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Mozilla Emerges from the Underground with New Allies

La Résistance has gone mainstream. Once a more-or-less underground combatant in the battle against the Internet Explorer empire, Mozilla and its Firefox browser are now engaging in full warfare with along with a couple of powerful new allies: Google and RealNetworks.

Mozilla’s guerilla tactics already had Redmond, the overwhelming winner over Netscape in the first browser war, looking over its shoulder. Firefox controls as much as 15 percent of the global browser market today , and RealNetworks will now offer it, along with that pesky Google toolbar, to users who download the popular RealPlayer media player.

For the resistants, everything here makes sense. Google forks over a fair amount of money to have its toolbar set as the default in Firefox, so the more users who download the rebel browser, the happier the search giant will be. (Plus, as we know by now, Google just loves to set itself up in competition with Microsoft.) RealNetworks has a long-running feud with Microsoft now stoked by the competition between RealPlayer and Windows Media Player. And Mozilla... well, Mozilla just wants Firefox to take a bigger chunk out of IE’s market share.

What remains to be seen is whether the power of RealPlayer -- an application that has survived competition from Microsoft -- can overcome the power of IE’s bundling in Windows. Not many products have, but, like Symantec’s recent deal with Yahoo!, this three-way deal is an attempt by a few industry heavyweights to shift the focus of product integration from Windows to the Web, thereby shifting Microsoft’s role from keeper of the kingdom to struggling also-ran. The fact that RealPlayer is as popular as it is today despite competition from Redmond bodes well for this new troika. Plus, it gives bloggers and newsletter writers an excuse to use the word "troika."

As far as the new browser wars go, competition is never a bad thing. IE has always had its flaws, especially in terms of security. Some scary competition from Firefox -- say, 25 percent market share instead of 15 percent -- might be too late to affect IE7 development and features, but it could kick-start some serious innovation for the next version of Microsoft’s browser and jolt Redmond out of the complacency that so easily sets in when a company dominates a market. So, with that in mind, "Vive la Résistance," and may this browser war not end up with the Empire crushing the rebels again.

Which browser do you prefer and why? Tell me here or e-mail me: [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on August 03, 2006 at 11:53 AM


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