12.18.2004 | Firefox ad in New York Times
For those of you who may not be familiar with the story behind it, Firefox is basically the result of a years-long effort to improve the once-dominant Netscape browser. When AOL purchased Netscape in 1998, the company donated Netscape's underpinnings to the newly created Mozilla Foundation, which then used the browser's source code to solicit input from programmers and ordinary users from around the world. This model of software development, called open source, allowed Mozilla to draw on the expertise of thousands of volunteers, making for the best product possible.
Microsoft, meanwhile, has used its 90 percent market share of browsers to rest on its laurels and release only minimal improvements, with no new version released since 2001. And since the browser is integrated with the operating system, only people who have Microsoft's latest version of Windows benefit from the updates. According to the New York Times' Randall Stross:
Stuck with code from a bygone era when the need for protection against bad guys was little considered, Microsoft cannot do much. It does not offer a new stand-alone version of Internet Explorer. Instead, the loyal customer must download and install the newest version of Service Pack 2. That, in turn, requires Windows XP. Those who have an earlier version of Windows are out of luck if they wish to stick with Internet Explorer.
Mr. Schare of Microsoft does have one suggestion for those who cannot use the latest patches in Service Pack 2: buy a new personal computer. By the same reasoning, the security problems created by a car's broken door lock could be solved by buying an entirely new automobile. The analogy comes straight from Mr. Schare. "It's like buying a car," he said. "If you want to get the latest safety features, you have to buy the latest model."
In this case, the very latest model is not a 2001 Internet Explorer, but a 2004 Firefox.
Firefox is smaller and more intuitive than the original Mozilla/Netscape browser, and it's faster, safer and better than Internet Explorer. Before I start sounding like an ad, though, let me just invite you to download and try it for yourself. The download for Windows users is only 4.5 megabytes, installation is quick, easy and painless, and you really have nothing to lose. Visit GetFirefox.com to get your own copy, and enjoy the blazing speed and advanced features.
Speaking of advanced features, Mozilla has an e-mail client called Thunderbird that gets better at filtering spam the more you tell it what's spam and what isn't. It also handles multiple e-mail accounts and RSS news feeds. Check it out.
Oh, and did I mention? It's all free.