This week two major updates to the two most popular browsers were released: FireFox 2.0 and Internet Explorer 7. Both were anxiously anticipated. Both had the tech media drooling for a look at the future of browsing. Here's the tag lines for each:
IE7: We heard you. You wanted it easier and more secure.
FireFox: The award-winning Web browser from Mozilla is now faster, even more secure, and totally customizable to your online life.
Did either of them deliver? Let's dig into it.
They heard you. Who exactly were they listening to? Looks to me as if they were listening to the compeition. The list of "new" features: Tabbed browsing, RSS feeds...both features that have been a part of FireFox for a long, long time. Security features? Exactly what have they done to ensure the security of browsers? From the MS website they proclaim that IE7 puts safety first: Robust new Internet Explorer 7 architecture and improved security features help protect you against malicious software, and help to keep your personal data safe from fraudulent websites and online phishing scams.
Hmmm...from the Mozilla site they say (about FireFox 2):
Firefox continues to lead the way in online security, and now includes active protection from online scams to keep you safer.
After I dug a little deeper I found that both sites list some details on what they have added for security.
IE7: Phishing Filter, Address Bar Protection, Delete Browsing History, Fix My Settings (tells users their current settings may cause them to be at risk), URL Handling Security.
FireFox: Built-in phishing protection
Seems to me that the list falls much in favor of IE7. But is that actually so? Before you stake your claim you must remember that IE7 had already fallen way behind. The very nature of the application framework, IE being deeply integrated into the Windows Operating System vs. FireFox's independent nature, allowed for far more security issues. Another issue on FireFox's side has always been one of the achilles heels of IE: Active X. FireFox does not run Active X. And well all know Active X is a serious security threat.
The math is quite simple there. But the browser war goes beyond security (although security is a HUGE issue). Browsing is, for a vast majority of computer users, tantamount to the computing experience. Because of this, browsing needs to be intelligent, simple, and fun. It's at this point FireFox, and the open source community, blows IE, and Microsoft, out of the water. The list of new features alone tells the tale better than I:
IE7: New look, Tabs, Better Printing, RSS, Search from browser
Pretty obvious who has the upper hand in user-experience eh? Back in the day, when it was Netscape vs. Internet Explorer, the browser wars, at one point, were a serious knock-down, drag-out fight. Then IE took the playing field all to itself. But now, things are starting to equal out and the open source community is taking back its right to stand up and offer up a serious killer blow to the once king of the net. I think the browser war is being won but the victor is a community, not a company.