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Open Source Wins Over Monolithic Dynasty

Updated on November 23, 2012

(c) 2012 kevin languedoc (klanguedoc)

IE9 features Mozilla Firefox functionality prominently and would appear to be the new kernel for the venerable Internet Explorer. Apart from Firefox or Mozilla UI design and functionality, IE9 features some important design constructs from the Chromium open source project. The Chromium project, for those who don’t know, is the open source project behind Google’s Chrome browser and ChromeOS, the operating system that powers the line of Chromebooks and Chromebox computers.

Wanting to explore these similarities, I began a review of the key functionalities from both these open source browsers that can be found in IE9, I decided to share with you my findings in my own review as an end user and developer

Pro Internet Explorer 8 & 9 Development: Developing Powerful Applications for The Next Generation of IE
Pro Internet Explorer 8 & 9 Development: Developing Powerful Applications for The Next Generation of IE

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Similarities between IE9 and Firefox

The first feature that comes to mind when looking at the screens of the version 9 of Internet Explorer and Firefox is the disposition of the tabs and search fields. With IE9 the tabs are along the top of the screen just like Firefox and the forward and back buttons are also similarly placed, albeit the design is somewhat different. Actually if you have an older version of Firefox, you will notice that the placement of the navigation buttons are almost identical even if the design of the buttons are slightly different.

The other aspect that comes to mind is the uncluttered look of IE9, which resembles the design philosophy of Mozilla Firefox. However, you can display the menu bar in IE9, in Firefox this is not possible but these options are tucked away under the Firefox button. That said, if you look towards the far right in IE9 you will notice an icon which resembles a gear. Clicking on this icon, a menu selection will show or display a choice of menu commands. Likewise in Firefox, at the same place you will find an icon of a star embedded in a black rectangle. Clicking on this icon, you will be presented with a similar set of menu commands.

The other interesting similarity is the search field adjacent to the address field. Both browser have the same field, positioned in a like manner.

Another design similarity between the two browsers if the ability to manage “addons”. This addon manager or utility is equally available from the above mentioned icon. Developing addons in Firefox involves configuring a series of XML based preferences, creating a manifest file and developing the extension or addon using html and javascript. IE9 on the other hand allows a developer to create addons using Visual Studio. You can use Visual, C# or Html/Javascript.

Some may argue that these similarities are only coincidences but it is interesting nevertheless how so many design ideas have found their way into IE9.

The Firefox Browser
The Firefox Browser | Source
Microsoft IE9
Microsoft IE9 | Source

Similarities between IE9 and Chrome

The similarities with Google Chrome is even more striking. One of the appealing features of the Chrome browser is the dual functionality of the address field, shown below. This field can be used to enter an URL or it can be used to perform a search as you would if you were on Google’s home page that features the singular search field. IE9 has introduced the same feature with its address field in addition to the search field that is provided like with Firefox. It is a very useful feature. Was it copied or did Microsoft find the design feature highly desirable and borrowed the code from the Chromium project.

Google Chrome is famous for allowing developers to develop Themes, Extensions and App for their Chrome browser. As such Google has created a nice eco-system around their browser. These custom apps can be added to the Chrome browser through a local installation or through the Chrome Web Store for free, with ads or for a fee. This feature will still unique to Chrome and Safari.

The last big feature that stands out the Google home page that features capsules with the users most visited sites. The downside is that the user has no control of which website appears in these capsules and can be embarrassing if a person is surfing web sites that have no bearing on the day to day work.

Microsoft has taken this concept a couple of steps further allowing users to individually pin their favorite web sites to the IE9 home page as seen below. This is definitely better and is more acceptable and useful. But the design concept is very similar as is the extension gallery which is also available from the home page. These extension resemble Google Chrome’s extension

Internet Explorer 9
Internet Explorer 9 | Source
the Google Chrome Home Page (on logged user)
the Google Chrome Home Page (on logged user) | Source

While at first glance this may seem flattering to Google and Mozilla and the open source movement at large, it underscores Microsoft inability to innovate on its own accord. True, it is completely legal to use open source projects in commercial products and many companies like IBM and Oracle go down this route and the Apache Foundation was created to provide open source solution to the industry, but Microsoft makes such stink about its industry leading innovations, often scoffing at the open source movement in the past, that I find it funny when they discreetly use open source software in their own software. If you are going to use the open source software to create your products, then promote the fact.

1 out of 5 stars from 1 rating of Internet Explorer 9


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    • klanguedoc profile image

      Kevin Languedoc 5 years ago from Canada

      Outside of work I use Chrome. At work however I must use IE9 which is far better than the previous versions but no near, in my opinion, to Chrome or Firefox.

      Thanks for the comment

    • ptosis profile image

      ptosis 5 years ago from Arizona

      I use Ubuntu as the OS & Firefox as a browser. I didn't know that MSIE9 used opensource SW but that still won't make me change back to that frustrating bugaboo.