I’ve been a Firefox user for years. It’s simply better than Internet Explorer (IE), almost in the way that a Swiss Army knife is better than a brick. Unless you’re specifically in need of a brick, you can just imagine that such a knife is more useful, if only because human beings have considered that it ought to be.
Internet Explorer used to be great. It was useful, smooth, adaptable, in many ways superior. But a culture of protectionism is antithetical to creativity and innovation. I have no doubt there are geniuses in Redmond, but what are they thinking? I don’t know what their goals are, besides staying competitive, but I don’t think the focus is on making us happy, productive little web surfers. The trend seems more towards making a browser that’s finished than one that meets the user’s needs.
I don’t use IE often, but sometimes I have to. For example, Netflix Watch Instantly functions only in IE. I remember using IE 10 years ago, and you could move the parts of the toolbars anywhere you wanted them. Re-size them, shuffle them around, make them useful. Hide them if you wanted to. You can’t do that anymore. (Yeah, I know about unlocking them.) The command bar will only go in 2 places, and you can barely re-size it at all.
In Firefox, I have add-ons that make it useful. I have toolbars that I can hide when I’m not using them. They don’t stop working, they just hide. In IE, if you try to hide your Google Toolbar, for example, IE demands to confirm that you wish to disable it. Then you have to go through steps to turn it back on.
I use an add-on called Last Pass. It’s a security tool. I have it on Firefox and IE. Here’s what it looks like in Firefox. It’s the red button with the white star.
In IE, it’s an entire toolbar, running the full width of the window, from screen edge to screen edge. Can’t shrink it, can’t move it. And if I try to hide it, IE will turn it off altogether. Why?
Sometimes it seems like the people at Microsoft are among the brightest, most inventive of Americans. Other times, it seems like they’re being petulant, angry that their monopoly is threatened. They’re protective, defensive, restrictive. It’s gotta be hard to make good stuff that way.
To be fair, there are exceptions to the image I have of MS as a castle with a moat. Office 2010 Beta is a chance for people to try out software and give MS feedback. But there’s a world of difference between soliciting feedback and being willing to listen and change.
Maybe it’s a divisional thing, a vestige of Explorer’s battles with Netscape, and fear of Firefox’s growing popularity. I say this because some MS products are just getting better and more flexible all the time, and more aware of the presence of an end user in the situation. If you haven’t checked out Windows Media Center in 7, as compared with Media Player in XP, you’re in for a treat when you do. It’s cool. I’m looking forward to getting it to work with Netflix the way it’s supposed to.
I’m still a big fan of Office 2003. I used Publisher today, and it worked just great. I wish they’d found ways to make Office better, without resorting to those silly ribbons that replaced the toolbars. But maybe that’s just me.
Bottom line, I think MS products like IE would be better if they were open source, because Microsoft really needs the help of all mankind to make their stuff work better. And until they begin to see that light, the rest of us are better off considering open source software, for many of the things we use computers to do.
Firefox is open source.
Take a quick look at this: http://www.mozilla.org/about/