Firebird vs IE

“Maybe you can pass those sentiments onto the IE team. Theyre still about 4 years behind the game. Just look at the work being pumped into Firebird, and it becomes terribly obvious how rudimentary IE is these days.” my 1337 nephew Deke says in a comment on my post about WinPlanet's top apps for 2003.

So I checked out Firebird 0.7 and I quite honestly can't see the fuss. Maybe it's underneath the covers or something (a little like Office 2003), but the main reasons they give for “why you should switch” on their website don't really get me licking my lips.

1. Tab-browsing. I tried that ages ago with an IE skin and I got rid of it. Opening up new IE windows is just as easy AFAIAC and when you are DSLd, you arent really waiting for stuff to download anyway.

2. Popup blocking. Got it with my Google toolbar.

3. Better bookmarks and history. This sounds nice. I hate the way Favorites works in IE. I have hundreds and hundreds of sites in there and they are all over the place... mind you, since RSS, I don't seem to go to “sites” much anymore unless they are linked from a blog feed...

4. Find stuff faster. Basically they seem to have integrated the Google toolbar. I've already got it.

5. Best Accessibility. Keyboard shortcuts. Nice, but I use a mouse anyway so...

6. More responsive. Not the version I installed. It was clunky as hell.

7. Simplified User Interface. Doesn't seem to be much more than I get with “Full Screen” on IE.

anyway, yadda yadda. Of course, I could be wrong (and probably am). I have to be wrong about something eventually, the numbers are against me. 🙂

ashe at Grumpy Monkey likes it.

So does Jake at But his reasons don't seem to be any different or more compelling than those on Mozilla's site. Am I missing something?

Comments (24)
  1. My main beef with IE is it’s lack of proper CSS support (it has some rendering issues as well as no support for alternate stylesheets etc.) and it’s horrible PNG support. If IE will fix those in it’s 6.05 patch then i’ll be one happy monkey 😀

  2. Frans Bouma says:

    You checked out the plugins for firebird? The tabbed browsing plugin is extremely great. Also the flash-on-demand plugin is also great: it replaces flash objects on a page with an area you can click and if you do, it will play the flash movie. No more flickering adds that distract.

    And last but not least: no security holes which are open for over a year without patching. MS demanded the removal of the list of bugs which are still in IE but are not patched. IE is simply too dangerous to use, sorry. I only use it when a page can’t be rendered in firebird, but that’s rare.

    At first I didn’t understand the fuzz about firebird either, until I unstalled the plugins I wanted. Now I can’t live without it and ditched MyIE2 for it. Btw, I simply don’t understand why people don’t use MyIE2 if they prefer the IE rendering engine. No popups, no 10 or more windows open, groups! (which is great, open the browser in the morning, click the group you want to check every morning and all the pages are loaded. IE can’t beat that.

    BUt bottom line is the safer browsing. IE is simply insecure. Anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know how many unpatched holes IE still has.

  3. Aemca says:

    Why, try it on a slow comp with not as much memory then you know why it’s better for some 🙂

    try some pages with 100 – 200 large images in there, look at the memory consumed.

  4. Mark says:

    Also, the find feature is pretty neat in Firebird. Just start typing anywhere on the page. Firebird will begin highlighting matches as you type a new letter. You can still do CTLR+F, but the free typing is quicker.

  5. And you also can’t forget the first thing mentioned in your post: Firebird is still a work in progress, being improved daily, IE has been gathering moss for years and will continue to gather moss for a year or so with no real evidence that the problems will be fixed at all. I have yet to hear anyone from MS acknowledge that the problems with IE are ever going to be fixed.

  6. Chad Humphries says:

    I’ve been using it as my primary browser for some time and I’d have to say that the closer adherence to w3c standards is my favorite feature. That and it runs exceptionally faster on my dev machine.

  7. Anonymous says:

    And this is the great problem with Microsoft products in general… unless they are core to the "in" technology of the moment, these ancillary products can become abandoned and unsupported over time, and you’ll be damned if you bet your business or application on one of these technologies.

    When going with Microsoft products, you’ve gotta pray that they plan to "bet the company on it", or else your bet on your company if you’ve chosen to adopt that technology is going to lose and cost you big time.

  8. To Anonymous, Microsoft isn’t the only company that can freely decide where to invest and where to dismiss money…

    And users have the ultimate choice, if you don’t like IE, you can run Firebird or whatever browser you want.

    Perhaps if only Microsoft can invest a little more on IE…

    I hope that you haven’t invested in death products from other companies, OS/2 is the big example here…

  9. Phil Scott says:

    With all the security holes in IE that are unpatched and with it so easy to spoof websites, there was no way I was doing my christmas shopping with IE as my browser.

  10. Fabrice says:

    I’ve been using Firebird for a while, and been quite happy with it. I won’t repeat the reasons.

    Something that would be nice for Firebird would be tabbed browsing à la Visual Studio which would allow to see two pages at the same time (drag a tab to one-side {Left, Right, Top, Bottom} of the window, et voilà, a new tab group).

  11. I switched to Firebird because in the last couple of months the IE on my computers (work win2K and home XP Home) began to act strangle like stopped downloading pages when opened more than 5 instances or other minor issues and now I can’t live without tabbed browsing….

