firefox vs ie

I just wrote a huge post on Firefox losing share to IE – only for IE to crash on me – someone is trying to tell me something..

The Register is reporting that Firefox has gone from 8.71% down to 8.07%, the majority of which has gone to IE. Thats a change of 7% which some would say is a significant change. Time of course will clarify if this is a blip or not. There are a few opinions out there as to why this is happening. NetApplications thinks it due to Mozilla’s decision to launch a commercial arm and The Register’s opionion (?) that other theories could include an end to the “honeymoon factor” and recent security problems tarnishing Firefox’s image as a more secure alternative to IE.

Whilst I think these will have had some effect on the change, I think it has happened because Firefox is not quite there yet. I have used it on and off several times since its launch (3 times so far to be precise). Each time my experimentation lasts longer and usage increases. The last time was for 6 months and it even became my main browser for 4 of those 6. I quit only a month ago and when you see my pros and cons you will understand why:

Pros:
1. Mouse gestures – When you accidentally use a feature from Firefox in IE, you know the feature is a winner. Whilst I eventually found mouse gestures for IE, it is not as cleanly implemented as in Firefox or as powerful (itself an addon of course).
2. Addons themselves are much easier to find and implement than in IE. A simple click from the menu and you can see them – in IE you have to search through google. If there is a good central resource it should be linked to inside the browser.
3. Tabbed browsing – for some this is the be all and end all of browsing. I never cared about it before, and after the 6 months usage I started to get used to it. For me its a change in style and I’m not there yet so I don’t care enough right now.
4. Speed of browsing – some sites seemed faster – was it just me?
5. Firefox does seem like there are endless possibilities due to its addons, the power available to Greasemonkey users is huge (I am sure it is very insecure as well..) – it would be nice to have more UK specific content but then IE (and MSN) is much worse for this.
6. The themes are nice, not critical though 🙂

Cons:
1. This is the big one – I download a lot of Excel spreadsheets and pdfs – everytime it opens an empty Firefox window – why?! There was an addon to remove them – it didnt work 🙁
2. Not all sites look right and some just don’t work. I know this is not Firefox’s fault as the sites did not meet standard X or Y but as a user I just don’t care. There are 2 ways to look at this, either the developer should have tested it in Firefox and fixed it (almost certainly they didnt and now there is no budget) or Firefox should have a module that makes things just work. Microsoft in the past has been good at this when they have had little market share – support the big guy. They did it for Exchange, Lotus 1-2-3, Wordperfect, UNIX to name the ones I remember. Sure its hard, but over time Firefox would gain share. I know there is the “always open in IE” addon – its a hassle though 🙂
3. Startup speed has slowed down over time – when I first started I swear Firefox opened quicker than IE – its significantly slower now – 3-5s slower – enough to annoy!
4. Rich Media content just does not work properly – sometimes it does, sometimes it doesnt..

If the first 3 issues are fixed, I’d switch back in a sec!

Separate to all this of course are the issues surrounding security. I am sure the recent issues with security inside Firefox has caused some of the shift back, I wonder how many people have been aware of the issues though – outside of the geeks, how many people are aware of the Firefox security glitches? Are all the people leaving geeks? The next few months will tell all I should think.

Fingers crossed for the next browser versions….

Update: Could the drop be due to all the IE 7 beta testers out there – surely there’s not that many people who think its stable enough to use yet???