Thursday, July 22, 2004

As I stated in my previous post I recently switched to the Mozilla internet suite. Well, I wanted to update a bit since I've had time to play around with it. The more I use it the more things I find that I like about it. I would highly recommend the Firefox Browser, Thunderbird E-Mail client or in my case the entire Mozilla Internet Suite with Browser, E-Mail, Composer and Chatzilla included. You can't beat the price, a free download at and the usability and security improvements over IE and Outlook Express make it well worth the time and effort.

Now, a little history about myself. Before I got onto the internet in 1995 I ran my own FIDONet BBS from 1992 to 1995. My first computer was a Commodore Vic 20 that I got when I was 16 years old back in 1984. So I've tinkered with computers off and on for pretty much most of my life. I'm no stranger to the history of Netscape vs. Internet Explorer and the Linux, Mac, OS/2 world vs. Microsoft. In fact, I've installed and played around with Linux distributions since the slackware releases first started making the rounds in the early 1990's. Long before Tux was choosen as the mascot and before Red Hat, Debian and other popular distributions of today came along. I've tinkered with coding in C, Java, Javascript, DHTML, Perl and other Web technologies but never got good enough to create anything useful on my own. Just enough to look at other people's code, see how it works and modify it to fit my needs basically. That's been enough for me. I always liked Linux and the entire Open Source movement but invariably had to go back to using Microsoft products due to lack of applications for the Linux platform or compatibility issues when wanting to do work between my computers at home and those at work. But it looks like Open Source is finally coming of age and becoming a real alternative to the exisiting dominant models.

In my opinion, having all of computerdom dominated by one software company is not a healthy situation. It wasn't healthy when nearly everyone used Netscape and it's not healthy now that nearly everyone uses Internet Exploder (er...I mean Explorer). Without competition there is no incentive to innovate, to strive for something better, more useful, more secure and more user friendly. Microsoft makes great products, don't get me wrong. Marketing strategy and some dirty tricks had a lot to do with why the free (bundled with Windows) Internet Explorer all but wiped Netscape from the face of the World Wide Web. But during it's downfall Netscape versions became buggier and buggier and the features being introduced just didn't compete with those of the latest versions of IE. In many way's Netscape did itself in. But the code to Netscape got released to the Open Source community about 5 years ago and since then has been worked on and developed by many volunteers throughout the world until the latest version of the browser, Firefox, is as stable and user friendly as anyone could ask for and with a host of new and innovative features to boot. Tabbed browsing, built in pop-up blocking, the cookie manager and the inexhaustable supply of themes and extensions availble to customize your version to your liking blow the latest version of Internet Explorer away. For the first time in years I'm actually excited about the internet again because I think this may be the opening bell for a new round of browser wars sure to bring about some exciting new developments and improvements to the way we all use the internet. With Web Application Development becoming the new wave in software design I believe what operating system or hardware you are running is going to become less and less important because whatever you choose to get online with is going to be able to access any tools you might wish to use.

I know Microsoft is no slouch when it comes to competing. Oftentimes they use all of their corporate might to pounce on any would be competitors like an 800 lb. gorilla. So I'm sure if the new generation of web browsers start capturing too much marketshare away from IE they will come back swinging with some innovations of their own. But that is what healthy competition is all about.

For my own part, I'm going to make sure as many of my friends get an opportunity to put Mozilla on their desktop as possible. I am spreading the good word of the big lizard and buying 5 packs of the CD's from the Mozilla Store to give to my friends who still have dialup connections so they won't have to spend hours downloading it. I might even buy one of those spiffy shirts soon. Afterall, Mozilla is the underdog in this fight with only a few percent of the browser market compared to IE's 94 percent. I've always been a sucker for underdogs, or in this case underlizard. Especially ones that look like they have a fighting chance of succeeding if they can just get a little support.

I'm not naive enough to believe the big blue e is going to be dissappearing anytime soon but if Mozilla could recapture say 20 or 30 percent of the market that would be enough for the world to stand up and take notice. It would be enough for website administrators to start paying attention to the standards set forth by the W3C group and building sites that are compatible for all browsers rather than letting one company set the rules for everyone to have to live by. It would be enough to make that one company get off their butts and do something about all of the security holes that have been found and exploited over and over again in their software the past few years. It would be enough to rekindle some of that pioneering spirit that once existed when the world wide web was a new phenomenon and new, exciting stuff was being thrown out there to play with nearly every week.

This could be interesting...

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