  12. Darrell says:

    BEGIN HumerousSarcasm

    I don’t care what you think about Firebird, you’re wrong and I’m gonna tell you my favorite reasons why:

    SELECT INTO StandardReasonsToHateMicrosoft

    ( Security, Usability, NonActiveDevelopment, OneLittleFeatureIEDoesNotHave, MemoryUse, DiskSpace, PlugIns, OpenSource, StandardsSupport )

    /* Note that this table is applicable to all Microsoft products */

    END HumerousSarcasm

    Seriously though, if you have found an assortment of products that meet your browsing needs and you are happy browsing, great! Don’t change it because only the vocal minority are leaving comments on your blog. By minority I mean that 90+ percent of users browse with IE. The seeming flood of Firebird users here is just because the IE-satisfied people agree with you and have no reason to comment on your blog post.

    And for everyone that talks about IE security holes, here’s something for you. It is relatively difficult to create an online method of scamming credit cards, and your liability is usually capped at $50, sometimes $0. It is sooooo much easier for criminals to get your credit card slip from restaurants (waiters and waitresses have access to all the info they need), trash, etc. So before you get all worked up about something like browser security, check out physical security first. Guess which way criminals work? Via the easiest method.

  13. Darrell,

    That is perhaps the worst excuse for security bugs I’ve ever read. IE is chock full of holes and they don’t just hit IE since IE is embedded into just about every application known to man. Because of IE’s omnipresence in Windows, you have much bigger problems on your hands.

    I agree that physical/social hacking is the best method for any thief to use, but it doesn’t excuse software vendors (especially one that has a monopoly and stopped actively developing a heavily used application (in its current product lines)) from doing the right thing.

  14. Husain says:

    I have been using Firebird for quite some time now and it is great. What keeps me glued to Firebird is the smooth scrolling feature.

    1. Ctrl+ Ctrl- for zooming. Disregarding the designer’s preference for fonts. Zooming means zooming. Great for reading all those sites in 10px font on 1280×1024 screen.

      2. Tabbed browsing is not equivalent to IE once we start talking about 25-30 windows open.

      3. Variety of plugins including RSS aggregator and CSS on-the-fly modification (black text on dark background, no?)

      4. Bookmark all tabs. Indispensable when you have 10 pages open for reading, but need to reboot the machine because of a new install.

      5. Block images from this server. Bye-bye and those who annoy me with large jumpy 800×600 ads. Hello text advertising and nice small banners.

      6. Page source works. On IE for some strange reason that’s not always true. Failed me on 2 different boxes, one at home, one at work, so I don’t think it’s me, but with Firebird it’s always there.

      7. Built-in Google search. Not the Google toolbar taking up precious real estate, but Address Bar + Google Bar symbiosis.

      8. Background downloads. Excellent on the music sites I go to that provide MP3 streams. While I am listening to one stream, the others are being downloaded on the background with lower priority. With IE it’s always a 1-minute wait till WinAmp gets enough buffered data.

      9. Form auto-fill including username and password (IE provides just password when you enter the username). Good for all those non-important sites that do not contain sensitive data (naturally I refuse this option for my online banking).

      10. Clear buttons next to everything privacy-related (cookies, form data, password, downloads). In IE, how do I clean up just passwords? Is it Delete Cookies? Or Delete Files?

  15. Dumky says:

    The pop-up blocking is better in Firebird than in the Google toolbar, especially when it comes to bookmarklets (if you use any).

    Also, I like binding shortcuts to keywords, so I can just type "mail", "blog", "books",… to open that bookmark.

  16. Cameron says:

    well hey, there’s some feedback! Enough positive comments here to make me re-visit my initial opinion. So – as of a few moments ago, Firebird is my defult browser for one week. Thanks for the input folks!

  17. annabloom says:

    <blockquote>Internet Explorer 6 includes many new and enhanced features that can simplify your daily tasks and help you get more from the Web.</blockquote> i’d say that is one of the most annoying thing. if mikerowesoft had the guts to say: right, we bundled ie with windows to have people use it as their default but we don’t do any major development there, well that would be honest.

    how are we expected to trust a company that openly pulls the piss and therefore trearts customers with cynic disrespect [ok, they don’t need to fight for customers anymore but still, even the feeling to be important and valued helps a customer].

    in terms of features: yes, ie many features that firebird has as well but only with additional plugins [as the article rightly popints out]. firebird, however, comes with many of those features as standard [not talking about extensions now].

    so, ie is the old banger that you buy from a srap metal dealer and beef it up with spare part whereas firebird is the new car you always dreamed of freshly from a proper car dealer and packed with extras. hence ie is great for people who like to search for plugins and fiddle around with them whereas firebird is for those who don’t have time or knowledge [or neither] to mess with plugins and just want to fire up the browser with all features needed.

  18. Cameron says:


    Thanks for not holding back!

    Actually, Scoble had an interesting thread on the challenges that the IE dev team has in innovating recently. You might be interested to read it.

  19. Dadoo says:

    I write advanced DHTML games with 3d simulation, multi directional scrolling etc…

    Firebird, firefox and other incarnations are just 3 to 4 times slower than IE with itself is slower (2 times) than Opera. This is the real thing. Moz developers are aware of the speed issue and have real problems to improuve it…

  20. Social Flea says:


    Your name should be Dodo!

    Where did you learn how to spell.

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