Here is a question for you: in a sandbox, which is more important, the Box or the Sand?
Are they equally important? Or does the box become more important because, without it, the sand would not stay put? Or are neither important, and the children who play in the sand of the most importance?
My own conclusion was: they are an ecosystem. They rely and depend on each other, and none are as individually important as they are all together.
Today is Mozilla Firefox’s 5th birthday. Firefox has slowly and transparently changed the face of the internet since its launch in 2002. It launched at a time when Microsoft held a stranglehold on web browsing, and when most people didn’t even know that there was an alternative to using Internet Explorer for their internet browsing.
Talk about a tough row to hoe!
If I were to pick a market to launch a business in, the last one I would challenge was one held by a powerful, multi-billion dollar corporation who controlled 95% of the world’s computers. But Mozilla did, and they did it as a not-for-profit foundation for free software.
In the beginning, Firefox was just a better browser based on features. It had tabs. Anyone who was a moderate user of the internet quickly tired of Microsoft’s “new window” paradigm, and quickly saw the benefit of tabbed browsing. Without that single feature that quickly gained popularity, Firefox might have died in infancy. But that wasn’t all it had. The incorporation of a search bar, dynamic feeds, and other features have helped sway users as well over the last five years.
Mozilla’s largest accomplishment was not innovative browser features (some features were long enjoyed by the Opera browser community). Its largest accomplishment was it’s popularity, which threatened Microsoft into completely buying into more strict, open web standards. The winners: web developers!
For years, web developers struggled to hack together websites that behaved in Internet Explorer. Their lax implementation of the simplest parts of HTML standards drove us all nuts as we carefully counted pixels, developed CSS hacks, and did whatever else was necessary to get functionality out of the flawed sandbox.
Mozilla’s popularity, due largely to their first-to-market browser features, has forced everyone else to sign up to useful, timely browser standards. IE7, IE8, Safari 3, Safari 4, and Google’s Chrome have all been directly impacted by Mozilla’s work. The fact that those other browsers even exist is a testament to Mozilla’s success.
So today, I salute the men and women of the important but transparent sandbox that I use to play in every day. Here’s to another 5 years of great web browsing!