Bank of America to support Firefox, finally

Bank of America, why is it that you hate this World Wide Web and its 180 million Firefox users?

I know what you're asking about that headline: "Is he trying to tell us that the US's second-largest bank does not already support the world's second-most-popular Web browser?"

Bingo, that's it exactly. BoA does not support Firefox, at least not officially and at least not today. That's not to say Firefox doesn't work on the BoA Web site -- it does, by and large, I am told -- but it is not listed as one of the three "supported browsers" on the bank's FAQ page. (The three are Safari, Netscape and . . . uh, I forget the third.)

So Firefox may be newly listed with the Guinness Book of World Records for having delivered the most downloads in a day. But listed with Bank of America? Not so much.

The matter was brought to my attention by a reader who had contacted BoA technical support about an issue he was having while trying to bank online using Safari. Wanting to preempt any suggestion that he switch browsers, the reader wrote in his e-mail to BoA: "Please don't tell me to just use Firefox instead. That is not an acceptable answer, not after the . . . site has officially supported Safari for so many years."

He needn't have worried, as the BoA support agent replied:

"Please note Bank of America does not support Firefox."

Guess not.

So I turned to Mozilla to see if this sort of disrespect remains common these days, despite all of the worldwide hoopla surrounding Firefox.

"As far as we know, the situation you describe is pretty unusual," says Johnathan Nightingale, whose title, speaking of unusual, is Human Shield. "Most major Web sites, and certainly major banks, have been officially supporting their Firefox users for years. However, it's not something we track very closely. We know that many Web sites will support multiple browsers as a matter of principle, to respect and enable their users' choices, but that for the rest, support comes with market share."

Which I guess makes the situation even more puzzling.

"Our latest market share numbers show Firefox totaling 19 per cent (Net Applications, June 2008), close to 30 per cent in Europe; and having more than 180 million active Firefox users," Nightingale continues. "That's pretty hard for any major site to ignore, especially when 'supporting Firefox' usually just amounts to using open standards. Supporting Firefox is really just supporting the Web."

So, Bank of America, why is it that you hate this World Wide Web and its 180 million Firefox users?

"Bankofamerica.com does work for most versions of Firefox, and we do routinely conduct testing with new products and releases for the site," assures Tara Burke, a BoA spokeswoman. "However, there is a process that we go through to 'officially support' a browser type and version, which includes in-depth functional and regression testing cycles."

And that brings us back to the headline on this post, which, alert readers no doubt gathered, contained foreshadowing of a somewhat happy ending.

"As the usage of Firefox browsers has increased with our customer base," Burke continues, "we will be initiating a full support model for Firefox version 2.x in the very near future."

What does "very near future" mean? She wouldn't say, on the record, but off the record she did convince me that very near means very near.

As for what took so long, well, that's anybody's guess -- as is when they'll get around to supporting Firefox 3.0.

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