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IE Revisited, Phoenix

May 29, 2003

More speculation on the death of Internet Explorer, and the Firebird experience.

A bit of cruising through a network of coders’ sites this morning (starting point: Dave Winer) offered some interesting perspective on the ‘Is IE Dead?’ meme I touched on a few days ago.

Ron Green of Slightly Bent speculated that the lack of leaked screenshots of a new version of IE is a bad sign… his hearsay further touched on the size of the IE team, and how it looks from the outside as if it’s getting smaller daily. Take a look at the comments on his post for even more fun speculation. Grain of salt free with every link.

A guy named Robert Scoble who, I presume, works for Microsoft has gotten in touch with some people in the know to get an official word of some sort. His results are vaguely discouraging. “Why is there a belief that team size means innovation… ?” — is anyone else interpreting this to read “don’t be surprised when you find out we’ve only got three holdouts left who even look at the source anymore”?

And so the conjecture continues. Rumours are flying, and the only thing coming out of Redmond at this point is a conspicuous silence. This is an interesting time for the future of the browser. §

In other browser news, on Adam’s prompting I downloaded a copy of Firebird (Phoenix) on Tuesday. I’m giving this a solid shot at becoming my browser of choice. I tried Netscape 7 when it was first released, but it was just too damn slow, so IE remained my default browser.

Phoenix is quick, runs the Gecko rendering engine, blocks pop–ups and allows tabbed browsing. On their own, each of those features are great. Combine them all in a single browser and you’ve got a force to be reckoned with. If the Firebird (Phoenix) team can work on the installation and make it user–proof, this is the browser I will start recommending.

There’s an opportunity here — selling standards to end users is a worthless proposition because they will never understand the benefit. And they shouldn’t have to. To encourge adoption of the great new browsers that are still being developed, users need to see extra features that get them excited.

Tabbed browsing is a big one; pop–up blocking even more so. No one likes pop–up windows, and if you offer the average user a good, solid way out, there’s a chance they will take you up on it.

Sell technology on features that are valuable to the user, not the developer. If there’s anything the dot–com fallout should have taught us, that’s it. §

Reader Comments

Jared says:
May 29, 01h

I too am a Firebird user (I’d really prefer the name Phoenix tho) but not nearly as long as you have been Ken, I just got it about 5 days ago.. it IS my default browser… b4 this Netscape 7.02. Yes, I’m a Mozilla fan. Firebird’s really fast and just straight to the point. There are still some bugs that need to be addressed but other than that, it’s a nifty little browser!

Dave S. says:
May 29, 01h

Two minor Firebird annoyances so far that IE6 handled better - when hovering tags with title attributes, tool tips cut after after x characters, whereas IE displayed the whole title. Also, when filling out form elements, the ‘remembered data” that drops down is in a tiny little window that isn’t re-sizable. Both of this are a little frustrating, as I rely on them in certain instances.

I doubt either behaviour is dictated by a standard though.

zlog says:
May 29, 02h

I tried Firebird for a few days but went back to Mozilla 1.2.1, the reason, because Firebird felt too light.

It felt like a cheap Biro compared to the weighty Mozilla.

If you have no idea what I am on about just ignore this post…

Dave S. says:
May 29, 09h

No, I know what you mean. I actually felt precisely the opposite on IE6 vs. NN7 — the former was the cheap Biro, the latter was the huge elegant fountain pen that weighed 12 pounds and was impossible to write with.

Firebird is just stripped down enough for me. It doesn’t feel like a big application, it feels like a light utility. That’s what a browser needs to be for me to use it.

May 29, 10h

Hi Dave, I would highly recommend Firebird—I’ve been using it since the .2 release and have really enjoyed watching it evolve. You may want to check out for some great info, skins, and extensions. Highly recommended extensions are the Tabbrowser Extensions, Download Statusbar, and Linky.

zlog says:
May 30, 03h

I think the weblogging community should do a campaign a bit like the “Browser Upgrade” but instead try and get everyone to ditch IE.

I can already see the banners at the top of every web page:

“You are using IE. Please ditch it. Here is how to.”

Jemaleddin Cole says:
May 30, 07h

If you’re enjoying Firebird, head over to this strangely named site and rid yourself of banner ads forever. It gives you some content to place in a userContent.css file that lets your browser download banner ads (so sites still get the page-view stats) but sets them to display:none. Very handy. Oh, and install linky while you’re at it. Makes viewing screenshots in tabs very handy. And if you miss the Mozilla Navigation Bar, get the Link Toolbar which lets you not only use the nifty top, next, last, authors, etc. links from a document’s head, it lets you switch stylesheets and even turn them off (great for accessibility checks). There’s much more, of course, but that should get you started with the good stuff. p.s. Your form strips the title tag out of anchors… shame shame shame. =-)

Jemaleddin Cole says:
May 30, 07h

I almost forgot - check out Blogzilla’s advice for turning off new windows so that you can take back control of your browser from the target tag.

May 30, 11h

The “ditch IE” campaign is something I would definitely support, but Firebird needs to be a lot easier for my mom to download and install. This custom copying of files and creating shortcuts by hand won’t fly with true end-users. And, if we’re really aiming for end users and not technoids, we’ve got to sell the feature set, not the technology.

Jemaleddin Cole says:
May 31, 04h

Let me remind you that your mom will never see Firebird on or - it’s beta software. But when they release a branded “Mozilla Browser 1.5” I’m sure it’ll have a setup routine and all the other bells and whistles.

Seamus says:
June 01, 01h

Get everybody’s favorite Tabbrowser Extensions for Firebird.

mikeyc says:
June 02, 05h

A “ditch IE” campaign is pure insanity and will do nothing but discourage people from trying alternatives. End-users don’t care about the fact that web designers pull out their hair over things like spotty CSS support, and nor should they care (i am web designer, by the way, so I am not saying this just to beat-up on web designers).

A “Try Mozilla” campaign would be far more effective than a negative campaign specifically against Internet Explorer. You have to think like the average user which means discussing stuff like pop-up blocking, cool skins, maybe tabbed browsing (but that’s really something you have to try yourself in order to recognize the benefits of)…

IE7 won’t be out for about 18 months which presents Mozilla with the perfect window of opportunity to gain in popularity. Act now before the AOL money disappears!

Dave S. says:
June 02, 06h

Mikey, where’d the 18 months figure come from? Are you just assuming the next Windows release will include it over IE 6.1? Might be a dangerous supposition to rely on… just a thought.

Check the more recent discussion for why I agree with your conclusions about an anti-IE compaign.

mikeyc says:
June 02, 10h

“Mikey, where’d the 18 months figure come from?”

Longhorn has been delayed til 2005 right? Just assuming that’s when the next release will be given the recent comments about not supporting legacy OSes as it would require “changes to the underlying OS” …i am sure you’ve seen the transcript from the Chat session with some dude from MS… its been going around all the usual news sources…