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8 September, 2004

I do recommend Firefox

Respected developer Adam Kalsey set a cat amongst the pigeons (well, maybe just a kitten) on Monday, with a blog post entitled 'Why I don't recommend Firefox':

I think the browser has some way to go before Id recommend it to the general population... its still not okay to the average user.
Wildly summarising (please read the full posting!), his central point seems to be that Firefox is still only suitable for the fully web-literate, and it's too soon to market Firefox to entry-level users who don't even understand the term 'browser' or who only know the internet as 'My Yahoo!'.
That's undeniable, but I'd have to question whether it's relevant.  That class of user isn't going to be interested in changing browser anyway, irrespective of whether Firefox is ready to offer the amount of hand-holding they'd need, yet that's no reason to avoid promoting Firefox at all, particularly to those with a little more technical knowledge.

And I do mean a little - there's a wide spectrum between entry-level and 'web guru', and I'd say browser migration is well within the capacity of the lower end of the range.
On a scale of 1=my mother to 10=well, Adam Kalsey, where I'd rank myself, a non-techie web designer, at 5 or 6, I think the current state of Firefox is fine for everyone above, say, 3. For this 'low-intermediate' level of user on upwards, this is a prime time to push Firefox, to establish, or rather, increase a sizeable user base before the next incarnation of IE. There's also nothing to stop a 'level 5' person installing Firefox for a 'level 1' person, as I plan to do for my mother next time I'm in Wales.

One of the aspects which sold Firefox to me was its apparent similarity to IE, and near-seamless transition for the user. Entry-level users mightn't appreciate the advantages of tabbed browsing (at least not immediately) and probably wouldn't want to play about with adding plug-ins, but they can still gain the benefits of a superior back-end via an 'IE clone' GUI.

Adam argues against aiming a browser switch campaign at entry-level users. As I've said, I don't think any such campaign is directed at them, and Firefox's proponents (not evangelists - their attitude is unhelpful) shouldn't hold back from persuading 'low-intermediate' users to give it a try. However, to go off at a tangent - and I do acknowledge this is a separate issue - the main reason for IE's level of market penetration is simply that it automatically ships with Windows PCs, and a relative minority bother to change. Entry-level users become familiar with IE because that's all they experience.
If manufacturers started including Firefox in factory installations (okay, I agree with Adam in that context; Firefox isn't quite ready for that yet. But nearly.), there's no reason why Firefox couldn't benefit from the same user apathy, and the effort entry-level users put into learning IE could be invested in Firefox instead.


You nearly nailed the theme of my argument. But I'd include one more point in your summary. Firefox isn't ready for those without a modicum of technical understanding, yet the Mozilla Foundation is making a huge push toward marketing toward them.

And Firefox will likely very soon be ready for those types of users. It gets better with each nightly. But why promote the 0.9 release and risk turning those users off with an unfinished product?

Posted by Adam Kalsey at September 8, 2004 05:06 PM
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