Blake Ross on Firefox vs. IE and other topics

Blake Ross on Firefox vs. IE and other topics

Summary: Blake Ross is one of the co-creators of Firefox and is on a mission to make software for mere mortals. That's one of Steve Jobs' favorite phrases.

TOPICS: Browser

blake.jpgBlake Ross is one of the co-creators of Firefox and is on a mission to make software for mere mortals. That's one of Steve Jobs' favorite phrases. Like Jobs, Blake is starting out young. The 20-year-old is on leave from Stanford, still working on Firefox, and has also started a company focused on making software easier to use. "We talk about RSS, podcasting, XML, datastream, blah, blah, blah, and meanwhile my mother can't even share a picture," Blake said during our interview.

In this podcast, I talked with Blake about the battle with Microsoft (Firefox isn't a war on Microsoft, it's a war on complexity, he says), how to make software less complex and plans for Firefox 2.0. Regarding Firefox (which has about 10 percent market share) versus Internet Explorer, Blake said that Firefox will always trump IE because the motivations behind the companies are different, citing Microsoft ceasing development on IE when a competitor wasn't looming. We also discussed the recent reports that Firefox is less secure than IE. Blake contends that the reports are misleading. Firefox flaws are less severe and are fixed faster than IE vulnerabilities, he said.  More to come on that subject and whether Firefox can achieve 50 percent of browser usage with Microsoft intensely focused on stopping it.  (Update: ZDNet  blogger George Ou follows up on the thread of whether Firefox or IE is more secure in this post.)

The podcast can be delivered directly to your desktop or MP3 player if you're subscribed to our podcasts (See ZDNet’s podcasts: How to tune in), or if you want you can just download the MP3 file.  Blake also participated on a panel entitled "Next Generation Leaders" [podcast here] as part of the Churchill Club's 20th anniversary event at the Computer History Museum. Sun co-founder and now venture capitalist at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers moderated a panel, and other panelist included Evan Williams, Founder of ODEO; Mark Jacobstein, President, Digital Chocolate; and Scott Heiferman, CEO,

Topic: Browser

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  • What did you expect?

    What did you expect anyone involved in FF development to say? That, sure, there now seems to be more holes popping up than for IE? They are too spineless to admit it. FF's main claim to fame used to be that it is more secure. Now that that claim is turning out to be nothing but a pipe dream, of course they will save face. Ya, that's a lot of egg on their faces, I'd say.

    And the whole "they fix bugs faster" is a crock, because just about every major Windows exploit happened AFTER the holes were already fixed. Sometimes by months. FF can't even get their patching system out of the 90's. They realease a patch[re-install] today and it takes forever to indicate that a new patch[re-install] is available.

    I'm not defending MS here, but it ticks me off that someone can base their whole existance on "more secure", and then fail miserable at that very same claim, and yet we will STILL get the FF zealot coming into this discussion claiming that it is light-years ahead of anything MS has.

    Let's watch...
    • Sorry, but the proof is in the pudding

      I have yet to get a virus, malware, or even a normal pop-up while using Firefox; Neither have any of my friends or family, all whom I`ve changed over to Firefox; All of whom asked me for help when they got viruses browsing with IE AND using antivirus systems.
      I can`t say who`s faster patching (though I`m not to sure about patches available before the exploit thing), but I do know that when I go over friends and family, I don`t have to spend a chunk of time getting rid of viruses anymore. Now Firefox isn`t perfect, or as perfect as some may think. Blake Ross may think Firefox is the best thing since sliced bread, but I say it needs a bit more work; however it`s a far cry better than IE, in my opinion.

      So lately, I must thank Firefox for allowing me to spend more time with my friends and family; not to mention browsing faster. Now, if I could just my work to standize on firefox.
      • You are lucky but...

        ..but not everyone is. I have one customer right now with a virus/ malware on his PC and he's been using Firefox. I'll admit it does seem less prone to spyware attacks. But viruses can sail through other avenues, namely email. I run IE pretty much all the time and have no viruses or malware (maybe some harmless cookies but that's it)on my PC. No browser can ever take the place of common sense, a good firewall and a good, frequently updated anti-virus program.
      • The Pudding is tainted.

        I like FF, (I'm using it now) but it has some quirks that drive me nuts.

        And yes, I've gotten spyware/adware using FF. Since I don't normally use IE anymore except MS update, I kniow something has happened when a popup that uses IE shows up out of nowhere.

        I'll still stick with FF for now.
    • not really

      " I'm not defending MS here, but it ticks me off that someone can base their whole existance on "more secure"."

      Ya know, I see this more and more. THEY didn't claim the only reason to use FF was for security. I read a lot of OTHER people make this claim, but not Mozilla.

      No browser is secure. We all know that. For about a year the idea was that using a non-IE browser was a safer way to search (some gov't agency, CERT? comp. emerg. response team??). FF 1.0 was released around this time.

      So with a choice, now the conversation should be which browser makes for a better surfing experience, and that is up to each individual. In my experience, every person I've shown FF to starts to use it exclusively (then I have to point out about the few sites they may need IE for). When FF was at 5% market share MS said "no need for tabbed browsing, users don't want it." At 8% market share MS announced that the new IE will have tabs and will be released before Longhorn (now Vista).

      I guess it would seem ridiculous to assume that when FF hits 20% IE will be open source. {insert smiley face here}
    • And don't forget...

