Browser Wars v.2004: Part 2 | WebReference

Browser Wars v.2004: Part 2

Browser Wars v.2004: Part 2

As we continue our review of the current popular Web browsers, it looks like the battlefield may be changing somewhat. Regardless of what Microsoft puts forth, it seems the end-user is learning that he/she has the upper hand in the browser wars. Whether a statement of personal choice or a reaction to Microsoft, many users are switching to other, lesser-known browsers, resulting in an increase in their popularity.


The Mozilla project was established in 1998, as an effort to continue Netscape Communicator as an open project. After separating from Netscape (AOL) in 2003, the non-profit Mozilla Foundation was established. The Mozilla code is still used as the basis for the Netscape browser.

The differences between Mozilla and Netscape 7.x has to do with AOL. The Mozilla organization states, "Netscape 7.1 is based on Mozilla 1.4. Both applications share almost the identical features, such as tabbed browsing, custom keywords, and Sidebar. Exceptions are additions of proprietary features such as the support for Netscape WebMail and AOL mail. In general, Netscape 7 and Mozilla will display Web pages and read mail the same."

The Mozilla Foundation currently produces two Web browsers: Mozilla and Firefox. The Mozilla product is actually a complete suite of Web-related applications, i.e. a browser, a mail/news client, and a chat client. Firefox is strictly a Web browser, without the added clients. It is not, however, the browser part of the Mozilla suite; Firefox differs from Mozilla in many ways. Eventually, Firefox is slated to become the Mozilla Foundation's default browser. The current Mozilla suite will then be split-up into separate stand-alone applications.

Since Firefox is eventually going to be the default Mozilla browser, let's look at how it affects Web developers.

Firefox version 0.9 became available on June 14, 2004. This release, as with the previous ones, is called a "technology preview" version. The 1.0 release will be considered the "full version". (1.0 beta is scheduled for release July 2004).

As far as supporting W3C standards, Firefox far exceeds the leading browser, Internet Explorer, in complying with the rules. While no browser is perfect, Firefox is making a good attempt. In fact, writing Web pages for Firefox is basically a matter of writing W3C-compliant code. There is no need to write browser-specific code, except for the 'other guy's' browser. (In a list of CSS-compliant browsers, the W3C mentions the January 2004 release of Mozilla 1.6; IE v.6x is not mentioned anywhere on the list.)

The popularity of the Mozilla technology is growing, albeit slowly. According to an article by Nigel McFarlane at InformIT ("Smoke, Mirrors and Silence: The Browser Wars Reignite", May 28, 2004), "As of April 2004, independent statistics show Mozilla to be 4% or more of the global market, but for Web developers, use may be as high as 10%. In some markets, such as Germany, use may now be as high as 19%. On some platforms, such as Linux, Mozilla is now the dominant player, and probably well over 50%". It would seem that Mozilla/Firefox is becoming enough of a threat that it has Microsoft's attention, as seen in a recent InternetNews article. Others have taken notice as well. Arik Hesseldahl, a staff editor at, wrote a review of the Firefox browser ("Building A Better Browser", February 4, 2004). In it he states, "The more we use it, the more we like it, and the less we feel the need to launch [Internet] Explorer". "Within minutes, it becomes clear that Firebird [the previous name of the browser] is a breath of fresh air compared to Explorer," wrote Hesseldahl, "If, in its unfinished state, Firebird is this good, perhaps Microsoft should be worried". With browsers like Firefox, a Web developer's life could get a little easier.

Firefox/Mozilla Development Help:

Created: March 27, 2003
Revised: June 21, 2004