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Rory Cellan-Jones

Firefox: Can browsers make bucks?

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 8 May 08, 13:33 GMT

What's the most valuable piece of web software you use every day? Your web browser, surely. So whoever makes the browser which dominates the market should also make riches beyond the dreams of avarice - shouldn't they?

In the early days of the web, that certainly seemed to be true. Netscape Navigator was, for many, the first introduction to web browsing. When Netscape made its stockmarket debut on the NASDAQ in 1995, it rocketed in price, lighting the blue touch-paper for the whole dot com frenzy. Then along came Microsoft's Internet Explorer and blew it out of the water - leading to years of conflict with the US Department of Justice and other regulators.

But does Microsoft actually make any cash from IE? Not as far as I can see. Does Safari make a significant contribution to Apple's bottom line? Again no.

So what about Firefox? The browser from the Mozilla Foundation is the poster-child for the open-source movement, and it seems to be making some serious headway in its battle with Internet Explorer. The Mozilla people have shown that users do want innovation in the way they browse the web - whatever the makers of Internet Explorer might say.

"If Microsoft's customers wanted new features they would have told the company about it," said one Microsoft executive in 2004, going on to explain that features such as tabbed browsing were not important to IE users. Well of course he was wrong, and Microsoft has been forced to refresh its browser with just the kind of features pioneered by Firefox.

June sees the final release of Firefox 3, the latest version of the open-source browser, and Mozilla Europe's President Tristan Nitot popped into our office the other day to show off some of the features.

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Most of the thousands of changes are hidden so far beneath the bonnet that users won't notice them - except perhaps for a welcome increase in speed - but there is one impressive new feature.

The engineers who collaborate to build Firefox call it the "awesome bar" and it certainly grabbed my attention. The address window at the top of the browser now functions as a search engine for your previous web activity. So, for instance, I type in 'Yahoo shares' and it takes me to all those recent pages I've visited showing Yahoo's current share price and discussing the company's future.

Obviously other web browsers can show you names of sites you've visited - but not their content. So here we have another advance in search, which, as Google has shown, is the real route to making money online.

Which brings me back to my original thought. The Mozilla foundation is a not-for-profit organisation but on top of the thousands of volunteer coders around the world it does now have 160 employees, and they have to be paid. So where is the cash coming from? Tristan Nitot explained that originally it was T-shirts that were the main revenue earner - Mozilla has an online shop selling Firefox-badged products - but now it's found a more substantial source of income.

That search box in the top right hand corner of the browser generates a big chunk of revenue - almost all of it from Google, which is the default search engine.

So Firefox is dangerously dependent on Google for its income. But now, in the "awesome bar", it's got its own search engine which could, in theory, provide a very valuable stream of data about the browsing habits of hundreds of millions of internet users. Tristan Nitot claims that Firefox is approaching a 30% market share.

But there's one problem. Can an organisation like Mozilla really start making money out of its users' personal data - either by pushing adverts their way or passing the data on to other marketing organisations? I doubt it - that would go against everything it stands for. But who's to say another firm won't imitate the "awesome bar" - and find that it's a way of making a few bucks from a browser?

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    And there you have the very reason why I'll NOT be installing FF on any of my machines.

    How will the potential policies of user searching habits (by a non-search organisation) by managed on a country by country basis. Legality of data is very different in the UK to the USA etc....

    Today I might be in the UK using a browser to search the web and tomorrow I might be on business in the US searching the web. On each occassion my IP will will geo-place me. Does that mean I give up my rights as a British citizen, because I happen to be using the same product in a different location? And by definition the legal wrappers for my searching habits change based on where I am, not on my preference.

    No thank you.

  • Comment number 2.

    The people who use Firefox, do so for a variety of reasons. the primary one being security. With IE7 there are too may ways to be compromised. FF tends to close those security holes very very quickly when found and being open source, there are people constantly looking for those holes, where as with IE7, Microsoft have to be told about them by the big anti virus companies.

    I wouldnt mind FF using my data to turn a profit, however I can not say the same about MS. Essentially FF is written by the people for the people and just works.

    I have been running the Beta 5 release from Mozilla and impressed isnt the word for it. From Netscape in 98 when I first went on-line, to FF3 Beta 5 I have never been more happy with my browser and its security than today.

    It is exceedingly rare that my AV or anti-spam/anti spy ware programs ever indicate an alarm. On-line free scanners never detect anything, and the new add-ins for FF make it by far the safest way to search the net for windows users.

    As for safari, was not impressed, too slow, to much resource hogging and just bland in its appearance.

    The only time I have had a problem with my PC in the past 18 months is when I had to visit a site, that was badly written (using front page on suspects) and with Microsoft NOT following international guidelines regarding compatibility, I had to use IE7. Within 20 min of using it as a general browser I had a surf by download attempt, which my AV detected, the same website was visited using FF and FF blocked the download and flagged it as dangerous before even going to the website.

    Its up to you what you use but most professional IT users use FF

  • Comment number 3.

    I don't get how you've jumped from the idea of previous web history (which is stored on the user's computer) to the idea of user data being sent to Mozilla. Has such a submission been confirmed?

  • Comment number 4.

    @ No.3 -
    By integrating ads, you don't have to send data to Mozilla because the ads are generated there and then. Like when you see Google ad's on a page they've been generated by page content not by submission.

    For me, I use Firefox every day. It's safe, it's secure, it's fast and most of all it just works.

