Just Talk About Web

Techniques Behind Modern Web


Beyond Web Surfing

As Google’s Chrome official release was announced yesterday, the buzz around this browser was again raised.

I’ve taken a look on my Woopra’s analytics to see how many readers came to the Just Talk About Web using Chrome lately. Less than what I’d expected, only 2.8 percent of my blog readers were surfing web on Chrome boat, in comparison to about 48 percent on Mozilla-based browsers, 40.6 percent on Internet Explorer and 6.21 percent on Safari of all versions.

Of course, 2.8 percent by Chrome shown here is still far above its share on the whole net that counts for less than 1 percent. But I expect a little more because most of my readers are tech savvy who often welcome new, innovative software especially what from Google.

When Microsoft’s Internet Explorer dominated the net with more than 90% share, users just used browsers for its core functionality: web surfing, and most of time they read what was posted on the websites, nothing more. There were some plugins trying to squeeze into IE as its toolbars which, in most of cases, added no values to the browser if not devalued it instead.

Browser at that time was just-another-software, and because IE is integrated into Windows, free and fast enough, nobody cared about it or really wanted to change it for another browser that could be slightly better some way. That’s why the story of Netscape ended (sadly) as everyone has already known.

For years with almost no changes, Internet Explorer gradually became a little bored plus many malwares and viruses found the way to exploit its unfixed security holes that made surfing web on the Microsoft’s browser appear not joyful instead potentially dangerous.

Geeks then began to seek for alternative, and this time they decided to follow open-source software that they expected a better attitude in development and faster reaction to security problems. Finally Firefox, the lightweight browser from Mozilla, has won their hearts.

In 2004, the first official version of Firefox, which had been known under Phoenix or Firebird names before, debuted marking a big change in users’ web surfing behavior. Microsoft, however, almost unnoticed that little fox, never expecting a new browsing war coming from the ashes of its defeated enemy.

Users come to Firefox firstly because it is fast. Gecko rendering engine on which Firefox is being built can render web pages much faster than IE’s out-of-date engine. Secondly, they love tabbed browsing feature introduced in Firefox 2 that gives them a whole new experience on web surfing.

However, the main reason that keeps geeks on Firefox is its extension system. Firefox’s extension system, which is made possible by XUL and some of the other rich underlying technologies, allows developers create almost whatever they want and integrate them into the browser (in form of add-ons,) even features that go far beyond the core functionality of the browser. Soon after XUL was introduced, people began to refer Firefox as a “browser operating system.”

Thousands of add-ons are now available for download to fulfill almost all the wildest dreams of users on what they want to do without leaving their favorite browser. As a web developer or designer, you can find invaluable tools for HTML/JavaScript debugging or analysis. As a blogger, some add-ons make it possible for you to create, to post and to manage articles directly from browsers, then other add-ons to support you in getting buzz around it by submitting to social networking sites.

Of course, nothing prevents you from playing music from Firefox status bar or managing company’s EC2 cloud computing system from the browser if you can find appropriate add-ons. Far from the time when you opened a browser just to trip around websites, browser now can do much more than that.

So, it is no problem to switch to Chrome if you are using browser as simply as it is designed for by default. But lacking of add-ons would soon become painful for those who has reached beyond web surfing.

Google is rumored to deal with major OEMs to install Chrome as default browser on new PCs — an effort to neutralize Microsoft’s “natural” advantage of having IE integrated into Windows pre-installed on most of new computers. But it may be not a real threat to Firefox which is all installed by users themselves on Windows PCs.

Choosing a default browser now is not only about how fast or cool it can be but that is about the usefulness. Chrome, though being backed by powerful Google, will have a long way ahead to be an optimal choice for most of users, I suppose.

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