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Week of December 10, 2004

A safer world.

Firefox is spreading. Buttons, banners, double page spreads in the New York Times - it looks like the Mozilla Foundation are going for the jugular.

In a better world this would make a difference and make the world a better one. The big question is whether it matters and whether anyone really notices.

The world of Windows PCs recently got the scare of their lives with the announcement by soon retiring Amit Yoran that using Internet Explorer was just too dangerous. Criminal hackers found a way to infect Microsoft IIS web servers - a hole Microsoft themselves have not yet found and so cannot patch - and anyone surfing to an infected site was in turn infected. The punch line was the number of bank URLs embedded in the spyware. It was getting all too easy to lose your money.

Yet since that fateful day a mere ten percent of all surfers world wide have taken the warnings seriously and migrated. Internet Explorer today has but 88.9% of the market, in contrast to nearly 100% a few months ago.

Where have these panicky rabbits been? To the Mozilla Foundation of course, and to the timely release of the new lightweight super-speedy Firefox browser. Firefox has now been downloaded by nearly 10,000,000 surfers since the recent 1.0 release.

Will this make a difference? There's the rub.

If Microsoft really felt Firefox was a threat they'd pull out all the stops again, DOJ ruling or no. They're not abashed by insignificant things like laws and ethics.

But Microsoft have moved on: Netscape are crushed, Sun are in a lot of trouble, and the famed middleware TP Jackson spoke about will not happen. Instead the Vole focus today on DRM - and on controlling all media on the planet.

Yet it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Internet Explorer stinks worse than ever and that at least on that putrid platform known as Windows the only chance a luser has is to get away from it. And barring the unbelievable, namely the cataclysmic upending of 600,000,000 Windows lamers to better pastures, Firefox will still be a way of improving security - and browsing satisfaction - online.

Ten million is still ten million, and downloads are only going to increase. Word on the grapevine will do its bit. Neighbours will remark that Firefox is so much safer and better; university computer labs will start ghosting with it; and so forth.

At the end of the day it doesn't matter if money is in the picture; what matters is that the Internet becomes a safer place to be. Firefox helps make it so.

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