Browser

Firefox has inroads to make in the enterprise

As Mozilla's famous browser goes into its third version, there are inroads yet to be made for major adoption in the enterprise.

As Mozilla's famous browser goes into its third version, there are inroads yet to be made for major adoption in the enterprise.

An excerpt from TechNewsWorld:

However, other obstacles to broader adoption have emerged. Mozilla has thus far neglected to develop tools to help IT departments deploy and manage Firefox, and it doesn't offer paid technical support services to risk-averse corporate users.

"The enterprise is looking for a neck to choke, and that is absolutely what is missing from Firefox," said Ebron, a former product manager for Firefox and its predecessor, Netscape Navigator. "If you have a problem with IE and you are a big enough customer to Microsoft, [CEO] Steve Ballmer is going to come out and talk to you. That isn't there yet from Mozilla. It isn't their focus."

Another factor hindering the adoption of Firefox is a centralized mechanism to roll out patches and updates. There are third-party tools to perform this, but they are yet to be ratified by Mozilla.

Nevertheless, there is an increasing number of users making the shift to Firefox.

What more do you think is keeping the fox out of office?

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39 comments
kw6
kw6

Moving to Firefox was part of our migration away from Windows (we also went to Thunderbird and OpenOffice) -- once we had everyone up to speed on the new software, we started putting Linux on desktops, a few at a time, and in a matter of a month or so, we had escaped the whole MS environment. Over a year and a half later, this is seen as the best thing we've done with computers since we started buying them in the early 1980s. I don't have the figures on how much we've saved, but it's a lot. The costs of Windows across the whole company were HORRENDOUS -- buying new copies of Windows with each new computer, buying new versions of MS Office, buying antivirus and antispyware software, paying IT people to troubleshoot the inevitable problems and to load the patches, patches to patches, service packs, etc. We also save money by being able to buy cheaper computers, while getting the same (or better) performance that our competition gets out of the machines they run Vista on. Why do we run Firefox? Because our IT people like it, and because now they have time on their hands during the workday.

Andy Goss
Andy Goss

We run one Linux box and three XP. I consider IE to be a security risk, so it is used only for MS updates. FF has had superior functionality from day one, even before the security aspect became significant. In our SOHO setup I am happy to let FF update itself on the XP boxes, and on Debian it is part of the distro, so updates are simple. I can understand why larger outfits, who need to customise their browsers, might baulk at supporting two browsers. Oh! Microsoft, we loved you for DOS, we adored you for Win 3.1, especially for making it so easy to copy - I never knew anyone who actually bought it - but now you insist on making a pest of yourself I think we will take our ball and play somewhere else.

adrian
adrian

No surprise that the FF users are the ones migrating away from Windows. If you have Windows you have Internet Explorer, and you need it for Windows Updates. It's not worth installing FF as a second browser, even if it is arguably better. I use FF at home, but have better things to do with my time than install it on every PC at work. (I don't have as much time on my hands as the people who have reportedly migrated to Linux). I wasn't keen on IE7 when it first came out, but it seems fine now that I have gotten used to it, and everybody's web site has been made to work with it. I would guess that many corporate users have similar views to myself, and this is why FF is not more widely used.

DanLM
DanLM

Artists, Mac's, high level p.c's. They were able to justify F.F. to the new management because of buisness needs. Wonder if part of that was they were using F.F. on the mac's, and they wanted to standardize accross the board. Hell, I use both. Some times F.F. ticks me off, and I have F.F.3 uc2. And sometimes I.E.7 ticks me off. I'm starting to acquire the oppinion that they are all overbloated and just a p.i.t.a. Dan

