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February 26 2014

May 21 2013

New Opera For Android Makes Switch From Presto To WebKit

Browser maker Opera just released a new version for Android with a slew of new features, an upgraded design and better performance. And, for the first time for Opera, it is not running on its own Presto rendering engine.

Opera for Android is running WebKit.

In February, Opera said that it was ditching Presto in favor of WebKit, the open source browser engine that powers the likes of Apple's Safari browser and Google Chrome. The release of the new Opera for Android is the first "final" (gold version, not in a beta stage) release of Opera running WebKit, according to Falguni Bhuta from the Opera communications team.

Opera's decision caused a bit of a hullabaloo among the browser communityMozilla's Robert O’Callahan said at the time that it was, "a sad day for the Web." O'Callahan and other browser enthusiasts lamented the loss of Presto, as it was one of only a small handful of browser rendering engines available to developers. Including WebKit, the others are Mozilla's Gecko and Microsoft's Trident for Internet Explorer.

New Features Come To Opera

Rounding up the new features for Opera, users will find some interesting capabilities:

Discover - A new feature to Opera for Android, "Discover" helps users find new articles with just a swipe from the homescreen. Opera has selected relevant global and regional news sources to give users a way to find what it going on around them.

Off-Road mode - Opera Mini has long been known for its compression technology that helps users minimize how much cellular data their browser is using. This often helps when you are having trouble getting a data connection or are roaming and is new to the full Android version of Opera. 

Combined address and search bar - Basically, Opera just created its own "omnibox" that allows you to type in website URLs or search from the same field.

Tabbed browsing - Not specifically new in the final Opera for Android version, but the UI has changed a bit from the last version and offers private browsing.

History - Easier to find your browser history. Swipe to the right to access content from the left of the homescreen.

Save for later - Allows you to download a complete webpage so as to read it later or while offline. Goes well with the "Off-Road" mode when you just want to be able to load an article or a website for later review but know that you are not going to have access to cellular data or Wi-Fi. 

Customizable navigation bar - Top or bottom, put the navigation bar where you want it.

New Speed Dial - Opera's "Speed Dial" feature now syncs with bookmarks to provide easier access to frequently visited websites from Opera's homescreen.

The new version of Opera can be found for free in Google Play.

Tags: Browsers

August 12 2012

May 09 2012

The Web vs. the Cloud: Which Metaphor Survives?

Ask yourself this: Would you install ReadWriteWeb as an app? You might, if you were convinced that it did something useful for you, and if you didn't have to pay much (or anything) for it. You may already have installed Dropbox, and services like Pinterest and LinkedIn are now smartphone apps. Can you foresee a time when you won't need a browser to do the things you do online? And if so, would you miss it much?

Metaphors are fickle things. Given enough time, they cease to apply to the concept for which they were created (e.g., "conservative," "socialist," "reality show") and just hang on as labels, often arcane references to ideals pertinent to an earlier age.

Just what the Web is today depends upon whom you ask. A recent list of what are frequently called the "most valuable Web startups" is topped by the following six entries: Facebook, Zynga, Groupon, 360Buy.com, Twitter and Dropbox. The common factor among them, in the context of everyday conversation, is that they're considered Web businesses. The keyword here is "considered." If you ask Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, Facebook already ate the Web and is licking up the remains.

Insert Cloud Here

Perhaps more than any other company, Salesforce represents the perspective of "the cloud;" and from this point of view, the cloud is the technology that is driving the Internet today and not the Web. Salesforce was founded in 1999, just four years prior to Facebook, although the phrase "cloud startup" has yet to be used to refer to Salesforce. Instead, when Salesforce itself becomes an investor in a new company, and it characterizes that company as a "cloud startup" as opposed to a "Web startup," then by gum, it's a "cloud startup." Otherwise, it might be considered a "Web startup."

The lesson here would appear to be that a company that builds in the cloud is building a platform like Heroku, or a mobile app framework like Appirio.  But if that's the case, then Facebook should be a cloud startup, too. If any company in history is responsible for deploying a successful platform, it's Facebook. After all, company No. 2 on the list - Zynga - is a user of that platform, and one of the fastest-growing companies ever.