    I'm running both IE8(Beta) and FF3(Beta 5) and FF is clearly the superior browser. I picked up on this a while ago on my blog: https://rory.cobramedia.co.uk/?p=12

  • Comment number 5.

    I've used FF exclusively since I discovered it about 3 or so years ago. Like another poster said here, it's far safer than IE and i like the idea of supporting open source software.

    I too would not object to FF using some personal data to make a profit, they've helped me enough over the years that i'd like to assist them in taking more of MS's browser market share.

    FF came out with tabbed browsing, only to be copied by MS, so we should perhaps expect MS to copy their latest feature!

  • Comment number 6.

    Mark Williams - I think you're missing the point; Firefox's 'awesomebar', running under your control, on your hardware, searches through it's local history, on your machine. It does not call out to an online service, so all your data remains under your control at all times. If you really want to be certain about that you can check the code yourself, or get someone to check for you. Can you do that with the browser you're using instead?

    As for ads, there's a strong limitation in Mozilla's ability to do anything obnoxious with their browser since if they tried the users could just patch it out. That provides a strong limitation on what anyone else can do with their browsers, since if they do anything too obnoxious their users will just switch to Firefox.

    Lastly, it's not entirely true to say that Mozilla are so reliant on Google for revenue - that's where most of it comes from at the moment, but were Google to do the dirty on them they could offer the default search engine spot in Firefox to someone else.

  • Comment number 7.

    Mark Williams:

    "Does that mean I give up my rights as a British citizen"

    What rights ?
    First, you are not a 'British citizen', you are a 'British subject', and we don't have a bill of rights.

    Second, there are few if any laws in the UK that protect your privacy on the internet. In fact, both the UK and US governments have spent most of their time passing laws that decrease and erode privacy or anonymity.

    "the legal wrappers for my searching habits change based on where I am, not on my preference"

    No, they are defined by the legal jurisdiction where the company that handles your data is registered.
    So that would be Google (USA), Microsoft (USA), and your ISP (UK).
    In both the US and the UK there are few laws that protect privacy, but a whole raft of new laws that require the companies involved to collect, store and pass on records for government agencies.

    "On each occassion my IP will will geo-place me"

    If that is a concern, then use Tor.

  • Comment number 8.

    I have been using FF since it came out due to having lots of problems with trojin installers using Active X controlers which have plaged MS IE, and every time FF comes out with a new feature MS are quick to try and copy it then say it was their intention to add it on.

    However as more people start using FF the hackers and virus writers will attack it more.

    Mozilla have and for now always promoted Google as the best search tool, long may that continue.

  • Comment number 9.

    "On each occassion my IP will will geo-place me"

    And what on earth makes you think that's not happening now with IE?!

    As mentioned above, if you're that paranoid, there are plenty of tools out there to protect you - the best of which are installable add-ons for Firefox.

  • Comment number 10.

    What is better? IE7 or FF2? Ooooohh.... hard. NOT!! FF by a mile. reasons:
    1)brilliant add ons! [none in IE]
    2)Safer
    3) Fast searching
    4)When you download it doesn't come up with annoying dialog boxes. And how much of its downloaded is represented by a bar.
    5)Easy to use interface
    6)Customisable buttons
    Any More?

  • Comment number 11.

    This seems to be a slightly strange dot.life entry. Two things are being discussed here, innovation and money earning.

    Since IE was created and was free then profit from web-browsers wasn't ever really going to happen. But obviously tying into google will help generate some revenue, but when you have less than 20% of the internet browser share (don't let firefox make you think its 30% because it isn't) you aren't going to make that much.

    Open source software is just a bit of a buzz, its not all that great. For ordinary users there is no benefit and generally its actually a bad thing. FF is blighted with countless add-ins that usually are anouying and serve no real purpose. Whats wrong with closed software that allows full customisation? Opera is an example of real innovation when it comes to web browser designs, and besides, FF got most of their 'original' ideas from opera.

    Ok, IE isn't that great, but it does what its users want, its just the computer elite that want more, and so they can go get it, but if anyone knows anything about browsers, they use Opera for innovation, and FF or IE for compatibility (as many companies tend to refuse to code correctly and only code their sites so they work with those two browsers)

  • Comment number 12.

    PS: IE is only the 'least secure' because its the most used. Why do macs have 'no' viruses for them? because they aren't used, same for IE. People don't exploit the other browsers because there are lass people using them so its innafective.

    Also, if your getting viruses through IE, its most likely due to your browsing habbits aswell as an inability to be able to realise what is and isn't a virus.

    Experienced users tend not to use IE, experienced users tend to be able to spot viruses before downloading them. So this all aids a correlation between IE and vunerability.

    Stick someone who has got a virus through IE on FF, and i bet they would still have got the same virus. Users tend to blindly accept warning dialog boxes and click through installing anything. The only way FF and the like can be more secure in that way is by limiting what the user can and can't do, and why would anyone want that?

  • Comment number 13.

    Opera has not been mentioned once in this thread and yet it, technically - though not in terms of market share, it is more than a match for Internet Explorer 8 and Firefox 3. Opera is just as safe, if not safer, than Firefox, unless you use an array of add-ons. It is faster, according to pretty much every independent benchmark test. It certainly feels faster to use because it renders pages as they load which often means you don't even have to wait for the page to load properly to move on and do what you want to do. It has an array of features, many of which are now being used as add-ons for Firefox i.e. Speed Dial. It has a better, in my opinion, password manager. It makes a laughing stock of Firefox and Internet Explorer in terms of standards compliance. Honestly, the only reasons why someone should prefer Firefox over Opera is to support open source (something I understand) or for add-ons, something I also understand. If you a want efficient, speedy, feature-packed web browser then you shouldn't use Firefox or Internet Explorer. If you really like add-ons and you're on Linux then one of Firefox's more efficient forks.