apotheon
apotheon

"[i]So tell me (I only used Netscape 3, IE 5, 6, and FF) why you think all modern GUI browsers suck.[/i]" All modern GUI browsers are either too bloated and slow or functionally retarded. All modern GUI browsers are security deathtraps. No modern GUI browser is sufficiently stable to avoid my disdain. Modern GUI browsers are all too mouse-dependent. No modern GUI browser's native bookmarking functionality is better than "passable", in part because they make it damn near impossible to use a single centrally managed set of bookmarks between different systems. The best treatment of custom editor specification I've seen so far in a modern GUI browser is Firefox, and it requires extensions with dirty hacks to get any custom editor specification working at all even in Firefox. Application file type associations via the modern GUI browser are severely brain-dead in their configuration interface. Cookie management is crappy in all modern GUI browsers, to varying degrees (to the extent that I had to write my own separate cookie policy search utility for Firefox -- which at least provides better cookie policy tools than IE). I have yet to see good tab session management for any modern GUI browser. Memory management for different tabs is insufficiently partitioned in all modern GUI browsers (that support tabs), leading to problems where a single webpage issue can cause twelve open tabs in a single browser session to vanish in an instant when the browser crashes. Modern GUI browsers don't provide sufficiently fine-grained control over things like whether you want to reload a page from the source or just rerender from cache when using the Back button, even though it's basically always in cache. Configuration of JavaScript functionality is too heuristic in modern GUI browsers -- there's no explicit feature activation specification except for 100% "on" and 100% "off", even in Firefox (which is still a heck of a lot better than IE in this regard). It wouldn't be difficult, when creating a browser, to provide arbitrary protocol tunneling and plug-in capability, but somehow modern GUI browser developers tend to completely overlook this possibility. Internal file format support is primarily either integrated with the core rendering engine or entirely absent -- there's no mechanism for adding file format support in modern GUI browsers (like simply adding another image library to the list of image rendering options). Modern GUI browser basic interface functionality is insufficiently configurable -- though IE 5 was better than anything I've seen since, in that regard. I'm sure I've forgotten a few. These were just off the top of my head. . . . and that doesn't even address problems with each individual modern GUI browser, distinct from common problems like those above. For instance, the Firefox memory fragmentation problem, the IE/Windows integration problem, the problem of utterly crappy keyboard shortcuts in Opera, the massive library-interdependency issue with Konqueror, and so on. "[i]You say 'modern' GUI browsers suck, which gives me the impression you think older GUI browsers were superior; why?[/i]" It's not necessarily true that older browsers were superior, except in that some of the first browsers were much better on many of the above-noted issues. They also lacked a lot of functionality that modern GUI browsers have -- functionality I'm not prepared to give up in some cases, so they're not really options any longer. The other alternative to "modern GUI" is text console based browsers, which are not effective replacements for GUI browsers, but tend to be better [b]within their niche[/b] than modern GUI browsers are within the niche of the GUI browser. "[i]And what Windows-based browser would you recommend I use?[/i]" That really depends on your specific needs and preferences. In general, however, Firefox is still the best of a bad breed in my opinion. When most browsers rate a one or two on a scale of one to ten, the fact that Firefox is a three for most purposes means it stands head-and-shoulders above the rest. Being fifty percent better than the next-best is pretty good, relatively speaking.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"I've been telling people all modern GUI web browsers suck...I just wonder why it's taking others so long to arrive at the same conclusion." I used to have two dachshunds who were born with their bottom jaws about a quarter inch shorter than their upper muzzle. Their bottom teeth didn't mesh with their uppers. Instead of using the front of their mouth to pick up food like most dogs, they turned their heads to the side so they could grip the food with both upper and lower teeth. But since that's the way they were born and learned to eat, they weren't aware there was any other way. So tell me (I only used Netscape 3, IE 5, 6, and FF) why you think all modern GUI browsers suck. So far, I'm as happy as a dachsie with a box of Snausages. What am I missing? Please keep it in practical terms of the browser use. You say 'modern' GUI browsers suck, which gives me the impression you think older GUI browsers were superior; why? And what Windows-based browser would you recommend I use? Thanks.

apotheon
apotheon

I've been telling people all modern GUI web browsers suck, and Firefox just sucks least for my purposes, for a very long time. "Sucks least" in no way means "doesn't suck", of course. Anyway, I just wonder why it's taking others so long to arrive at the same conclusion. One of these days, if someone else doesn't beat me to it, I [b]will[/b] build a better mousetrap. Err, browser. Build a better browser. That's what I meant. Of course, one tends to use a mouse with the browser, and there's a reason they call those things "captive interfaces", so I guess it's sort of a mouse trap. Kinda. Maybe I haven't been getting enough sleep. I should go to bed.

