Mozilla and Google force businesses to use Internet Explorer

Rapid updates, manageability gaps make Chrome and especially Firefox tough to accept for large businesses with managed networks and stability concerns.

In my experience dealing with businesses, it's rare to find them using anything other than Internet Explorer as their preferred web browser, and no surprise why. The other major browsers make life really hard for IT support. Whatever your opinion, it's way easier to support IE in an enterprise than Firefox or Chrome.

Firefox especially. It's old news that Mozilla doesn't have a manageable install version (a .MSI file) and they're not interested in creating one. This alone makes deployment and patching much harder than with IE, whose updates come out automatically through WSUS and other patch management systems.


So we already knew that Mozilla was uninterested in the needs of enterprise administrators, but just to make sure, Mozilla's Asa Dotzler (pictured nearby) announced as much to the public: Enterprise has never been (and I'll argue, shouldn't be) a focus of ours.

asa dotzler mozillaGoogle is different. They have gone to some effort to accommodate the needs of business, such as by providing a .MSI version and creating group policies that allow administrators to control installation and updating. They're minimal settings; IE has extensive group policy support that allows administrators, for example, to control home pages and security settings. But at least there's something there.

google chrome logoBut where both Firefox and Chrome fail enterprises is in the simple frequency with which they update their products. When Firefox 5 was released the other day I was curious and looked it up: It was less than 3 months since Firefox 4 had been released. This after pretty long life spans for the 2.x and 3.x generations. And Mozilla has made it clear that they will be keeping up this new, rapid pace. You might call it the Netscaping of Mozilla.

Google has Mozilla beat hands-down though. The first stable release of Chrome was on December 11, 2008. Version 12, the current stable release, went out on June 7, 2011. That's an average of 75 2/3 days between stable releases. This is why I don't bother with the "unstable" beta and dev releases.

firefox logoRead the blog on which Asa Dotzler was commenting: The author relates the story of a guy who is trying, sincerely, to help 500,000 corporate users run Firefox. It's not easy to manage that many computers dude! He's been hard at work for some time getting the rollout to Firefox 4.0 going, and now Firefox 5 is out and with it the really bad news: Firefox 4 has reached its end of life, less than 3 months after being released. This will be SOP from now on: When Firefox n is released, Firefox n-1 will be EOL'd. This is, of course, how Google handles it too. Once a version goes stable, the previous version goes in the garbage.

The guy in the blog feels like he has a big knife with a Mozilla logo on it digging deep into his back and I don't blame him. You and I on our personal computers can just decide to update something on a whim, but the guy in the blog claims to have thousands of internal apps running on his 500,000 Firefox 3.6 desktops and Mozilla has just told him they don't care about his problems.

ie9 logoOn the other side of things, look at how Microsoft handles these things. They are currently supporting 4 major versions of Internet Explorer, and the number is likely to go up. They have committed to support Internet Explorer 6 into April of 2014, part of their commitment to support Windows XP till then which is, if you ask me, accommodating to such an extreme as to be irresponsible. They are, at the same time, conducting a campaign to persuade people not to use IE6. In the time before IE6 gets offed, Microsoft is likely to release IE10 and maybe IE11.

Why does Microsoft have such incredibly long support cycles? Because enterprises demand them. They want stability and predictability so that they can plan. It's the exact opposite of the strategy chosen by Google and, especially, Mozilla.

Larry SeltzerLarry Seltzer is a freelance writer and consultant, dealing mostly with security matters. He has written recently for Infoworld, eWEEK, Dr. Dobb's Journal, and is a Contributing Editor at PC Magazine and author of their Security Watch blog. He has also written for Symantec Authentication (formerly VeriSign) and Lumension's Intelligent Whitelisting site.

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