Battle of the web browsers After its debut in 2004, non-profit run, open-source Web browser Firefox captured almost a quarter of the market with its speed, stability, and customizability. But lately users had been complaining that Firefox had gotten slow and prone to crashing, says Slate's Farhad Manjoo. In the meantime, Apple and Google came out with Safari and Chrome. And in March, Microsoft debuted Internet Explorer 8, which Manjoo calls "a pleasure to use." This week, Mozilla finally released Firefox 3.5 and it was worth the wait, boasting new features and a boost in speed. Better yet, argues Manjoo, it "gives us a peek at the Internet of tomorrow." It offers the best implementation of HTML 5, an update to the standard coding language that the World Wide Web Consortium has been trying to promote since 2007. The new release, adds Manjoo, "could prompt a re-engineering of the Web itself." For more on how a free products and a volunteer workforce made Mozilla the hottest tech company in America, check out David H. Freedman's feature on The Firefox Paradox from our archives.
The worst tech commercial ever? It's been a bad week for Internet Explorer. Just as techies are heaping praise on Firefox's latest release, 29-year tech writing veteran Harry McCracken declares Microsoft's new IE commercial, featuring a woman projectile vomiting (repeatedly) after seeing a site her husband had been viewing, the worst commercial he's seen. Ever. Valleywag concurs, adding that other spots in the series are just as grating. Even AdAge calls the series, hosted by ex-Superman star Dean Cain, "nothing if not odd."
Third time a charm? For the third time in three years, the web TV provider Joost has a new business plan. It's also laying off 70 of 90 employees, Advertising Age reports. As one of the first web TV start-ups, Joost had the backing of CBS and Viacom, and high-profile founders in Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, of Skype and Kazaa fame. Soon, though, users became disenchanted with its mandatory software download, so last year the start-up switched to a browser-based, ad-supported service. But that maneuver didn't help Joost gain much market share from popular sites like Hulu. Now it will start licensing its technology to other media companies to use on their own sites. The future doesn't look bright, Om Malik writes over at GigaOM. "When I read about all the planned changes...the first thought that crossed my mind was: Stick a fork in it; Joost is done," he says. Malik goes on to compare their new strategy to "a leaky lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean." Ouch. Their missteps, he continues, include growing too big, too fast; attracting too much publicity, too soon; and waiting too long to move to a browser-based service.
Big Apple food fight. A good old-fashioned New York City street fight is brewing in Manhattan between the city's established food-cart vendors and a new wave of culinary entrepreneurs with high-end food trucks serving everything from vegan tacos to chicken-Thai dumplings. The New York Times reports that the traditional hot dog and gyros vendors have been less than welcoming to this new breed of mobile food purveyors, who they claim are encroaching on their turf and stealing their business. The feud has begun to turn ugly, with some of the new vendors claiming they have to deal with threats, harassment, and in one case, slashed tires. As Grant Di Mille, owner of the Street Sweets food truck, explains, "I should not have to carry a baseball bat on my truck in order to sell cupcakes."
Small businesses fall behind on loan payments. Small and medium-sized companies are reporting the highest rate of delinquent loans since the recession began, according to PayNet, a commercial lending analysis group. Reuters reports that the latest numbers show a moderate delinquency (accounts that are behind by at least 30 days) rate of 4.43 percent, .35 percentage points higher than the monthly average over the last nine years. PayNet's founder and president, Bill Phelan, predicts that despite some promising April statistics, the business cycle has not yet come full circle. "We're still in the thick of it," he says. The rates of severely delinquent accounts (90 or more days behind) and accounts in default (180 or more days behind) also rose, although by smaller margins.
Taking one for the team. Chrysler filed for federal bankruptcy on Thursday, General Motors is on the fence, and a third of Detroiters live below the poverty line. To Bing Group founder and ex-NBA hall-of-famer Dave Bing, it sounds like a good time to throw his hat in the ring for Mayor of Detroit. Bing has no political experience, but ESPN thinks he's got he the determination to turn the city around. If elected, Bing says he will turn the company over to his two daughters, and donate his salary to the police department. With "one shot" to turn the city around, says Bing, it had best begin with this election.
Been there, done that. One T-shirt designed by small business owner, Mike Draper, expressed his sentiment about the growing health care problem: "America: Only the Insured Survive." Draper, whose screen-printing company pays all health insurance premiums for its seven full-time employees, testified in Washington last week in favor of a government-run public insurance option, touting it as the only viable alternative for the future. Draper believes the flat rate levied by a proposed Congressional bill would bring consistency to his year-to-year budgeting. "[Our employees] are all unmarried 20-somethings," Draper said. "But in five years, when everyone needs family policies, we might be in a little bit of trouble."
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