Two years ago I blogged about a similar subject in my German blog. I discussed the advantages of Internet Explorer (IE) over Mozilla and other web browsers in a corporate environment. I concluded that IE is by far the better choice. Recently we deployed about 250 new computers and so I considered this question again. Now, Firefox is the main rival of IE. The decision was not so easy this time, but IE won again in the end.

Latest posts by Michael Pietroforte (see all)

I am using Firefox myself for a quite while and I really like this web browser. However, when it comes to the question of switching to a new web browser in a corporate network, other arguments have to be considered.

Let's discuss them step by step:

1. IE is a part of the operating system

This basically means that the administrators don't have much further work after Windows is installed. If you have hundreds or even thousands computers to manage, this is already a very big advantage of the IE. You need some good arguments for deploying an extra browser, if there is already one installed on your machines. Some nice plugins are certainly not enough. One often-mentioned argument is security. I don't want to discuss this issue here, but if you are really convinced that Firefox is more secure than IE, this might be such an argument.

2. Roaming Profiles

I mention this point here because I discussed it in my German blog two years ago. Firefox, like IE, does store its user-settings, bookmarks, etc., in the user profile, which means that one can now work with roaming profiles. Thus, users can logon on different machines in the network and will always find their own bookmarks. This is a major improvement compared to the rivals of IE two years ago.

3. Central Management

Probably the most significant advantage of IE is that you can centrally manage it using Group Policies. You always want to configure all applications as homogenous as possible in a big network. Sometimes it is necessary to change the settings of all web browsers in your company. For example you might want to change the start page of all browsers or enable/disable certain functions or add new bookmarks, etc.

firefox_adm.gif There is an Open Source Project called Firefox ADM working on this feature for Firefox. They started a year ago and reached version 0.4 now. As long as there is no version 1.0, I would be cautious in using this feature in a productive environment. I had a quick look at the ADM files. It has fewer possibilities in comparison to IE, that's my first impression. I plan to have a closer look at Firefox ADM again in the near future and will post my findings here.

4. Patch Management

I have already mentioned the security issue before. We all know that not only Microsoft programmers but also Open Source coders make mistakes. No web browser will ever exist without security holes. Some Firefox advocates say that security patches are supplied at faster pace than in IE. It is a difficult question to answer, and I don't want to discuss this topic here.

However, when it comes to security in a corporate network, the main question should be how fast and how easy you can patch all your computers. The larger your network is, the more important this point gets. Firefox has an integrated update mechanism which is quite useful for private users, but doesn't help much in a corporate environment. Because of security issues, normal users are usually not allowed to install software on their computers which also means that they can't install patches.

If you are a Windows administrator, you probably know that Microsoft offers a free patch management solution. WSUS (Windows Software Update Services) certainly is a great tool. Of course, you can patch IE using WSUS. There are third party patch management solutions which also support Firefox though. If you are already using such a program, patch management might not be something that troubles you too much when you have to decide which web browser to use in your network. However, if you are also using WSUS, patching IE might be less time consuming than patching Firefox with a third party solution. At least, this is true for patch management solutions I've seen.

5. Many applications are dependent on the IE

There are many desktop applications which use the rendering engine of IE to display HTML files. There also server-based applications which need an IE and won't work with just another browser. With the success of Firefox at least the latter's argument doesn't hold much anymore since many webmasters don't want to lock out this large clientele.

However, there are still many desktop apps which are IE dependent. Some of them aren't dependent on the rendering engine of IE, but integrate themselves in the user interface of IE. Adobe Arcobat is such an application for example. Even if you don't have one of them in your company now, you'll never know if this might not change in the future. The point is that if you need IE anyway, why you should deploy and support another browser in your network?

Conclusion

The advantages of the IE are mainly founded in its tight integration with Windows. Firefox has to run on other operating systems, too. Hence, all features should work on all systems not only on Windows boxes. That's why I'm not expecting too many improvements in this field in the near future. Although projects like Firefox ADM show that better integration is doable and that some Open Source programmers recognized this problem.

