I spent much of yesterday at Google, visiting with several teams to learn what they’ve been working on lately. I came with a little list of questions in my pocket–ones that members of the Technologizer community threw out when I said I was headed to the Googleplex. And while there were some good questions that just weren’t appropriate for the Google reps I met with, I did pose several community-supplied queries to Brian Rakowski, a Google product management director who works on the Chrome browser. Questions and answers after the jump…
Tag Archives | Browsers
Last week, I wrote about a New York Times story that reported that Opera has written a version of its browser for the iPhone but had it rejected by Apple. Daring Fireball’s John Gruber has a good follow-up post in which he combines reporting, technical analysis, and some scuttlebutt from an informed source to theorize that Opera’s browser–and in this case, as he notes, it’s Opera Mini rather than the fancier Opera Mobile–may not actually have been rejected by Apple, and that its issues on the iPhone may have to do with the fact that it’s a Java app, and the iPhone doesn’t do Java.
Like much relating to iPhone development, this is all pretty murky–but Gruber’s post is illuminating even if his parsing of what may have happened isn’t 100% correct. Go read.
I persist in the belief that iPhone owners shouldn’t have to worry about issues of Java and software interepreters and SDKs and NDAs and such: There’s surely an audience for Opera on the iPhone, and there oughta be a way for Opera to satisfy that audience. And Apple should err on the side of making it possible for third parties to quickly ramp up the catalog of iPhone apps rather than putting obstacles in their way.
I also persist in suspecting that even if the iPhone is less than completely open right now, it will open up over time–competition with other platforms such as Google’s Android will leave Apple with no choice. It’s mainly a question of whether that opening up will happen really quickly or will drag on forever. I hope…
One of the many cool things about running Technologizer is that I can sneak a peek at the site’s Web analytics and see what operating systems and browsers are used by site visitors. Doing so helps me figure out what folks might want to read about–we do a lot of Mac coverage in part because a lot of Mac types hang out here–but it’s also just plain interesting. At least I think so–and in case you do, too, here’s a quick snapshot. (These figures are for October to date.)
The browser wars are alive and well on Technologizer:
It pleases me to see that Firefox is the most popular browser, with 48 percent of visitors using it;
24 percent use Internet Explorer (66 percent IE 7; 30 percent IE 6; 2 percent IE 8);
17 percent use Safari;
5 percent use Google Chrome;
4 percent use Opera (not huge, but around 5X the usage on the Web at large);
2 percent use something else.
Then there are operating systems:
62 percent of us come to the site via a Windows computer;
27 percent are on a Mac;
8 percent are using Linux;
2 percent are using an iPhone (!);
1 percent are using something else (like the 149 visitors who are on a T-Mobile Sidekick)
These stats show us to be a pretty diverse bunch–we’re far more likely to be using an alternative browser or an underdog OS than Internet users at large. They are, however, subject to change–and if I see any striking changes one way or another, I’ll report back here with an update. (For one thing, I’m curious to see if Chrome usage grows rapidly, and if so, at which other browser’s expense…)
It’s a busy day for browsers–not only is there a new version of Flock, but the browser it’s based on, Firefox, has popped out beta 1 of Firefox 3.1. As usual, Mozilla says it’s meant for developers and testers and that it may break add-ons. As usual, I’ve ignored the warnings and downloaded and installed it.
A year ago, I declared Flock–the “social browser” built on top of Firefox–to be my favorite Web browser. I’m still a happy user, and am happy to report that the official, final version 2.0 is now available for download at the Flock site.
As before, Flock is a browser for folks who are major fans of social networking and media sites: It’s got built-in support for Facebook, Twitter, Digg, YouTube, Flickr, and other services that let you do things like update your Facebook status and check your friends’ statuses without going to Facebook, Digging stories without going to Digg, viewing your buddies’ Flickr streams, and so forth. Much of this is done through Flock’s People sidebar, which sits to the left of the Web page you’re on so your social tools are always available:
(UPDATE! I’m conducting a poll about Chrome–please go here to take it, and to get a recap of all of Technologizer’s Chrome coverage.)
