Competition Spurs Innovation


Browser WarHow times have changed since the number one version of the Firefox browser debuted and for the first time since the Netscape era produced some excitement.  Because shortly thereafter Microsoft decided to invest into development of a new, more advanced version of its own browser after having stagnated with Internet Explorer 6 for years. And suddenly Apple thought it to be a good idea to produce a version of its Safari browser also for the Windows platform. At last Google entered the race with its own browser called Chrome after some failed attempt with a Google Desktop. Mind you that there is yet another browser often forgotten, but somehow it appears that the Opera was always there - without having much influence either way.

The competition apparently keeps the software vendors honest and innovative, each looking to grab some more market share. Even though Opera invented tabbed browsing, it was Firefox which made it popular. Explorer had no other choice but follow the trend, finally Chrome took it a step further by separating and isolating each tab in its own process. Great! Especially because Mozilla is going to do exactly the same with its Electrolysis project as Benjamin Smedberg explains. Not to mention all the other exciting features like private browsing, native video and audio support, security improvements, lots of useful add-ons and more…

But as of a sudden, it appears that browsers want to be more than just… browsers. They want to take over the way we compute and interact - exclusively. In some way that’s nothing new, since Internet Explorer was essentially a part of the Windows operating system, completely integrated and intertwined. Windows would break if Explorer would have been removed by force from the system. Others did not agree that this was such a good idea, complained, and today Microsoft is reversing its earlier decade old decisions to integrate their browser tightly with the operating system. Needless to say, that this will make their system a lot more reliable - perhaps for the first time there will be a secure Windows?

The opposite happens at the competition - Google Chrome wants to be an operating system. Actually it wants to be a browser geared to serve Google content, which happens to have an underlying operating system.  It just can’t do without that minor requirement and still take complete control of what a user can or can’t do outside of the browser. Even though Chrome OS is apparently going to use a Linux kernel, it’s really going to be a Browser OS. Or is the terminal coming back in a more advanced form?

As much as Chrome wants to be an operating system, it appears that Opera really wants to be a web server today.  Opera Unite is a web server on the web browser which allows the hosting of web sites on the home  computer. It’s not a new idea really, Windows 95 already had some personal web server and Netscape offered FastTrack to let Intranet users create personal web sites and share information from their desktop PCs. That was some fourteen (14) years ago, maybe Opera just missed the wrong decade with its innovation?

But also Firefox has some higher ambitions. Some of its developers envision cubes (CubeZilla in Mozillianish) and squares for navigating web sites, resembling effects known from the Compiz compositing window manager (for those of you using Linux). This made me think that also Firefox badly wants to be a bit more than just a browser - perhaps a desktop?

Only Apple’s Safari appears to be unaffected by the innovative urge the software vendors are experiencing at the moment. Not surprising, considering that fixing bugs takes some time too…Well, it’s not bad that we have some of those simpler choices as well, just in case we really want to browse the Internet with a normal web browser…maybe we should save and archive a copy of those pieces of software, antiquities from the year 2009 when browsers where just ordinary web browsers to browse the web?!

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[…] Competition Spurs Innovation The opposite happens at the competition - Google Chrome wants to be an operating system. Actually it wants to be a browser geared to serve Google content, which happens to have an underlying operating system. It just can’t do without that minor requirement and still take complete control of what a user can or can’t do outside of the browser. Even though Chrome OS is apparently going to use a Linux kernel, it’s really going to be a Browser OS. Or is the terminal coming back in a more advanced form? […]