search fud and lazy reporters

| 37 Comments

Well, Microsoft's FUD engine is coughing and sputtering as it cranks back up. Today Microsoft is telling a gullible media that they've got a search strategy that's better than Firefox's because, "unlike with Firefox, Microsoft is using a standard that develops itself independent of the browser, and can thus let users add many search engines to IE without Microsoft having to code them all into the browser."

WTF? Seriously. How is Firefox's standard not open and how does it require a Firefox update to add any of nearly 4,000 search plugins available today for Firefox. This is a clearly a case of Microsoft pushing lies and FUD to the to the press and the press happily publishing it as fact.

It's a shame that the press is so comfortable publishing without first fact checking. Nathan Weinberg should be embarrassed at having been made a Microsoft tool like that.

37 Comments

I don't think anyone was under the illusion that the mass media checks facts regarding the computer industry before publication.

Open standards and FUD aside, the mechanism for adding search configs to Firefox could be improved. The "Add Engines..." menu option should not just point to an obscure corner of a web page and then arbitrarily change the last link to send users off to mozdev - a site that has a substantially different visual theme and therefore breaks the comfortable branding relationship for new Firefox users.

This is very poor.

There should be a dedicated page on mozilla.org/products/firefox with the common MoFo web design theme. This page should contain a search engine that does not merely point to mycroft.mozdev

With all respect to the team that works on mycroft, that name should not even be referred to. Users should not have to be introduced to several brands/names before they can feel comfortable changing to Firefox.

In this case, I don't think the writer is gullible so much as he is actively biased against Firefox.

Pd, Mycroft isn't solely used for Firefox, and to the best of my knowledge it's not run by the Mozilla Foundation. It is, in fact, independent of the browser. Consequently, they can do whatever with their visual style. To be honest, I doubt many users even realize they can change their search engines at all, or (if they do) that they can add more. Most users don't care, either, I suspect. It's got all the basic search engines users might want, and a few more that most wouldn't. It's doubtful that many users who would feel uncomfortable browsing a page that doesn't share Mozilla's (trademarked) website look-and-feel would ever get around to actually trying to download other search engines.

As for the article... I wrote a comment about the same issue before you wrote this, but the comment is sitll "awaiting moderation". I'm guessing that it will continue to await moderation for quite awhile...

Yes, the article is slanted; however I think people are missing what OpenSearch is. It's a structured XML format for issuing queries and returning results from search engines. It's similar to RSS in that the site must support it and the browser will need some form of client to parse and render the results. It's actually a pretty decent idea if it becomes popular with more sites. I'm surprised that no one has implemented a Firefox extension for this, especially given all the buzz around it last spring.

It is true that this article contains some misinformation about how to add a search site to Firefox. It probably even came from MS, which would make it FUD. None of that changes the key fact: IE7�s infrastructure on adding search boxes simply seems better...

To install a search engine on FF, I need to A) know about the �add a search engine� site. Then I need to B) find the specific site to add [something I�ve not always found easy, or possible-- even when I know it�s there], C) click the button...

It sounds like what IE7 will do is present the user with a button, much like FF�s �Live bookmark� button, and that�s it...

Which user experience would you rather have? Especially if the two don�t have to be mutually exclusive...

The thing about OpenSearch can be found here and here. The reporter did exaggerate and/or spread FUD about Firefox's search mechanism, and should be ashamed.

Nevertheless, Mozilla.org should really consider moving or copying the search engines to addons.mozilla.org. When an ordinary person clicks the last link and goes to Mycroft, they won't understand why. If it was hosted on addons.mozilla.org, an ordinary user would at least understand, and would be more likely to download search enginges. It would also make the user feel more "secure", knowing that it comes from a Mozilla-sanctioned page. I think that mozilla.org staff should cooperate with the mycroft team to at least copy the search plugins to their site.

Doing something with the search system is planned for 2.0, I believe.

webpronews.com doesn't seem to exist from my point of view. Did it get rm -rf'd after M$ realized they stuck footInMouth again?

