Posts Tagged ‘Firefox’
Like an irritating, hyperactive teenager, Rockmelt will not be ignored. Alerts from Facebook, Twitter and a host of rss feeds allow this browser to barge into your consciousness at will. Is this progress or a recipe for a nervous breakdown?
It’s taken a while for the browser landscape to settle down. Internet Explorer, cumbersome, slow and built by Microsoft, Firefox, cumbersome, bloated and free. Google Chrome, fast, sleek and user friendly. Safari, fast, does what it says on the tin.
Let’s take a step back. Before internet time began, the only way of communicating was by letter or by phone. Letters were great, you could choose when to read them and they only came once a day in any case. The telephone on the other hand was constant nuisance, interrupting at will, and racheting the stress levels up as it did so. E-Mail, when it arrived was a blessing. Not intrusive, all of the virtues of the letter, none of the evils of the telephone. Instant Messaging was kind of ok – you can always turn it off and its less intrusive than the telephone.
The next wave brought Facebook, Twitter and Texting, the world was never the same again. I buy Facebook and Twitter in a work context. They are enablers. RockMelt is very slick, it should be, it’s built on Chromium, WebKit, the technology behind Google Chrome. It has some very interesting characteristics – it integrates Facebook, Twitter and RSS feeds into the browser – it’s a one stop shop, click to share on Facebook or forward a link to Twitter. If you install it on two computers, it retrieves your profile from the Cloud and initialises the second browser in the same way as the first – very clever. I love this browser when I’m not working. And there’s the rub.
RockMelt is the anti-pomodoro. If I’m working, and before anyone asks the obvious question, my job does involve a fair amount of researching technology on the internet, the last thing I want is interruption. RockMelt is brilliant at letting me know what my friends are up to, but wasn’t the point of asynchronous communication that it was asynchronous? When I’m concentrating, I switch my phone off, I kill my E-Mail clients and focus. Call me old fashioned, but that’s how I like it.
To a deafening blast of bloggery, Google Chrome was finally released – the technical side has been pretty comprehensively covered by now, by more informed people than I, but what of the non-technical, why is this not just another product release?
Well Chrome is significant for maybe three reasons.
1. Its the first big power play from a credible power broker in several years
2. It’s the first credible threat to Firefox
3. It does things differently – under the covers it’s been written for speed, it has been designed as a web application platform (old fashioned browsers did not have Web2.0 in mind)
So how does that translate?
The IT landscape is dominated by a very small number of companies, this has happened in part, because Microsoft managed to acquire the desktop to the extent that it’s operating system is the default on every PC sold. They were only prevented from ‘acquiring’ the browsing experience, by legal action forbidding them to make Internet Explorer part of the operating system. Other corporate contenders have expanded by acquisition as well as by market growth, leading to a landscape not unlike the Premiership, where the ‘big four’ companies appear to be there for the long term.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but nobody forecast the extent to which Search would become the lynchpin of the internet. I have an ancient copy of ‘Wired’ magazine that features an interview with someone who used to make a handsome living by ‘finding’ things on the internet for corporate clients. How pleased were they when Alta Vista came out? Google came out of left field, revolutionised search technology and reinvented the business model, making advertising the principle source of income and by going public, gatecrashed the party at the top table in the process.
So now, Google (and quite a few others) want to carve up the desktop – the browser is the most used application by a country mile, the concept of software as a service is catching on fast and Google, in releasing a web browser are after their slice of the pie. Microsoft, presumed to be vulnerable in the wake of Bill Gates departure and the extreme negativity attracted by Vista, don’t seem to have much to say – though watch this space, it’s not on their nature to rest on their laurels. The significance of owning the browser, to Google, is that access to the users browsing habits will enable them to target advertising even more accurately than they do currently, using the data gleaned from user’s search patterns.
So the release of a new browser, re-engineered to render complex web applications is big news – success will buy Google a new market.
How does Chrome perform?
The Magic and lies:
Most striking is the uncluttered gui, it’s simply a window, the default tab, which contains your most clicked pages, arranged in a table. Like all the best GUIs, it’s simple, it works and it will be copied.
The tabs are at the top of the application – emphasising the fact that effectively each tab is a different application – so if one tab freezes the other live on – I was unable to test this, but I believe that is the general idea.
I was unable to see much difference in speed, testing on Facebook, which is the slowest application I know.
Chrome has a marvellously uncluttered interface, but consequently lacks the widgets – StumbleUpon, ScreenGrab, Delicious etc that have made Firefox such an important application. It allows ‘anonymous’ browsing – no cookies, history etc – now I can only think of one section of the market that would see this as a Firefox killer – which bring me neatly to the licensing issue.
In common with Facebook, Google have decided that they want the free and unfettered use of everything that passes through the browser. It’s well known that any media uploaded to Facebook effectively becomes the property of Facebook, now Google want a slice of the pie – so if I use Chrome to upload my photograph to Flickr, Google own the rights to reuse and distribute that photograph. If I use Chrome to upload the photograph to Facebook…hang on a minute, they can’t both own the image? Can they? Well, no, they can’t. So far as both companies are concerned, the author holds the copyright, they simply want the right to use the material without paying a royalty.
The spirit of the license, in both cases, one is asked to believe, is that the companies concerned wish to protect themselves against opportunistic legal action. Both companies use the term non-exclusive and both explicitly say that copyright and intellectual property remain with the originator. So to be clear, in uploading a photograph using Chrome, to Facebook, the user is granting both companies non-exclusive rights to do with that photograph what they wish, including sell it.
Will Chrome be successful? – It lacks the wow! factor of Google earth (or Search). It looks like an old fashioned Apple Mac application and not in a good way – visually it doesn’t blend seamlessly with the OS in the way that we are beginning to expect. It is the ‘Flock of Seagulls’ to Vista and Apple’s New Romantics, SteamPunk it ain’t. The licence gambit seems to be attracting as much criticism as Facebook’s similar play, and the anonymous browsing feature is superfluous for most people. Having said that, the code I have is beta, and it didn’t crash once today – so top marks for testing. I certainly won’t be using Chrome as part of my toolkit just yet – but I’m keeping an open mind – Firefox is becoming bloated and unreliable, throwing more processing power at it is expensive and a new browser is free….