Monday, January 24, 2005

FireFox Ruminations

Our firm develops only browser-based extranet applications (VFP COM+ middle tier with SQL Server backend). When we first built our framework, IE had about 95% market share; we determined this by averaging the statistics found on many web sites that track such things.

Because we are a small company, we spend a lot of mindshare on risk management and very carefully manage our scarce resources. We value predictability (of technology and people) above almost anything else, because that's what our clients value in us. Because our systems are not consumed by the general public, we contracturally obligate our clients to use IE 5.5+ with a 1024x768 resolution when using our systems. With that single stroke, we have greatly simplified support, testing and maintenance of our applications, and can much better predict our deliverables and ensure a profit for our company.

We have not had a single instance of push-back on this issue. It's a pure business decision. Too often it goes unnoted: a business without a profit is not a business; it's a hobby.

IE may have taken a hit in market share, but it is still above 85%, a dominant position. FireFox's rise and capabilities have gained my attention, but not to the point of even planning to support it yet.

Our reasons for this, of course, are all business reasons. First, supporting a second browser base essentially doubles your testing hours, at least for GUI issues. In addition, any R&D or library code must be thoroughly tested on the additional browser base, and would probably more than double those hours compared to current cost.

You say he was "not willing to invest the time to program for any other browser as it would perpetually stretch his organization' resources too thin"; a reasonable follow-on question would be "and how much would that be?" If you ask me that question, I would say "prohibitive, until FireFox gets much more marketshare." I would bet your acquaintance would give a similar response. To me, he sounds like an able business person.

A second, lesser reason is that we would rarely bet the company on a 1.0 release of anything. That's almost always too risky for us.

For the time being, we will keep an eye on browser developments. Personally, I welcome the competition; Microsoft has become complacent with their browser. I expect that we'll see a significant response from Redmond in the coming months.


Blogger Kent Lester said...


You might want to examine Netscape's upcoming browser when it becomes available (not yet), as it is based on Firefox 1.0 and contains one rather unique feature: The browser is capable of using the Internet Explorer engine within its Firefox-like wrapper. The IE option can supposedly be controlled on a URL basis. This would allow clients to use a "Firefox-like" browser while maintaining compatablility with IE based apps such as your own.

The new Netscape brower is due out in the next couple of months, from what I understand.

Good luck with your new venture. I'd be interested in chatting with you about it.

Kent Lester, (Russell has email)

2:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greetings from North Cack-A-Lacky! I enjoyed your thoughts, although I give Firefox even a little more credit than you do, I think ;) See what I mean here: google firefox

1:28 AM  
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