The best political news of the week: As of Thursday evening Iranians had downloaded 303,147 copies of the latest version of Mozilla's Firefox Web browser since it was released Tuesday, according to Firefox's site.
That Iran would order more Firefox copies than Brazil and China and almost as many as Canada shows there are numerous Iranians who are closely engaged with the Web - which is to say, literate, Western-oriented and apparently enlightened enough to shun the works of Bill Gates and his spawn. (Firefox is the free, open-source alternative to Microsoft's Internet Explorer.)
By contrast, the Philippines, which has 17 million more people than Iran, had put fewer than 50,000 Firefox copies on its hard drives. Egypt, also Muslim and about the same size as Iran, had downloaded only 12,023 copies.
Like McDonald's restaurants and sushi sales, Web use marks a country as globalizing and - can we hope? - politically moderating. Iran's embrace of software released in California suggests again that its benighted government does not reflect its people.
Years ago I had coffee at the United Nations with the press attache from the Iranian mission in New York. He liked to play backgammon online. He played with people all over the world. Israelis? I don't remember. But he believed the 'Net would help bring people together and heal the globe's wounds. It hasn't happened yet, but the more people in developing nations who start surfing, the better.
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