One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Today I went to Internet Explorer’s website to “get the facts” on why I should upgrade my “old Firefox” to IE8, when I came across this gem on the MythBusting page:

Internet Explorer 8 has much more functionality than other browsers, and its functionality is there from the moment you open the browser. Internet Explorer 8 offers almost all of the features the most popular add-ons in Firefox have, and you’re able to personalize your browser in a way that saves you time and research.

As someone whose job is working with Firefox Add-ons every single day, you can imagine my shock when I learned that IE has almost all of the features of our top add-ons built right in! I did some research trying to figure out how this could have happened, and realized that, like much of the “Get the Facts” section, it is completely untrue.

Let’s take a look at the top 15 most popular add-ons in Firefox, as listed on the Firefox Add-ons site:

Add-on name Functionality Functionality built into IE8?
Adblock Plus Ad blocking No
FlashGot Download Manager No
Video DownloadHelper Video downloading No
NoScript JavaScript blocking No
DownThemAll! Download Manager No
Greasemonkey Website customization No
Personas for Firefox Lightweight themes No
Firebug Web development tool Kinda?
IE Tab IE rendering YES!
Cooliris Image Browser No
Download Statusbar Download Manager No
Autopager Pagination Tool No
AnyColor Lightweight themes No
Xmarks (formerly Foxmarks) Bookmark Synchronization No
Flagfox Web server info No

I’m not convinced that two out of fifteen top Firefox add-ons being natively supported in IE8 should be considered “almost all”. However, if you’re interested in the add-ons that provide IE’s functionality in Firefox, take a look at these collections of add-ons that bring things like accelerators and web slices to Firefox.

IE8 is certainly leaps and bounds better than IE6, but neither claiming to support nor actually supporting the functionality of Firefox’s top add-ons is the best way to compete with Firefox’s add-ons ecosystem. Web slices sound delicious, but my personal opinion is that most new features of web browsers today should be implemented as add-ons and not as core features. That’s not to say I think Firefox is there, but I think we’re going in the right direction. As we like to say, one size doesn’t fit all.