Spreading the Fire
First a brief and probably wildly inaccurate history lesson for those who know nothing of Mozilla:
The Mozilla Organisation was set up in 1998 to create a new web browser, one that would help Netscape reclaim its place as the number one browser.
Mozilla is an open-source project to create a fully web-standards-compliant browser. The Mozilla Suite of applications (web browser, e-mail and IRC clients) was the result of this.
Netscape 6-7, which was based on the Mozilla Suite was our last best hope for a decent mainstream browser... It failed.
But in recent years, Mozilla became something much greater... our last best hope for victory* (where victory is rescuing the web from the stagnation and proprietary markup that Microsoft's Internet Explorer has brought).
Mozilla Firefox (formerly Mozilla Firebird, Phoenix, Mozilla/Browser) is the product that aims to do this. Based on the browser component of the Mozilla Suite and aimed primarily at giving users of Internet Explorer an easy transition to it (by focussing on replacing the unfriendly User Interface that came with the Mozilla Suite), Firefox is planned for release in early November. A preview release of version 1.0 is already available for download.
- Why is Internet Explorer's dominance such a bad thing?
There have been a lot of innovations in web technologies in the past few years (such as CSS 2.1 & 3, XHTML and the continuing work of the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group on Web Forms 2. Aside from security updates, Internet Explorer has not been updated for the past 3 years (an eternity in terms of the Web's development).
Internet Explorer on your current version of Windows will never support these new technologies (Microsoft has stated that there will not be a new release of Internet Explorer for Windows XP), nor will it receive fixes for the flaws in its current implementations (eg. PNG alpha transparency and a multitude of other bugs). In all probability the version of Internet Explorer in the next release of Windows will not support these technologies either, but will add its own new proprietary languages instead. Either way, you will have to buy the next release of Windows just to continue using the Web.
With the release of Firefox 1.0 Preview Release came the launch of a new Firefox promotional marketing site, SpreadFirefox.com. Its aim is to encourage the Firefox community itself to help market the browser. With its help, Firefox has now been downloaded more than 5 million times in the last month alone.
- Why attempt to market something that you're giving away for free?
The aim of this project (and dare I say it, the aim of Firefox itself) is to wrestle control of the Internet away from Microsoft. As long as people code websites to work only in Internet Explorer (a happily dimishing number), many people will feel they have no choice but to stay with IE. Once an alternative browser (or several alternative browsers combined) reaches a sufficiently large market share, attitudes will have to change. With this, the rest of the web will follow. By coding to web standards, websites can be assured to work correctly on all modern browsers on all computer platforms.
SpreadFirefox.com has come up with several good campaigns to help spread the word about Firefox and now they are attempting to place a full-page advertisement in the New York Times. This is not a cheap thing to do, so they are asking for donations from those who feel strongly enough about making sure Firefox succeeds to help them acheive this and other marketing goals. All those who donate get to have their own name on this advert (they're going to have to use some pretty small print).
Being a web developer who is constantly frustrated by the shortfalls of Internet Explorer that I must work around far too often, I have donated, and within a few hours so have 1,169 other people.
I feel that it is a very innovative approach to marketing and I believe it may help make a real difference so I have written this weblog post in an attempt to encourage one or two more people to help spread the fire.
Disclaimers: I have no affiliation whatsoever with the Mozilla Foundation. This weblog post may well contain glaringly inaccurate statements: feel free to correct me on them.
* With extreme apologies to Babylon 5