When Google says that Chrome “is far from done,” it’s not engaging in aw-shucks modesty. This browser is missing some of the basic stuff that I thought made a browser a browser in 2008, such as RSS support and the ability to zoom entire Web pages, not just text. It can’t be customized through extensions or even run the Google Toolbar. It explores almost none of the fascinating possibilities opened up by the world’s dominant provider of Web services building its own browser. If the question is whether serious consumers of Web content should dump whatever browser they’re using at the moment for Chrome, the answer is “probably not.”
And yet…using Chrome is an exciting experience–the most fun I’ve had with something new from Google in a long time. It’s exciting partly because of what Google has done with Chrome, partly because of what it plans to do, and partly because of what it could do.
Just went to shut down my browser, and got this message:
Wonder if there’s a record for most browser tabs open at one time–especially by people, like me, who do it unintentionally rather than to prove a point?
Where is the Web going? Jesse James Garrett–the influential founder of Web design firm Adaptive Path–is in as good a position as anyone to provide smart answers to that question. And he’s just delivered some in the form of a next-generation browser interface called Aurora.
Don’t get too excited–Aurora is pretty much just a pie-in-the-sky idea at the moment, which Garrett and Adaptive Path have come up with in collaboration with Mozilla Labs, the research arm of the organization behind Firefox. It’s not the next version of Firefox, or anything else that’s going to arrive any time soon in any form. As Mike Arrington explains over at TechCrunch, Adaptive Path is releasing Aurora to “inspire and engage” the community of Web developers. Maybe folks will find it compelling enough to turn Aurora, or parts of it, into reality. Or maybe not.
In any event, it’s fun to look at what Aurora involves in its current theoretical state. Adaptive Path is releasing a series of videos about the interface, starting with one that went live tonight. Here’s that video–like most videos produced by technology companies to show how something that doesn’t exist yet might work in the real world, it has a slightly cheesy, Epcot Centerish vibe. But it does a reasonably good job of conveying Aurora’s basics…
A few quick thoughts:
One of the features described I liked most is one of the simplest. All the Aurora browser’s tools disappear until you need them, opening up more room for the Web page you’re on. Why can’t Firefox and IE and Safari do this…like now? In fact, why can’t all applications work this way? (I know that many of ’em have a full-screen mode, but it’s always optional, not the default way of doing things.)
Aurora looks like an OS/application interface, not a mere browser one. It takes over the screen, includes data-wrangling features, and even lets the user create charts–as if it could be, at least in part, a replacement for Firefox, Windows, and Excel. Which kind of makes sense, since so much of what operating systems and applications have traditionally done for us is migrating into the browser and onto the Internet.
Parts of Aurora look like a certain OS I know. Namely Apple’s Leopard–you could tell me that some of the functionality in the video is the next generation of the OS X Dock and Exposé and I’d believe you. Again, it’s interesting to see a future browser that would take as many cues from operating systems as from current browsers, which have changed remarkably little in basic concepts since Netscape Navigator 1.0.
Parts of Aurora look confusing. Or maybe it’s just the video that’s confusing. “The placement of objects in the spatial view left to right and top to bottom is largely automatic,” says the video’s narration. “The browser analyzes the content of everything that flows through it, noting semantic similarities between objects and placing them near one another…strong associations between objects are noted as clusters.” I only sort of understand what it’s talking about. Aurora would only be a successful, of course, if users found it completely intuitive and didn’t need to think about this stuff. (Real people never use words like “semantic” when discussing the data in their lives; Web geeks can’t discuss data without doing so.)
I’m not even going to hazard a guess as to whether Aurora will ever amount to anything, and based on the first video, at least, I think it’s most interesting as a conversation starter. The Adaptive Path site has more info on the project, and will link to the rest of the Aurora videos as they’re released.
When I was at PC World, I enjoyed following the browser wars by periodically checking in to see what browsers were being used by PCWorld.com visitors. It was fun to watch the Little Browser That Could chug along, gaining market share little by little; when I blogged back in February, just over a third of PCWorld.com visitors were using Firefox.