Which makes Zynga what? As the most important user and chief validator of the Facebook platform, Zynga is what Salesforce would perceive as an outgrowth of the online social phenomenon - the force that Benioff says is helping Facebook and Twitter eat the Web. More users are accessing Facebook and Twitter through mobile apps - or, as they're being called more frequently these days, "apps." As such, they are bypassing browsers, and in so doing steering clear of the one portal that most users associate with "the Web." When someone the other day saw me checking Twitter through a browser, he looked at me as though I had just started tapping a telegraph key. "What are you doing??" he asked.

No more important symbol of the Web browser's ongoing sublimation exists today than the validation of HTML5 apps in Windows 8 as legitimate, fully fledged, "Metro-style" apps.  It may be Internet Explorer that provides the rendering engine, but the user doesn't have to know this. To the user, an app can be just another program.

But to the W3C, the caretaker of HTML5 development, one of whose W's still stands for "Web," any methodology that relies upon a technology that's an outgrowth of the Web, is itself an outgrowth of the Web. Thus Dropbox, which manifests itself for all its users as an app, and which is widely considered the most recognized "cloud app" deployed thus far, would be part of the Web. Put another way, the Web ate the cloud.

Tell that to Dropbox users on Apple's platform, however. If Dropbox were truly the Web as defined by Tim Berners-Lee (the fellow who coined the phrase "read/write Web") then the service should be freely linked to by others. Since Apple evidently has a say in that matter, whether Dropbox wants it to or not, surely the Web's most steadfast advocates should agree that any platform whose usefulness may be limited by proprietary or political interests, should not qualify as "the Web."

You Are Here

So that takes care of entries Nos. 1, 2, 5 and 6. Now, 360buy.com is undeniably "the Web" (you use it with a browser), but we could start a little digression over whether it's a "startup."  Indeed, it may be gearing up for one of the largest IPOs in world history - larger than Google or LinkedIn (which for more and more members, by the way, is an app, not a Web site). Yet since it's a recent online outgrowth of an existing Chinese retail outlet, if 360buy.com is a "startup," then so is Sears.com.

Why do these definitions matter? Because the Web is a marketplace that, like any other market, depends upon the power of location. As more and more people get their functionality, information and entertainment from services that they install on their home screens as apps, and as they perceive these services as independent from operating systems and even from Web platforms, traditional Web publishers will find their current locations being abandoned. Think of the downtown business district of a metropolitan area after the businesses moved to the suburbs. When Internet users don't have to double-click the blue "e" to get to their pages, or type "facebook login" into Google to find what they want, any service whose entire viability relies upon Search Engine Optimization as their fountains of revenue will be endangered.

Things that get old online, age very quickly - like time-lapse photography. You may have noticed more services are running away from the "Web" metaphor. That might not be a bad idea, so long as they know what it is they're running towards.

 


Stock image by Shutterstock


Tags: Browsers

January 13 2012

Mozilla: We're About to Grab More Data About You, But Here's How We'll Keep It Safe

Mozilla has some big plans up its sleeve in 2012. The non-profit open source foundation is planning some features for its Firefox Web browser and beyond that will require greater access to user data. In a blog post, the organization explains exactly how it intends to use and handle that data. In short, very carefully.

Some of Mozilla's initiatives for this year include an HTML5 Web app store, a mobile operating system and perhaps most intensive of all, a decentralized system for user identification and authentication at the browser level. In other words, a browser-based replacement for usernames and passwords.

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Historically, Mozilla has thoroughly encrypted the data utilized for things like Firefox Sync, which allows users to sync bookmarks, passwords and other data across devices. That encryption, says Mozilla is even more solid that the type used by banks.

Secure as it may be, application-level encryption won't be practical for some of the things Mozilla is working on, a few of which will naturally require that more data points about users are collected. This is a big deal to consumers and legislators alike, as issues like user tracking and online privacy receive more attention in the press and the halls of the U.S. Congress.

A Five-Point Plan For Data Security & Privacy

So how will Mozilla secure your data in the future? They've proposed a five-point set of guidelines to govern their development moving forward. Data should be collected only when doing so presents an obvious benefit to the user, and the vendor (in this case, Mozilla) should always be aware of what data is being stored, as well as how, where and why.

