Is IE 7 a Firefox Killer?

by Preston Gralla

From details about beta 2 of IE 7 that Microsoft recently revealed at the Professional Developers Conference, it looks as if IE 7 has the chance to be a Firefox killer.



The beta appears to have enough new features that it may stop people from flocking to Firefox. A new Quick Tabs feature, for example, will let you better manage tabs, and gives you a thumbnail view of all of your tabs -- something that Firefox doesn't do. Page Zoom will let you zoom in on text and graphics on Web pages.



There's bigger news on the security front. "ActiveX Opt-in," will disable most ActiveX controls by default. You'll have to selective enable those controls you want to work. This is a very big deal and a big surprise. ActiveX is one of the browser's biggest security holes, and one that Microsoft, up until now, has been reluctant to plug. Let's hope this spells the ultimate death knell for ActiveX.



An even bigger IE hole is that the browser is directly tied to the operating system, and so an attack on IE means an attack on Windows itself. Microsoft is taking a halfway measure against this in the next version of IE. In Vista, but not in XP, there will be a "protected mode" that isolates IE from the operating system and other applications, so IE won't be able to write to a file without a user's consent.



Does all this mean that IE will be superior to Firefox? No. But to squash Firefox, it doesn't have to -- it just has to improve its security, and add a few extra features. It looks like IE 7 is on the road to doing that. Given that the beta of Firefox 1.5 doesn't add many big new features, aside from handling auto-updates better, this could mean that IE will start to take back the ground it's lost to the Open Source browser.


Do you think IE 7 will be a Firefox killer?


16 Comments

aristotle
2005-09-15 11:13:13
Re:
Page thumbnails are possible in with the <canvas> support in Firefox 1.5. I expect there will be an extension to do those soon after release.
Villa
2005-09-15 12:08:52
Availability
It's important to note that even if IE7 does deliver a more stable and feature-rich solution, it will only be available to Windows XP and Windows Vista users.
Windows XP may be the most populat OS out there, but it's not the only one. A large percentage of web users have Win2k or older, Linux, Mac, etc. IE7 is not available to any of those groups.
Another important point to consider is the fact that current Firefox users are not likely to switch back. Firefox has shown that it is way above IE in reliability and improvement. Microsoft is only reacting to pressure. You can have an OK browser with IE7, but Firefox will soon be much better.
I may sound like a zealot, but I am very interested in seeing what IE7 has to offer. I hope they improve the interface I saw on some previous screenshots. That was not very usable.
random_
2005-09-15 18:34:16
then again
then again your just a pro-microsoft person
Smolarek
2005-09-16 10:41:16
Availability
"Another important point to consider is the fact that current Firefox users are not likely to switch back"


The same was said with Netscape back 'in the day'. Competition is healthy in all markets so i hope we have lots of browsers on teh market but lets just pray they are all standards complient and all render the same (ha!).

joelnatividad1
2005-09-16 11:09:37
Check in with Scott Berkun
He was the UI Designer for IE version 1 thru 5 and he just switched to Firefox (http://www.scottberkun.com/blog/?p=115) .


And yet again, I'm still flummoxed that even by your own admission, IE7 won't be superior to FF, yet you're still cheering for IE.


A real "Technology Expert" should be able to pick the right "best-of-breed" solution for the customer.


Otherwise, you're no better than a car salesman.


If Scott can do it, why can't you?


pgralla
2005-09-16 12:27:08
Check in with Scott Berkun
I'm not "cheering for IE" --- I'm just stating a fact. In order for Firefox to survive, it has to be far superior to IE, because of Microsoft's marketing muscle, and the fact that IE comes installed on every Windows PC in the world.


I'm a big fan of Firefox and use it and recommend it all the time, and would like to see it thrive --- I've written that frequently. But ignoring the fact that IE will squash Firefox unless it's far superior to IE isn't the way to help Firefox --- telling the truth is.

slogan621
2005-09-17 18:42:29
Check in with Scott Berkun
As an ex-Netscape employee (4.5 thru 7.1), I can tell you, it's all about distribution. We didn't lose because we were better or worse, we lost because people are resistant to change, and opt to stick with defaults more often than not.


Scott is right, you can have a superior product (after all, Netscape and Mozilla were cut from the same cloth, and Firefox is largely just a progression of the Mozilla codebase with a different UI (a very small part of the codebase is devoted to that) and some of the component-based apps removed) and still lose.


Your best bet for Firefox domination is going to be outside of Windows: getting the Linux desktop people to focus on a single standard and working to replace Windows systems on the desktop is going to do much more to get people using Firefox, because you will be controlling the default, and/or getting Dell or HP or other system vendors to install Firefox and make it the default browser.


People aren't going to install Firefox on their own, most don't know the difference between it and IE, may not even care about the differences, and wouldn't know how to switch anyway. It will have to be forced on them to succeed. Netscape is proof of that.

mogmios
2005-09-17 20:08:47
Availability
Personally, I've begun to leave IE behind in my website designs. I give a basic compatibility by making sure IE doesn't misuse my advanced features to horrible result but I don't hold back from creating more advanced inerfaces for browsers that can support them or try to compensate by making an 'as advanced as IE can handle' version of the interface. IE gets pretty much the same thing Lynx does.


Also I've begun advertising this fact on my websites with a "see what you're missing!" page that offers screenshots of the advanced interfaces and a link to download Firefox. People are lazy but if you make them know what they're missing then you can get most of them to switch. (Especially since the alternative is free and easy to install.)


No longer am I going to put up with ignoring the possibilities just because they don't work in IE.

delmas19
2005-09-17 21:08:21
IE7 Certainly Not a "Firefox Killer"
As a Windows-only offering, IE7 will in many cases be totally shut out of the marketplace.


