Netscapelorer: the beachhead

Tuesday, 21 Dec 2004 [Tuesday, 28 Dec 2010]

It just occurred to me that the new Firefox-based AOL browser dubbed “Netscapelorer” for its integration of Triton (the Internet Explorer renderer) as an alternative engine could actually help Firefox if it also provided the opposite direction: if it installed an extension into IE that allowed viewing pages in IE with the Gecko engine.

Imagine – all those IE users no longer need to be persuaded to switch. They could just install Netscapelorer and switch engines whenever IE breaks a site. I believe this would allow users to remain in their comfort zone while web designers are encouraged to be bolder – after all, users need not switch browsers at all and they can still view everything.

The hope is, of course, that eventually so many sites would make use of features which IE has no support for that users would have to switch to Gecko rendering so frequently that they end up abandoning the browser wholesale purely out of annoyance if nothing else.

It seems plausible to me.

As Joel Spolsky says, if you make it as easy as possible for people to switch to and away from your product, they’re less likely to be relunctant, because after all, they have nothing to lose.

Of course, there’s no reason that we need to wait for Netscapelorer to deliver this – it could be built right into the Firefox distribution for Windows.

Update: Many years later, the team behind another browser would build Google Chrome Frame and vindicate this idea.