Nathan writes back:

"I�m going to try not to be too harsh.

Lets say I want to install a search engine in Firefox. Now, its not too hard. Click the down arrow in the search box, and click �Add Engines�. Then, click �Find lots of other search engines��. Then browse through the categories and find the one you want.

Later, if the engine you added is no longer useful, and the list of engines is too long, you might want to remove it. To do so, you�

Well? Where�s the interface? Where�s the option? Where are the preferences? It sure isn�t listed anywhere in the browser. I know you have to go through the deep config, but how many mainstream FF users are doing that?"

Hopefully not too off-topic, but it does highlight an area Fx will hopefully improve in, in the near future.

However, Nathan has so far failed to accept that he was wrong in stating search plugins need to be coded into the browser.

In my opinion (or as Nathan would say: Opinion! Opinion! Opinion!) Fx has the better method to add search engines. I would agree though, it would perhaps be helpful if users could be better introduced to the search plugin site. In addition, I agree that it would be more comfortable for users to see these plugins listed on a mozilla-themed site. Not that Mycroft doesn't have every right to have it's own theme- of course it does. But I echo the post made by pd in this respect.

Any article that begins with "On eof the" gets an instant black-mark from me. :-)

In any case, I can't help but wonder if OpenSearch is a real standard, or just a [pseudo-]"standard". Most real standards I can think of formed in one of two ways... Often the need for a standard is widely recognized, and it is developed and implemented by a body involving the major players. The other way real standards tend to form is when a propritary solution becomes so popular, it becomes a defacto standard (perhaps formalized after the fact).

The scare-quotes "standards" I mention are an increasingly common marketing tool, whereby a brand-new thing is simply rubber stamped as an adopted "standard," and then talked about as if it's not unique to one vendor. It's better than not releasing any specs at all -- but not when it's used as an attack tool under false pretense.

I guess in this case that it doesn't really matter... Because it's Microsoft, everyone will essentially be forced to adapt this solution. Which means Firefox should probably support it as well.

Yes, it's FUD. I hope you e-mailed the editor as a representative of the Mozilla corporation rather than just flaming him on your blog.

On the other hand, the IE blog revealed that they considered adopting Firefox's standard for search engines. Some of their reasons for not doing so seem justified and their chosen format seems technically better and more flexible.

This clearly wasn't a case of Microsoft suffering from not-invented-here syndrome, as they took the closest format which suited them and worked with its creators to evolve it to what they need. They've made the result open, and I hope that Firefox considers supporting it. Patches accepted?

All excellent points by Mr Lizard above. Being able to delete an engine by right click just seems so intutive. Perhaps there is some contractual reason with Google or Yahoo why they dont want this feature, although I know to many in the community that 'feature' is a bad word. What shocks me is that I cant find and entension to delete on right click (if there is one can someone direct me to it please and thank you).

Justin: OpenSearch is a �real� standard. It's the outcome of work by Amazon (A9), and later collaboration between them and Microsoft (OpenSearch 1.1). The IE dev team (who I urge you all to consider as being a separate entity from the Microsoft media machine) spotted potential in the format and worked with A9 to improve it.

It would be beneficial to all, I think, if Mozilla was to add support for OpenSearch (assuming the OpenSearch documentation is of suitable �standard� quality). I suspect it could be a very useful format to the internet as a whole.

Anyway, regardless of FUD and all the rest from Microsoft marketeers and media tools, it's fabulous to see the IE team offering competition against rival features, at the same time as playing catch up. Browser-based search is standard and it's an obvious feature for inclusion in any new browser, but to see them produce something that on the face of it seems robust and (for want of a better word) [i]better[/i] than existing implementations is good for all involved.

This is the moment MS is finally revealing some of the technologies they kept promising for the last years, so it sounds reasonable they're getting media attention.

Besides that, on the point discussed that article isn't completly inaccurate. Firefox inherited from Mozilla an effective and simple search mechanism but which nowadays shows it's age. The format for describing search engines comes if i remember well from Apple's Sherlock and dates back several years ago, that is in pre-xml, pre-rss and pre-semantic era of the web. I guess it's hardly used by anyone else than gecko-derived browser.