    I'm not here, really, to bash Firefox. I'm a Firefox user as well as an Opera user and I've been testing Firefox 3 since alpha but I feel let down; there is still the memory leak problem and while it is faster, Opera 10 (9.5 is the current public beta) is currently benching at around twice the speed of Opera 9, and even faster on OS X! I thought Firefox might catch up to Opera but it just feels like it's fallen further behind so this has pushed me towards Opera. I believe in open source philosophy so I thought Firefox would get their arse in gear but it just seems that they've spent their time trying to comb out their existing problems rather than improving it - and they haven't done a brilliant job even of that. Perhaps its because Firefox is not yet mature enough. I hope one day it will be. It gives me no pleasure to support proprietary over open source but I genuinely think that Opera is the much better browser.

    BTW, this article says that no other web browser allows you to search the content of the web pages they have browsed using the address bar. This is categorically untrue. Opera 9.5 has this exact feature and it works extremely well. Indeed, it has had this feature since alpha 3 and Opera had it before Firefox 3. The only change is that they moved this feature to the address bar in Beta 2 but it's had this feature, basically, since September last year: https://my.opera.com/desktopteam/blog/2007/09/04/go-and-get-opera-9-5-alpha-3

    I sincerely hope this comment gets posted so that there is at least some mention of Opera in a debate about web browsers. Even Safari, the much more recent, and flawed, Windows browser (which has been installed on many PCs using Apple 'update' which is essentially an adware method!) has had a mention and yet Opera, one of the more 'mature' browsers, hasn't.

  • Comment number 14.

    *edit* I spoke in the post above about how Opera hadn't been mentioned but by the time I'd wrote that post, obviously, someone has.

    Also, I didn't realise this was reactively moderated hence the comment about hoping it would be posted.

    The BBC should do more reactive moderation. I rarely get comments posted in HYS so I like this style of moderation! :D

  • Comment number 15.

    "1. At 2:08 pm on 08 May 2008, Mark Williams wrote:

    And there you have the very reason why I'll NOT be installing FF on any of my machines."


    Because you fundamentally misunderstand the security issues that FF protects against and immediately assumed that content-sensitive history searching would somehow give your personal data to Mozilla?
    Believe me when I say you have these two companies the wrong way round.

  • Comment number 16.

    Yes he has misunderstood but what two companies in my question? I don't see where he specified what browser he uses, from what company, if from a company at all!

  • Comment number 17.

    I agree with @13, Opera should not be ignored. It's a great browser on the Wii and Archos devices, and Opera Mini is the best browser for BlackBerry users.

  • Comment number 18.

    pigeonfriend - you say that:

    "Open source software is just a bit of a buzz, its not all that great. For ordinary users there is no benefit and generally its actually a bad thing."

    Could you back that up with anything approaching a reasoned argument? So firefox has some (OK, many) poor extensions - so don't install them. Having the freedom to modify software, even if you never intend to use it yourself, guarantees that user-hostile features cannot be written in to the code to serve someone else's interests. The publication of source code, whether you ever intend to read it yourself, gives you the confidence that it does what it says, and only what it says. The right to maintain software guarantees that it can never be arbitrarily withdrawn when its authors lose interest, or it ceases to be profitable, since anyone can maintain it, and if there's a demand for ongoing maintenance someone will supply it.

    Closed software can never offer these assurances, and anyone choosing to run it should understand that they're trading important freedoms for a little temporary convenience.

  • Comment number 19.

    to No 12:

    IE is the most used, correct, but there are lots of reasons why IE is less safe than FF.

    One is that it takes MS a looong time to release fixes for potential exploits, read this:

    For a total 284 days in 2006 (or more than nine months out of the year), exploit code for known, unpatched critical flaws in pre-IE7 versions of the browser was publicly available on the Internet. Likewise, there were at least 98 days last year in which no software fixes from Microsoft were available to fix IE flaws that criminals were actively using to steal personal and financial data from users.


    In contrast, Internet Explorer's closest competitor in terms of market share -- Mozilla's Firefox browser -- experienced a single period lasting just nine days last year in which exploit code for a serious security hole was posted online before Mozilla shipped a patch to remedy the problem.

    if that isnt enough evidence for you that you're much less likely to be covered with IE then you should just carry on using IE :P

    I agree with most of the comments here, good writing peeps and good to see so many of you are aware of the benefits FF has.


  • Comment number 20.

    I find it reassuring that I get an update for FF about once a month, sometimes more, whereas IE?....

    I keep a close eye on my windows updates (number of times it's installed hardware drivers and borked everything up!) and it's a great rarity!

  • Comment number 21.

    The people who use Firefox, do so for a variety of reasons. the primary one being security.

    -----------

    Utter nonsense. The primary reasons for people using Firefox ae these:

    1. It's NOT microsoft; whether you admit it or not this was by far the biggest reason for the first 10 percent of users., digital snobbery.

    2. They liked the tabbed browsing idea and switched before MS adde it and cant be bothered to go back.

    3. It's faster than IE.

    4. They genuinely support open source (as opposed to just hating on MS).


    The majority of people with eithr browser have never given much thought to security at all, instead relying (rightly so) on their anti-virus/spyware/firewall software to do that for them.

