Foxbrowsing: So Far, So Mixed

Which browser? I changed my answer from Chrome to Firefox about 3 months ago. Firefox remains my answer to the browser question on the lap/desk.

What about on ioS? I’ve started using FoxBrowser on iPads recently, and appreciate the bookmark synching. It doesn’t bring all the add-ons down to the tablets, though. For example, I use LeechBlock to stop myself using reddit (and other sites) between 8am and 8pm in Firefox. On iPad, I have to use the self-discipline add-on to my self.

I should get Foxbrowser for my iPhone as well. I don’t spend much time in the browser on the phone, but that might change when I switch from Safari to Foxbrowser.

Thanks to Mozilla for Firefox, and to Simon for Foxbrowser!

Back To Firefox From Chrome

After my daughter’s school started using Chrome, it seemed that the browser wasn’t big enough for the both of us. So I switched back to Firefox.

In a way, my switch away from Chrome was prompted by the success of Google for Education, and of Chromebooks. At school, my daughter Maddie uses one of the over 50,000 Chromebooks purchased by Montgomery County, Maryland, for use in K-12 schools.

Maddie has to sign in to her school Chrome account to do some of her homework. She does so on the office computer, otherwise known as dad’s laptop. When she started doing this, strange things happened to my browser, to the extent that Chrome no longer seemed like home to me. At first I thought about coexisting in Chrome, and set up a Chrome account for myself.

Then I considered switching to a different browser, and came up with multiple reasons for switching back to Firefox. It would be simpler to use a different browser from the one Maddie uses. I’m still a little annoyed at Google for discontinuing Google Reader. I was curious about what had happened in Firefox while I was away. Some recent browser comparisons favor Firefox over Chrome and other browsers.

Firefox this time round? So far, not bad.

Clients and the Cloud

You’re reading this on some kind of client: a laptop, a desktop, a smartphone. This post, along with the software that runs it, lives on a server (operated by There’s probably a connection between the client and the server at the time you’re reading this.

How big is the client? How is work split between client and server? These are questions addressed at GigaOm by Michael Mullany of Sencha.

In the mainframe age, data and application state were stored at the server tier, and the client device was a stateless (and therefore cheap) terminal. But in the client-server era, application logic moved down from the server-side to the end-user workstation…

In the web era, we returned to the mainframe model of thin clients and fat servers…

But now, HTML5 heralds the return of state and application processing to the client-side device.

The argument is that parts of the HTML5 standard describe means of storing web pages and data at the client side. The pages can then be used at even when there is no connection between client and server. This part of the standard will soon be implemented in browsers.

This means that the client will get fatter. In particular, it means that part of the (server side) cloud will be condensed into a client side puddle.

If (and I won’t go into whether that’s a thin or fat if) this comes to pass, it has several interesting implications.

  • There’s a need for excellent heuristics to populate the client-side puddles. If the locally-stored page links to another page, does that other page get stored? What about its links?
  • We are a way away from ubiquitous high-speed connectivity. If and when we have that, clients can go back to being thin again. If we had it now, we wouldn’t be interested in client-side puddles.
  • Good for the browser that implements this part of the standard. Perhaps not so good for apps?
  • Good for the operating system that exists mainly to run the browser, such as Chromium OS.

Google Gears and Microsoft IE6 Ride Into the Sunset

Two cowboys ride off into the sunset. The younger of the two was brought in to do a specific job for a limited time, while the older has been around for what seems like forever.

I refer respectively to Google Gears and Microsoft Internet Explorer 6. We’ll start with the latter, the browser that would not die, but that seems to have got a lot closer to extinction this year.

The IE6 story is well told, mainly in comic strip form, by Brad Colbow at Smashing Magazine. (By the way, I like Smashing enough to suggest that you sign up for its newsletter and for a chance to win some of the cool giveaways.)

So, on to the story of the Mountain View Kid: Google Gears. Gears’ most striking feature is that it allows you to access the web without an internet connection. It is of course necessary that the browser and the sites you’re using are Gears-enabled.

So why can the Kid? Because offline access to the web belongs in web standards. So Google has shifted effort away from Gears itself and “towards bringing all of the Gears capabilities into web standards like HTML5” (quoting from the Gears API blog).

