Archive for the ‘Browsers’ Category

File Under: Browsers

What Makes WebKit, WebKit?

WebKit, the rendering engine that powers web browsers like Google’s Chrome, Apple’s Safari, and soon Opera as well, has become a developer favorite thanks to its support for web standards and near-ubiquity in the mobile world.

Unfortunately for developers, WebKit isn’t always WebKit. While WebKit-based browsers share some code, not every WebKit-based browser behaves exactly the same way.

WebKit is an open source project with dozens of browsers based off the core code. But WebKit doesn’t have everything you need to build a graphical web browser, which means there’s considerable variation even among the two biggest WebKit users — Google and Apple.

To clear up just what WebKit is, and why there’s sometimes quite a bit of difference between WebKit browsers, Google’s Paul Irish — who is part of Chrome’s Developer Relations team — has put together a comprehensive guide to WebKit. Irish covers exactly what WebKit is, what it isn’t, how WebKit is used by WebKit-based browsers and why not all “WebKits” are the same.

Irish’s write-up should be required reading for all developers, but especially anyone who’s ever wondered why something works in Chrome, but not Safari; or why 3D transforms that fly in one WebKit-based browser crawl in another (short answer: GPU code is not shared among WebKit browsers).

When you’ve finished with Irish’s overview, be sure to follow the links at the bottom of his post for more details — particularly worth your time is Eric Seidel’s talk on how WebKit renders a webpage.

File Under: Browsers, Web Standards

Give the Web the Finger With Microsoft’s Proposed ‘Pointer Events’

The proposed Pointer Events spec makes it easier to handle input from fingers, pens. Image: W3C.

The W3C recently moved Microsoft’s proposed Pointer Events spec to Last Call Working Draft. To help developers get up to speed, the IEBlog has published an overview of Pointer Events.

Microsoft has even helped to create a build of WebKit with experimental support for Pointer Events (for those not using Windows 8 or who’d prefer not to test in IE 10).

The goal of the Pointer Events spec is to provide a unified model for dealing with all the various input devices on today’s web, namely, the mouse, the stylus and the finger.

Pointer Events handle the various ways a user might be interacting with your site without requiring you to write unique code for each input method.

Currently most browsers register any input as a mouse event, even when it obviously is not (as is the case for most mobile browsers). It works, but it’s what you might call a blunt approach. Pointer Events adds some finesse to the equation, including details like the touch contact geometry size, the pressure applied or the tilt angle of a pen.

If you’d like to get your hands dirty with Pointer Events, either fire up IE 10 or download the experimental WebKit build and head on over to the W3C’s Web Platform docs. Microsoft’s Rob Dolin has a great overview tutorial with basic examples on how to get started. Also be sure to watch the video below from the recent W3Conf; Jacob Rossi, IE Program Manager gives a nice overview of Pointer Events and what you can do with them.

Right now only IE 10 supports Pointer Events, but Microsoft’s David Catuhe has developed a JavaScript polyfill, called HandJS, to support Pointer Events in browsers that don’t yet offer native support. Kudos to Microsoft for not just bringing pointer events to the W3C, but for working to add support to a competing browser and creating a polyfill for the rest.

File Under: Browsers

Firefox 20 Beta Brings Better Private Browsing

Firefox’s new per-window private browsing mode. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey.

Firefox 20, currently six weeks away from a stable release, brings two nice new features to the popular open source browser — per-window private browsing and a new downloads manager.

If you don’t want to wait six weeks for the final version of Firefox 20, head on over to the Beta Channel download page and grab a pre-release copy today.

The per-window private browsing mode mirrors what you’ll find in Google’s Chrome browser and is, frankly, how it should have been all along. When you want to start a private browsing session in Firefox 20 you simply select the new “New Private Window” menu option. That will open a new window noting that Firefox will discard any history, search history, download history, web form history, cookies, or temporary internet files for sites you visit in that window. Obviously files you download and pages you bookmark will remain.

