A group of self-titled "political activists" in Massachusetts has started an aggressive campaign to get browser users to switch from Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer to Mozilla Corp.'s Firefox.
The campaign, called Explorer Destroyer, takes advantage of a new program by Google Inc. to pay users US$1 for each referral to Firefox made through Google Toolbar, according to the group's Web site (http://www.explorerdestroyer.com).
"You already want people to switch to Firefox. Now's the time to get serious about it," according to the site. "Google is paying $1 for each new Firefox user you refer. ... Now you can advance your ideals, save people from popups and spyware hell, and make some serious money."
Google did not return calls seeking comment for this story, but the search giant offers a standard $1 per user referral fee to Web sites that generate new downloads of Firefox with the Google Toolbar.
According the Explorer Destroyer Web site, the group offers Web-site owners scripting technology that will detect if a visitor is running IE. If so, an alert will appear directing them to download Firefox either to view the site better or at all. Whenever a visitor to a Web site using the group's technology switches to Firefox from IE, the owner of the Web site will get the referral fee if they have signed up for Google's AdSense program.
There are three types of alerts site owners can put on their page -- "gentle encouragement," "semi-serious" or "dead serious."
If a Web site owner chooses "gentle encouragement," visitors to a site who are using IE will see a banner across the top of the page that encourages them to download Firefox. A "semi-serious" site will put up a splash page encouraging a user to download Firefox, with a link for downloading Mozilla's browser as well as a link to the Web site.
Those who choose the "dead serious" rating actually block users with IE from viewing the page, informing them they must install Firefox to view the site. A demo of what happens when a user clicks on a site with this rating can be found at http://explorerdestroyer.com/demo3.html
In addition to the Explorer Destroyer Web site, where users can download the scripts for their sites and learn more information, the group also has launched another Web site that parodies IE and provides users with reasons why they should switch to Firefox at http://www.killbillsbrowser.com.
One reasons for switching, according to the site? "It will make Bill Gates soooooooooo mad." "Seriously-- super, super mad," the site goes on to say. "And even more than Bill, let's think about Steve 'I'm going to ... kill Google' Ballmer for a second. If there's anyone that's going to absolutely blow a gasket when they see this Web site, it will be him."
Other reasons the site offers for switching from IE to Firefox include, "Reduce your weekly family and friends tech support load to eight hours" -- a reason that pokes fun at various problems users encounter when using IE -- and "If we knew Web designers would hurl themselves off it, we wouldn't have put the Golden Gate bridge so close to San Francisco," which cites developer difficulties in making Web sites IE-compatible.
The Explorer Destroyer group did not immediately respond to an e-mail requesting an interview Tuesday. An open letter about the campaign can be found at http://www.explorerdestroyer.com/open_letter.php
A Mozilla spokeswoman declined to comment on the group's efforts and Microsoft did not immediately return requests for comment on Tuesday.