that is OS-specific? That is another story.

    When we bought Tridion we knew it only supported IE for the content manager, but as Ryan pointed out, we expressed interest in cross-platform support (we mentioned Firefox since it is available for just about every OS) and we were told that it would be forthcoming. So if cross-platform support for the Tridion content manager is indeed forthcoming, that is excellent. If it is not, that is a shame. Not only because a web-based application shouldn’t be tied to a single OS, but also because we were told it was something that would be forthcoming.

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