January 3, 2005


Is this internet prodigy about to knock Microsoft off its pedestal?: A Miami teenager has created a free web browser that has been called Bill Gates's worst nightmare (David Adams, 1/04/05, Times of London)

A MIAMI teenager is basking in the glory of helping to create a new internet browser at 17 that is now challenging the grip of Microsoft, which once held a virtual monopoly on web surfing.

Computer analysts say that Blake Ross’s browser, Firefox, is a faster, more versatile program that also offers better protection from viruses and unwanted advertising.

Not only that, the system is offered free over the internet and its codes and technology are all accessible as an “open source” programme. Firefox has already been downloaded by an estimated 15 million users since its launch in November, making it the world’s second-most-popular browser.

Industry experts have dubbed the new software “Microsoft’s worst nightmare”, according to the technology magazine Business 2.0.

Reached for comment, Bill Gates could only gasp mechanically, "I sense a great disturbance in the Force."

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 3, 2005 11:28 PM

Orrin, if you keep counters for the various browsers that frequent your site, what percentage is Firefox?

Posted by: Bill at January 4, 2005 1:02 AM

To be honest, a lot of the featured items in the Firefox browser such as the pop-up blockers were already available through the Mozilla platform via the Netscape 7.x browser by late 2001 (the same holds true with the Thunderbird e-mail program and its Netscape cousin -- the spam e-mail filter has been around for about 2 1/2 years now). The problem was that the Netscape 6.0 browser was such a piece of garbage that it pretty much ruined the brand name in the world of Internet web browsers. When parent company AOL wouldn't even switch their own service to using 6.0, you knew it was a stinker (and Lord knows what Netscape 5.0 must have been like, since AOL didn't even have the guts to release it).

Reworking the code to update the system to be as efficent as possible certainly is a plus, but in a world where image sometimes means as much as the product itself, getting out from uder AOL and coming up with a new name no one associates with past failures could be just as important an asset at a time when Mr. Gates' people seem content to let their own browser linger on with no improvements but a myriad of security patches over all the holes.

Posted by: John at January 4, 2005 1:54 AM

While satisfying as a revenge of the nerds, it will have little impact on Microsofts revenue. The creators of the Opera browser will probably not be so lucky. The problem will start for Microsoft when people start adopting open office at the same rate.

Posted by: Daran at January 4, 2005 3:36 AM


Right now, Firefox is at about 19%, with IE at 69%

Posted by: The Other Brother at January 4, 2005 7:34 AM


Daran notes what I've been saying all along -- IE was a free product! A complete loss of market share won't impact the Dark Empire's profits one penny. In fact, if IE disappeared it might actually improve the Dark Empire's net profits due to lowered support costs.

If Bill Gates read this post, he'd just laugh at how excited people are about a successful assault on a position the Dark Empire has already abandoned. It's about a significant as Japan conquering those Aleutian islands.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at January 4, 2005 9:04 AM

We went to war over such an island.

Gates has a different view of the future of browsers than you:


Though he's not a visionary, so you may well be right.

Posted by: oj at January 4, 2005 9:18 AM

AOG --

Internet Explorer still serves the purpose of steering lazy web-surfers towards the MSN website, either when the computer is first connected to the internet and/or after that in periodic intervals. It may not get many people to sign up for MSN services, but no doubt some do, and that creates a bit of a profit for Mr. Gates (and it's not that minor a financial detail, since AOL apparently has paid folks like Apple and Hewlett-Packard to direct the web-browsers on their computers away from MSN on first IE start-up and towards the Netscape.com home page in HP's case, or towards a heavily Netscape-branded Apple start-up page on Mr. Jobs' computers even using his Safari browser).

Posted by: John at January 4, 2005 9:34 AM

Microsoft goes absolutely nutso whenever a tech-company CEO puts out a press release that their software product will replace Windows (or make it irrelevant): Joe Clark at Netscape, Scott McNealy at Sun (Java), and most recently the Google folks with desktop search.

Microsoft goes into scorched-earth mode and they throw their chinese hoard into duplicating and then replacing the threatening product. They killed Java by spending billions of dollars to replace it with .NET. Now they are pouring billions into MSN Search. Profits dont matter; they just have to win.

Posted by: Gideon at January 4, 2005 1:32 PM

Mr. Judd;

Note that first bullet point under the headline: "Netscape killer". Mission accomplished. The rest of the article is just generic blather that Gates picked up on USENET. I was reading things like that in the 70's. I don't consider regurgitating 20 year old concepts as "visionary", especially given the Dark Empire's strong resistance to networked computing up until that time. The only "vision" Gates had was losing his cash cow.


It seems to me that the Dark Empire could just as easily load Firefox on new Windows boxes prewired to go to MSN. I don't see IE as a critical part of the process.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at January 4, 2005 9:32 PM

AOG -- the point is that Firefox is the first demonstration of long term success in the open source community. Especially since an open source project has been shown to be more secure than a closed source project.

Ultimately, this is essential to the advancement of the internet as a communication medium. Just think what it would be like if the English language were closed source.

As much as I have loved my many, many Macintosh computers, I must admit that Steve Jobs is every bit a megalomaniac as Bill Gates. However, Steve has one thing on Bill -- he understands and manufactures hardware. Whereas Bill's fortune is made on a government mafia enforcing the unnatural law of copyright, hardware is a legitimate commodity.

Posted by: Randall Voth at January 5, 2005 8:05 AM