Your views: IT PRO readers love Firefox

There's no question that IT PRO readers prefer the recently-updated Firefox as their browser of choice. In our newsletter last week, we asked about the Firefox versus Explorer battle, and readers responded in force.

Alvin's comments summed up the enthusiasm for the open source, alternative browser: "Firefox wins... hands down! In fact, hands so far down I'd probably do myself an injury trying to push them through the pavement."

The majority some 65 per cent, well above the wider adoption rate of about 18 per cent - of you agreed, and use Firefox when you can, but admit that sometimes IE is necessary to access online banking sites or for use at work.

Surprisingly, Explorer isn't the second most popular choice for IT PRO readers. Indeed, both Safari (12 per cent) and Opera (six per cent) rated higher, with the Microsoft browser ranking in at just five per cent.

But why all the love for alternative browsers?

FirefoxMike praised Firefox over Explorer: "It is faster, less cluttered, more reliable and the smart bookmarks feature in the latest version is brilliant."

James agreed that the new Mozilla browser is faster and easier to use, but added: "Firefox is also the standards-compliant app so Firefox fans get to feel all self-important too. But that way madness lies. Followed closely by smugness and flame wars."

Richard uses Firefox for less practical reasons: "I am not a techie but I like the idea of the immense amount of work and dedication that has been put in by Mozilla and others, such as the OpenOffice builders. Privateers of our time - all power to their respective elbows."

The other alternativesChris wrote in to put it simply: "Safari is ace, why use anything else?"

Another Mac-user wrote in to say he initially used Safari because it came pre-installed, but that he'd rather switch to Opera than Firefox. "I don't personally like Firefox - I find its interface to be ugly, and its performance, compared to Safari, is slow."

Opera has a die-hard fan in James, who has used the alternative, alternative browser since the early days when you still had to buy it. He claimed it's the fastest, most secure browser, and that "Opera always had the "new" features the first version of Firefox boasted, and continues to innovate."

Sue echoed that opinion. "Several years ago, I downloaded Opera and haven't had the patience for lesser browsers since. It is fast, safe and infinitely customisable," she wrote. "My family all use Opera now, from Great Grandma Josie right down to young Kate and her school mates. Why? Because it works, and works without any fuss."

Internet ExplorerNot everyone has a hate-on for IE. Russ explained why he liked the Microsoft browser: "For me it's not a question of which software is the absolute best, it's more a question of does it work and [having] a standard... For me if Microsoft products were on every computer in the world (at least my world), great! They are intuitive, integrated and work!" Peter agreed: "There is a desirability for conformity and if one is in a workplace that uses IE, it is natural to want to use it at home."

Why the market gap, then?So if Firefox, Safari and Opera are such much better, why does IE have 78 per cent market share?

Some are forced to use Microsoft's browser at work or to access specific sites online. Hawaiian Eric said: "I work in local government. The state has chosen 'the Microsoft solution'."

Aside from being 'forced' to use it at work, IE benefits from being pre-installed on most machines, which some say takes advantage of less tech-savvy users. "Pre-installing does make a lot of difference. Most people don't have a clue what a browser is," Michael said. "Downloading an alternative browser to these people is the same as asking them to take their pc apart and then put it back together again." Alan was even less flattering. "People are sheep. This is the only possible explanation for the dominance of a thoroughly sub-standard product like Internet Explorer," he wrote.

Time for choice?But the pre-install, business-savvy push Microsoft has done may be back-firing for some. A few people seem to use Firefox simply because it's not made by the Redmond giant. NP said: "I use and prefer Firefox 3 because it is not thrust down my neck."

Julian summed it up. "Firefox's main support comes from IT professionals and experienced users who are prepared to make the effort," he wrote. "Until Windows is released with both or neither of the two main browsers this situation will continue. The consumer deserves the choice, something which is being denied them at the moment."

He called for computers to be sold with multiple browser options or bare. "Given a true choice between Open Source (free or bought version) or the closed source expensive proprietary Windows route, I wonder how Microsoft would fare."