Mozilla also promises to do its best to minimize how long any given data point is stored on its own servers. If data is not needed for an extended period of time, it shouldn't be stored for long, if at all. That data should also be invisible to the server whenever possible. "If we can implement a given feature by never sending data to the server, or by using application-level encryption, then we will," Mozilla said.

Finally, if it's possible to use anonymized, aggregate data rather than individually identifiable information, Mozilla's engineering team will strive to do it.

Before SOPA exploded as one of the biggest tech news stories in recent memory, there was a growing amount of focus being put on online privacy and related issues. User data tracking and retention have caught the attention of U.S. legislators, who have demanded answers from Amazon over the user privacy afforded by its Silk browser and expressed concern about online user tracking in general. This level of transparency on Mozilla's part is probably no coincidence in light of these issues and the microscope they will continue to be placed under in the near future.

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Tags: Browsers

January 10 2012

Firefox to IT Managers: We Know We're Annoying, But Here Comes a Solution

As beloved as Firefox is by its users, the open source browser has had a harder time finding hardcore fans among IT managers at large companies and other organizations. That's because its rapid release cycle has always been notoriously tricky for them to keep up with. On top of that, Mozilla would sometimes end support on a particular older version of its browser before enterprise clients were ready.

Mozilla has heard the pained cries of IT managers everywhere and today announced that they're going to put out an Extended Support Release version of Firefox to help organizations better manage and support the software.

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The initial ESR will be based on Firefox 10 and will offer more time (12 weeks) for organizations to test and certify new releases than the standard consumer version of Firefox. Each release will be maintained for one year, or the equivalent of nine release cycles.

The ESR version of Firefox will be developed as a separate product from the Firefox consumers are used to using, and thus utilizing the ESR won't be without its drawbacks. For one, there's an increased likelihood of bugs being introduced and persisting, since the ESR won't have the same massive beta testing group that Firefox proper has. Over time, the ESR runs the risk of becoming less secure than Firefox itself, and might even confuse some users if they're accustomed to using the standard version at home.

The move represents a bit of a change of heart for Mozilla, who previously brushed off concerns about providing proper enterprise support. By contrast, Google Chrome has made an effort to ease the pain of IT departments. Late last year, Google's three-year-old browser surpassed Firefox as the second most widely-used browser, according to one firm's statistics. By taking the enterprise a little more seriously, perhaps Mozilla can manage to minimize the competitive threat posed by Chrome.

The new ESR will not cover Firefox Mobile or the Thunderbird email client. Mozilla says it will publish implementation details sometime in the next week.

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Tags: Browsers

January 06 2012

January 03 2012

The Other 1%: People Who Still Use IE6

IE6-logo-150.jpgToday the Internet bids another goodbye to Internet Explorer 6, whose U.S. death is inevitable. New data from Net Applications shows that less than 1% of U.S. Internet users choose IE6 as their browser of choice. And when it comes to the mobile/tablet browser market share, only 0.41% use some variation of Internet Explorer, period. iOS devices come with pre-installed Safari browsers, which make for 53.3% of the mobile browser market. Meanwhile, Opera Mini and an Android browser account for 21.66% and 15.87% of the mobile market, respectively.

Browser trends from Sitepoint showed some IE6 death signs just a month ago, noting that more people browsed the Web on their smartphones than used IE6 and IE7 combined.

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IE-6-Usage-2012.jpg

Yet, little more than one year ago, IE6 was still the third most popular browser in the world. At the time, companies were lazily using IE6 as a means of social control - social networking sites were nearly inaccessible through the dinosaur browser. This was all despite the ridiculous security risks it posed. Yet, at the time, the future of IE6 was still up for debate.

Web developers, designers and regular users noticed that IE6 was on the decline earlier last year, with only 2.9% of the U.S. Internet using IE6. At the time, the highest number of IE6 users were located in Asia.

Wordpress.com stopped supporting IE 6 last May and YouTube stopped supporting it back in early 2010.

Even Microsoft apologized to developers about that whole "wasting time on building stuff for IE6" thing. The company began automatically upgrading Internet Explorer on Windows 7, Vista and XP.

Regardless of how you feel about IE6, data shows that the end is near.