      Firefox's "less complex" security method ends up costing the browser user in functionality, in some instances. There are many times I've used it where various embedded media and such simply don't work within the browser as they should, or ActiveX controls are disabled. While I understand that these disconnects may be enhancing the security of the browser, it's not really an advantage when you're losing functionality.

      I could introduce my totally secure computing platform, which I call "The Brick". In reality, it is a brick. I can claim it uses no electricity and is totally hack-proof, but what good is that if it doesn't do the functions it's intended for? An extreme example and not necessarily fair to Firefox, I know, but it's something that should be taken into consideration when weighing the pros/cons of the browsers.
      • ActiveX

        I was nodding my head along with you until you mentioned ActiveX. ActiveX is one of the greatest security risks on the Internet. With its hooks right down to the core of the operating system, a compromise in ActiveX puts your entire system at risk. Even IE can be reasonably secure if you disable ActiveX.
      • Couple of issues here... addressed by the poster above so I won't mention that.

        [quote]There are many times I've used it where various embedded media and such simply don't work within the browser as they should[/quote]

        Quite often I find that the phrase, "...dosen't work within Fx as it does in IE,..." to be more appropriate than, "...doesn't work within [non-IE browser of choice] as they should...." This is because IE does not adhere to a plethora of standards, even the ones they claim to adhere have adherence.

        Also, IE assumes you have WMP and assumes you want that as your multimedia player and many sites use ActiveX to hook into your default media player so between IE trowing media to WMP by default where Fx gives you a choice and ActiveX taking control of your system where Fx ignores AxtiveX entirely (without the optional plug-in that you may choose to use), it would seem to be disfunctional but I never have problems playing media with my Fx.

        Try using IE on Linux, BSD or Mac OSX and go to those same media links. Oh, wait. Linux and BSD don't have an IE option. Oh, well.
        The King's Servant
    • Secure is relative

      To use an analogy on browser security... Would you say a fender bender is the same as a 5 car pile up on the interstate? And which is quicker to fix? Even MS admits they have serious bugs in IE that they've overlooked for months.

      I believe MS would continue overlooking security issues if they were the only game in town. With a worthy competitor MS has to go back to work again instead of just the usual FUD spreading they do about anything they don't own.

      FF isn't perfect, FF fixes bug faster, FF patching is still immature, FF is still v1.x. Please remember where IE was at v1.x and then continue to diss FF. And it's NOT bolted to the OS. Smart move in everybody but MS views.

      Without FF, IE wouldn't even have tabbed browsing...
  • Microsoft began discussing IE 7.0...

    ... at the same time they announced the decision not to make the browser disappear into Longhorn. Would have been a waste of money and time working on a separate browser before then.

    Did FireFox have any influence?
    I suspect that the inclusion of tabbed browsing was probably the result of looking at the arguments in favor of the alternate. There was an interesting blog by someone working on the new IE which explained why incorporating tabbed browsing was much more difficult than letting it be installed by a third party application.

    In the last article I read FireFox had approximately 5% of the market, with Mozilla and Opera declining. IE might or might not also have lost a point or two.
    Anyone have a link showing the 10% number?

    Does show why Opera issued their free browser without banner ads anyway.
    Poor Opera; open source projects aimed at Microsoft always seem to hit them instead.
    Anton Philidor
    • From my experience out in the field

      As an onsite repair technician, I see firefox BEING USED (not just installed) on 10 - 20 percent of the home pc's I look at. okay I do encourage it's use especially after removing a spyware infection on anything pre XP sp2. I explain it this way. Use firefox for surfing the web, use internet explorer for work or school websites. I also discourage use of outlook express because spammers are a great source of malware. Thunderbird is too slow and boring to replace outlook express. Incredimail is my choice because of the similar layout and feel to Outlook Express and users don't feel compelled to download smiley faces because they are already there.I pretty much discourage all p2p applications based on security issues.
      • Good point

        It is important to get people off Outlook Express as well as Internet Explorer. They are linked, and using either leaves users vulnerable. I started using Firefox years ago because I preferred its functionality, but the added security was a bonus. Every time I have to help someone clean up their computer, I make sure they stop using any MS products to access the internet since those are the ones that most hackers attack.
      • Surfing

        I'd go even further: use FireFox for all your browsing; use IE to update Windows -- and nothing else. And no Outlook/Outlook Express. Period.
        • You can even update windows with a FF plugin

          You need to download:

          And add to the always use list.
      • most tech's agree

        In the modern age it is important to stay open minded and change whith what will protect you best for now that is FF tomarrow who knows maybe ie maybe not. but for sure security and sanity are high on the lists of products end users want. simple and secure is the aim of firefox let's hope they achive both.
      • Avoiding return visits.

        Most people haven't heard of FireFox, of course, and those who have are easy enough to warn off.

        Takes 'em a long time to learn how to use IE, and that has a lot fewer features than FireFox. If someone asks, it's possible to add a large range of features to IE, of course, but most people don't ask.

        Windows update is a lot better than FireFox updates, of course. With XP SP2, IE is more secure for the users I know.
        For older pc's, all I can do is put on free, self-updating AV and AS software. Though I do like the blocked sites software, too.

        Microsoft knows the ordinary user pretty well, just how simple the device has to be. Now that they're doing a better job protecting the system, I'm getting fewer calls.

        Sometimes not even having to talk about the computer at all. Which is best.
        Anton Philidor
  • New shoes pinch, eh?

    It's nice to have your head in the clouds, but beware! Others will steal your new shoes quicker than you can say FUBAR...