    Also the idea that FF is safer is exactly the same line that Mac/Linux users take, yet fail to accept the fact that 99% of people looking to exploit are doing so in the Win/Ie platform becauseof t's prevalence alone. If FF/Mac/Linux had market dominance they would likely be suffering the same problems as MS is in terms of the number and variety of attacks. It is also not unknown for people to find a hole in FF then use that knowledge to try and attack IE in the same way, hoping the same hole exists, one can only assume purely out of spite.

    ------------------

    I wouldnt mind FF using my data to turn a profit, however I can not say the same about MS. Essentially FF is written by the people for the people and just works.
    ...
    The only time I have had a problem with my PC in the past 18 months is when I had to visit a site, that was badly written (using front page on suspects)
    -------------------

    So you admit it then. Personally if either can make money out of them then I see no reason why I should mind that, after all making money leads to further development in general. Youre 'minding' if MS do justs marks you out as yet another of the 'bash it because its MS brigade'. Something proven yet again by your idea that a badly written site is likely to have been made in Front Page ratehr than the literally dozens of more popular and equally bad wisiwig editors out there.

  • Comment number 22.

    Just tried the new Firefox Beta. As everyone says, it's fast and does the job but the one thing I still find that stops me using it is the rendering of fonts - the home page at the BBC News site is a classic example. To my eyes it looks a lot better and is far easier on the eye to read in IE7.

    Am I missing a setting in FF that would improve things or is that the price you pay for speed??

  • Comment number 23.

    Why has Opera not been mentioned? Although Firefox is a great browser, Opera is by far and away the best browser out there at the moment (And responsible for the innovations you appear to have attributed to firefox) and it just gets better and better with each release. It is also the best browser for mobiles and is great on the Wii too. As a web developer the quicker people move from IE to a more compliant browser the better (preferably Opera). I have to spend a lot of time and effort making pages render properly in IE as it has standards all of its own. I hope they fix this with IE8 but I am not holding my breath.

  • Comment number 24.

    Before everyone screams "that's it I'm never using Firefox again", please be aware that most of the content in the above article is totally wrong!

    Mozilla/Firefox have NOT developed any kind of search engine. Firefox 3 does NOT send your browsing history to anyone! The "awesome bar" is actually a very basic feature which simply searches your local history and displays the results in a drop down. Had the author tried Firefox 3 even a single time, he would have known this but unfortunately he has not done any research at all before writing this misleading article. The awsome bar is not a search engine and nothing at all related to your search history or browsing habits is sent to the Internet. So please feel free to install Firefox 3 without having any privacy worries.

  • Comment number 25.

    Further to the above comments, I have a couple of points:

    Firstly, it's very easy to change from Google as a default in FF to any other search engine you fancy (I use ask.co.uk which has an excellent engine I first discovered with Teoma), so to suggest that FF is tied to income from Google appears somewhat disingenuous.

    Secondly, having tried Opera a couple of years ago, I agree that it's a very slick browser, but in my experience it suffered from the poor design of many web pages, most of which were optimised for IE but nothing else. Many pages now optimise for FF too, does Opera still suffer however?

    Finally, the proliferation of user scripts available for the GreaseMonkey FF add-in are an invaluable addition to my browsing experience, especially for correspondence gaming sites and the like. I won't give up on such features lightly!

  • Comment number 26.

    @22:

    I tried news.bbc.co.uk in both FF and IE and found them to be pretty much indistinguishable, to be honest. Vertical spacing was slightly different in a few places, but by no more than a couple of pixels.

    There is another possibility, though. Since the recent launch of the new website design, the BBC news website text has been mostly unreadable in anything that does not have the Verdana font installed. It looks too faint and is in a serif font. This is the BBC's fault and lots of people have complained about it and even pointed out the trivial change required to fix it (it's the "font-family: verdana" property in styles.css and possible elsewhere, which needs to be "font-family: verdana, sans-serif" instead)

  • Comment number 27.

    I can't really take any news item seriously, that does not even mention Opera.

    Sorry.

    By totally ignoring the fastest, most secure, fully featured (out of the box) and widely available browser, is pure ignorance, and something a "tech" journelist should be ashamed of.

  • Comment number 28.

    If you really want to see a proper browser in action, then all you need to do, is check out the latest Opera 9.5 beta.

    https://www.opera.com/download/?ver=9.50b2

    Make sure you check out features like speed-dial, bookmark sync, custom searches and content blocking.

    All this functionality OUT OF THE BOX, no addons requried.

    https://www.opera.com/support/tutorials/

  • Comment number 29.

    I like to consider myself an 'expert' in IT, technology and the internet. Whether or not I can justify that title is up to others, I suppose... and some would say that I'm not straight away by what I'm about to say...

    ... but I still use IE7 as my day-to-day, everyday browser. I completely disagree about the security "concerns" people still seem to have with IE. I'm sitting behind a router with a hardware firewall, plus of course the firewall in my internet security suite (OneCare, since you ask... as I got it at a reduced price ;)) and this is always up to date, I run Vista SP1 which is always kept up to date, and every time I see "Pamela Anderson hot and naked.jpg.vbs" I use my common sense and decline to view. (as it were)

    Not a single problem.

    Agreed, in the days of IE6 then maybe firefox was better, but only really because of security and lack of tabbed browsing. Yes, microsoft missed the boat on that one and were very wrong about users not wanting it, but at least they caught up!