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Tags: Browsers

Internet Explorer Still on Top, But Chrome Is Winning the Browser War


Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is still the world’s most popular browser, but it and Mozilla’s Firefox lost a lot of market share to Google’s Chrome in 2011, which is now firmly in second place.

According to StatCounter’s 2011 data, Internet Explorer currently has a 39% market share, Chrome is at 27%, while Firefox holds 25% of the market.

Safari and Opera follow with 6% and 2% market share, respectively.

These numbers alone don’t tell the whole story, however. Internet Explorer started 2011 with a 46% share of the market, and Firefox was over 30%. Both browsers steadily lost their share throughout the year, and almost all of it went to Chrome, which is clearly the year’s biggest gainer.

Net Applications’ numbers for 2011 are very different, with Internet Explorer having a much bigger lead (52%), but the trends are similar: Chrome was the only clear winner in 2011, having jumped from 10% to 19% market share.

Interestingly, Net Applications sees Firefox’ current market share almost exactly where it started 2011: at 22%.

Regardless of whose number you believe, it seems that Chrome is on a roll, and its steep upward trajectory shows that other browser makers should take notice. Otherwise, we may have a new king of the browser market in a year or two.

[via The Verge]

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, alexsl

More About: browser, Browsers, chrome, Firefox, Google, internet explorer, microsoft, mozilla, web browser


December 30 2011

December 24 2011

Chrome Engineer: Firefox Is A Partner, Not A Competitor

chrome_firefox_2011logos_150.jpgGoogle and Firefox renewed their partnership last week, ensuring that Google will remain Firefox's default search engine (and major source of revenue). Kara Swisher reported that the deal brings in just under $300 million per year for Firefox, amounting to almost $1 billion total. Google has to cough up the cash to prevent this coveted spot in the popular browser from going to Bing and Microsoft.

MG Siegler wondered why Google would bear this expense, "paying all that money to a competitor." He considered whether antitrust concerns played into the decision, or whether it was about mobile dominance. But Chrome engineer Peter Kasting offered a simpler answer today: "Google is funding a partner," not a competitor.

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Google's Goal Is A Better Web

"One thing is certain: Google is not paying Mozilla a billion dollars out of the kindness of their hearts," Siegler wrote. "Doing so would be irresponsible to their shareholders. Again, they're paying all that money to a competitor." But Kasting contends that this is a misconstruction.

"People never seem to understand why Google builds Chrome no matter how many times I try to pound it into their heads," Kasting says. "It's very simple: the primary goal of Chrome is to make the web advance as much and as quickly as possible."

According to Kasting, "It's completely irrelevant to this goal whether Chrome actually gains tons of users or whether instead the web advances because the other browser vendors step up their game and produce far better browsers. Either way the web gets better. Job done."

Chrome and Firefox Can and Do Coexist

"It's not hard to understand the roots of this strategy," Kasting says. "Google succeeds (and makes money) when the web succeeds and people use it more to do everything they need to do. Because of this Chrome doesn't need to be a Microsoft Office, a direct money-maker, nor does it even need to directly feed users to Google. Just making the web more capable is enough."

By funding Firefox, Kasting explains, Google is not concerned about competition with Chrome. It's keeping another important browser alive. "Firefox is an important product because it can be a different product with different design decisions and serve different users well," he says. Kasting says that Google supported Firefox before work on Chrome even began, and it only built Chrome because it thought it would drive the Web to improve even faster.

The Teams Are Committed to Working Together

There's plenty of past evidence to support this interpretation. For example, even though Web apps are one of Chrome's most important revenue streams, Chromium and Firefox engineers have been working together to build open standards for Web apps to communicate.

On its own, Chrome has pushed the envelope for Web technologies, but as Kasting points out, "Mozilla is clearly committed to the betterment of the web, and they're spending their resources to make a great, open-source web browser." A better Web, according to Kasting, will serve Google's goals no matter what.

We've wondered this year whether Firefox was doomed, but if Google is committed to it, for the sake of the Web itself, the answer is certainly not.

Discuss


Tags: Browsers

December 21 2011

How Did Firefox Fare in 2011? (Infographic)

Well, 2011 didn't see the beginning of the end of Firefox after all. That is, Mozilla did in fact see its search partnership with Google renewed, ensuring that the nonprofit's popular browser wouldn't lose 84% of its revenue and thus face the ominous fate that some predicted and others decried as unrealistic.

