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A place for thought, progress, and dissent.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

A Fox has four legs.

I started responding to a comment by Anonymous (Mike?) but I think it warrants an upgrade to a full post.

Anonymous asks:
I wonder if we see IE share continue to fall, we will simultaneously see more virus/spyware targeted at firefox, opera, etc...

...the bad code out there is largely written for IE because everybody uses IE...

...could we be digging our own graves if you will, as we encourage writers of malicious code to target programs like Firefox?


Do I think virus writers will start targeting FireFox? Absolutely. But I'm convinced that FF is saver from the outset, so we will never have the volume of problems we have with IE. Also, there is more chance for improvement. FF has a great team of programmers eager to crank out patches and new versions. IE won't be updated significantly until Longhorn, and then only for Longhorn.

»Insert obligatory rant about standards-compliance, and how IE is so horrible that it needed to be updated years ago.

Security walks in parallel with standards, and the basic solution is the same: Diversity. For a few years, IE was truly the best browser, (Mozilla was just to kludgy, and Opera doesn't count because it wasn't totally free) but now FireFox has impressive speed, security and standards-compliance. Also, on the Mac side, Apple's Safari browser is almost as standards-compliant as FF, and probably more secure. All Safari code gets dumped back to the open-source KHTML project which will benefit Linux browsers.

With three major browsers (I'll count Opera here, to be nice) striving for standards-compliance, we can be sure that we have a diverse gene pool. See, I'm not a zealot for any browser (I use Safari, but I generally have FF running too). Instead, I want strong standards-compliance across the board, so we can all use the browser we like best. The web is the API of the decade (and will be more-so as move further toward XML). If you don't believe that, just look at Google (gmail, Google Maps, etc.). If we have many browsers that work, the web platform is stronger and a better experience for all. The security comes through attention to detail, not getting carried away (ActiveX?), and a diverse browser population.

Are we shooting ourselves in the foot? Far from it. We're giving ourselves more legs, and we'll be much sturdier as a result.

2 Comments:

At 1:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Opera doesn't count because it wasn't totally free"
That's unfair. IE is not totally free either. It requires you to buy operating system that it comes with. No commercial OS, no IE. What does it change that there is a public, but otherwise useless download?

 
At 1:48 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

Anonymous,

I'll agree that I'm being too hard on Opera, but I disagree with your thoughts.

1. You forget IE/Mac which is the best worst browser out there.

2. IE and Safari are both non-free (if you include the OS) but they are because you aren't locked in. You can use IE on Mac, FireFox on Windows, etc. In your argument, only free browsers on free OS (Konqeror on Linux) count. But I really don't think you can tie these together. I didn't buy a Mac because of a browser. I will use the best free browser on my mac. Your OS certainly limits the options, but there is no reason IE on Linux or Safari on Windows isn't possible.

2.a. Saying IE isn't free is like saying network TV broadcasts aren't free because you need to buy a TV.

3. Does IE run on Wine? I don't know, but if so it hurts your argument even more.

4. There is a free version of Opera (with ads) available. My original point about Opera not being free is that (IMHO) it will never be competitive as FF or IE because it is crippled. Opera is a great browser. So is OmniWeb (the old, non WebKit versions - now it is more of a different version of Safari, I'm only talking about rendering engines - in the same way FF, and Camino are just different versions of Gecko). But free browsers will always have the upper hand.

5. Your argument is essentially the free speech vs. beer argument. I was talking beer, you're talking speech.

 

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