A group of self-styled 'political activists' in Massachusetts has started an aggressive campaign to get web-users to switch from Microsoft's Internet Explorer to Mozilla's Firefox browser.

The campaign, called Explorer Destroyer, takes advantage of a program by Google to pay users $1 for each referral to Firefox made through Google Toolbar, according to the group's website.

"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 pop-ups 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 sites that generate new downloads of Firefox with the Google Toolbar.

According the Explorer Destroyer site, the group offers website 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 site using the group's technology switches to Firefox from IE, the owner of the website 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 website 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 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 here.

In addition to the Explorer Destroyer site, where users can download the scripts for their sites and learn more information, the group also has launched another website that parodies IE and provides users with reasons why they should switch to Firefox.

What are the 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 website, 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 sites IE-compatible.

The Explorer Destroyer group did not immediately respond to an email requesting an interview yesterday. An open letter about the campaign can be found here.

A Mozilla spokeswoman declined to comment on the group's efforts and Microsoft did not immediately return requests for comment.