The browser was knocked from its #2 slot behind Internet Explorer, though, at least according to one company's stats. The culprit? Google's Chrome, a browser nearly half Firefox's age.

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In Chrome, Firefox has found a worthy and fast-rising competitor, but it's too soon to write the beloved open source browser. Its future may be difficult to predict, but an infographic released by Mozilla today illustrates a pretty active year for Firefox. In addition to major performance upgrades and slow mobile progress, the browser saw its release cycle speed up and added 83 new features and 135 new APIs.

firefox-2011-infographic.jpg

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Tags: Browsers

December 20 2011

Long Live Firefox: Google Renews its Search Deal

Ending a month of speculation, Google has renewed its search exclusivity deal with Mozilla, who has long featured Google as the default browser on its Firefox Web browser.

When the deal expired in November, it gave rise to speculation that Google might not renew it, which would deprive Firefox of about 84% of its annual revenue. That possibility seemed bolstered by the fact that Google's Chrome was said to have recently ousted Firefox as the number two browser on the market. An end to the deal could have put the future of Firefox in jeopardy, although some thought the ominous predictions were overblown.

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For the next three years, Google will remain the default search engine in Firefox and Mozilla will continue to get a ton of cash from Google in return.

When the original deal was signed in 2008, Google was only getting started with Chrome, which then grew to be a significant player in the browser market.

Still, Firefox is used by millions of people and Google still wants a piece of that action. If the Google deal were to expire, it's conceivable that Microsoft could swoop in and replace it with Bing, handing a significant chunk of the browser market share over to one of Google's chief competitors.

Whatever Google would gain by pulling the financial rug out from beneath Firefox would be overshadowed by it losing even a few points in the search market, which is where most of Google's revenue comes from.

Google has marketed Chrome as a speedier, more secure browser and capitalized on the familiarity people already have with the Google brand and its products. In the beginning of the month, at least one firm who's counting said Chrome had eclipsed Firefox as the #2 browser behind Internet Explorer for the first time ever. These numbers vary from source to source, but there's no denying that Chrome is growing fast. Even so, the company behind it evidently sees no reason to try and bury Firefox even further at this stage of the game.


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Tags: Browsers

December 15 2011

Microsoft to Developers: Sorry About the Whole IE6 Thing, Won't Happen Again

Dear Web developers: Microsoft knows how many hours of your life have been wasted trying to troubleshoot designs and functionality for Internet Explorer 6, and they're sorry. They promise they're never going to do that to you again.

To ensure such nightmares are never relived, the company will start rolling out automatic upgrades to Internet Explorer across Windows 7, Vista and XP, the company announced in a blog post today. Rather than relying on users to update the browser themselves or requiring you to trick your parents into updating theirs around the holidays, Windows will update to the latest compatible version of IE on its own.

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By adding this feature, Microsoft borrows from other browser manufacturers like Google, who enables automatic updates for its frequently-updated Chrome browser. If this kind of functionality were available on Windows ten years ago, it could have help saved many headaches for front-end developers and designers, who have long wrestled with multiple versions of IE to get things looking just right. Microsoft has come a long way in terms of supporting the latest Web standards in recent versions of IE, but version 6 has stubbornly lived on. It's now to the point where even Microsoft can't wait to see it die.

This doesn't mean that every Windows machine on the planet will automatically be updated to the latest stable build of Internet Explorer overnight. The automatic update feature will be rolled out in Australia and Brazil first, and then to other countries over the course of next year. The software will upgrade to the most recent version of the browser that's compatible with one's operating system. Thus, Windows XP users can only go as high as Internet Explorer 8. Still, that's a huge and worthwhile improvement from version 6.

The feature will be available to most Windows users, but it can easily be disabled, much to the delight of corporate IT departments everywhere.

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Tags: Browsers

November 30 2011

Browsers in 2011: Chrome & Mobile Safari on The Rise

In our Top Consumer Products of 2011 list, we selected the Chrome web browser as our number 1 pick. Its market share has grown over 2011 and it's on track to surpass Firefox as the 2nd most popular browser on the desktop (exactly when it passes Firefox depends on whose statistics you read). Over 2011 Google has demonstrated, in both user numbers and technical innovation, that Chrome is the most significant challenge to Microsoft's dominance of the browser market since the days of Netscape Navigator in the late 90s.

Meanwhile, in the mobile browser market, Apple's Safari has risen over 12 percentage points to have a 62% share of that market, according to leading Internet statistics provider Net Applications. However, Apple will have to continue to look over its shoulder at Android, which has also gained over 2011. Let's look more closely at how the desktop and mobile browser markets changed over 2011.

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In the desktop market, the main story is how Chrome has affected Firefox. Just three years ago, in our Top Consumer Products of 2008 list, we had Firefox at number 2, behind only Twitter. It goes to show how quickly things can change on the Web.

The latest data from Net Applications still shows Microsoft's Internet Explorer at over 50% market share on desktops (52.63%). Chrome (17.62%) is less than 5 percentage points below Firefox (22.52%), which hangs onto second spot for now. Safari has 5.43% and Opera 1.56%.

The trends data is more telling. Since December 2010, only Chrome and Safari have increased their market share. IE, Firefox and Opera all declined. Here are the gains and losses:

  • IE: -6.63%
  • Firefox: -1.17%
  • Chrome: +7.26%
  • Safari: +1.41%
  • Opera: -0.71%


Source: Net Applications

Our own browser statistics for ReadWriteWeb show an even bigger swing towards Chrome, which is understandable, as we have a much more tech-savvy audience compared to the data from Net Applications. Chrome became the number 1 browser among RWW readers during 2011. Last month it was about 36%, up 12% from last November. Firefox is our number 2 browser at about 29%, down nearly 4% over the year.

Among our own writers, most now use Chrome as their primary desktop browser. Very few use Firefox.

Of course in an increasingly multi-device world, mobile browser share is very important too. On that front, according to Net Applications, Safari has risen 12.86% to now have 62.03% of the mobile browser share. The next best is Android browser at 18.60%. So Safari on mobile is now almost the equivalent of IE on desktop.

The big losers over 2011 in the mobile browser market have been Opera Mini (-13.4%), Symbian (-4.94%) and Blackberry (-0.87%, but it only has 2.03% share overall). Opera, despite its constant innovation, is really struggling to keep hold of users on both its favored mobile platform and on the desktop.


Source: Net Applications

Google & Apple Have The Momentum Heading Into 2012

In Net Application's statistics, Firefox is holding grimly on in the desktop browser market. But Chrome has the momentum and, as Jon Mitchell pointed out, it has done much of the innovating in this market over 2011. ReadWriteWeb's own statistics have Chrome as a clear number 1, which is typically a good indicator of where the mainstream is heading. All of this suggests that Chrome will overtake Firefox as the number 2 browser very soon. Then Google is set to make a run at dethroning Microsoft from number 1, but that's still at least a couple of years away.

On the mobile browser side, Apple is becoming increasingly dominant. However the rapid growth of the Android platform will keep them on their toes, so it's unlikely that Apple will enjoy the monopoly that Microsoft had for over a decade in the desktop market.

Let us know in the comments what browsers you use on both desktop and mobile. Did you switch browsers during 2011? If so, tell us why.

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Tags: Browsers

November 23 2011

Why You Should Update Your Parents' Web Browser This Friday

netscape-logo-150.jpgWe're approaching the end of November, which for those of us in the United States who celebrate it, means it's time for Thanksgiving. It's a holiday that typically involves some combination of family, eating, drinking and/or relaxing. Despite it being a national holiday, the tech-savvy do not get the entire day off. For many, being back home with family means being casually asked to "take a look at" a loved one's computer or perform other IT duties around the house.

Whether they explicitly ask you to do it or not, chances are your parents' Web browser could use an upgrade. The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal put out a humorous call to action asking that you do just that, with or without the consent of your parents. Lifehacker goes so far as to show how to trick them into thinking nothing's changed.

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Designers and Developers Rejoice!

This Friday is Update Your Parents' Browser Day. As Madrigal points out, the more up-to-date everyone's Web browsers are, the easier life will be for people who design and code websites for a living. Sure, a few hundred people upgrading their parents browser on Friday isn't going to put a noticeable dent in the current browser marketshare break-down. Yet if enough people got into the habit of performing this task, we could perhaps see older browsers phased out a little more quickly over time.

It goes without saying that the browser in most dire need of being phased out is Internet Explorer 6, the decade-old, hard-to-kill browser that now even Microsoft wishes wants to get rid of. If somebody in your family is still running IE6, do the world a favor and upgrade them to a newer version of IE or, if you can get away with it, install Chrome or Firefox.

It'll Be Faster, Mom

If your folks (or other relatives guilty of having outdated browsers) are hesitant, one way you can sell them is with a promise of increased browsing speed. Everybody seems to think their computer runs slower than it should. Chrome has an especially solid reputation for speed among the major browsers, so it's a good candidate to install. It has a different UI from IE and Firefox, but it's pretty intuitive and shouldn't be hard for newcomers to get used to.

Improve Security (and Reduce Those Year-Round IT Phone Calls)

One of the most compelling reasons for keeping any software up-to-date is of course security. This is especially true of browsers. If family members are running anything other than the latest stable release of a browser, update it. Again, if they'll let you, switch them to a browser with a better track record for security, such as Chrome. Just remember to carry over their bookmarks and browser settings.

The more you can keep malware and security threats at bay, the lighter your load will likely be the next time you come around and are asked to play Family IT Director.


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Tags: Browsers

September 30 2011

Chrome Expected to Overtake Firefox as the #2 Browser by December

Google's Chrome Web browser could become the second most popular browser on the market before the end of the year, according to data from StatCounter, a Web analytics company. The three-year-old browser would knock Firefox from the second place slot behind Internet Explorer.

The coup would be quite an achievement for Chrome, which was just released in 2008 and has been growing rapidly ever since. By comparison, Firefox was first launched in 2004 and took much longer to attract significant market share.

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Of course, it doesn't hurt that Chrome was built and released by Google, which has gone to great lengths to market the browser, including by purchasing television ad spots. The company even went so far as to break its own rule about not having ads on the Google search engine homepage, adding a small button in the upper right encouraging users to download Chrome.

Every analytics firm and Web usage tracking service will have different numbers, but in general we tend to see Chrome creeping up on Firefox. Whether that happens by December or at some point next year, what's significant here is the growth Chrome has seen in its three years of existence.

Earlier this week, Mozilla released Firefox 7, which aims to use less memory than previous versions of the browser and hopefully make for a faster Web browsing experience.

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Tags: Browsers

August 05 2011

Chrome and Firefox Working Together to Make Web Apps Get Along

The developers of two of the most influential open-source Web browsers are working together on a feature that should make Web apps play together much more nicely. As we covered on ReadWriteHack yesterday, Google's Chromium engineers announced that they're working with Mozilla on a framework called Web Intents, the brainchild of Google developer Paul Kinlan. Firefox announced its project last month.

Web Intents, based on an existing capability in Google's Android mobile OS, will let Web apps express a simple call for an action, like 'share' or 'edit,' which receiving apps will be designed to use, without either app needing to have specific knowledge of the APIs of the other. This way, instead of having to code for each specific Web app one might want to access, developers can just use these simple requests, which will be built into the browser. The Chrome and Firefox teams are each building this functionality for their own browser, but they're combining their proposals to use a single API for Web app developers to reach both platforms.

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In his blog post explaining the purpose behind Web Intents, Kinlan characterizes the problem Web Intents would solve:

"If I built an image gallery application and I wanted to let users edit an image so that they can remove red-eye from a photo I either have to build an application that edits the images, or integrate with a 3rd party solution. Doing this is hard and stops you from building an awesome image gallery; and what happens if the user has a favorite service that they already use to remove red-eye? Simple, you have a frustrated user."

The goal of Web intents, says Kinlan, is "to allow developers to build applications and services that could work with each other, but not need to explicitly know about each other." The concept was inspired by Android's functionality, he says, but "the API bore no resemblance."

Android has had these same capabilities for a while, which has made life easier for mobile app developers in Google's ecosystem. With the Chrome team taking big steps to advance its browser, especially by fleshing out its Web app store, Web Intents will be a timely addition to the desktop platform.