I thought of that when I saw a story over at TGDaily reporting on a new study that says that 20 percent of all Web users are now on Firefox. And I wondered: What’s the story here on Technologizer?
Turn out that Technologizer visitors love Firefox even more than PCWorld.com ones do–in this site’s brief life, 58 percent of visits have come from people using Mozilla’s browser. Only 30 percent used Internet Explorer, the browser that still dominates the Web, albeit a heckuva lot less so than it did a few years ago.
A shade under 9 percent use Apple’s Safaril just under 2 percent use Opera. And those are the only browsers with more than a teeny-tiny market share here.
Technologizer is a new site that doesn’t have gazillions of visitors yet, so this breakdown is likely subject to radical change as we grow. For now, though, you seem to be a pretty discerning bunch when it comes to browser usage…
Delicious, the venerable Web-based bookmarking service owned by Yahoo and formerly known as Del.icio.us, launched a new version today. I fully intend to check it out, but right now, I’m still mulling over Matthew Ingram’s post about it: “Delicious 2.0: Who Bookmarks Anymore?”
Matthew uses this Twitter post by Mashable’s Adam Ostrow as a springboard to discuss why he’s finding bookmarking less and less relevant:
I found the whole notion of bookmarking being passé to be not only intriguing but surprisingly cathartic–because I’ve never been much of a bookmarker, and I’ve always felt sort of guilty about it.
How come I’ve never bookmarked? Mostly because it’s always felt like work that didn’t result in adequate payoff. It’s required a few clicks that always seem like a distraction that interferes with whatever I’m doing at the moment. (Pretty much by definition, you bookmark something because it’s valuable; I’m usually so engrossed in the content that I forget to bookmark it.) Bookmarks require folders (or folder variants such as Google Toolbar’s labels); managing folders makes me feel like a librarian tending to a card catalog, and I always seem to end up with multiple folders that duplicate each others’ purpose. Which means that even once I’ve bookmarked something, I have trouble finding it.
Another issue with bookmarks that I’ve never found closure with is that it’s harder to remember to get rid of bookmarks than to create them in the first place. Any time I’ve ever made a concerted effort to bookmark stuff–and God knows, I have–I’ve ended up forgetting to bookmark some sites I go to everyday…and leaving bookmarks related to projects from years ago cluttering up my folders.
For a long time, I had a good excuse to avoid bookmarks: They were tied to a particular browser on a particular machine, and I’ve always been a multiple-browsers-on-multiple-computers kind of browser. In theory, that excuse went away years ago when Web-based bookmarking services started to pop up. (Backflip sticks in my mind as the first one I saw and kind of liked–and it’s still around.)
I’ve tried a bunch of approaches to putting bookmarks on the Web and/or synching them across multiple PCs, but I’ve never found one that made me into a long-term believer. I couldn’t even remember the original Del.icio.us’s name, let along figure out its cryptic interface. I liked Google Browser Sync until it started creating phantom duplicate bookmarks–and if I’d kept with it I would have ended up irritated with Google when they discontinued the service. These days, I use Google Toolbar’s bookmarks–sort of–but still fumble with the fact any browser I use also has its own bookmark system. (I sometimes forget where I’ve bookmarked what.)
When I say that bookmarking is difficult, what I’m really is that other means of finding information are easier. That’s always been true, and it’s only more strikingly so today. I can find nearly anything I need on the Web in Google in ten seconds or so. I’ve always gone back to sites by typing their names into the browser’s address bar, and with the “Awesome Bar” in Firefox 3 and its cousin Flock, it feels like the browser figures out what I’m looking for within my first two or three keystrokes. (Firefox 3 also makes strides in removing some of the hassle of bookmarking, but the Awesome Bar is so good I haven’t felt the need to bookmark anything.)
For years, I thought the fact that I didn’t bookmark much meant that I was secretly a clueless newbie. I assumed that serious Web users were serious bookmarkers, and that my failure to become one was a sign I was disorganized and wasteful of my own time. So I love the notion that bookmarking doesn’t matter much anymore. Whether or not it’s valid.
And now that I’m feeling better about not being a bookmarker, I may even find the courage to explain to you why I’m not that much of an RSS user…