All in all, I'm still a Firefox fan, but wouldn't recommend it for corporate use in larger networks. There are exceptions of course: If all your desktops use Linux or Mac OS. But if you have Windows desktops, the only reason I could think of, is that you really need a certain feature of Firefox which you is not available in IE.

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Update: Firefox 2.0 vs IE7 in a corporate network

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22 Comments
  1. MT 15 years ago

    You may want to check out http://www.firefoxmyths.com

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  2. jm.one 15 years ago

    All in all u make some good points. But i dont see any in point 5.Desktop Apps that inegrate the IE rendering engine will keep doing so if you use Firefox as your browser.Talking about  appliations that run in the browser, there are some out there that depend on IE. Adobe Acrobat for sure isnt one of em. The Adobe Acrobat Reader (let alone the full featured version) are actually Desktop apps that can run without any browser. And they come with plug-ins for both Internet explorer and for browsers that use the Netscape/Mozilla plugin API (besides Mozilla Forefox and Seamonkey that are Opera, Safari, Konqueror etc etc.) On a side note there are Adobe Reader releases for Mac OS X and Linux as well. The Adobe Acrobat Plug-In runs well in Firefox.So all in all Adobe Acrobat is NOT such an application that requires Internet Explorer.I`d expect a system Admin with your level of being informed to know.

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  3. Thanks for the comment! I must admit that I didn’t make my views clear enough about the things you mentioned.

    The point about the rendering engine is that you often need IE anyway. If I offer IE on all my machines I have to support it, i.e. I have to be concerned about vulnerabilities, patching, user support, etc., etc. Now, if I add Firefox to all my machines, I have two browsers to support and this means just extra work. Of course, I could find ways so that IE can only be started by apps and not by users, but this means extra work, too.

    As to the apps that integrate into IE. I didn’t mention Adobe Reader, but Adobe Acrobat. Of course Adobe Reader works with any browser. But I am talking about this little icon you have in IE’s toolbar after you install Adobe Acrobat. It allows you to convert a web page into a PDF file with all the links in it. I often do that with web pages I archive, adding comments and highlighting text. With the success of Firefox, more and more software vendors add such extensions to Firefox, too. So for example there wasn’t Google toolbar before, now there is. So you're right, that at least this argument is losing its grip more and more.

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  4. allen james 15 years ago

    Acrobat 7.05 supports firefox integration:

    Updates in Acrobat 7.0.5

    New operating system support for Mac OS v10.4

    New browser support:

    1. Netscape 8 (Windows only)

    2. Firefox 1.0 (Windows only)

    3. Mozilla 1.7 (Windows only)

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  5. I have Acrobat Professional running on my computer, but I don’t see an icon in the Firefox toolbar that lets me create a PDF file of a web page including all its links. So I don’t know what “support of Firefox” means here. Let me know, if you do.

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  6. Marco M. 15 years ago

    The ADM is a dead project but check out the CCK at:

    http://www.mozilla.org/projects/cck/firefox/

    It is an attempt at creating an IEAK equivalent. You have to use scripting to deploy it via GPO but the ADM relied on scripting too.

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  7. Stratos 15 years ago

    I'm new using Firefox, and I'd like to know if there's actually a way to integrate the above mentioned ACROBAT Icon. One IE+Acrobat feature I'm missing is the ability to select text on a web page, and then a right would allow you to: "Convert selected links to Acrobat .PDF"; "Convert selected links to existing .PDF"; "Convert selected text to Acrobat .PDF" and "Convert selected text to existing .PDF" This is using IE6 and Adobe Acrobat v7.0.8.

    Can I get something like this in Firefox?

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  8. As far as I know, Adobe doesn’t offer a Firefox plug-in, but you can print to the “Adobe Printer? to create a PDF file with Firefox. There won’t be any hyperlinks in the PDF document, though.

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  9. Özgür 15 years ago

    There's something much worse and more basic than the hype on Firefox: the hype on object-oriented programming(OOP). As long as this hype goes on, programs will continue to be buggy and huge in terms of memory and cpu cycle consumption, be it open source or commercial.