Now that each team is working on Web Intents, some pretty interesting code examples are available to play with. Here's Mozilla's demo video of how they want the user side of the experience to work:

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Tags: Browsers

August 03 2011

Disgruntled Canadian Developer Behind Internet Explorer IQ "Study" Hoax

Internet-Explorer7-logo.jpgAfter making the rounds on the Internet for a few days, a news story about research purporting to show that Internet Explorer users tend to have low IQ scores was revealed this morning to be a hoax. Evidently, the study, the press release and the supposed company that released it were all fake, a fact that, once revealed, forced dozens of news outlets who ran with it to concede that they were duped.

The hoax was perpetuated by an entrepreneur living in Canada named Tarandeep Singh Gill. He's the founder of a comparison shopping Website called AtCheap.com. In an email with ReadWriteWeb moments before he publicly revealed who he was, he told us that he hoped to lure a few people away from Internet Explorer, but he did not expect it to get the level of coverage that it did.

"I was really surprised that most media outlets fell for it," he said.

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"While working on my latest website, IE6 compatibility was being a pain in the ass," he told us. "So I thought of doing this, with a hope that this would knock off a few people from IE6."

Anatomy of a Hoax: How Did It Spread?

Gill's hoax started with a phony company called AptiQuant, a self-described "psychometric consulting company." He bought the domain name aptiquant.com on July 14 (according to WHOIS records), threw up a Wordpress install and copied the content from another business' website wholesale, changing the names of staff members on the "Our Team" page, but leaving their headshots intact. He even went so far as to set up Facebook and Twitter profiles for AptiQuant, the latter of which was suspended after the hoax was exposed.

The similarities between the content of the two sites stopped at a press release titled Is Internet Explorer For The Dumb? A New Study Suggests Exactly That, which linked to a legitimate-looking PDF of a scientific study claiming to demonstrate a correlation between usage of Internet Explorer and having a low IQ.

The story began spreading online on July 28, with outlets as big as NBC, Business Insider and Mashable picking it up right away. Within a few days, hundreds of outlets had reported on the study, including some of the most reputable news sources in the world.

"At a certain point, AptiQuant's release itself became irrelevant; the conclusion was repeated because other, more trusted news outlets had reported on them," wrote Wired's Tim Carmody in a post that outlined several glaring red flags in the supposed research and on the fake company's Website.

Some Internet commenters were suspicious from the beginning, but it wasn't until today, five days later, that the whole thing was confirmed to be fake. Several hours after news of the hoax began making the rounds, whoever is running the AptiQuant Website posted this concession that the study was indeed concocted, adding a few more "tell-tale signs that should have uncovered the hoax in less than 5 minutes!"

So how does a fake news story like this get spread around so easily? The rapid online news cycle and pressure for writers to chase pageviews are at least partially to blame, former ReadWriteWeb writer Frederic Lardinois wrote on Silicon Filter. It also doesn't hurt that people generally like taking jabs at Microsoft and that Internet Explorer is the browser that many Web developers and IT workers love to hate, especially its antiquated version 6, which stubbornly lives on.

aptiquant-screenshot.jpg

So Why Did He Do It?

The original "research" makes this motivation pretty obvious. In fact, this is something that should have been a dead giveaway to any journalist reporting on the story originally. The report's conclusion reads:

It is common knowledge, that Internet Explorer Versions to 6.0 to 8.0 are highly incompatible with modern web standards. In order to make websites work properly on these browsers, web developers have to spend a lot of unnecessary effort. This results in an extra financial strain on web projects, and has over the last decade cost millions of man-hours to IT companies. Now that we have a statistical pattern on the continuous usage of incompatible browsers, better steps can be taken to eradicate this nuisance.

Even if you ignore the very agenda-driven rhetoric (for example, the call to "eradicate this nuisance"), the rest of the above paragraph should call into question the legitimacy of the research. How often to you see psychologists and other scientific researchers refer to Web standards? Is IE's poor adherence to standards really "common knowledge" outside of the Web development community? Why would researchers be concerned with things like the financial scope of Web projects? Are these problems that would motivate anybody outside the IT world to conduct research of any kind? Probably not.

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Tags: Browsers

June 14 2011

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