The Firefox opportunity

The future of "great Windows applications," we're told, lies with Longhorn's next-generation presentation subsystem, Avalon, which will reboot software development sometime in the latter half of this decade. Of course, even Microsoft can't wait until then. Consider InfoPath. It's a great Windows application and a rich Internet client that had to ship in 2003. Its foundation is none other than Internet Explorer -- or rather, the suite of components and Internet standards on which Internet Explorer depends. Could InfoPath have been built on a Mozilla foundation instead? You bet. And the result wouldn't just be a great Windows application. It would be a great application, period. [Full story at]
After I wrote this column, I checked out an interesting new application that I wish had been built on a Mozilla foundation: Onfolio. You can't fault Onfolio's creator, J.J. Allaire, for targeting the overwhelming majority platform: IE/Win. Of course as a .NET app, Onfolio targets a minority within that majority. We live in interesting times!

It's easy to imagine a Mozilla-based organizer that does the kinds of things Onfolio does, but on all platforms. The UI would be handled by XUL, JavaScript, and components; storage would be handled (as in Chandler) by Berkeley DB XML. What's missing from this equation is the enormous value that I'm told (and that I believe) the .NET Framework is delivering to Onfolio. Of course Mozilla can use the .NET Framework on Windows too. The wild card in the deck is Mono, which could in theory deliver similar value on other platforms. One of these days, I guess somebody's going to dive in and test those technical (and legal!) waters.

In response to the Firefox column, Peter Traeg asked:

You mentioned in your article that you have been using Firefox to build apps that fetch, transform, and search XML documents. Do you have some links you could share with information on how to do this?
Yup. Here and here.

For those who don't want to switch (or aren't allowed to), another reader recommends a way to have, in IE, the kinds of enhancements that have been showing up in Mozilla:

There is a product called My IE 2 that adds not only a very flexible Tabbed Browsing interface to IE 6, but ad blocking, pop-up blocking and a whole lot more...It is an amazing piece of freeware and it does all of this and much more, including mouse gestures, in a very small, 700+ Kilobyte file that basically sits atop IE 6 and makes your browsing experience a much, much better one.
I haven't tried this yet, so I can't recommend it, but it seems noteworthy.

Finally, I've noticed growing interest in Firefox search plugins. Oracle guru Steve Muench is rolling his own, and Flash guru Mike Chambers has made a bunch of installable ones for searching Macromedia resources.

Former URL: