IBM picks Firefox as its default browser

Firefox logo-only.pngIBM’s Vice President of Open Source and Linux, Bob Sutor, announced that IBM has picked Firefox as the organisation’s default browser on his blog:

We’re officially adding a new piece of software to the list of default common applications we expect employees to use, and that’s the Mozilla Firefox browser.

Firefox has been around for years, of course. Today we already have thousands of employees using it on Linux, Mac, and Windows laptops and desktops, but we’re going to be adding thousands more users to the rolls.

Some of us started using it because it was new and fast and cool. I tried it for those reasons, but I still use it for the following ones:

  • Firefox is stunningly standards compliant, and interoperability via open standards is key to IBM’s strategy.
  • Firefox is open source and its development schedule is managed by a development community not beholden to one commercial entity.
  • Firefox is secure and an international community of experts continues to develop and maintain it.
  • Firefox is extensible and can be customized for particular applications and organizations, like IBM.
  • Firefox is innovative and has forced the hand of browsers that came before and after it to add and improve speed and function.

While other browsers have come and gone, Firefox is now the gold standard for what an open, secure, and standards-compliant browser should be. We’ll continue to see this or that browser be faster or introduce new features, but then another will come along and be better still, including Firefox.

I think it was Firefox and its growth that reinvigorated the browser market as well as the web. That is, Firefox forced competitors to respond. Their software has gotten better and we have all benefited. We’ll see this again as Firefox continues to add even more support for HTML5.

So what does it mean for Firefox to be the default browser inside IBM? Any employee who is not now using Firefox will be strongly encouraged to use it as their default browser. All new computers will be provisioned with it. We will continue to strongly encourage our vendors who have browser-based software to fully support Firefox.

I first read this on Ars Technica and posted the news to Buzz last night. Marius Bock, an IBM Project Manager in Cape Town, responded to my Buzz posting and pointed out that a preference for Firefox has been “an unofficial policy within IBM for a couple of years” and it has now been made official.

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This is pretty big news for Mozilla and Firefox. There is quite a lot of emphasis on Google’s excellent Chrome browser and its terrific growth but it is worth bearing in mind that Firefox still attracted a respectable 100 million users in a one year period (Chrome picked up 40 million users in the same time period). Firefox has been steadily gaining ground on Internet Explorer which continues to lose support as Firefox and Chrome continue to grow. To put it another way, Mozilla’s ASA Dotzler pointed out that for every new Chrome user, there are 2.5 new Firefox users. Does this mean that Chrome is a lousy browser? No, not at all. It means that if you use Chrome and/or Firefox you are in excellent company.

I am back to Firefox as my default browser after switching to Chrome for a while (I tend to go back and forth, they are both terrific browsers but Firefox has more of what I want these days). Mozilla has released a number of Firefox updates in the last month or so and the current stable version is 3.6.6. I am a beta tester and I am running version 3.6.7 which runs pretty quickly and smoothly. Of course the big release I am waiting for is the 4.0 beta which is due in the next month or two. Firefox 4.0 will introduce a number of changes to the open source browser which are pretty exciting, to me at least.

I love being able to switch between Chrome and Firefox as the mood takes me. I love having top notch browsers a click away and, at the moment, I love Firefox just a little bit more. Just like IBM.



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  1. Marius Bock avatar

    Paul, further to my comment (btw thanks for the mention), IBM believes and support open standards and also encourage choice for its almost half a million employees. Regarding open standards, we are encouraged to use either IBM's own Lotus Symphony or OpenOffice as a “Office” application. When it comes to operating systems, we have a choice between Linux (we have internal versions of Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSuse and RedHat) … I run Ubuntu and also have both Chrome and Firefox on my desktop — this comment just happens to be posted from Chrome.

    And we even have our equivalent to Twitter called BlueTwit (yes, I also laughed at the name the first time) and an internal Faceboook called BluePages.

  2. pauljacobson avatar

    We don't often get to hear about IBM's commitment to open standards in the general media online. I worked briefly with an IBM representative and representatives from other like-minded organisations on an SABS sub-committee which successfully opposed the adoption of Microsoft's Office OpenXML as a standard in South Africa. That was probably the first time it dawned on me that IBM was pretty committed to open standards.

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