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  10. DominoG 15 years ago

    Adobe offers a Firefox plug-in, new to me too.

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  11. Fireacer 14 years ago

    Firefox is capable of integration on a corporate network. Novell have been know to implement the use of firefox in circumstances when it is required. In fact they now offer it over the use of IE7 since it is a more efficient system to use and can offer higher custom plugin support to adopt network security measures. Since Novell is one of the leading teams in large networks and network security, its a sure sign the IE7 still has a way to go. And if you are concerned about running web applications like active X, its net percentage is a thousand times lower than JAVA. It also has security leaks. As for page rendering which is far more important than applications, just take a look at the ACID 2 test...whilst its not perfect firefox 2 is several times better than IE7. nearly every web application system works on firefox except active X.... Java, Flash / Shockwave (same base engine) , Adobe , Javascript, Java applet and more apparently. btw object orientation is a not a standalone system. OOP is irrelevant in browsers since its impossible to be built using JUST OOP, since you require rendering engines and positioning systems, OOP is just for the GUI. which uses virtually no memmory compared to the rendering engine. infact if it is OOP for the GUI, if an extention or plugin is built incorrectly then the script execution will NOT crash the browser. its isolated compared to if it was not OOP. for this reason and many more Firefox is a stable and well ballanced browser offering a smart and better choice to the over monopolized micrsoft IE. well done sun microsystems ..... firefox is a sure winner.

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  12. Dan 14 years ago

    If you are interested in seeing the difference between the speed of Firefox and IE try this script out:

    function testing(){
    }
    function buttonClick(){
    var longString = "";
    for (var i = 0; i

    It takes firefox about 1 sec to finish it, while IE takes over a min.

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  13. Dan 14 years ago

    Hmm sorry the script got cropped or something

    function buttonClick(){
    var longString = "";
    for (var i = 0; i

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  14. Helmut 14 years ago

    it is not an option to us the portable firefox for cooperate networks. The application can be placed centrally on a network drive.

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  15. Damien LaGoy 14 years ago

    Re: Acrobat in Firefox:

    Another option to getting a Firefox page into Acrobat is to open Acrobat first, choose "Create PDF from Web Page", then copy/paste the url into the the URL bar.

    This will also preserve the hyperlinks.

    You may also select "Get entire site" but it will take longer and you will end up with a large file.

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  16. Lester Earnshaw 13 years ago

    I preferred Firefox until I began running into problems: Firefox will not read PDF files. I have tried a number of "fixes" without result. And, Firefox will often refuse to return to the previous page. I have to leave the program and start again. Most annoying.

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  17. Brian McCullough 13 years ago

    I've found one good reason to install Firefox even if you intend to rely on IE as your primary browser. And it is specifically because IE is so tightly tied to the OS. I've had IE occassionally become damaged (typically in areas related to the search functions) which made it very difficult to browse to a network drive or internet site to download a patch or repair file. If Firefox was installed, I could workaround the browsing problem easily. Otherwise, I had to burn a CD with the update on another machine and rely on sneakernet.

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  18. Klaus Eichele 13 years ago

    Unfortunately, Michael is correct with his topic " 5. Many applications are dependent on the IE", and it is related to Acrobat reader. There is one issue with Acrobat reader that has not been addressed so far: klicking in a PDF on a link with an url will open in IE, no matter what is installed as default web browser.

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  19. Paperino 12 years ago

    Seems point 5 is now resolved. In my systems, AR9 opens correctly an URL with the default browser, Firefox, not in IE.

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  20. Chris Bilodeau 11 years ago

    your points are vary unimportant and would never stand in the way of using a better client then IE.

    +1

  21. Lester A. Earnshaw 11 years ago

    I could not get Firefox to work with Adobe Reader or Flash Player. I went over to Flash Peak Slim Browser. A fine browser with--so far--none of Firefox's problems

    +1

  22. baltimorelocksmith 10 years ago

    for me point 5 is the most relevant - but thats a failure by developers not Mozilla.

    +1

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