pethers
pethers

I agree - why add another program to manage? Why make more work for yourself? IE must be there, and it works on 100% of sites staff use at work. Why add to the complication on every PC by adding another browser for any reason other than - it might be a millisecond faster and its not MS. Just doesn't make sense. If IE was not bundled, or users had all sorts of problems with it, I would go for the best. The management tools in place, as with IE, would sway a decision - the balls in FF's court.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

I'd advise breathing at regular intervals (choose your own frequency for comfort) and a time consuming hobby. If you are still on XP, then FF is capable of being more secure, other than that probably pointless from a business point of view. Of course if you don't/can't use the security features and or your key sites have been crippled to IE only, don't waste your time and money.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"No surprise that the FF users are the ones migrating away from Windows." I use FF on Windows at both work and home and have no plans to migrate away at either site. "It's not worth installing FF as a second browser, even if it is arguably better." That's a matter of opinion. "I wasn't keen on IE7 when it first came out, but it seems fine now that I have gotten used to it,..." IE6 is still the default at work. I have IE7 installed at home but don't like it. Unlike IE6 or FF2, I can't arrange the icons, buttons, and toolbars in IE7 to suit the way I prefer to work. I tried it for a couple of days and abandoned it except for Windows Update. Unlike yourself, I wasn't willing to get used to IE7.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

Firefox adheres to the World Wide Web Consortium?s recommendations better than Internet Explorer. In addition, if you?re developing web-based applications there?s no guarantee that visitors will be using Internet Explorer 7. In fact, it would be a good idea to have several virtual machines with several different versions of the more popular web browsers. Just for testing purposes.

Meesha
Meesha

Don't have any problems with FF. All the staff are on FF and because we're not a Windows site, we don't have problems with AD. So far, plug-ins have not been an issue and we were early adopters. As someone else pointed out, IE has plug-ins and Active X which is a much greater problem if you're a MSFT shop.

Jaqui
Jaqui

huh? you mean they are to silly to know how to set up an update mirror source and push it out? does NOT look good for the enterprise if their IT departments are [i]that[/i] incompetent.

iiagdtr
iiagdtr

Shavlik allows easy patching of Firefox. I'd like to see an admin console for managing all of the Firefox clients, but this can be done rather easily.

Jaqui
Jaqui

that would mean building their own installer from sources to specify the update location. silly me, expecting them to actually know how to use a mozconfig. edit to add: Note: mozconfigs are actually not an easy configure script to use, much more complex than the basic configure script, and any slight error will kill the build completely.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

The current corporate image I'm working with uses Firefox as the default browser. But it's Citrix, so the entire thing is locked down tight. I'm starting to see smaller businesses use FF some, but not too much. To be honest, the biggest hindrance I see to FF in business is the inability to block users from installing off-the-wall plug-ins.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

NT

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

I've seen nothing on the FF 3 developer pages (http://developer.mozilla.org/en/docs/Firefox_3_for_developers) that would block plug-in installation. There are improvements to plug-in/theme installation and management and many memory leaks and performance glitches are fixed, but I can't find anything about blocking plug-ins. Hey, you can't block'em in IE, either, but since "everybody's" already using IE, it's apparently only a problem for Firefox.... Edit: corrected link

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

but didn't see anything related to it. I spent less than five minutes on it, so it's possible I missed it.

apotheon
apotheon

Doesn't the IEDK (Internet Explorer Developer Kit) allow you to lock down certain IE features for deployment? Of course, IEDK isn't cheap, but that's probably not a big problem for big ol' "enterprise" shops. Are we sure that [url=http://www.mozilla.org/projects/cck/firefox/][b]Firefox Client Customization Kit[/b][/url] doesn't do what people are saying can't be done?

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

I completely misread about Plug-In Management.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

First, we haven't figured out how to get FF to hand off a user's Active Directory credentials to our proxy server. Users have to manually enter their domain, username, and password when the proxy server prompts for them. Second, we have a problem with some of our intranet Cold Fusion pages displaying properly. Some will say that our pages are non-compliant. From a corporate viewpoint, they work in IE and aren't going to be viewed from outside the workplace. Third (and I haven't researched this), I'm concerned with some of the plug-ins available being inappropriate or "time wasters" in the workplace. Maybe there's a way to prevent them from being added by the user.