    As a web developer I use all the different versions of the different browsers out there to test stuff on, I still believe the best "live" browser is IE7 and from my playing around with the beta of IE8 I think that will certainly be the best around.

    I guess I'm just yet to be won over by Firefox, I use it on my Mac but only because Safari is so rubbish... but on my Windows PCs I still don't really see the day to day benefit for my general web surfing, and IE7 does me fine and I have no complaints.....

  • Comment number 30.

    @25

    You realise of course, GreaseMonkey is another Opera innovation, having client side javascript long before it was released as a Firefox addon, of course, you don't need to install an extension in Opera, is has it out of the box.

    In Opera, it's called UserJS, and you specify your UserJS directory, and plonk the scripts in there, works excellently, most greasemonkey scripts for Firefox work just fine.

    The best script IMHO, is the one that kills those floating ads from Vibrant Media and the like..

    https://www.fibble.org/disableTextAds.user.js

  • Comment number 31.

    Regarding Opera

    I heard that it was this super browser with high security/low mem usage so I gave it a go for a few weeks. It did what it said, it loaded up much faster, but it really doesn't change the browsing experience.. Add on top of that that the default skin is as ugly as death.

    I can't really find a good reason to change over.

    If the Opera brigade are brutally honest it doesn't really offer much more than Firefox, certainly not enough to break into the mainstream browser market. That is why I think that the author of the above article is fully vindicated in not mentioning Opera.

    I use facebook, flickr and del.icio.us and so Flock is the obvious browser of choice. I'm looking forward to getting the benefits of the new version of FF.

  • Comment number 32.

    #26, thanks for your reply to my comment at #22. It is indeed a difference in font.

    If I copy and paste from general text on the BBC News site in FF to Word I get Times New Roman. If I do the same from IE, I get get Verdana.

    It all makes sense now!! Thanks...

  • Comment number 33.

    Many people have commented that Opera having FF features "out the box" makes it better, but I disagree entirely. With Firefox if I don't want Speed Dial I don't install it, if I don't want GreaseMonkey, I don't install it. With Opera you get them and have them running wether you want them or not, which is just added bloat.

    The other problem with things coming out the box is you have to do it their way and if you don't like it - tough. Compare this to Firefox where if you don't like the way they do it you can get a plugin to change it, and if you don't like the way that plugin does it more often than not you can get another plugin to do it a different way.

    I do agree that the speed in Opera is better than in Firefox but the only page I ever saw it make a real difference was one I made myself several Mb big, 99% of the time pages are too small to be affected in any real way.

    Finally, regarding the few people who said "Linux/FF/mac are more secure because they're attacked less", you clearly have a complete lack of understanding of the differences between the Windows and Linux kernels and security models.

  • Comment number 34.

    Just read this article and thought I should point out not as a dev but a seasoned web user that Opera has had the awesome bar for some already :)

    FireFox is my browser of choice because it's so customisable (mine doesn't bear much resemblance to how it comes out of the box), and works on most websites.

    Something peculiar though, FireFox isn't a supported browser on the BBC (the integrated media plugins on webpages don't work, for example) whereas Opera is.

    As for security, anyone with a bit of common sense uses some form of firewall, so a browser should* purely be a window out for you to view and retrieve content. I find most of the browsers do this correctly, although I had an issue with firefox a while back where someone had done something very clever, you clicked a link and it automatically downloaded the malware / virus to your system. Luckily my virus scanner picked it up, I stopped using FFox for a few weeks then (and went to opera).

    At the end of the day a browser is a tool to do a job and whichever one can perform best is the de facto winner. Opera is the 'cleverest' with the best performance, best under the hood things - FireFox is the most customisable, you can have it set up exactly how you need it - IE is the most compatible.

  • Comment number 35.

    Some people seem to have misunderstood the point of this article - which was to discuss the business model for browsers. It was not meant to be a review of every browser out there(so no mention of Opera). Nor was I remotely suggesting that Firefox would try to monetise the "awesome bar". or seek to collect information from users. But I still think it's interesting that the very first thing we do when we head online - launch a browser - does not make serious money for anyone, while a secondary action - using a search engine - has built the most powerful business to emerge in the last decade, namely Google.

    Oh, and nmg196 (comment 24) of course I've tried Firefox 3 and the awesome bar. And having found it a pretty compelling tool, I started pondering whether it could have any commerical potential...which is where I started.

  • Comment number 36.

    This is a reply to mark Williams..

    I think you have misread the wording, there is no accusation that the personal browsing habits will be sent back to mozilla or used for anything other than letting you search by them....

    But Microsoft on the other hand is likely to implement this, and use it for targeted advertisements...

    Remember IE is more vulnerable to attacks than FF...

    Personally I want a version of firefox for mobile devices, we need a great open source mobile browser!

  • Comment number 37.

    It's in Google's best interest that Mozilla continues to grow. Google, naturally enough, view their main competitor as Microsoft so anything that damages Microsoft is good for Google. It's for this reason that in the more paranoid corners of the internet you will find a substantial body of people who view the FF/IE battle as a proxy Google/Microsoft battle. While this may be taking things a little too far it is true that a lot of Google staff have left for Mozilla and 85% Mozilla's of the revenue comes from Mountain View.

  • Comment number 38.