Because it's not available for Linux, our entire organization will never even try it out.

azbobcat
2005-09-17 22:06:40
Another M$ Half-@$$ Measure
"An even bigger IE hole is that the browser is directly tied to the operating system, and so an attack on IE means an attack on Windows itself. Microsoft is taking a halfway measure against this in the next version of IE. In Vista, but not in XP, there will be a "protected mode" that isolates IE from the operating system and other applications, so IE won't be able to write to a file without a user's consent."


The #1 reason that I REFUSE to use windows it is a pile of JUNK!!! This is just one more example that M$ is trying to take away user choice by tying the browser right into the OS. Should we all stand on our heads and clap that in Vista the browser will run in "protected mode"? Even M$ calls this a "halfway measure" -- more like half-@$$ if they were really truthful about it. Gee and in XPee they won't even have that!! Virus writers, start your coding!!! Once more the public will be inundated by M$ ads telling us that this is "our most secure Operating System" -- remember that pile of drivel we heard at the launch of XPee?? How long did it take for there to be a virus for it? 2 Days?? 3 Days?? Maybe a week??? Regardless of how long it was, it was still a very short time. The sad part is we hear the same ol' market cr@p every time M$ launches a new OS, and they expect the public to run like a bunch of lemings to the sea and buy it. With IE7 it will ONLY run on Windows XPee and Vista -- do you mean I should run out a buy a NEW COMPUTER JUST to run Vista and M$'s Half-@$$ protected browser IE?? I don't think so. And goody: If I'm a virus writer I'll just target Windoze XPee!!!
At best there will be a minor uptake of IE7 -- no one is going to run out and buy an expensive new computer JUST to run a new version of Windoze (and IE7), and those who don't upgrade their computers have heard the same ol' M$ promise of greater security... and every time it turns out to be just another a lie. My bet is that IE7 will be compromised within 2 weeks of launch... if not BEFORE its launch.


The ONLY way I -- and probably many other people -- will ever consider using Windoze again is when Bill Gates and ol' Monkey Boy deside to make Windoze a MODULAR system so the USER -- not M$ -- determines what components they want in their OS.


Vista is DEAD before it even launches and by extention IE7: It requires a major hardware upgrade, there are too many versions of it, it costs too much money, it is still geared to a 32 bit environment when everyone else is moving to a 64 bit environment, it is a half-@$$ OS created by a bunch of half-@$$ people who ONLY care about their bottom line and not the user, etc. As to IE... it will ONLY run on Windoze (Thank GOD for small favors!!).


Oh BTW it seems M$ is not beneath STEALING Open Source software to run in their PROPRIETARY OS (M$ would not call it stealing since it was licensed under the BSD license, but many people would call it just that: stealing: they lifted and incorporated it into their proprietary OS. It will be interesting to see if M$ releases their modifications back to the comunity or will they release the changes back to the community hoping the community will debug their sloppy code.)


All things considered Firefox does not have much to worry about: It runs on MANY DIFFERENT platforms -- including Windoze, LINUX, Unix, etc. And the changes in IE7 are so small they can be incorporated into Firefox without much of a problem. Stick a fork into Vista (and IE7 ) the're done.

GerardM
2005-09-18 00:00:47
Only the latest windows
Microsoft choses to include only the people with the latest versions of their OS. People who run an older version will not get the updates.


As Firefox runs on so much more systems, this is the feature that is an IE killer. With FF I have the latest and greatest.


Thanks,
Gerard

Mecha
2005-09-18 00:15:24
IE 7 will not replace Firefox.
Why? Because most people don't want Microsoft looking inside their computer. Last I heard, IE 7 will incorporate an anti-phishing layer that when you go to a website, will send that URL to Microsoft to determine if that site has been tagged as a Phishing sit. With Microsoft admitting to a backdoor in IIS-5 a few years ago, I am not to excited about this crap and all it takes is for that to leak out to Johnny Q. Public and I am sure they will feel much better about installing some other browser. By the way, I got that bit of info right from CNN (who use Firefox as I have found out as well).
Dietrich
2005-09-18 07:20:38
Another M$ Half-@$$ Measure
So, WHAT is your point? (kidding).


Seriously, judging by your response and others, people are cultivating an understanding that includes security issues and it is abundantly clear why there has been an 'en masse' move to Firefox for many reasons including security and innovative software design.


As for myself, I am an 'Open Source' and Linux (Novell SuSE 9.3 Professional to be specific) proponent. SuSE 9.3 includes Firefox, by default, and Konqueror.


Cheers!

linuxadmin234
2005-09-18 17:43:32
Check in with Scott Berkun
But ignoring the fact that IE will squash Firefox unless it's far superior to IE


Hang on a minute, in what way is it a proven fact that IE will 'crush' Firefox? Even if IE7 is much better there will probably always be a percentage of Windows XP/Vista users who use Firefox out of distrust and dislike of IE.


Not to mention that for everybody running Linux and versions of Windows before XP (that's a lot of people) IE7 doesn't even come into the equation, wether its superior to firefox or not. Anyway Mozilla isn't a commercial company, its an open source project, so even if it was only Linux users who used Firefox it would still keep going.
rex007can
2005-09-19 06:48:26
IE7??
I have absolutely no intention of ever going to "Vista". DRM, Anti-Virus protection racket, half assed attempts at security, corporate licensing which will force you to accept renting software and paying forever for a crappy bloaty, unelegant piece of crap that's burned us with flaws and all that at a 77% profit margin to Bill.



So all in all, I'll never get to try Vista so I'll most likely not get to use IE7 either.




And I'm pretty convinced that I'm not going to miss much...


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