Microsoft's Worst Nightmare

Blake Ross is lounging at his parents' Florida Keys condo, thinking ahead to his first day back at Stanford. His goal for his sophomore year: nothing less than to "take back the Web" from Microsoft. You might think the shy 19-year-old is outmatched. Think again. Ross, a software prodigy who interned at Netscape at age 14, is the lead architect behind Mozilla's Firefox -- a revolutionary new browser that's catching on the way Mosaic did in 1993. In beta for the past four months, Firefox version 1.0 is set to be released in November. With that, Ross will issue the first truly formidable challenge to Internet Explorer that the world has seen in seven years. "We're hoping for 10 million downloads in 10 days," Ross says proudly.

That's not sophomoric hype. Firefox, a free open-source browser that loads twice as fast as Internet Explorer, has already been downloaded 2.7 million times, and it has siphoned off nearly 2 percent of Microsoft's browser market share, now at 93.7 percent. Along the way, Firefox is fast becoming the browser of choice for anyone fed up with all the nasty things polluting the Web (pop-ups and viruses and spyware, oh my!). Google (GOOG) is rumored to be building its own browser based on the Firefox framework, and entrepreneurs are churning out hundreds of microprograms for it (see "The Spawn of Firefox," below). A minister in Kentucky is even exhorting his flock to switch to Firefox because it blocks those pesky Viagra ads.

News source: Business 2.0

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