It has been somewhat amusing to read the responses to the release of Firefox 1.0 - first from many blogs and later from the main stream media. Headlines like "The Browser war is back" and "Firefox is cutting into IE's lead" can now be found on essential any news site in the world.
So is Firefox a better browser? Well, yes. Is it more secure? Mayby, maybe not. Is it going to win over Internet Explorer? Very unlikely.
Firefox has one major obstacle that prevents it from becoming a market player. The obstacle is that it is a browser - a standalone program you have to start in order to use the internet.
A browser is a good thing when the use of the internet is a separate task - when no relationship exists between your workflows. But using a browser is counterproductive when it is related.
In order to work effectively with internet based information, you want it be available at the right place at the right time. Meaning: you do not want to open up a separate program, and browse for the information - you want it where you are, in an instant.
This is why the Firefox browser has no future. The stand-alone browser strategy would have been appropriate 10 years ago, today it is just strategy without a vision.
What about Internet Explorer? Is it not a browser too? No, it is only partly a browser. Sure, the majority uses Internet Explorer as a browser, but its real strength is not the browser itself but the engine behind it.
Microsoft and a large number of independent developers (myself included) uses this engine to provide internet capabilities within programs. I wrote this article in Microsoft Office 2003, where I researched a number of things directly from within Word - all of them from internet sources.
I have incorporated a large part of the CMS system used on this site directly into Outlook. Meaning that I can control articles, see stats etc. just as if they where emails.
At work we have use Internet Explorer's engine to enhance our media server. Bringing internet based communication into our own applications - allowing us to have much better integration and capabilities.
All this is done using Microsoft Internet Explorer's API.
Now and in the future there will a growing demand for integrated use of the internet.
Why open a browser at all?
Internet Explorer is currently leading the way towards an integrated internet experience. We already see some of the benefits, and we are going to see many more when Longhorn arrives. In comparison; Firefox has done what Microsoft did in 1995, they have created a standalone browser...
The browser is going to die, and unless Opera, Mozilla and Apple starts creating an integrated internet experience, Microsoft do not have thing to worry about.
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