Reaction to the Gears news seems to have been positive. To some, it looks good because standards are good (and I think they are usually better than the alternative). To others, the news about Gears looks good because Gears itself wasn’t (and my own limited use of Gears did yield some rather weird results).

MG at TechCrunch thinks that Gears deserves to die because it is guilty of being a plugin, and plugins fragment the web. While I see what he means, I don’t think all plugins are equally guilty. For example, without Gears, I need an internet connection to access the web, but I’m used to that. Flash is far more guilty: without it, much of the web is unusable.

In sum, I’m glad that each of these two cowboys is taking a last ride. To mix metaphors, the web will be a less tangled place without them.

Thanks to German Vidal for making the photo available under Creative Commons.

Chrome Lost Its Shine?

Google’s Chrome browser launched a month ago: Svetlana (Profy) posted on the one-month anniversary, and Om followed up.

Svetlana presents numbers showing a falloff in Chrome use after the impressive early adoption rate. My own use reflects this: Chrome was my main browser for the week or two after its release, then I went back to Firefox. I fired up Chrome to write this post, though.

Her explanation reminded me of my own first impressions of Chrome: “Chrome is a rare Google product where “beta” actually means work in progress” is “this is an early beta, and hence a real beta” one month on.

I expect Chrome to gain shine, and regain share, as more months elapse.

Chrome Versus Firefox

I don’t like the post title: can’t the free/open source browsers get along? If there’s any versus, shouldn’t they line up against the common enemy, and amidst the smaller tribes?

But Chrome and Firefox don’t seem able to get along, at least not on this (Windows XP) laptop. Every time I’ve had them running at the same time, Flash has crashed.

As an early adopter, albeit one with a little early adoption fatigue, I am using Chrome. In fact, I’m using it to post this. But many of the other things I’d like to adopt early come in the form of Firefox extensions, and Chrome doesn’t yet support extensions. I’ll give just one example of a new(ish) extension: Mozilla’s own Ubiquity.

There are also some extensions I’ve got used to, such as Copy as HTML Link and FoxyTunes. I may well be heading back to Firefox, while keeping an eye on Chrome development.

Google Chrome First Impressions

Many of us who are highish on the web adoption curve have downloaded, installed, and tried Chrome, the new browser from Google. Some of those further along the curve won’t try Chrome until it runs on Linux (or perhaps OSX). Here are some of my first impressions.

  • I don’t like the name Chrome. It suggests unnecessary, ornamental pseudo-features. I’d even prefer GBrowser.
  • The comic book by Scott McCloud is great. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better introduction to a product.
  • The browser is, by all accounts, fast. It seems that way to me. But in saying that, I’m comparing bare Chrome and extended Firefox. By bare I mean that the early beta of Chrome doesn’t allow extensions.
  • Yes, this is an early beta, and hence a real beta.
  • The design is very tab-centric, in terms of user interface and of architecture. I like that.
  • The lack of a “home page” button seems very strange. Apart from that, I like the sparse look of Chrome.
  • Chrome is open source software. To be specific, it’s under the BSD. So other browsers can incorporate Chrome code.
  • Following from that, it seems to me that Chrome is intended by the Google top brass to keep the browser market competitive, and hence to improve the experience of the web, rather than to kill any other browser or platform. But I’m not saying that Google would shed tears were Chrome to hurt Microsoft’s browser or operating system offerings.
  • I’m impressed by how well-kept the GBrowser secret was. I wonder if an impending leak was the reason for the release before Chrome had some key “openness” features, such as extensions and Linux support.
  • So much has been written about Chrome already that I decided not to link to any of it. That’s a reflection on the quantity, rather than the quality, or what I’ve read elsewhere.

Shiny New Chrome on Old Windows?

So, using Firefox 3.0, I tried to install Google’s Chrome browser. I was told that I needed to install Windows XP Service Pack 2 first. I admit that I should have done this a while ago on this seldom-used desktop.

So, off I went to download SP2. I was told that, in order to download it, I would need to use Internet Explorer (or allow automatic updates). So off I went to Windows Update. But to use that site, I have to be using a current version of Internet Explorer. Yes, that does seem like a joke to me, but apparently Microsoft mean it.

So off I went to Internet Explorer Get It Now. You’re probably ahead of me here. IE7 and IE8beta each require… SP2.

I think I’ll wait to get my hands on the newish laptop downstairs before kicking the Chrome tires.