Sunday, August 01, 2004

Firedfox - The Browsed.

Well, not everyone who has tried Firefox ends up being a fan as the person who created this site can surely attest. There's nothing wrong with that. It is, after all, as it should be. You're not going to please all of the people all of the time.

I am still very much enjoying FireFox and Thunderbird myself and have most recently been playing around with the things you can do with keywords, bookmarks and the %s feature. But, while I am a fan of The Mozilla Foundation and the principles of Open Source Development my primary concern is keeping the internet open to everyone regardless of their software (or hardware for that matter) preference. Microsoft has made some damn fine software which is both easy to use and accessible to almost anyone. But when any company captures more than 90% of a given market it has achieved, I don't care what arguments you make, monopoly status. When you own that much of the market you begin to want to make everyone else play by your rules, you begin to ignore standards set by organizations like the W3C and start setting standards of your own and those who don't play by your rules or standards are left out in the cold because you control the vast overwhelming majority of the market and you can decide what should and should not work. You start telling developers and vendors that if they don't cater to your platform and your platform only they don't get to play on your vast playing field. Eventually you begin to care less about customer service because the customer has few choices but to pay your high prices, put up with your lousy customer support and live with security vulnerabilities until you get around to doing something about it.

Now, people can and will argue all day long on UseNet newsgroups, in chatrooms and on Web Logs about whether or not Microsoft has in fact reached this level of apathy towards the customer but as someone who is old enough to remember the telephone monopoly or having dealt with local cable company monopolies I can tell you that you don't want one, single company to control 90% or more of the market for too long or it's just a matter of time that you'll be paying hundreds of dollars for the most basic of tools and still have to pay for telephone support when it doesn't work right. What? Did I hear someone say we're already there? Well, there you go...

Competition is a good thing. The more players there are in the market the more important it becomes to keep the end user happy by writing better code, fixing problems in a timely manner when they are discovered and supporting your product! So for this reason, and a few others I won't go into right now, I tend to like to support underdogs like Mozilla, Linux and other Open Source competitors because these little Davids keep the Goliath on it's toes so it doesn't forget that customers do have a choice. So even if you prefer Internet Explorer over Mozilla Firefox or Opera or whatever else is out there. Even if you're a fan of proprietary development tools like ActiveX and VBScript. You should still find competition refreshing because it keeps your favorite company from forgetting that if they don't take care of you then you can pick up and move to another neighborhood. If that 95% dominance of the web browser market drops to say 80% or 70% you can bet Microsoft will pull out all of the stops and start improving their product and developing some things that'll blow your socks off. After all, it was no accident that all of those Netscape users of the past abandoned it for IE 4.0 when it came along. IE won, partly because it was free and came bundled with Windows but it also beat Netscape because it was at the time a better browser. Netscape Communicator had become buggy, bloated and yes, expensive. Oh sure, you can't compete with free (well, maybe the price is figured in to the price tag of the OS) but maybe a $20 version can move where a $50 version can't? Maybe better prices for software in general would be a good thing. If musical performers who make millions of dollars can produce and sell CDs full of their latest recordings for about $16 why does a CD full of software like an HTML Editor or a Compiler have to cost $300? Is it any wonder piracy runs rampant with prices like that? Just like people can see paying $1 each for songs that they like instead of paying $16 for a CD that only has two or three good songs on it. People would probably be more likely to pay a fair price for just the tools they want and need than dropping a car payment for a bunch of junk they don't need. But that's just me I guess. What do I know? I'm just a guy that likes to tinker with computers in my spare time and write stuff in my Blog when it occurs to me.

1 comment:

  1. In retrospect I guess the movie industry would have made a better analogy than the music industry. Because it's much easier to compare the high salaries of the actors, then the camera crews, studio staff, production crews, and everything else that goes into making a movie yet you can still go buy the latest DVD for what, around 20 bucks? But at the same time you're having to shell out hundreds for a decent graphics editor? I don't think so.... By the way, I like GIMP for graphics, it's feature rich, easy to use and FREE.

    Also, I thought about it and I know some people bring up the point that Mozilla does charge for tech support through Decision One. That's quite true, but there is a difference between charging a lot of money for a piece of software then on top of that charging for tech support or on the other hand charging nothing for the software but charging for tech support for those who need it. In many cases, both with paid and free software, there is plenty of free tech support available online if you're willing to dig for it anyway.

    So how is a software company supposed to make money. Charge a fair and reasonable price for things that customers are willing to pay for. Not everyone is willing to do the legwork to find their answers online, so let them pay for the convenience of making a phone call and being walked through how to reconfigure their application to do what they want. Some people need specialized modifications to software for their particular business or company needs. Charge to make these modifications. Some silly people, like myself, are even willing to buy a T-shirt, Cap or Coffee Mug from a company that has a catchy logo or slogan and makes a product that is kinda cool. Some of us even buy tech manuals and books about how to get the most out of our software. If I see a movie I like I'd rather buy it than steal it if the price is reasonable, if a band I like puts out a good CD I'd rather buy their music than steal it so they'll be encouraged to make more if the price is right and by the same token if a company makes great software I'm more than happy to support them, again, if the price is right.

    But no one likes to be taken advantage of. Not Recording Artists, Not Movie Stars, Not CEOs, Programmers or Joe Schmoe internet surfer. So I guess what I'm saying is let's be reasonable. I think most of us would like to support and encourage those whose work we appreciate. After all, if they can't make money doing it, they'll go do something else. But I wouldn't pay $300 for a movie or $250 for a Music CD so don't expect me to pay such a horrid price for something else on the same kind of disc.

    It just doesn't make good sense...