    "Microsoft's Internet Explorer and blew it out of the water"
    IE came free with Windows - part of MS's attempt to destroy all competition. Making up their own html helped destroy the Mozilla browser
    The question you should ask, however, is 'does software have to make a profit'.
    The answer is clearly NO. MS will loose money to try and destroy competition and FLOSS software engineers will write code because they enjoy it and/or want to understand a particular problem.
    Some may try and make money out of it - but that will generally be at odds with the 'user experience' and fail in the long run.

  • Comment number 39.

    Zarquan (#7)

    Your "First"is WRONG. We ARE British Citizens and it says so on my passport.

    Broadly agree with you on the rest, though

  • Comment number 40.

    I'm surprised nobody has mention Amaya yet.
    https://www.w3.org/Amaya/

    It's an open source browser made by the 'controllers of the internet' to help people write standards compliant code.

    Interestly it tells me the BBC site has errors in it's coding. *tut tut

  • Comment number 41.

    I believe the safest browser is IE, if you use the security zone features. But this requires a small effort -- the default zone needs to be set to High security, and sites that require scripting need to be added to the Trusted zone. This might be more than most users want to do, and other browsers do not seem to have this feature.

    So I've continued to use IE. I occasionally use Opera. I find Firefox's slowness to be annoying, and I also find the religious attitude of open-source advocates annoying. Their products have to prove themselves technically, not just ont he basis if ideology.

  • Comment number 42.

    You don't really need a sound business plan to make money selling a browser.
    Just start a company in Europe and go crying to the European Commission that Microsoft is a monopoly and -- voila! -- you've made your fortune.

  • Comment number 43.

    There really is no need for IE any more. The free FF add-on "IE Tab" can be set to use the IE rendering engine within a FF tab for those badly-designed websites that insist on using the IE browser.

  • Comment number 44.

    The BBC News website contains 352 errors on the front page alone today, according to the W3C Markup Validation Service (https://validator.w3.org/%29.

    IE is more tolerant than FF at displaying badly coded pages, but the BBC really should produce standards-compliant code in the first place.

  • Comment number 45.

    it is nice but little bit slow in search results
    should come up with isntalled automatic active x already so can be easy for users or should have easy procedure to dw it so others who have less knowedelge of computer can dw active x easily step by step as folow instructions

  • Comment number 46.

    #43 Its not true! I have 2.0.0.14 and a site that has drop downs in a menu which works in IE doesn't in FF. Allegedly a coding error but the addon is supposed to make it work

  • Comment number 47.

    @11
    "Open source software is just a bit of a buzz, its not all that great."

    You do realise that linux, which is used to host many of the webpages you look at every day is open source?

    The Internet Protocol (IP) which is an integral part of the internet is also open source.

    The idea of giving everyone acess to a programs source code, and allowing many people to collaborate on it, has produced many excellent pieces of sortware. It shows that you really can get people to work together to produce something brilliant - whatever their moivation may be - for free!

  • Comment number 48.

    Further to post #47 by Hive-Mind,

    In one sense, pigeon friend is right: "open source software" is just a marketing term. Free Software (or FOSS) is a completely different matter.

    "The GPL was one of the seminal innovations of the 20th century. It has enabled programmers to create, share, improve and maintain much of the technical infrastructure that underpins the modern world." -- John Naughton.

    pigeonfriend also wrote, "For ordinary users there is no benefit and generally its actually a bad thing", which just doesn't merit a response and "Whats wrong with closed software that allows full customisation?", to which the answer is; it's closed - it will not and cannot allow full customisation. It might be full enough for you - fair enough - but there will always be those for whom it is not full enough. https://flock.com/

  • Comment number 49.

    I've been using Firefox for years now and I encourage other people to use it too. At first I had a few issues with it but once I got used to using it it's proved to be a lot easier and just better than Internet Explorer. A lot of sites that don't work in IE work fine in FF as well. Also very, very rarely has FF crashed on me and lost something I was typing out or things I was looking at, and that alone should convince anyone that it's worth using instead of IE.

  • Comment number 50.

    Similar to a lot of others here, i have been using FF for many years now on both Windows and Linux with out issue.

    I hardly if ever use IE except for when a program automatically launches it (i hate that!) and for websites that specifically use IE i have an add-on for FF that allows me to change the rendering engine.

    Tabbed browsing, Add-ons, Themes and Security make this program one of the first applications installed on any new build and i continue to recommend this application.

    With regards to browsers making a buck or two.. Not my problem. As long as there is open source applications of this quality im very happy using Open Source.

  • Comment number 51.

    Heres how the browser business model SHOULD be:

    1. W3C consortium should allow only 4 browser types. They auction them off as licenses to browser companies. licenses are withdrawn based on performance criteria e.g. security and safety e.g. blocking porn etc

    2. The browser companies make their browsers free to users.

    3. The browser companies take a rake from everyone who has a website either through charging hosting companies or ISPs. Imagine if it was just 1cent a website a year. As a webmaster i make my websites available to all browsers or just pay for 1 or 2 from the 4 browsers. Obviously i would pay 4 cents so my website was accessible to all 4 browser platforms.

    This is a "no brainer".

    Matt

  • Comment number 52.

    @35

    But opera does use google and makes revenure like that as well, so surely it is due a mention...

    @47

    Open source is a buzz, i know that linux, etc are open source, but really for the ordinary end user it is irrelivant. I agree completely with #41. Its about performance, i'l choose the software that works best (for me) not the one that agrees with pointless principles.

