firefox: the new internet explorer

This feeling has been brewing for a while: Firefox is turning into Internet Explorer. The attitudes surrounding Firefox draw ever closer to those attitudes it was supposed to destroy. Things people hate about IE and Microsoft are appearing in Firefox and the Mozilla Project.

What am I talking about? It mostly boils down to these points:

  • Using one browser's popularity to justify not supporting other browsers
  • Treating users of other browsers as inferior - "just use the popular one"
  • Making up proprietary code which is only supported in one browser

People weren't happy to let IE get away with that crap, so why are they taking it from Firefox?

popularity contest - what is this, high school?

I thought we were supposed to be getting away from the days where users with a small marketshare were told "too bad". Sadly an increasing number of sites are appearing which work in IE and Firefox, but not Opera or Safari. Users of these browsers can rant and rave but they are inreasingly being met with blank stares - why won't you just use Firefox and shut up?

Major players lament having to support "niche browsers" and even people who should know better are starting to go live with sites that only work in IE and Firefox:

  • Flickr's "notes" feature only works in Firefox, despite being one of the key features they promote.
  • Blogger actively pushes users into using Firefox since their interface sucks in anything other than IE and Firefox: AOL users, as well as those unaccounted for here (Netscape, Opera, etc.), would be wise to use Mozilla Firefox in order to have the best possible experience using Blogger.
  • Technorati's method of increasing the size of popular tags only works in IE and Firefox (maybe Safari, but I don't have a Mac handy).
  • 37 Signals may be the darlings of the life hacking fraternity, but their products generally don't work in Opera so guess what? I don't use them.

What makes it even more interesting is the way many applications add support for other browsers later on. This indicates that it was entirely possible to support all browsers at go-live, but instead they ran early without bothering to finalise the product. Who cares about a few idiots who don't use IE or Firefox?

Most of this is based on the flawed assumption that browser stats are gospel. For all anybody really knows, Firefox's real marketshare could be a third of that reported in most log files (what with all the pre-fetching).

"quit complaining and just use Firefox"

People ranted at length about being told to "go use IE", yet don't seem to blink when directed to Firefox. Just because Firefox has some open source cool points doesn't mean people should be forced to use it.

What happened to letting the user choose? Did we decide that Microsoft was right after all - everyone should use the exact same software?

Worse still, many people seem to think Firefox is the only alternative browser. Firefox has been pushed so hard, people are treating it like "the other browser" instead of "another browser". Gratingly, articles are appearing with titles like Why You Should Consider Budgeting a Site Redesign for Firefox 1.5 Now (Yes Firefox). Argh! No! Redesign with standards, not "for Firefox"!

proprietary code

There's been quite a bit of noise surrounding the <a ping> feature being proposed for Firefox. Actually, it's not a feature for Firefox so much as a bit of proprietary code for developers to add to their pages. Wow, there's a thought - let's code our pages for just one browser. Let's stick "Best viewed in Firefox!" buttons on our sites and get in the popcorn to watch Browser Wars 2.0 unfold.

Does one feature really mark an entire project? Not really, but have you ever had the feeling you've just seen the thin end of the wedge? The ping attribute isn't even being proposed for a good reason - the justification is that some sites do stupid redirection monkey business in order to track hits. Why a browser maker should get involved is beyond me. Let those sites break if their redirections fail, for all I care. Don't make up new code!

firefox is not perfect

No matter what people say, Firefox is not perfect. It has bugs (table padding problems, anyone?), it has security flaws, it has a memory problem. It may have a larger marketshare than a few other browsers, but it's still a minnow compared with IE.

People should stop acting like it's perfect. Firefox is just another choice. Its marketshare could slip tomorrow - IE7 could take back everything Firefox gained; taking the "it's popular" argument back off Firefox. I'm sure Firefox users would still like to be supported even if that happened.

Unless we want to replace IE with Firefox, the industry needs to remember the original point of web standards: support standards, not browsers. Build once, publish anywhere, let the users choose the UA that's right for them.

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Comments

  1. Anonymous Cam, January 23, 2006 8:01 pm: 

    Flickr, Technorati and all the 37signals stuff I use all work in Safari (and Camino, but that's pretty much just a Mac-ified version of FF).

  2. Anonymous Chriztian Steinmeier, January 31, 2006 12:40 am: 

    For the record, I've used 37Signals' applications with Opera since day one - with very little to complain about...

  3. Blogger 200ok, February 04, 2006 2:40 am: 

    Chriztian - interesting to hear that. I've had trouble with earlier releases - ie. the first generation of each product. Particularly Backpack, which I was trying to use to organise my trip to Web Essentials 2005. Had to use Firefox in the end.

  4. Anonymous Cameron Adams, February 04, 2006 2:59 am: 

    It's all very nice to say "code to Standards" and make out everything will be fine, but it falls equally on browser developers. They -- IE, Mozilla, Opera, Safari, etc. -- don't code perfectly to Standards either, so it's impossible for your Standards-based code to work out-of-the-box on all browsers.

    So, then what do you do? Well, you have to fix your code for each of those browsers -- so you've already lost some of the benefits of Standards -- but that takes time (and money), so you have to work out whether it's worth it.

    Everyone always goes on about loving competition, but in reality most people just want *enough* competition so that there isn't a monopoly. So, champion Firefox until Internet Explorer is down below 90% and everything will be dandy ... we rest on our laurels until the next dominator comes along.

  5. Anonymous Anonymous, April 13, 2006 10:34 pm: 

    well , afaik IE7 is going to support the anchor's ping parameter aswell , because it has been accepted by w3c

  6. Blogger medvegonok, June 22, 2006 8:35 am: 

    Visualization of the current trend :)

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