My little rant

pb writes: ...what's your all's thought on mozilla choosing to develop a suite rather than a browser? i contend that by scoping the mozilla project to include non-browsing components such as mail, news, chat, skins and compose, mozilla is at least 2 years late, remains inferior to IE and has nearly lost the battle...

Frankly, I'm really sick of this argument. I see it all the time, in usenet posts, email lists, weblogs (!), and slashdot *ugh*

Why am I sick of it? Because it's so wrong. That's why. Why is it wrong? Let me tell you:

1. Yes, instead of mail, anyone can use pine/outlook/eudora whatever, but I don't want to. I liked netscape mail, I've used it all my emailing life and I like mozilla mail. If they didn't include an updated mail client, I would be a very unhappy user.

2. Why spend valuable development time developing mail and composer? Because whether you like it or not, the browser component is built on top of a platform called XPCOM. Developing the mail and composer application has lead to the refining of the XPCOM platform more than just writing a browser component.

3. Why skins? Because Mozilla is cross-platform and most of the code that you write for cross platform applications is in the GUI, it makes sense to abstract that out as much as possible.

4. Chat? Someone else wrote that. It took no time away from the main Mozilla dev work and frankly I find it a clever addition that some was able to take a well written *application suite* and extend it to add useful functionality

5. If you just want the browser, use galeon or one of the other "just a browser" packages that have used the gecko engine for web surfing.

Frankly, Mozilla is NOT a browser, Mozilla IS a platform for developing cross-platform applications.

If they didn't write the mail/componse components and focused only on the browser only they may be ahead on the timeframe *slightly* but the overall offering would not be near as stable without that extra component development work and honestly, not nearly as interesting.

6. What does *2 years behind* mean anyhow? Does the magic "version 1.0" really mean anything at this point? I've been using Mozilla happily for a long time as my default browser.

7. Inferior to IE? Sure in some ways it is, in others it is superior to IE (popup ad's, image blocking, tabbed browsing, etc). Has IE really made any significant enhancements since version 5? No. IE 6 didn't really add anything new to the package, while Mozilla, thanks to the input of lots of developers has been adding lots of features that make it superior to IE (again tabbed browsing which was inspired by the MultiZilla MozDev project).

8. Finally, the Mozilla organization made a choice, they decided to develop a cross-platform application suite and then build the browser on top of that. That being said, there is no point complaining about that fact since it's way to late for them to rethink it now, nor should they.

Besides, five years from now, either pb will be right and Mozilla blew it, or we'll all be using the Mozilla platform (maybe even 1.0! :>) as our browser.

» posted by jeffp on March 26, 2002 at 01:08 PM


A good defense. A few points of where I agree/disagree:Skins are good for developers when making cross platform applications, but not really for users. The advantage of a consistent user interface across platform for the minority of users who are running more than one OS does not outweigh the advantage of having a Windows or Mac application be consistent with all of the other application a user encounters during the day for the vast majority of users.
In some ways, Mozilla is indeed better then IE. The tabbed browsing is great. I love being able to set Ctrl+Click as ‘open tab in background’. You can open a series of sites from Google search results quickly and easily without jumping around from window to window. And yes, IE hasn’t progressed much in recent versions (with the exception of gradually improving CSS support which, while important, has left a string of versions (4, 5, 5.5, & 6) all with slightly different compliance – yuck.
Mozilla was late to the game. Really late. It has become a refined as most ‘final versions’ in the last few builds (and was quite good long before that), but it is still limited to a very small minority of users, partially due to it’s lack of “1.0” status. IE4 was pretty fast and stable a long time ago. It’s interesting that now that AOL may be (is?) using the mozilla browser (or Netscape, or something), it may be that the success (in terms of number of users) will finally come for the browser, and not the full suite.
re: using other light apps based on the Gecko engine, I totally agree. K-Meleon is a great program. I’m looking forward to their next release.

Unrelated note: The design/layout of Blogzilla is one of the most elegant I’ve seen in a while. Nice work.