    --------------------------

    I use opera, and its a bit of a long story as to why, but i was an IE advocate but my rubbish laptop just couldn't run more than 2 or 3 tabs at a time with out grinding to a halt. So i switched to a lighter browser (opera) Its faster and lighter than FF and its innovative, the first browser to introduce tabs and it came up with pretty much all the good features that FF now has.

    I can now run 10+ tabs with no problem on opera on the same rubbish laptop and i'm happy. I can customise to the extent i need and i'm not buring resources by installing add-ons.

    Opera's one blight is that poor coders seem to think Opera can't handle it (or anything that isn't IE or FF). I've had plenty of sites where i've been told opera isn't supported and stop you accessing. This is where the neat feature of getting opera to lie about what browser it is comes in useful. It just says, "Hey, i'm IE, promise" and then it lets opera in and usually it renders it better than IE can anyway.

    Opera is by far the most compliant browser that is out there, perhapys people should stop worrying about whether the guy next door could have input into his browsers code and start thinking about whether a browser should work properly.

  • Comment number 53.

    New feature? - Apple already has this built in to the operating system, and has for years.
    Having this built in the the browser is a nice option for windows users (which most people are), but Apple's Spotlight search includes the content of websites you've visited. Google also has a drive search feature which can be added to windows, although I don't know if it includes the content of visited web pages.
    Innovation and choices are great, where would be be without each of these companies?

  • Comment number 54.

    pigeonfriend: "not the one that agrees with pointless principles."

    Nice to see how much you value your freedom and that of the people around you. Perhaps you'd like to delete your posting account and just let Rory and co. tell you what to think; your obviously happy with just accepting what you're given without having any say.

  • Comment number 55.

    @ 33

    You argue that Opera's 'out-of-the-box' features mean than it adds extra bloat. As a advocate of open source philosophy I fully understand this argument but it's not applicable in the case of Firefox as a standard installation of Firefox is well documented to use more RAM than Opera even with its extra features. Normally the right to take away extra bloat or to add additional features is one of the strongest features of open source software - and still is in the case of Firefox's lighter offspring on Linux - but because Firefox uses more RAM than Opera this is spurious reasoning because if Opera is bloated then this is substantially outdone by Firefox's inefficiencies and its infamous memory leak - which they still haven't fixed properly - and so any disincentive not to use Opera because it is bloated is simply not there because it is still better than what Firefox offers in this department.

  • Comment number 56.

    @52 "Opera is by far the most compliant browser that is out there"

    Opera is a very good browser indeed but statements like that further suggest that you have little knowledge of the world of "generally bad and no good for ordinary users" FOSS when making your comparisons and judgements:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acid2
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WebKit

    "I'm using it right now. Ubuntu on a IBM Thinkpad X41 is the environment I live in. Ubuntu rocks -- especially with Opera on top! (And Emacs right underneath.)" -- Håkon Wium Lie, Opera CTO.

  • Comment number 57.

    @54

    No, i quite enjoy freedom. That is why i make the choice to use the browser that suites me best, and thats what i think everyone should do. But most people that are fed up with IE go to FF, not because of what it can do but because either its open or because its all they know and i think people should really be aware that FF isn't all that great.

    @56

    I have know problem with free software, its great for me as a user. The only people that i can see that don't like free software are the EU Monopolies Commisson (only applies to free MS software of course) and people trying to make money out of selling software.

    I'm glad i can go and get opera/FF/ie/etc for free. People seem to be missing my point, let me explain:

    FF is open source, whats so great about open source? Any one can tweak can change it, but can they really?! I think we all know that it just isn't true, only someone with a deep uderstanding, knowledge and experience could ever do anything meaningful to FF's code. FF is coded by paid FF coders NOT by you or I as the opend source 'dream' would like us believe. So why go for a piece of software that doesn't work as well as another just because if you happened to know what you were doing then you could change FF? All that the open source does is let hackers see the security holes.

    Everyone knows heavily closed software gets companies near nowhere (look at apple pre-iPod - steve jobs was so obsessed with perfection he allowed no one to touch his beloved software), but open source doesn't add enough of an advantage for users to settle for poorer product because it comes with it.

    Also, everyone here making comments seems to have a strong understanding of software and computing in general (apart from the article author), but my point is mainly based at 'normal' everyday users who won't really use add-ins for FF and who don't really know best, who definatly won't be changing any FF code. eg: My father, he is useless with computers, when choosing a browser for him (because HE said IE was too slow which suprised me because i didn't think he cared) i suggested Opera, i knew the add-ins of FF would be of no value to him and the better performance of opera would be of advantage to him. But if i was recommending to a friend who wanted to be able to use lots of add-ins, then i'm sure i would point them to FF (but so far everyone i know wants speed, reliability and performance from a browser over add-ins).

  • Comment number 58.

    @57 "FF is open source, whats so great about open source? Any one can tweak can change it, but can they really?! I think we all know that it just isn't true,"

    Fallacy 1 - a strawman argument. No-one (with the possible exception of Andrew Brown of the Guardian) has claimed that every user needs to be able to change it before the advantages of FOSS are realised and its benefits reaped - just as much by users who cannot and never will contribute modifications as by those who can and do. Furthermore, source means documentation, translations, artwork etc. - not just the program code.

    "So why go for a piece of software that doesn't work as well as another just because if you happened to know what you were doing then you could change FF?"

    Fallacy 2 - begging the question. Assume the FOSS software in question is the universal inferior choice in the first place, then 'show' that (for the subset of users who most likely cannot improve it) it is the inferior choice.

    "All that the open source does is let hackers see the security holes."

