This year, Datamation readers easily picked one product in the Enterprise Linux Application over all others: The Mozilla Organization’s (www.mozilla.org) Firefox 1.0 browser.
The runner-up spot went to VMware Workstation 4.5 by VMware, Inc. (part of EMC, Inc.). Other finalists in this category were the GNAT Pro Toolset from AdaCore and SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 from Novell.
With 20 million downloads in the last three months, Firefox is the first new browser in a decade to seriously challenge Microsoft’s dominance in this area. Although its market share is still in the single digits, compared to Microsoft’s 90+ percent share, it is gaining support among IT professionals as well as end users. Like Linux, its growth is being fueled by commercial vendor support.
“There is some industry support coalescing around Firefox as an alternative to Microsoft,” says Ray Valdes, a research director for internet platforms and services at Gartner Inc. of Stamford, Conn. “Google, for example, is providing the hosting infrastructure for the download servers and Amazon has a new toolbar that runs on the Firefox browser.”
Unlike its rival, Firefox is a lightweight browser. Valdes says that, as such, the browser is only suitable for individual use since it lacks the management features enterprises require, such as remote deployment of updates. But for individuals, it can be ideal. Joe Zwers, a technical writer from Tujunga, Calif., downloaded Firefox 1.0 on its release date for use on his home-office computer.
“I was tired of having to check the news first thing every morning to see what new threats there were to Internet Explorer and if I had to download any patches,” he says. “I wanted to be able to use the Internet without worrying about security problems.”
The 4.7MB download and installation took him a few minutes. Initially he kept Internet Explorer as his main browser, while testing out Firefox’s features. He liked the integrated search function, where the user can type in a query and, with a click, select from any of the built-in search engines (Google, Yahoo, Dictionary.com, etc.) The user can also install his choices from amongst hundreds of other search engines (http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/central.html), so he installed some IT-specific search engines as well as the OneLook dictionary site.
For those who prefer using the full Google or Yahoo bar instead, those are available for Firefox as well. He also found that certain media types wouldn’t play, so he had to download plugins for those types. After a few days use he made it the default browser and hasnt touched IE since.
“I particularly like the tabbed browsing feature, which is much easier than having multiple IE windows open,” says Zwers, “and I don’t start my day off looking at the security news any more.”