# posted by Steven Garrity

I have been using Mozilla ever since they have been releasing nightly builds. It has been my default browser for almost that time. One thing I like about using Mozilla to develop applications (I am a web application developer) is that it helps me stick to the standards. It I make a mistake the browser cathces it. IE is too forgiving to bad code. As a developer I hate it, may be users like it since it deosn't give any errors. But for me I want my code to do what it is supposed to do. So I am using Mozilla as my stnadard developemnt platform. And this is the greatest feature that Mozilla can provide to a user like me. So who said it is inferior to IE? May be people who don't care about writing good, standard, solid , robust code.......

# posted by Balu

Balu, as for being more strict with code than IE, you're absolutely right. I know that if I design a page in Mozilla, it's going to look perfect in IE, but if I design in IE, there might be something Mozilla will trip up on (and it's always my mistake - not following the standard, or a plain old typo). Mozilla is great for development in that way.

# posted by Steven Garrity

On the skins issue:
I think you're right about that the browser should follow the basic interface of the other apps on a OS - that's also why I think Classic should be the default theme, even though I use Modern all the time.

If you look at the success of WinAMP, though, I think you'll see that skinning makes more people attracted to your program, and thus you'll get a bigger user base.

In other words, as long as the default follows OS standard interface (which Classic hugely does), skinning is a good thing. User configurability is always a good thing.

On the stability:
Actually, I find Mozilla more stable than IE. When Mozillas crashes - which since about 0.9.5 has been more seldom than NN4 - it's usually easy to discern the cause, and it's very easy to report the error. Opera, IE Mac and IE Win are all far worse when it comes to finding bugs, searching through already submitted bugs, and getting response on bugs you submit.
As for IE, it's often a pure hell to find out why the browser locks up. Also, IE often takes the windows explorer down with it, too, in Win95/98/ME. (Not to speak of the frequency of IE6 going down. I've had IE lock up more than twice a day the last couple of days, when Mozilla only on a few weekly occations lock up.)

On the "Who's better" issue:
In this case, there's two aspects I'd like to separate. One is standards support, which only IE Mac is close to being on par with Mozilla on.
The other is components. I personally think the only really gold part of Mozilla is the browser. I find the Mail & Newsgroups, the Composer and certainly Chatzilla to be what I'd say early to mid beta stage. As I've not used Venkman, I can't comment on that.

On these issues, Eudora (or even Outlook), any text editor (or Dreamweaver for WYSIWYG parts), and mIRC respectively all beat Mozilla.

But in all, I'd like to agree with Steven above - Moz is a good development platform. Its CSS and DOM support outranks all the others, and it's JavaScript console is the only tool you need for non-IE-proprietary bugtracking of scripts.

Now, if it just could grab 10% or so of the market, then it'd be able to change the webdesign world of today to the better. Hopefully Netscape's next release (hopefully a stable one) and AOL's browser will change things. This market needs another big actor...

# posted by Liorean

Using the default OS skin is about more than a consistent look among all your applications. It's about usability.

Both Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer recreate the entire Windows UI. However, most people don't know that IE doesn't use the standard UI components (it draws everything with its internal rendering engine). And most people don't care that Office doesn't look exactly like a Windows program - because they're functionally identical.

Mozilla isn't. For instance, they never implemented all of the standard Windows keyboard shortcuts (like CTRL,SPACE to open the app menu). That's one of the reasons why its interface has often been reviled - it's a grand step backwards in terms of usability to force users to learn a new set of keybaord shortcuts for each aplication they use rather than having them consistent across the OS.

# posted by Josh Prowse

> For instance, they never implemented all of the standard Windows keyboard shortcuts (like CTRL,SPACE to open the app menu).

Er, yes, it does have that. The actual shortcut is ALT-SPACE and it works fine.

# posted by Sören Kuklau

Good points regarding Office XP and IE faking the windows GUI widgets, Josh. It became most apparent when XP pulled the rug out from underneath their feet by changing the default widgets. Outlook 2002 has two different scrollbars in its main window (see full article). BOO!
You can crap on Microsoft all you want, but their default GUI widgets and dialogs are pretty good - and even if they weren't, consistency sometimes trumps quality in ensuring a good overall user experience.

# posted by Steven Garrity

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