I just downloaded and installed Mozilla 1.7.5, which, as far as I was able to determine, is the latest non-beta release. Over the next few weeks I'm going to go through the unenviable chore of updating all compatibility tables yet again. You may note that I did not download Firefox. In fact, I've downloaded it months ago and within a few minutes decided it's not going to become my default browser.
For years I've maintained that Mozilla's naming and release policies are far too complicated, and the events of 2004 have only strengthened this feeling. From time to time I get mails asking me why I don't test my stuff in Firefox, and though the writers usually know Firefox descends from Mozilla, they overrate
Aside from this confusion, which will only grow as time progresses and excitable newbies who know not Mozilla's name appear on the scene, a short testing period has convinced me that Firefox is definitely worse than Mozilla when it comes to ease of use.
Joe Clark said the unsayable months ago:
If you're some kind of Firefox fanboy of either or any gender, where were you when Mozilla was at a similar stage of development? Why weren't you using it then? Why are you pretending that history never happened?
Why are you acting like Moz isn't at version 1.7, while your little baby is merely a little baby at 1.0 "preview" level?
Why do you think your piddling little arriviste browser, which does nothing but browse, is really better than a mature product that browses, slices, and dices?
Follows an interesting list of features that Mozilla has had for ages and Firefox does not support. I'd like to add two items to that list:
Besides, there's a less technical, more psychological problem: Firefoxers are thinking in too complicated patterns. See, for instance, the FirefoxIE initiative, which offers a Firefox that looks and behaves exactly like Internet Explorer.
From a branding point of view this is an excellent idea. The less Firefox differs from Explorer in look-and-feel, the more likely people are to switch. Before applauding the initiative, though, let's take a look at the instructions:
I feel this example shows that in their enthousiasm Firefoxers can get carried away by technical possibilities, without paying attention to their target audience. What is the target audience of this initiative?
The people behind FirefoxIE are not the only ones to make that mistake, and I certainly don't want to single out this initiative for criticism. I use it as an example of what is wrong with the current Firefox evangelism only because this site has recently come to my attention. A little web search will probably turn up dozens of such examples.
Despite all this the wave of history is not to be denied: Firefox has become the alternative to Explorer. I don't mind having an alternative at hand, in fact I'd love the browser market to become more diversified. Nonetheless I'd hoped for a more mature product to take the vanguard place in the upcoming struggle for market share.
Which leads to an interesting ethical point: do I support a less-than-optimal product that I myself don't like for the sake of combating Explorer dominance? For now, my answer is No. I will applaud any decrease of Explorer's market share, but will deplore any increase of Firefox's. I won't do anything to influence the outcome of this struggle, though. No "Get Firefox" buttons for me.
Therefore I advise my readers to stay away from Firefox. Mozilla (the real one, mind you), Opera and Safari are excellent alternatives for Explorer. Pick your choice. Of course, if you want to stick to Explorer, that's fine by me, too.
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