Creating people's geographies
by Asher Moses
Sydney Morning Herald
October 30, 2006
This month Microsoft and Mozilla released new versions of their Internet Explorer and Firefox internet browsers.
Surprisingly, Firefox seems to be leading early on in the download race, and it’s been more of a hit with the critics.
“Within 24 hours of the official launch on Tuesday, there were over 2 million people using Firefox 2, and we were seeing a peak rate of more than 30 downloads per second from our website,” said Firefox developer Mike Beltzner in a post to his personal blog.
By contrast, it took four days for Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) downloads to reach 3 million downloads, said Tony Chor, group program manager at Microsoft.
“In the first four days over 3 million of you have already downloaded the final release,” he said.
The reason for Firefox’s apparent success is at this point unclear, but one explanation is that, since Firefox users tend to be more fanatical and technology savvy than those of IE, they’d be more likely to download the new browser on the day of its release.
By contrast, most IE users will wait until the new version of the browser is sent over automatic updates, which is expected to occur in November.
For power users, Firefox once offered significant advantages over IE due to its tabbed browsing capabilities, coupled with the ability for third-party programmers to add features to the browser through “extensions”.
Microsoft appears to have closed much of the gap with IE7, introducing tabbed browsing and new features such as the ability to subscribe to and view RSS feeds from within the browser.
(RSS feeds offer the ability to view website updates, such as news stories, as they appear, without necessarily having to load the desired site in the browser.)
Both browsers boast security enhancements such as anti-phishing protection, as well as user interface enhancements.
Reviews for both browsers have for the most part been positive, but many critics have dubbed Firefox 2 the superior offering.
“The better browser is Firefox 2 for two reasons: innovation and ease of use,” says Michael Calore of Wired News.
“Both browsers are loaded with modern productivity features, but while Microsoft is just introducing these features to its browser, Firefox has already had them long enough to refine them, enhance them and make them even easier to use.”
Calore specifically points to the in-built search engine, tabbed browsing and RSS features as being areas in which Firefox 2 excels over IE7.
Robert Vamosi of CNET.com came to similar conclusions.
“Firefox 2 still rules the browser roost for now, despite a much improved version of Internet Explorer,” he said.
“The most obvious new feature for IE 7 [tabs] has been in Firefox forever, and the security additions from Microsoft aren’t enough for us to allay concerns over new possible exploits. Lastly, the extensibility of Firefox 2 is its knockout punch, and IE’s add-ons cannot compare.”
Despite security being a primary focus of both browser launches, bugs have already surfaced in each.
Two Firefox 2 bugs have been reported, which allegedly cause the browser to crash. Mozilla has rebutted one of the bug reports, and say that the other can’t be “reliably exploited”.
“I would call it just noise,” Window Snyder, Mozilla’s security chief, told CNET News.com.
Two flaws have also been found in IE7. Both potentially expose users to phishing attacks, but Secunia has labelled them “less critical”.
MashUp Blog: Browser wars