Guys, just go to your Firefox program folder and go into the searchplugins folder. You can delete any unwanted search engines there. Yes, it's complicated, but less annoying than when you have to reinstall your custom plugins after a Firefox update. I hope Fx will stop erasing people's plugins in the future.

As for OpenSearch, it's a matter of time until Fx supports it. What Microsoft REALLY wants, it has gotten so far.

@ Tsee: we know how to erase our search plugins, the point made was that it's unacceptable to expect Regular Users(TM) to dive into program folders and delete them from there.

Yes, because as we all know Mozilla never spreads FUD about its competitors. Claiming that Opera is less portable than Mozilla without having seen Opera's code and knowing that Opera is available for a helluva lot more mobile operating systems than Minimo certainly isn't FUD, is it?

"We can be ported to many platforms that Opera can't"

Not FUD at all. Mozilla Can Do No Wrong.

Keep the Opera trolling out of this page, please. Nobody wants to hear it.

True, I could have posted it somewhere else. However, the double standards displayed by Mozilla officials... It needs to be shown to the world.

Firefox out of the box (so to speak) is very user friendly and simple to use. It�s no different then any other software that is new to a person, you have to learn it. If you want more features and tools you have to learn. If users can figure out how to navigate and use an entirely new Operating System, than I think that they can figure out how to add a Search Engine.
I�m computer literate but not a coder. I started with the basic Fx in February and I didn�t know a damn thing about it. Now I have over 37 Extensions, different toolbars, multiple profiles, 1.0.6 and 1.5 on my computer (with 0 crashes) and I know how to mess with the userChrome file. I learned and I�m Legally Blind.
If you want to just surf and search, Google is there in Fx, if you want to do more, you have to learn and there is plenty of qualified help and resources available. You want a Search Plugin removed, ask and then do it. Why depend on a corporation to do everything for you.
All of the things that MS is copying are Firefox�s old news. IE7 will come out with features that are new to them and be happy with that and let it sit there for years while Fx will continue to improve on those features and come up with new ones.
Fx has been waging an uncontested war, so now the enemy is just starting to fight back. Big ass deal! A year from now, IE will still be trying to figure how to play catch up, because Fx will continue to innovate, grow and improve.

Asa,

The search feature needs a MAJOR overhaul in Firefox.

Firstly, Creative Commons should not be a default engine. There should be a simple three like Google, Yahoo and maybe Amazon. Most people won't know how to delete engines, so there should an amount that is universally useful, and grab the interest enough for people to add their own.

The mycroft thing is too overwhelming. There's too much to look at, the dinosaur is too prominent. This is too confusing for people who don't know "Mozdev" and Firefox are related. It needs to go down the same road as the addons site. The status quo is too geeky. And for Firefox, that's a bad thing.

Engines should be able to be removed via a right-click.

Finally, search engines should install into the profile. Users should have control over what is in their browser and should be affected by the choices other user make.

It's a great feature, but poorly implmented at the moment, IMO.

And I think someone should be attempted for the 1.5 release. Anything would be an improvement.

2.0 is too far away. There's going to be a lot of media coverage for 1.5, and it would be a shame if there were still things around that stopped people from using Mozilla 2 or three years ago. eg. the geek factor.

James: you'll be glad to know that search plugins have already been moved into the profile for 1.5. :-)

Nathan has updated his article to reflect more clearly what he meant. There was some constructive criticism that (hopefully) helped urge him to do this. There's also been some needless name-calling that didn't really help the situation and reflected badly on some of the more juvenile posters. The original article certainly was misleading.

Anyways, I don't think this feature is quite worth all the excitement, since I would wager most users (read: Real People) aren't going to do much more than use the standard search (be it google or msn or whatever the default is) anyways, regardless of the ease of the interface. By the time that has changed, I'm confident Firefox will have improved the interface (or created an interface) to better handle adding/removing search engines. It will certainly at least be available as an extension.