DanLM
DanLM

The company I am now at was bought out and every single pc was wiped clean with new aimages applied. FireFox became part of this new install along with I.E. But, we have the same problem you identified. Active Directory and Proxy Settings.... The manual entry process. Dan

Jaqui
Jaqui

by the smb protocol used by windows for authentication. write a plugin to add the smb client libs as an authentication module and it would resolve the issue.

Jaqui
Jaqui

That was kind of the point. the Firefox dev team could have such ready for testing in a couple of days at most. and make it available for everyone. if you were to do it, what incentive do you have to make it available free? [ when your employer would jump at the opportunity to add a revenue stream selling it to the competition. ;) ] never mind having to learn the mozilla code structure to write a plugin / addon for it, learn the api for the existing smbclient libraries [ currently not functional on windows, so would need to be ported to windows ], learn authentication module usage with mozilla products.... If it's going to happen, it will be from someone who only has to deal with implementing the smb protocol in the authentication, they already have the rest of the knowledge needed. I'm sorry, but xulrunner, the ui stuff for mozilla's products, just doesn't cut it for legibility for me. :p never mind not having any ms software to test such a plugin against.

BOUND4DOOM
BOUND4DOOM

While I could probably do it, I know a vast amount about them and write several plug-ins the chances of my bosses saying yes please spend the next month developing this so our users can use Firefox to surf the web from work just isn't going to happen. But anyway we do have the same problem. I use Firefox at work so do a few others in IT, we are smart enough to enter our user names and password into the box. However give it to the end user and you have nothing but problems. Most internal webapps use the pass through authentication for AD as well, when a user comes in from VPN from a remote host running Firefox we get phone calls, they have no idea what user name to put in. This is the primary problem with most open source apps and linux systems. True end users are really computer illiterate. They really do not care what system they are using as long as it just works. I spend a lot of time on my user interfaces to protect the user from themselves.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Right behind "Understand SMB client libraries", "Learn about Authentication Modules", and "Learn to write plug-ins". No problem.

pr.arun
pr.arun

What more do you thing is keeping the fox out of office?

asperks
asperks

It's a great browser for internet surfing, but it has one draw-back in our organization. We use an internal wiki, and allow the users to link directly to mappings on our network drives. This is especially helpful when pointing the users to standard template directories. We also sometimes have executable based tutorials for some of our more complex CAD applications. Firefox does not allow (I would imagine for obvious security reasons) the linking of the browser to LAN based executable files. it's a shame that this isn't a configuration option, or a 'trusted area' option, as this is the only reason it is not completely adopted here.

kevin.carbonaro
kevin.carbonaro

We let our users install firefox on their computer, no questions asked from our side (IT Dept.) We've actually noticed that some particular users are having less problems on their computer (with unwanted plugins etc...) The only thing that we have to do is configure it manually, so a centralized firefox management console (if and when it is realized), will surely make us re-think about which browser should be our primary one.

bfreed
bfreed

We are a newspaper and I have no problems having users work with Firefox. I update the program through SMS when a new version comes out and users have been releatively happy with using it. I will point people to useful plugins and other useful things that they can do with FF. I am less concerned with the time wasting plugins as it really hasn't been a problem at this location.

RES0239
RES0239

With all of the softwhare interaction probleme we fight on a daly basis I don't want to add to my problems. Also limiting the applications makes it easier to centralize support. We are a Microsoft sit , for better or worse, and I have mandated IE only. So I amd I am sure many of my counterparts are the cause for the pentration problems.

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

I only allow IE 6 or 7, typically 7. Firefox is one less thing I have to deal with on a daily basis. I don't have to worry about someone complaining because a 3rd party website needs a plugin and the user is unfamiliar with Firefox and unable to make it work. I even go so far as to block mozilla.org and include Firefox (and Thunderbird) on our restricted software policy in group policy. If I could get rid of IE and use Firefox I might consider it, but that will never happen. Hey, I'm all for open source but Microsoft products put food on my table, money in my pocket and gas in my gas guzzler...so I'm not likely to push for open source in my enterprise. EDIT: I'm not going to push for open source in my eneterprise unless it realistically fulfills my needs in a particular problem or it behooves me to do so.

aaronsapp12
aaronsapp12

I think if they would put out tools to manage firefox then offices and IT specialist would be more into it. I mean its a lot safer product than Internet Explorer