Friday, April 25, 2008

The Next Browser War

The new browsers reviewed ...

"A brand-new crop of browser betas gives us a glimpse of what Web surfing will be like when IE, Firefox, and Opera release new versions later this year.

by Edward Mendelson

Spring is the season when beta versions of long-established Web browsers make their first tentative flights out of the developers' nests, before the full-fledged versions emerge sometime later in the year. We looked at test versions of three browsers that are on their way to becoming significant: Firefox 3, Internet Explorer 8, and Opera 9 .50. The other browser in the news is Apple's Safari 3 .1, recently released in a new Windows version, which we also reviewed.
Buzz up!on Yahoo!

All three beta browsers seem to be singing variations on the same two tunes: first, closer adherence to open Web standards used everywhere on the Web, and, second, unique features that you can't get from any other browser. It's a hard job keeping these two tunes from conflicting with each other, but the three betas manage it. Each one claims better performance on compatibility tests like Acid3, although what matters most is compatibility with JavaScript and other dynamic content in real-world Web ages--and all three have made real progress in that department.

Internet Explorer 8
Each of the new betas also offers unique ways of displaying content from Web pages, while keeping within public standards. Internet Explorer 8 beta 1, for example, offers "Web slices," typically a small region of a Web page that the browser automatically updates in the same way it automatically updates lists of RSS feeds. A Web slice might be a box displaying weather in Seattle or traffic delays in Manhattan, and a user of IE8 can see the slice by clicking on a link to it in the IE Favorites bar. A Web developer can create a Web slice simply by adding some standard Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) markup to an existing page, using an identifying tag in the markup that IE will recognize but other browsers will ignore—until support gets built into other browsers in the next version.

Internet Explorer also touts its new Activities feature, which lets Web developers create items that a user can install in IE's right-click pop-up menu. You could, for example, select a street address on a Web page, right-click on the selection, and open a window to a standard mapping service that displays the address on a map. Similar but less powerful capabilities already in exist through add-ons, especially for Firefox, but IE's Activities provide a simple mechanism that will make this kind of feature more widespread.

What I want (but definitely won't get) from Internet Explorer 8 is less of a sense that, when I open a menu, I'm visiting a Microsoft booth at a computer trade show. The right-click Activities menu offers me a chance to blog on Windows Live Spaces, translate with Windows Live, send with Windows Live Hotmail, map with Live Maps, and define with Microsoft's online encyclopedia Encarta. The choices from Google and other services that I prefer will presumably be available as alternatives before too long, but I wish Microsoft didn't insist on making its own services act like the last guest who drives you crazy because he won't go home when the party has ended.

Firefox 3
The most mature of the betas here is that of Firefox, whose Firefox 3 beta 5 gives a glimpse of hundreds of new features. Most of them are minor improvements, but some are significant enhancements to usability. Users will appreciate enhanced auto-completion in the address bar, so you can now type in a few letters from the middle of a Web address--not just the first few letters--and Firefox will display a list of addresses that match it. Standard features like downloading become easier to use through a new pause button and other enhancements to the download window. When you click on an e-mail address, Firefox can be set to open a Web-based mail application like Gmail instead of a mail program like Outlook Express.

Firefox 3 gives me most of what I want from Firefox, such as the ability to resize the search box in the upper-right-hand corner, though I still want a few more things. Bookmark management is now a bit easier, with a star in the address bar that appears when a page is already bookmarked—so that I can click on the star and change some of the bookmark properties. But I'd like it more if the items that I can change in the menu available from the star were also available in the Properties menu, which appears when I right-click on the bookmark itself. Right now I have to manage bookmarks with two different interfaces that have two different sets of options, and I have to remember which option is on which menu. Also, the one thing I always want to do with a bookmark is rename it so that it takes up a minimum of space, and Firefox still doesn't give me a Rename item on a bookmark's right-click menu. I have to go to the full Properties menu instead. A brand-new crop of browser betas gives us a glimpse of what Web surfing will be like when IE, Firefox, and Opera release new versions later this year.

by Edward Mendelson

Spring is the season when beta versions of long-established Web browsers make their first tentative flights out of the developers' nests, before the full-fledged versions emerge sometime later in the year. We looked at test versions of three browsers that are on their way to becoming significant: Firefox 3, Internet Explorer 8, and Opera 9 .50. The other browser in the news is Apple's Safari 3 .1, recently released in a new Windows version, which we also reviewed.

All three beta browsers seem to be singing variations on the same two tunes: first, closer adherence to open Web standards used everywhere on the Web, and, second, unique features that you can't get from any other browser. It's a hard job keeping these two tunes from conflicting with each other, but the three betas manage it. Each one claims better performance on compatibility tests like Acid3, although what matters most is compatibility with JavaScript and other dynamic content in real-world Web ages--and all three have made real progress in that department.

Internet Explorer 8
Each of the new betas also offers unique ways of displaying content from Web pages, while keeping within public standards. Internet Explorer 8 beta 1, for example, offers "Web slices," typically a small region of a Web page that the browser automatically updates in the same way it automatically updates lists of RSS feeds. A Web slice might be a box displaying weather in Seattle or traffic delays in Manhattan, and a user of IE8 can see the slice by clicking on a link to it in the IE Favorites bar. A Web developer can create a Web slice simply by adding some standard Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) markup to an existing page, using an identifying tag in the markup that IE will recognize but other browsers will ignore—until support gets built into other browsers in the next version.

Internet Explorer also touts its new Activities feature, which lets Web developers create items that a user can install in IE's right-click pop-up menu. You could, for example, select a street address on a Web page, right-click on the selection, and open a window to a standard mapping service that displays the address on a map. Similar but less powerful capabilities already in exist through add-ons, especially for Firefox, but IE's Activities provide a simple mechanism that will make this kind of feature more widespread.

