Browser innovation

Wired: Mozilla Wants to Rumble With IE, quoting Mozilla Foundation president Mitchell Baker (emphasis is mine):

People say there's no innovation in the browser space, but that's only if you're using IE. We want people to know that there's a better product out there.

The new foundation is chaired by Mitch Kapor, who made a personal contribution of $300,000. Kapor was the designer of Lotus 1-2-3, and currently chairs the Open Source Applications Foundation. Other contributors cited are AOL (which gave $2 million in cash and other resources to facilitate the transition), Red Hat and Sun Microsystems. See the press release from Mozilla.org.

Mozilla has an interesting range of software (Mozilla, Firebird, Camino, Thunderbird) that are indeed, with others, pushing the envelope far more than their contender, a browser so monolithic and monopolistic that it can afford to retract rather than innovate.

AOL and Netscape marketing machines could not save the Netscape browser from failing down to a ridiculous market share. However, it will take more than good programmers to help the Mozilla breed to fight competition, and I hope we will soon see some efforts towards a better communication to the grand public because coding to the very best standards is nothing if you're your only user. The new Mozilla.org home page is a good step in that direction, but quite frankly, this (and all the aforementioned Mozilla products pages) could use a redesign as well.

Update: I wrote the above post before reading this:

[...] techno-utopians tend to get lost in their fabulous daydreams, sometimes. They forget that these browser things are just tools, and browsers are just windows onto the web, so a graceful XUL framework means diddly-squat to the innocent punter. Creating a neat C++ framework when what the world needs a non-Microsoft browser is nothing but a deriliction of duty: a piece of vanity code.

2 Comments

You missed the bit at the end of the quote:

"What we Brits call pointless "willy waving." :)

I have no idea about frameworks and code etc. I do think it would be pointless for the Mozilla folks to continue developing Mozilla or Firebird for Mac OS X. They're painfully slow and Camino is up to the job. Trim some fat etc.

And, you're right about selling the software. Most Windows folks have no idea what Mozilla is. I recently converted my 11 year old niece and 25 yr old nephew to tabbed browsing and they were amazed -- he even works for a mobile phone company on browser software! It's all well and good for 'people in the know' to use these standards compliant browsers, I can't see a massive take up if the supergeeky image (whether deserved or not) is at the fore front.



"You missed the bit at the end of the quote"

Actually I stripped out on purpose, not feeling that much of a Brit myself ;-)

About tab browsing, as long as Windows users will continue to be happy with accumulating windows all over their screens and use the task bar to bring them up (a sort of tab browsing for Windows!), they're unlikely to appreciate the novelty ;-)

Those open source folks need marketing forces, and now that they are free from the corporate marketing of their Netscape/AOL chaperons, it should be much easier for them.

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