Firefox's biggest obstacle is lazy programming

The biggest obstacle facing widespread adoption of the Firefox browser is lazy programming - not from the Mozilla Foundation but from corporates that have not tested their applications with anything but IE.Peter Tippett, chief technologist at security risk management firm Cybertrust, said Firefox will probably gain market share with home and small business users but will struggle in the enterprise because corporate applications have not been built to work with anything but IE.

The biggest obstacle facing widespread adoption of the Firefox browser is lazy programming - not from the Mozilla Foundation but from corporates that have not tested their applications with anything but IE.

Peter Tippett, chief technologist at security risk management firm Cybertrust, said Firefox will probably gain market share with home and small business users but will struggle in the enterprise because corporate applications have not been built to work with anything but IE.

"An individual can easily switch to Firefox. But doing that on a corporate level is a disaster. All kinds of internal applications are dependent on IE. They never tested them against Firefox or Mozilla because they never thought about it and now they are kind of hooked - that was Microsoft's plan," said Tippett.

Peter Menadue, national business manager for application integration at Dimension Data, agreed. He said that corporations have only just woken up to the fact that there is more than one browser on the market.

"Up until reasonably recently the main question was 'which versions of IE shall we test against?' That is about as deep as the discussion went. Any thoughts of testing against Netscape went away a long time ago," said Menadue.

According to Menadue, when enterprises deploy software they try and keep their testing costs as low as possible so standardising on IE was a 'no brainer'.

"Just like anything in the enterprise - when it comes to deploying software, doing nothing is easier. If you roll out XP or have a desktop it already has IE. To do anything but continue to use IE means you have to roll out something else," said Menadue.

Menadue said that even though more than 95 percent of Web pages will be identical on both browsers, the fact that a few will not render correctly means that administrators will not want to roll out the open source browser - despite security concerns about IE.

"Companies know their internal application will work with their standard browser, which is IE. If the users don't like IE -- and for some reason have Firefox on their desktop - it is tough luck. The motivation is to try and keep the support costs down by avoiding the issues of including Firefox in the test matrix," said Menadue.

Foad Fadaghi, senior industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan Australia, said that commercial programmers became complacent after IE won the first browser war.

"No one can deny that Microsoft owns the desktop. In the business world, this drives partnerships and alliances between Microsoft and enterprise application vendors that consequently standardise on IE. You cannot really blame them because standardisation reduces development time and has the potential to reduce development costs," said Fadaghi.

However, Dimension Data's Menadue warned that now Firefox is making its mark on the industry, enterprises will have to take it more seriously - and it could prompt swift action from Microsoft to improve IE.

"Any browser that has more than a couple of percentage points of market share can potentially cause some support issues. Watch what happens in the way Microsoft reacts. There is a general sense that the sleeping giant will reawaken," added Menadue.

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