The new per-window model is much more intuitive than the old method of private browsing which put your normal browsing session on hold, hid it away somewhere and opened a new, private session. Now it’s easy to have private windows right alongside normal windows, very handy for those who, for example, need to log in to two different Gmail accounts simultaneously.

The change does have some potential consequences for Firefox add-ons using the new(ish) SDK. If you’re an add-on developer, head over to the Mozilla Add-ons blog for more details.

The other big change coming in Firefox 20 is the revamped downloads window. Mozilla proposed this download toolbar button and overlay window design so long ago that Apple’s Safari has already long since copied and released its own version.

The new downloads overlay. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey.

While Firefox might not be the first to get its new downloads interface to the web, it’s welcome nonetheless and alleviates the need to cycle through windows or hit keyboard shortcuts just to see if your downloads are done. If you want more info than is shown in the new overlay (which comes up when you click the toolbar button), the old, separate-window style downloads panel is still available.

For more details on everything that’s new in Firefox 20, be sure to check out Mozilla’s beta release notes.

File Under: Browsers

Internet Explorer 10 Arrives on Windows 7

Windows 7 users, the wait is over. Microsoft has finally released Internet Explorer 10 — which debuted with Windows 8 four months ago — for Windows 7.

For now IE 10 is an optional update, though Microsoft will be adding it as a silent background update for IE 9 users in the next few weeks. If you’ve been using the preview version released late last year, Windows Update should give you an “Important Update” message, prompting you to install the final version.

As we noted in our earlier review, IE 10 is a huge step forward for Microsoft’s oft-maligned browser, bringing much better web standards support and considerable speed improvements over IE 9. Microsoft claims Windows 7 users should see a 20 percent increase in performance over IE 9, as well as better battery life on Windows 7 laptops.

IE 10 also brings better support for modern web tools like CSS 3, HTML5 and related APIs, making life considerably easier for web developers everywhere.

Of course, while IE 10 is launching strong, Microsoft’s browser typically has a very lengthy release cycle compared to Chrome or Firefox, which both release smaller updates more frequently. Indeed, both IE alternatives are likely to see dozens of updates and improved web standards support before IE sees anything similar.

The good news is that Microsoft seems as anxious as anyone to get IE 9 users updated to IE 10 as soon as possible. Gone are the days when browser updates required active participation on the part of users. These days IE 10 will just slide into the background without so much as an EULA pop up (unless of course you want to stop the update process, which is possible). It’s a start, but until IE begins updating more frequently it will likely always be behind when it comes to web standards support.

For complete details on everything that’s new in IE 10 for Windows 7, check out the Windows blog post.

File Under: Browsers, Mobile, Multimedia

Mozilla Wants to Put Your Phone Inside Firefox

What if your web browser were also your phone? That’s a future being imagined by Mozilla, Ericsson and AT&T.

Mozilla has combined Firefox’s WebRTC support with Ericsson’s Web Communication Gateway and AT&T’s API Platform to put together a working demo of calls — both voice and video — and text messages all made from within Firefox.

Mozilla’s “WebPhone” is one part Skype, one part Apple’s Messages and all parts web.

The demo builds on previous Mozilla efforts like the recent WebRTC video calling demo with Google, as well as the Firefox Social API demo Mozilla showed off last year (the Social API provides the glue that brings your mobile contact info into Firefox in the video above).

Aside from the cool factor, web-based calling has a potentially huge benefit for users — no more need for your phone. Mozilla’s WebPhone concept would make it possible to call from any device and the person you’re calling would still see your info.

WebPhone also makes it easy to receive calls and messages anywhere. Anyone who’s ever used Apple’s Message app knows that it’s nice to get messages on the desktop, eliminating the need to track down your phone when you’re already in front of a screen. WebPhone would make it possible to not only get messages on whichever device you’re using, but take calls as well.

Indeed what’s most surprising about Mozilla’s WebPhone demo is that AT&T and Ericsson are involved since more than anything they’re participating in a vision of the future where they are little more than pipes for sending data.

If you happen to be in Barcelona Spain for the ongoing Mobile World Congress event you can check out a live demo of WebPhone at the Mozilla booth. For now the rest of us will have to settle for the demo video above.