The major point of the article is very clear: IE has better search than Firefox. There might be some not-so-cruical-sentences that are not so precize, but if all other media would have this level of precision, we would be very happy people.

I don't know how much text was changed in the meantime (according to Step it was updated), but I find it malicious from Asa to move topic to talks about whether something is more open or less to mask the fact that it offers more functionality. More malicious than anything mentioned in the text.

How are Firefox .src files an standard? I guess they are certainly open in the sense that Mozilla won't stop anybody from using the same file format, but is it the result of consensus? This OpenSearch looks like.

Search plugins and Firefox's search UI limitations have been already mentioned so we know it's not perfect. Does Mozilla or you personally have a position regarding this working standard?

It sounds good the possibility of having a widespread search query/results standard which could be even better in Firefox if combined with a powerful XUL interface that I guess is almost impossible with today's mechanism.

Percy - as far as I can reall Firefox search plugins are standard Sherlock files. See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherlock_%28software%29

Robin, actually they are a fork according to the same article. Sherlock files "can also be used (with minor modifications) in Mozilla's browser suites."

So, in the best case Firefox search plugins are as standard Sherklock files as OpenOffice's .doc files are standard Microsoft Word documents.

How about a simple way to REMOVE the engines?

One should not have to navigate the filesytem and delete files to do it.

All the people whose comments bemoan Firefox's lack of search engine management features can watch and vote for Bug 232272 if they're not doing so already.

I just find it amusing that search engine management wasn't a feature included in Firefox as soon as they let people add search engines, it should've been included in 1.0 at the very least. I've never seen an argument for its delay to be honest. We're approaching 1.5 and there's still no sign of search engine management.

In Camino I'm having to resort to CamiSearch, a 3rd party add-on and website to manage my search engines. It's fantastic, but it should be built in to Mozilla. I voted already btw.

Isnt one of the press correction or whatever team/projects onto this kind of thing, and dealign with it as best as possible? Asa? There's loads of articles flying around, quite a few @ ZDnet & CNet, and the in-accuracies and FUD will go up when IE7 is near full release, or just as time goes on. If a correct response could be published for all to see, people dont then need to debate it so much, and sent further emails to the author, some of which causing more harm than good. So, is there a team still actively dealing with correcting the press, and if so who, where, why dont we see there responses to clarify everything? Regardless, that process needs to improve a lot anyway, but still, an answer please?

On the Search engines, I've managed to find an extension at the extension mirror that adds right click delete on the drop down. This first should be at Mozilla Update, and I think there's no harm in adding this basic functionality to Firefox itself, rather than people having to manually find and delete files, as that simply is not user friendly. Find it here http://www.extensionsmirror.nl/index.php?showtopic=3614

Thanks Kris, I've been looking for that since day 1 as a Firefox user, but I wasnt clever enough to know where to look.

Asa,

People with integrity are sadly rare. "Journalists" publish things that they perceive as employment-enablers. I don't think there is a single media outlet today that satisfies these criteria:

1. Not extremist.
2. Has integrity (meaning, doesn't publish in order to make money).
3. Has no agenda (or has a truly lofty agenda that doesn't involve battering people into submission, either overtly or in subtle ways).

What's more, is that most of the people would deny these charges. Everyone thinks they are unbiased and that they're doing the best they can. Not everyone warps facts consciously. Many people do it subconsciously, and really, deserve the same kind of sympathy that we have for ill people. May they get better soon.

Asa,

Contact the press. EWeek might be a good place. You could just offer the straight-up story: "Firefox supports hundreds of search engines, regardless of what Microsoft says". Or you could couch the rebuttal in a broader article: "Integrating search into the browsing experience", and in there mention Microsoft's efforts vs the capabilities in Firefox, and end with a rebuttal of their recent statement.

I made a couple of (virtually incoherent!) lazyweb requests for a firefox opensearch utility some time ago (here and here), but to no avail... :-(

I wonder if M$ embracing opensearch will raise the profile of opensearch among extension/widget develops?

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