Hunting with Firefox

It will be a tough battle, but the battle has already begun. Consumers needs more choices in browser market that has so far been overwhelmingly dominated by Microsoft's Internet Explorer with its all sorts of security holes unplugged. The best thing about Firefox and Mozilla overall is that it is free with lots of features that can compete with Microsoft nicely.

Hunting with Firefox

Today marks a milestone in the history of the "open source" movement, the extraordinary unpaid community of volunteers all over the world who work together to produce software which is placed in the public domain without commercial gain. Today sees the official launch of Firefox (, a free internet browser that is daring to take on Internet Explorer, owned by Microsoft, which until recently had a market share of over 95%. It roundly beat Netscape (originally known as Mosaic) during the late 1990s in what became known as the browser war.

Well, the second browser war is about to begin and the signs are it will be very interesting. Microsoft has an embedded advantage, not just because of its $50bn-plus cash reserves, but because Windows has a near-monopoly of the operating system inside personal computers. It comes pre-loaded with Explorer - so users need a good reason to overcome inertia and switch to something else.

Firefox believes it has that reason, a nimble, easy-to-install browser that has new features, keeps out irritating "pop-up" advertisements and claims much more security against most of the bugs and viruses that have riddled Explorer. It aims to take 10% of the browser market during the next eight months and says that 7 million people have already downloaded it from the web. As a result Firefox has come from nowhere to 3% of the market before being officially released and Explorer has lost market share for five months to just under 93%. In response to an appeal to buy an advertisement in the New York Times, more than 10,000 Firefox users donated more than $250,000, much more than asked for.

Firefox deserves to succeed, but even if it does not it will have highlighted the astonishing success of open source, well known inside the web community but not outside. Among other services, it has its own operating system (Linux), an acclaimed alternative to Microsoft Office (OpenOffice), and its own encyclopedia (Wikipedia) with a million entries. The open source movement has become one of globalisation's unexpected treasures.