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Firefox the Ball-Hog

With the release of Firefox 1.0 (external link) well down the road we've seen Firefox rise up on the web, with over 25 million downloads. Before Firefox received valuable media attention it joined many other web browsers behind the Internet giant - Internet Explorer. With Firefox now stealing the glory it has left other web browsers, with equal capabilities, in the dust.

Web browsers such as Opera (external link), Konqueror (external link), and Safari (external link) offer equal or more features and standards support than Firefox, but are left behind. Media attention and a large user background power Firefox, but what started it all? Why do people choose Firefox over other capable browsers? Even though these are uncertain questions, we can define Firefox as the Ball-Hog.

Ball-Hog
A ball-hog is typically someone who never lets anyone have the ball during a sports activity. Even if others have perfect capabilities they find it necessary to keep the glory to themselves.

Search Engines Run to Firefox

Yahoo! (external link), Google (external link), and Ask Jeeves (external link) have pledged their time to Firefox. In the fight for search dominance, search engines have concentrated on getting their search engine built into Firefox. Currently Firefox's default search engine is Google - offering a quick Google search solution, by default, in the upper right hand corner of the interface.

Firefox has other built in search engines including Yahoo!, Amazon.com, Creative Commons, eBay, and Dictionary.com. They also provide plugins to offer other search engines, but would the average user even bother with this when Google is conveniently right there? Would they even notice the other search options there? Most likely - no.

Yahoo! has already announced that it is going to be providing more Firefox support. Ask Jeeves followed with discussions with Mozilla for an Ask Jeeves' browser. All major websites (excluding MSN) have concentrated on providing Firefox support, completely disregarding other web browsers.

Google already has a "denied" relationship with the Mozilla Foundation. Key Mozilla employees are now working for Google. They've also lead hints for developers to expect a release of a Google web browser with their registering of gbrowser.com.

With every major search engine turning to Firefox, as a source of revenue, Firefox is receiving plenty of attention. Search engines disregard Opera, Safari, and Konqueror even though they are also widely used web browsers.

CNET Worships Firefox

CNET (external link) is a large technology website that offers tons of Internet news, product reviews, and downloads. As one of the largest technology publishing companies, its reporters have a huge impact on the web. Products that CNET chooses to "worship" always end up being popular products. Typically CNET worships the ground that Firefox walks on.

Editors gave Firefox (external link) its Editors' Choice award and a rating of 8/10. Looking at reviews for other web browsers we see Opera (external link) is given a 7.3 and Safari (external link) a 7.8. You can search CNET Reviews for days and you'll never find a review (and little evidence) of Konqueror - a small, but yet powerful web browser.

CNET fails to mention any features of Opera that truly demonstrate its power or have reviews for versions over Opera 7. They don't rave about Safari either, mainly mentioning its speed. Yet they point out all the features of Firefox that are included in both Opera and Safari.

CNET isn't alone in the Firefox worshiping world. Hundreds of websites display Firefox banners showing their support. Many web development websites display these banners including SitePoint, DevShed, and WordPress. Firefox even has a dedicated site to promoting it, Spread Firefox. With the backing of a large chunk of the web, Firefox is slowly dominating over other web browsers.

How much did Firefox actually come up with?

Majority of the features included in Firefox were invented by other web browsers, and Firefox only copied or used them. Features such as mouse gestures come from Opera, and Mozilla even admits to it (external link):

Quotation by "Mozilla"

...through the extension mechanism. Mouse Gestures is a neat feature taken from the Opera browser that lets you navigate using simple mouse movements. For example, you can go back one page by holding down a button and dragging the mouse to the left.

Although it is fine to use features originally used by other browsers, it is important to point out that Firefox didn't come up with half their features.

How long can Firefox keep up its security?

Internet Explorer has failed in the security department with few updates to the system to protect against potential cracks in the browser's security. Even with constant updates, Internet Explorer would still have trouble increasing security as hackers focus on IE as it is the most used web browser.

Eventually Firefox will face the same issue when hackers turn toward it. Luckily, with the backing of the open source community, security fixes can be released quickly to eliminate potential security threats. But even with many developers it will still be difficult for Firefox to maximize security efforts.

One benefit of Firefox is that development is constant, unlike with Internet Explorer. IE6 has been out for many years with plenty of security cracks before Microsoft even considered IE7. Mozilla has many contributors to keep security tight, but how long will that last?

ZDNet Voices Opinion

John Carroll, columnist at ZDNet.com (Owned by CNET), voiced his opinion on the Firefox browser. He brings up interesting points about browser rendering (external link):

Quotation by "John Carroll"

Essentially, Firefox's (or Opera's, or Safari's) refusal to implement features found in the browser used by 95 percent of people who access the Internet means that they are insisting that hundreds of thousands of Web sites around the world tailor their sites to accommodate them. That seems an uphill battle, not to mention strange given that many who demand it are the same people who will be tasked with ensuring compatibility across all those browsers. I don't know about you, but navigating browser idiosyncrasies isn't my idea of a good time.

Although this includes many web standard supporting browsers, we can conclude that Firefox forces others to abide by its standards as the leading IE alternative. Even with Firefox supporting standards, pages seem to render different in Opera and Safari, which also support standards.

Firefox also likes to create its own standards or rendering rules. For example, the default padding on a list. Not only is this a hassle to the web developer, it is not seen in any other web browser. One reason that developers moved from Internet Explorer is its incompliance with web standards and rather making their own standards. Is Firefox following this same path, only masking it with good marketing strategies?

Taking the Glory

Mozilla has the most effective marketing and branding techniques used on the web. It instantly captured a large audience on its low resources. Being open source also put Firefox in the spotlight with the open source community, who then spread the word.

One issue that Firefox is going to eventually face is funds. Being produced by a non-profit organization makes funds extremely limited. Although they have many active donations, eventually funds are going to run short. They can take the glory now and hope that users contribute financially, but it is an unpredictable road.

Firefox Still Has a Good Side

Even though Firefox mask other web browsers, it is still a feasible alternative to Internet Explorer. It has useful features and increased security similar to other web browsers, but provides a better transition from the usual home browser - Internet Explorer. Despite its good side, Firefox also has a down side considering its domination over IE other alternatives.

Summary - Putting it in Different Terms

I always find it easy to lay out a situation involving company comparison, in this case software, by comparing them as cars. Imagine each web browser as a car:

Internet Explorer

Standardized car used by majority of the population that misinterprets standardized street signs. Refuses the comply to government standards and invents their own street signs.

Firefox

Simple car, much like Internet Explorer in style. Districts and states change their driving regulations and standards to fit and focus on this car.

Opera

Slick car that complies itself to any standard set by the government. Driven by only 1.5% of the total population. Features an ad banner on the back bumper.

Konqueror

Simple car that only runs on streets that begin with a vowel.

Safari

Slick car that only runs on the highway.

You can see that each browser has its own faults from the misinterpretation of Internet Explorer to the small ad banner in Opera. Even with each browser's faults, Firefox still shines in the glory with the media and open source community wrapped around its finger.