Firefox 1.0 limbers up for launch

Mozilla takes aim at IE


Mozilla will today launch the nearly-final version of Firefox, its open source web browser, ahead of the 1.0 product launch on 9 November. The organisation says it aiming for 10 million downloads in the 100 days after inauguration, sparking much discussion of a return to the days of the browser wars, when Microsoft, AOL and Netscape battled for market share.

Bart Decrem, spokesman for Mozilla, was in London last Friday to promote the browser. He noted: "When you look at how many people are downloading Firefox already, the 10m downloads target starts to feel very safe."

But despite the fighting talk, Decrem argues that Firefox isn't about taking back 80 per cent of the web, but about "preserving meaningful choice" on the internet: "One of our goals for the next year is to have 10 per cent of the market, but it is more about momentum than absolute market share."

He says that since IE so conclusively won the browser war, the product has barely changed. "It has stagnated," he said. "CSS, for example, is poorly supported, and web developers have been stuck a box. We need to bring back choice, which will stimulate innovation."

Decrem also predicts Mozilla will ink some deals with OEMs over the next year: "We will see OEMs deploying Firefox to users, perhaps as the default, but certainly as a secondary browser. It makes business sense because every time there is a bug or a security problem in IE, OEMs are bombarded with calls from their customers."

But its main focus over the next year will be on developing Firefox as a consumer product, and the Thunderbird email client.

"The sequence is that we get Firefox 1.0 out the door, hopefully with some positive word of mouth. Then we can look at ways of further improving the product," Decrem says. "As we get more into the mainstream, certainly things like ease of use become more and more important."

As more people start to use what Decrem calls "modern web browsers", like Opera, Netscape, Safari and Firefox, web developers will start to design pages that take advantage of, for example, better CSS support. Then, Microsoft will be forced to update IE, which "will be very good news for IE users".

There are signs that this is happening already - for example in an update to IE in SP2 blocks popups, which, Decrem says, shows that "Microsoft is paying attention".

But surely the last thing Mozilla wants is to make Microsoft pay very close attention to what it is doing. After all, we've been here before, and it didn't end well for Netscape.

Decrem concedes that the idea of having Microsoft coming after Mozilla is not a pleasant one, but argues that the landscape has changed considerably since the late 90's. As well as regulatory changes, he points to the broad community support the Firefox product has. Over 6,000 people have donated money to the organisation's bid to buy a full-page ad in the New York Times, celebrating the launch of Firefox, something Decrem says is hard to see happening in response to a new release from Microsoft.

"When Netscape open sourced its code in 1998, it was about inviting the world in. Firefox is fulfilling that goal. Microsoft can't compete with this sense of community, because people feel like they own a piece of Firefox."

As to why Firefox is doing so well - the previous release saw five million downloads in the first month - Decrem says it is an expression of support for the open source movement. He argues that there is a slice of the web community that likes the idea and the ideals of open source, but is not technically minded enough to run Linux.

"These people see Firefox as the open source thing they be a part of," he concludes. ®

Related stories

A bumper crop of browser glitches
Undead IE bug rises from grave
Mozilla updates browsers after bug hunt
A fright at the Opera


Other stories you might like

  • Google sours on legacy G Suite freeloaders, demands fee or flee

    Free incarnation of online app package, which became Workplace, is going away

    Google has served eviction notices to its legacy G Suite squatters: the free service will no longer be available in four months and existing users can either pay for a Google Workspace subscription or export their data and take their not particularly valuable businesses elsewhere.

    "If you have the G Suite legacy free edition, you need to upgrade to a paid Google Workspace subscription to keep your services," the company said in a recently revised support document. "The G Suite legacy free edition will no longer be available starting May 1, 2022."

    Continue reading
  • SpaceX Starlink sat streaks now present in nearly a fifth of all astronomical images snapped by Caltech telescope

    Annoying, maybe – but totally ruining this science, maybe not

    SpaceX’s Starlink satellites appear in about a fifth of all images snapped by the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), a camera attached to the Samuel Oschin Telescope in California, which is used by astronomers to study supernovae, gamma ray bursts, asteroids, and suchlike.

    A study led by Przemek Mróz, a former postdoctoral scholar at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and now a researcher at the University of Warsaw in Poland, analysed the current and future effects of Starlink satellites on the ZTF. The telescope and camera are housed at the Palomar Observatory, which is operated by Caltech.

    The team of astronomers found 5,301 streaks leftover from the moving satellites in images taken by the instrument between November 2019 and September 2021, according to their paper on the subject, published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters this week.

    Continue reading
  • AI tool finds hundreds of genes related to human motor neuron disease

    Breakthrough could lead to development of drugs to target illness

    A machine-learning algorithm has helped scientists find 690 human genes associated with a higher risk of developing motor neuron disease, according to research published in Cell this week.

    Neuronal cells in the central nervous system and brain break down and die in people with motor neuron disease, like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, named after the baseball player who developed it. They lose control over their bodies, and as the disease progresses patients become completely paralyzed. There is currently no verified cure for ALS.

    Motor neuron disease typically affects people in old age and its causes are unknown. Johnathan Cooper-Knock, a clinical lecturer at the University of Sheffield in England and leader of Project MinE, an ambitious effort to perform whole genome sequencing of ALS, believes that understanding how genes affect cellular function could help scientists develop new drugs to treat the disease.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022