IBM plan another sign of Firefox success, say users

Firefox users react to news that Big Blue is encouraging its workforce to adopt the open source browser.

Folks in the media and at the Mozilla Foundation may have been moderately surprised after IBM began encouraging employees to use Firefox last week, but to dedicated users of the open source browser, it was just another day on the Net.

Since its official release, Firefox has accumulated more than 50 million downloads to date, according to research from Web analytics firm WebSideStory.

The same data showed that industry leading Microsoft Explorer has dropped to a new low with 88.9% market share as of April 29. In February, that number was reported to be 89.9%. Firefox currently controls 6.8% of the Web browser market.

For Frank Schmeisser, once a longtime user of Mozilla browsers and now a Firefox convert, the "choice was clear" when he decided to move to the open source browser.

"I have been using Mozilla and Firefox for years as my default browsers, while IE has been relegated to only access Windows Update, and the odd site that requires ActiveX to render the page," Schmeisser said. "After seeing how easily IE can be hijacked … the choice is clear."

R.D. Holtz, an administrator with Bell South, had far simpler reasons for dumping IE and clamoring for Firefox.

"I prefer Firefox because it's easier. I'm not a Microsoft-basher, but I'm waiting for a Microsoft Office replacement -- OpenOffice is only okay -- and I am hoping Scalix or something akin to it can match or surpass Outlook," Holtz said.

Donald Park, and independent business services consultant, found Firefox a boon to carrying out the daily chores of a constantly moving IT consultant.

"I particularly like the SwitchProxy plug-in since I am continually changing proxies depending on what office I find myself in and [because] I dual boot my laptop between Windows and Fedora Linux, I like having a common browser," Park said.

But Park still holds onto IE for the occasional site that has not been coded for Firefox.

Nicholas Donovan, an executive with Ionisys, ripped analysts who proclaimed Firefox a "fad" when compared to future version of Internet Explorer.

"We have these same so-called experts comparing Firefox to IE 7, a product that doesn't even exist yet," Donovan said. "Then again, I don't know why that should surprise anyone. We have these same 'experts' comparing the currently available Open Source technologies to [Microsoft's] Longhorn, another product that doesn't exist."

Bill Redman, executive vice president and Chief research officer for Ideas International, was not one of those experts. He labeled the move by IBM as a "huge vote of confidence" from a gigantic corporation.

"I think this is definitely showing that, unlike Netscape 10 years ago where Microsoft really crushed these guys, Firefox now has chance to say that open source momentum is there," Redman said. "All of sudden Firefox has changed the market dynamic from 10 years ago, to where Microsoft is not only game in town."

With an increased market presence, however, Redman said security concerns at Mozilla were likely to rise. This was the case earlier this year, when major vulnerabilities were discovered in Firefox, but no exploits were reported.

"It is a matter of critical mass that you become a target, so these things shouldn't be a big surprise," Redman said. "I don't know which resources [Mozilla] has on hand today, but the beauty of open source is that there are a whole lot people willing to help out."

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