What I want (but definitely won't get) from Internet Explorer 8 is less of a sense that, when I open a menu, I'm visiting a Microsoft booth at a computer trade show. The right-click Activities menu offers me a chance to blog on Windows Live Spaces, translate with Windows Live, send with Windows Live Hotmail, map with Live Maps, and define with Microsoft's online encyclopedia Encarta. The choices from Google and other services that I prefer will presumably be available as alternatives before too long, but I wish Microsoft didn't insist on making its own services act like the last guest who drives you crazy because he won't go home when the party has ended.

Firefox 3
The most mature of the betas here is that of Firefox, whose Firefox 3 beta 5 gives a glimpse of hundreds of new features. Most of them are minor improvements, but some are significant enhancements to usability. Users will appreciate enhanced auto-completion in the address bar, so you can now type in a few letters from the middle of a Web address--not just the first few letters--and Firefox will display a list of addresses that match it. Standard features like downloading become easier to use through a new pause button and other enhancements to the download window. When you click on an e-mail address, Firefox can be set to open a Web-based mail application like Gmail instead of a mail program like Outlook Express.

Firefox 3 gives me most of what I want from Firefox, such as the ability to resize the search box in the upper-right-hand corner, though I still want a few more things. Bookmark management is now a bit easier, with a star in the address bar that appears when a page is already bookmarked—so that I can click on the star and change some of the bookmark properties. But I'd like it more if the items that I can change in the menu available from the star were also available in the Properties menu, which appears when I right-click on the bookmark itself. Right now I have to manage bookmarks with two different interfaces that have two different sets of options, and I have to remember which option is on which menu. Also, the one thing I always want to do with a bookmark is rename it so that it takes up a minimum of space, and Firefox still doesn't give me a Rename item on a bookmark's right-click menu. I have to go to the full Properties menu instead. A brand-new crop of browser betas gives us a glimpse of what Web surfing will be like when IE, Firefox, and Opera release new versions later this year.

by Edward Mendelson

Spring is the season when beta versions of long-established Web browsers make their first tentative flights out of the developers' nests, before the full-fledged versions emerge sometime later in the year. We looked at test versions of three browsers that are on their way to becoming significant: Firefox 3, Internet Explorer 8, and Opera 9 .50. The other browser in the news is Apple's Safari 3 .1, recently released in a new Windows version, which we also reviewed.
Buzz up!on Yahoo!

All three beta browsers seem to be singing variations on the same two tunes: first, closer adherence to open Web standards used everywhere on the Web, and, second, unique features that you can't get from any other browser. It's a hard job keeping these two tunes from conflicting with each other, but the three betas manage it. Each one claims better performance on compatibility tests like Acid3, although what matters most is compatibility with JavaScript and other dynamic content in real-world Web ages--and all three have made real progress in that department.

Internet Explorer 8
Each of the new betas also offers unique ways of displaying content from Web pages, while keeping within public standards. Internet Explorer 8 beta 1, for example, offers "Web slices," typically a small region of a Web page that the browser automatically updates in the same way it automatically updates lists of RSS feeds. A Web slice might be a box displaying weather in Seattle or traffic delays in Manhattan, and a user of IE8 can see the slice by clicking on a link to it in the IE Favorites bar. A Web developer can create a Web slice simply by adding some standard Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) markup to an existing page, using an identifying tag in the markup that IE will recognize but other browsers will ignore—until support gets built into other browsers in the next version.

Internet Explorer also touts its new Activities feature, which lets Web developers create items that a user can install in IE's right-click pop-up menu. You could, for example, select a street address on a Web page, right-click on the selection, and open a window to a standard mapping service that displays the address on a map. Similar but less powerful capabilities already in exist through add-ons, especially for Firefox, but IE's Activities provide a simple mechanism that will make this kind of feature more widespread.

What I want (but definitely won't get) from Internet Explorer 8 is less of a sense that, when I open a menu, I'm visiting a Microsoft booth at a computer trade show. The right-click Activities menu offers me a chance to blog on Windows Live Spaces, translate with Windows Live, send with Windows Live Hotmail, map with Live Maps, and define with Microsoft's online encyclopedia Encarta. The choices from Google and other services that I prefer will presumably be available as alternatives before too long, but I wish Microsoft didn't insist on making its own services act like the last guest who drives you crazy because he won't go home when the party has ended.

Firefox 3
The most mature of the betas here is that of Firefox, whose Firefox 3 beta 5 gives a glimpse of hundreds of new features. Most of them are minor improvements, but some are significant enhancements to usability. Users will appreciate enhanced auto-completion in the address bar, so you can now type in a few letters from the middle of a Web address--not just the first few letters--and Firefox will display a list of addresses that match it. Standard features like downloading become easier to use through a new pause button and other enhancements to the download window. When you click on an e-mail address, Firefox can be set to open a Web-based mail application like Gmail instead of a mail program like Outlook Express.

Firefox 3 gives me most of what I want from Firefox, such as the ability to resize the search box in the upper-right-hand corner, though I still want a few more things. Bookmark management is now a bit easier, with a star in the address bar that appears when a page is already bookmarked—so that I can click on the star and change some of the bookmark properties. But I'd like it more if the items that I can change in the menu available from the star were also available in the Properties menu, which appears when I right-click on the bookmark itself. Right now I have to manage bookmarks with two different interfaces that have two different sets of options, and I have to remember which option is on which menu. Also, the one thing I always want to do with a bookmark is rename it so that it takes up a minimum of space, and Firefox still doesn't give me a Rename item on a bookmark's right-click menu. I have to go to the full Properties menu instead."    (Continued via PC Magazine)    [Usability Resources]

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home

<< Home
.