Mozilla Firefox is soothing nerves frayed by Microsoft Internet Explorer, thanks to superior search, security, bookmark synchronization and other capabilities, according to IT professionals responding to an informal SearchEnterpriseLinux.com survey.
Most of those Firefox users, however, are frustrated that Firefox is locked out of Web sites that are locked in to Microsoft Internet Explorer.
Firefox wins in security
Early last year, the beleaguered president of a midsized business placed a distress call to Josir Gomes, an independent consultant and developer from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The president's business had suffered through many security breaches, all traced back to gaps in IE.
Virus attacks plagued the business, despite all the time spent installing patches. The increasing cost of recovering data, re-installing damaged software and implementing new operating system configurations were taking its toll.
The call for help came just after Firefox was first released. Gomes had been using the Mozilla browser since 1999, but felt it didn't have enough functionality for his corporate customers. Firefox changed that.
Gomes convinced the company's president to migrate from IE and Outlook to Firefox and Thunderbird. The installation and training took two days. There was some short-lived resistance from the Microsoft fans within the company. Pretty soon, however, they became converts, and their testimonials led to company-wide user acceptance.
After one year, FireFox and Thunderbird are installed on all clients. The IT manager does not have to spend his time manually updating the antivirus software. The company saves hundreds of dollars in license fees. And best of all, there have been no virus incidents.
There were a few problems, however. Some of the company's suppliers ran IE-only Web sites.
"I sent some complaints, and some suppliers fixed their sites," Gomes said. "For others suppliers, we have to enable IE to work only for them."
Beyond security, Firefox's Bookmark Synchronization feature is widely used.
"That allows them to use the same bookmarks at home and at the office," Gomes said.
In the next month, Gomes plans to centralize Thunderbird Address Books, installing a Linux-based LDAP server. Already, he's installed a "company newsletter update" using a simple RSS Feeder with FireFox's "live bookmarks."
Easier searches with Firefox
For one Oracle/Linux administrator, every Google problem search regarding IE led to a "mess" of dozens of open windows.
"I'm working a lot with metalinks for Oracle bugs for various Linux administration needs," said Modestas Mockus, a technical consultant with UAB Informacines Technologiojos, a consultancy in Warsaw, Poland.
UAB started using Firefox recently.
"Now, after receiving a problem, I run Firefox, search for problem, and open a lot of links to separate tabs," said Mockus, who specializes in Oracle and Linux administration. "In one Firefox window, I can open problems related to Oracle, metalink notes, forums, white papers and so on."
After Mockus finds a solution (via the search) to his problem, he closes all the tabs with Firefox. "This way I can simultaneously work with three or four problems at once."
With IE, he said, that was impossible.
IE's hold on corporate Web sites has stymied some Firefox enthusiasts.
Kevin Banks, a developer for Crossroads Systems Inc. in Austin, Texas, and a self-proclaimed "micro-dollar hater," was originally thrilled to have an alternative to IE. But his happiness was short-lived.
"It was only a few days before I had to reluctantly fire up IE," Banks said. "The bottom line was not all sites I went to would work correctly with Firefox."
Banks tried to use both browsers for a day or so, using Firefox as his primary browser and only launching IE when he hit a non-working site. Then he realized that he was wasting space by building up two sets of Web site bookmarks. Now he's a reluctant user of IE and nothing else.
Consultant Richard Carriere blames site developers for taking the lazy, IE-only route. But he's not going to let their laziness separate him from what he believes is "a major browser" that is completely enterprise-ready.
"Will I return to Internet Explorer? Probably not," he said. "For that to happen, Microsoft has a lot of work ahead of it; also, a lot of convincing to do."