New IE 8 security tools: Not enough to stop the Firefox onslaught

Microsoft today announced new security features for Internet Explorer 8, on the same day that a survey shows that Firefox has its biggest share of the browser market ever. As impressive as those new tools are, they won't be able to stop Firefox from continuing to eat into IE's market share. I've got details on my blog.

Net Applications today said that in June, Firefox ended up with a 19% share of the browser market, up 0.6% over May. IE dropped almost the same amount, 0.7%, to 73%. Some time in July, Net Applications says, Firefox will have 20% market share.

Coincidentally, today Microsoft announced some very useful new security tools for IE 8. Its anti-phishing tool has been beefed up, redesigned, and renamed the SmartScreen Filter, and now protects against downloading files from sites known to harbor malware. Any time you try to download from a site know to host malware, the filter blocks the download, as you can see in the screenshot below. You can override it if you want, but most likely you won't want to.


There are a variety of other useful enhancements as well, including new tools for protecting against malicious ActiveX controls, and automatic blocking of a variety of Internet-based attacks, such as Cross Site Scripting. And Vista's Data Execution Protection will be extended to versions of IE 8 running Vista SP1.

As welcome as those new security features are, they're not enough to hold off Firefox. At this point, Firefox is simply the superior browser. For the last several years, it's been one step ahead of IE --- just think how long it took Microsoft to finally give IE tabbed browsing, for example.

Firefox 3 has a slew of great new features, including the so-called Awesome Bar, a great new Site Identification button, and an overall slicker-looking interface. It's far superior to IE 7, although we'll have to see how IE 8 stacks up against it.

Perhaps more important are Firefox add-ons, which give considerable features to the browser. There are countless great add-ons. There are few ActiveX controls, however, and most of what's there aren't particularly compelling.

One big issue Microsoft has to confront is the power of the Open Source movement applied to a mass market browser. Firefox add-ons, and the redesign of Firefox in the latest version show that it may be the cooperative power of many can defeat the considerable coding power of Microsoft.

Of course, even with the latest browser market figures, IE still dominates. But every month, Firefox keeps chipping away. My guess is that IE 8, by itself, won't be enough to stop IE's steady decline. If not, it may be time for Microsoft to consider an overhaul of IE.

To see the latest browser market share numbers from Net Applications, click here. And if you're looking for tips on getting the most out of Firefox 3, check out my article, Hands on: 12 quick hacks for Firefox 3.


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