Firstly I want to say that I am extremely excited about firefox 3. There are several reasons for this and I’ll get to that later in this blog post. I rarely blog but something in a conversation with a friend of mine compelled me to blog here today.
Yesterday, my world crumbled a little. I have a friend who works for a big company in the US. He works on autonomous agents (read robots) and yesterday he told me that he wasn’t allowed to use firefox at work. Wait! Not allowed to use firefox??? How can this be?? Say it is not so! … But sadly it is so. My friend isn’t certain why this policy exists but it does. Not knowing his company, I too do not know why this is the case for him. In the past, I have had problems with an ISP doing similar things to me.
One ISP refused to give me support because I was using thunderbird instead of outlook. All I wanted was the proper password/accountname/server combo to use as their outgoing mail server since the info on their site just didn’t seem to work…I didn’t need them to tell me where to point and click but I think that the moment I mentioned the word “thunderbird” was the moment I became Charlie Brown’s teacher to them (In the cartoon, Charlie Brown’s teacher sounds like “bwaa bwaak bwwh bwa”). Students have told me that I could just lie and say that I’m using outlook and answer “yes” to all their questions so that I can get the info that I needed (it’s sort of like answering “no, I’m not using a router” even when you are to get move past that portion of the tech support script). My main objection to this is that I really really do not like to lie. I do not see why I have to be a closet thunderbird user. Why must I pretend? In the end, I basically told the ISP that I will take my business elsewhere and that their refusal to provide support anything other than outlook was the reason for it. Did my little protest do anything… unlikely. One little customer to a giant telecom company is nothing but you have to start somewhere. Let it be known that there are browsers other than IE, that there are mail clients other than outlook.
For years I have been telling my friends to make the switch to firefox (or at least have the option to use firefox). Every time I fix my friend’s computer I always download the latest firefox release and make it easy for them to use it. In the end though, the question from my friends inevitably lead to “why?”. Why should they use firefox when IE is right there! This got me to think about why I use firefox and why firefox was important for me.
Firstly, in firefox 3, the Canvas 3D addon will work with the current browser release as opposed to a beta version or a mine field build from exactly this date. This will make it possible for my project (canvas 3d js library) to reach a wider audience. We have been doing some really interesting work that we hope to release in another week or two that will include models and textures. Things on this front are moving along very well.
The other reason that I’m very excited about firefox 3 is more personal. I teach for the School of Computer Studies at Seneca College. I started teaching at Seneca while I was finishing off my masters degree from the University of Manitoba. Before Seneca, my view of colleges was that they taught what was hot now and that students were not taught the skills to adapt to the ever changing computer world. Boy, was I ever wrong! From the moment of that I first interviewed at Seneca I had the sense that this college is not the college in my narrow world view. I got the sense that this college understood the need to balance the practical with the theoretical. This view was further confirmed recently when I started working on open source at Seneca. I saw students actually working on code that would go into a real product that I use every single day. They didn’t do it after they graduate. They were doing it now… while they were in school. To me that is truly amazing.
I think in the end it is this collaborative activity that will attract new users. It is not a product made by some faceless corporation, its a product that people from all over the world have contributed to. “I know the person that added…. “. Sure, firefox 3 is a great browser. It is simple to use and fast. Its got all these great features. Its got all these awesome addons that you can add to it. But in the end the reason we should use firefox is because my friends, students, and colleagues all put a little bit into making it. And that is why it is truly something amazing.