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Mozilla goes enterprise with Build a Browser program

Mozilla has long been locked out of the enterprise, but new programs like Build a Browser may change that.

Despite its 22.51 percent global market share, Mozilla's Firefox browser has yet to crack the enterprise IT barrier. While Firefox is undoubtedly used widely in the enterprise, Internet Explorer is still the default choice for enterprise IT, in part because Mozilla has never made any particular market, including enterprise IT, a focus.

No more. Perhaps responding to criticism that Firefox lacked the tools to help enterprise IT departments manage its deployment, Mozilla is now rolling out a Build Your Own Browser program. The program aims to provide "a good fit for enterprises that want to create a customized browser that can be easily installed across multiple corporate desktops," according to Mike Beltzner, director of Firefox at Mozilla Corp.

This is good news. While some breathlessly wait for Google Chrome to leverage Google's cachet into the enterprise, ultimately functionality and stability win with skittish IT professionals. Mozilla's Build Your Own Browser program is designed to deliver against these IT requirements.

The program works as follows: IT professionals can tailor their preferred browser configuration (perhaps with default bookmarks to corporate Web sites, for example) using a Mozilla Web application, including corporate branding using Mozilla's Personas technology. The application will then send the user a custom installation program for deploying the browser across the company.

It's an interesting new foray into enterprise computing by Mozilla, but it's doubtful that the program will foster an exodus from Internet Explorer. That is happening already, with or without such enterprise tools. Mozilla is already seeing its Firefox market share gain 5 percent each year even as IE falls by 5 percent per year. This is leading more application developers to write their software for both IE and Firefox.

This, it is assumed, will continue apace.

In fact, with things like Mozilla's new Add-on Collector service for Firefox, which makes it easier to subscribe to and maintain third-party add-ons (e.g., Fasterfox, Faviconize, etc.), Mozilla is setting new benchmarks for browser performance and ease-of-use. Internet Explorer is playing catch-up.

Enterprise IT is a lagging indicator of where the market is going. It's normal that Firefox's rising popularity should be felt everywhere else first. At some point, however, even the stodgiest of enterprise IT departments is going to need to recognize that with roughly a fourth of their constituents using Firefox, sticking exclusively to IE is a losing battle.

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.