    Fallacy 3/4 - False premises ("all it does")/security through obscurity.

    "but open source doesn't add enough of an advantage for users to settle for poorer product because it comes with it."

    Falacy 5 - begging the question again.

    Honestly pigeonfriend! You've made your point about Opera being the best choice for you (and others). That is fine - but it is unreasonable to try to justify that perfectly reasonable decision by elevating it to the status of universal best choice and by attempting to argue that FOSS is intrinsically inferior.

  • Comment number 59.

    @58

    You seem to miss the point. There are plenty of open source applications that are better than their closed counterparts. But this is not one.

    I am not having a go at open source, i'm saying that having open source for the sake of it is pointless.

    @ falacy 1: I'm not saying everyone should have to be able to change the source for open software to be of benefit, if it serves its purpose and does it well, then fine. My point is once again is against open source for the sake of it.

    @ falacy 2: Once again, i am not questioning FOSS in its entirety, like you seem to think, i am saying FF is not the best browser, so why settle for it? (obviously people have their opinions, mine is that FF is not the best, many would say it is, that i don't mind either)

    @ falacy 3-4: Ok mr perdantic, obviously that isn't all it does, i didn't mean it literally, sorry. But that is a disadvantage to open source. Also, things that are used less are more secure, even if technically weaker. Why are there 'no viruses' for macs? Why is IE the most vunerable browser? The piece of software will be concentrated on more for security issues for greatest impact.

    @ falacy 5: Here again is your falacy, i never have once said open source software is intrinsically inferior, just that settling for inferior software because its FOSS is not the way to go about it. The only reason the point has been made repeatedly is because of people responding to me and me resonding to them.

  • Comment number 60.

    @44 Internet Explorer is "better" at displaying non compliant pages as they were designed for it as it has a 75% market share.

    @51 essentially there are only 2 browser types, Internet Explorer and everyone else, but that distinction is reducing significantly.

    @Opera/Firefox being the most standards complaint browser, that is a tie between that Safari (Webkit) and Opera, though Firefox is still very good. All three get very high scores on Acid3, Internet Explorer is the laggard on this 17/100 vs 70+/100 for the others.

    @OP I don't know what you are trying to say Apple and Microsoft are far larger companies than Mozilla (the former two are worth $160 billion and $270 billion respectively) and do a lot more than just make a web browser, so its unsurprising that they don't make a significant amount of cash from their web browser. Even if Microsoft or Apple made $50 million/year from Internet Explorer or Safari it would be little more than pocket change to them, whereas I believe Mozilla only makes a few million/year from Firefox.

  • Comment number 61.

    @pigeonfriend "I am not having a go at open source... i never have once said open source software is intrinsically inferior"

    "Open source software is just a bit of a buzz, its not all that great. For ordinary users there is no benefit and generally its actually a bad thing." -- pigeonfriend.

    On the security/quality 'disadvantage' of FOSS:

    "Given the number of programmers who can access and edit open source code, compared with the few that are entitled to access closed source code, it should not come as a surprise that flaws in open source software tend to be fixed more rapidly, before serious damage can be done. Fixing holes in closed source software usually depends on the problem being of a high enough priority to command the immediate attention of the original development team."

    https://www.oss-watch.ac.uk/resources/whoneedssource.xml

    'In any case, the impact of FLOSS-style development has been assessed in several research papers, and for example in [Suc 04] we found: "...In terms of defects, our analysis finds that the changing rate or the functions modified as a percentage of the total functions is higher in open-source projects than in closed- source projects. This supports the hypothesis that defects may be found and fixed more quickly in open-source projects than in closed-source projects and may be an added benefit for using the open-source development model.” This is consistent with results from vendors of software defect identification tools, such as Reasoning, that found that while the bug density ratio in initial project releases is on par with proprietary developments, it improves rapidly and for some projects defect densities are significantly lower than that of the average proprietary code [Reas 06a, Reas 06b]. This was confirmed by other studies like the reports from Coverity.'

    https://guide.conecta.it/

  • Comment number 62.

    "Then along came Microsoft's Internet Explorer and blew it out of the water."

    Surely Microsoft did not so much blow Netscape out of the water, but buy up all the waterside real estate so that the only way to get to the water was via a Microsoft product?

  • Comment number 63.

    @62

    Um, i wouldn't say it 'bought the real estate' perhaps build on land it owned?

  • Comment number 64.

    @#35

    The fact that the article is supposed to highlight the business models of browsers is exactly why Opera SHOULD be included. It has a different business model to FF and IE as they offer amazing and free desktop browsers to tempt people into purchasing their equally amazing mobile and tv based browsers etc.

  • Comment number 65.

    Re: Opera.

    I was trying to find the date when Opera became free software, rather than payed for -
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opera_Browser

    @64
    It would appear that the "different business model" works in the same fashion as Firefox's when dealing with the browser itself. It seems to me that the end of Netscape Navigator (a poor browser imo) showed that payed up licensing of browsers would never work.

    I remember the browser wars quite clearly! ;) Google showed at around the same time that a search engine didn't need clutter and adverts on the home page, and it took Opera 5 years to get rid of the ads? It's use of targetted google ads was one of the reasons I avoided it for so long.

    As an aside, I really like using Opera - when I'm using it I feel as at home as I do using my preferred browser, and it has some very cool ideas incorporated into the basic setup.

  • Comment number 66.

    @60. I meant 4 browser companies, not types as in 'kinds'.

 

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