Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Lesson is in Here Somewhere

I use Firefox. I am not sure that I am going to keep using Firefox. I am having so many problems with my browser crashing, hanging, and disappearing from my taskbar. They seem to be mostly related to Firefox because, when it's not open, my computer runs much more efficiently.

I know that others, whose opinions on these matters I trust, have already given up on Firefox. In all likelihood, however, I probably will not. If for no other reason, I have shifted to using zotero reference management software. It is an incredible program and, with the new beta sync version, I can (and do) use it on multiple computers. It is excellent software that allows you to automatically download citations from Firefox's location bar, allows iTunes-like menu control, notes, annotations, drag-and-drop citations (great for putting citations in e-mails) and excellent integration with Word that avoids many of the annoying characteristics of both Refworks and EndNote. In other words, I'll be sticking with Firefox for a while, unless Zotero is released on Google Chrome anytime soon.

Speaking of EndNote, Thompson Reuters—EndNote's parent company—is suing Zotero and George Mason University over copyright infringement disguised as a contract violation[1]. The obvious complaint with large corporations controlling products is that they capture such a large portion of market share that they require everyone to use their products with inflated prices and deflated quality (see, Microsoft). I hope Zotero wins the suit, not only because they offer a far superior product at a far better price (free!), but also because it would set an awful precedent if they lose for all kinds of other products.

On the other hand, open-source products like Firefox seem to me to have a different problem. They seem to try to do too much. The value of Firefox was that it was a very simple platform on which one could add, as one wished, extensions that improved the user experience rather than proprietary formats, like Word or Explorer, that put everything in the program and then dumb it down to the least common denominator. But, with Firefox 3, it seems like they tried to put too much in and it bloats both computer memory and CPU usage, making my computer run too slowly.

Anyway, as I say, I am sure that there is a lesson in here about software lock-in, open-source versus proprietary software, or business models in here somewhere. I'm just too tired to figure them out.

[1] For more on the suit, see here, here, and here. The basic consensus, it seems, is that first EndNote is using contract law to dispute that their proprietary style formats were reverse-engineered by the Zotero team and second Thompson Reuters should hire new lawyers given the incompetence displayed in the suit filed. h/t dr for the heads-up on the suit.


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