All posts tagged ‘Browsers’

File Under: Browsers

The Battle for Choice on the Web Isn’t Over

A thoughtful essay by Stuart Turton at PC Pro argues that Mozilla, having already completed the shake-up in the browser world it set out to achieve, needs a new direction:

Like the catalyst in a science experiment, I’m beginning to wonder if Firefox’s greatest contribution to browsers is not its continued existence, but that it existed at all. Put another way: Mozilla has won all its battles, is it time the company picked a new war?

Turton goes on the suggest that Mozilla apply the Firefox model to develop a desktop office suite to rival MS Office, but I’m not convinced that’s a good idea. How many of you use Thunderbird instead of Gmail or Yahoo Mail?

Since we’re playing armchair quarterback here, I’d argue that Mozilla hasn’t come close to winning all its battles. There’s still a great deal of work to be done in the “choice” department on the web: the choice of open web technologies or proprietary technologies for video, audio and games; the choice of where to store your personal data on the web (and how the browser handles that decision); the choice of whether you get your apps from a store run by a corporation, or through an open, cross-browser platform with no Central Scrutinizer.

In other words, the “choice is good” fight isn’t over, it’s just about different stuff now. If Mozilla is going to change direction about how it promotes its philosophy, these are the places to concentrate. And it seems to me like the company is already doing so.

Of course, these issues are of little importance to the general public, many of whom are mostly concerned that pages load quickly, and that YouTube, Facebook and Gmail deliver the goods day in and day out. For all the browser vendors, that’s an ongoing competition with no finish line.

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File Under: Browsers

Chrome 7 Arrives With Bug Fixes, Better HTML5 Support

chrome logoIn keeping with its recently accelerated release schedule, Google has released version 7 of its Chrome web browser for Mac, Windows and Linux. The latest release of Chrome offers hundreds of bug fixes and under-the-hood improvements like an updated HTML5 parser, but is light on the new features.

Chrome users should get the update automatically, but if you’d like to download the new version directly, you can grab the browser from the Google Chrome download page.

The big news for this release is the huge number of bug fixes — hundreds have been fixed, though hundreds are still waiting. There are a few new features, like support for the HTML5 File API, which allows sites and web apps to read the content of local files. This should be a boon to web apps that rely on that feature. Also new is the ability for Chrome 7 to upload complete folders from your PC — very handy if you’ve got a lot of files to attach to an e-mail or dozens of pictures to upload. Unfortunately, the new feature relies on the HTML5 forms, which very few sites are using at the moment.

There’s also some new AppleScript support in the Mac OS X release, which means you can script Chrome or use it with OS X’s Automator tool.

Two things you won’t find in the stable release of Chrome 7 are the Hardware Acceleration and “Tabpose” features we looked at in the developer release. Both features are currently available in the developer builds of Chrome 8, though they may not make it to the stable release category until Chrome 9.

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File Under: Browsers, Web Services

Xmarks to Continue Syncing Bookmarks, Thanks to Loyal Fans

XmarksXmarks has a new lease on life thanks to the support of its most vocal users.

The free bookmark syncing service had previously announced it was shutting down, but vocal customers signed an online pledge last week promising to pay for a premium version of the service. This made the company take a second look at its options.

Now, according to a new post on the Xmarks blog, it looks like the service itself will continue, even though the company behind Xmarks may still be doomed.

In a new blog post thanking users for their outspoken support, Xmarks CEO James Joaquin, says “Xmarks now has multiple offers from companies ready and willing to take over the service and keep making browser sync better.”

Although Joaquin cautions that no deal has yet been signed, he seems confident that one will emerge in the near future: “With multiple offers on the table we’re pretty confident that Xmarks will continue on with no service interruption,” he says.

That’s good news for the some two million users who rely on Xmarks to sync bookmarks and open tabs between web browsers like Google Chrome, IE, Safari, Firefox, as well as mobile devices.

Many of the users have already but their money where their mouth is — or at least pledged to put their money where their mouth is — using Xmarks’ PledgeBank page to promise their support for a premium version of the service. That’s no doubt had a positive effect on Xmarks perceived value and convinced at least a few companies that service might be worth buying.

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File Under: Browsers

Firefox 4 Adds Bing to List of Search Engines

Mozilla has announced that Microsoft’s upstart Bing search engine will soon become a default part of Firefox’s search bar. When Firefox 4 arrives it will feature some slight changes to the list of included search engines, offering, in order: Google (default), Yahoo, Bing, Amazon, eBay and Wikipedia.

Bing is a new option, though savvy users have long been able to install a Bing search plugin on their own. Now, it will be much easier to access by clicking on the drop-down list in the browser’s built-in search box.

Microsoft’s search engine continues to make inroads against Google, and while Microsoft has had a search product for years, it’s taken a long time to make its way onto Firefox’s short list. Mozilla vice president of products Jay Sullivan says Bing’s inclusion now is based on its “significant rise in popularity over the past year.”

Google’s engine will still be the default option for Firefox users. Google remains a primary source of income for the Mozilla — the two companies share the revenue generated by Google searches typed from within Firefox’s search box.

The new search engine default list removes the Answers.com and the Creative Commons search engine choices. Answers.com is disappearing because, according to Mozilla, “we have heard from our users that Wikipedia is more useful as an included reference search engine.”

The Creative Commons search engine is being removed because the search tool itself has changed from something that searches just CC licensed materials to a more general search engine that duplicates what’s found in Google, Yahoo and others. Mozilla is careful to point that the foundation “will continue to actively support [the Creative Commons] organization and mission through grants and joint programs,” but not, apparently, its search engine.

Of course users are still free to install any of the thousands of search plugins for the sites they’d like — we’re fans of the Flickr CC search plugin and the Speckly torrent search plugin — but making the default plugins list means more traffic for those lucky sites.

In Bing’s case it also means an important new avenue to perhaps pull a few users away from Google.

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File Under: Browsers

Internet Explorer Isn’t Dead. And Wow, Look at China

Web analytics firm StatCounter is reporting that Internet Explorer dipped below 50 percent in worldwide browser market share in September for the first time since the browser wars of a decade ago. The firm also notes that Chrome is now at 11.5 percent.

But have a look at Net Marketshare Hitslink, which shows IE still commands 60 percent worldwide. Net Marketshare also puts Chrome at just under eight percent, a notch above where it was in August.

At the beginning of each month, a new crop of browser market share stats are released. It’s the same three or four big firms that report the data, and each has its own methodology.

The numbers vary widely depending on who’s reporting them, and the results tend to get spun harder than the Sprewells on my Bugatti Veyron. Browser vendors, tech journalists, and SEO experts toss these numbers around as definitive proof that one browser is choking on its own vomit while another is going to take over the world and eat your children.

Of course, I would never say any of this data is bunk — each firm does solid work — but you should always look at all the reports and study their findings as a group.

That’s why my favorite chart is the one on Wikipedia, which collects the median values from the five biggest stats reporting firms and presents the broadest view (Note the current chart hasn’t been updated with September’s data).

The big takeaways from the latest numbers: Firefox is holding relatively steady and Chrome has officially become a Big Deal. But half of the worldwide browser share is a massive chunk, and IE is still a huge force, especially in the U.S. Its influence is certainly eroding worldwide, no doubt thanks to the EU ruling that Microsoft begin presenting a browser choice screen to Windows users in March, 2010.

The most important browser share stats to pay attention to are the ones that show usage on your own site. You should be running Omniture or Google Analytics or some other tracking app to study which browsers are hitting your site, then adjusting your own development strategy accordingly.

There’s some interesting stuff buried in these new reports.
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