Browser Innovation Not Yet Dead

Album Cover: Plans

"And it came to me then that every plan is a tiny prayer to Father Time."
Death Cab / What Sarah Said

Posted on July 11, 2003 10:50 AM in Browsers
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

There is a short but very opinionated article over at The Guardian that discusses in brief the current status of the browser war. Jack Schofield, who wrote the article, starts off with a quick jab to browser innovation in general, including Marc Andreessen's (Netscape's co-founder) sediments: "There hasn't been any innovation on the browser in the past five years. And five years from now, there won't be any changes."

Before I discuss some of the other things in the article, I have to say that I disagree with Marc. His comment didn't go over too well with some other Mozilla fans either. Skins, while not a browser-only innovation, have really helped personalize web browsers so that users have more say in their browsing experience. Tabs are a HUGE advancement, as they've dramatically reduced taskbar clutter and have, yet again, given the user more control over how they control their browsing experience.

Also, giving users control over how web pages are displayed (e.g. allowing them to block pop-ups, images, and even colors) makes their browsing experience as efficient as they need it to be. Extensions, which I think are going to be the next big innovation (given the upcoming modular approach of Mozilla development), will serve to carry this type of efficiency into the installation process and application usefulness as a whole.

Jack Schofield does make some points that I agree with later on in the article, though. His exertion that Netscape/Mozilla's stance on developing a cross-platform browser has hindered its development and evolution is right on track, as far as I'm concerned. IE grabbed 90% of the market share because it had one true focus...Windows. A majority of Mozilla's bloat can be attributed to the fact that it needs to run on Linux, all version of Windows, Mac OS...the list goes on. I would much rather see Linux Mozilla or Mac Mozilla (like IE's approach with Mac IE5), than a catch-all application.

Innovation will continue though. There's no getting around it. Some people fear that since IE will no longer blossom as a browser (without OS upgrades, at least) the web will be at a standstill. This is simply not so. With movements like the blog movement, the standards movement, and the syndication movement, the web is going to evolve greatly over the coming years. Users will evolve along with it, and as they get smarter about the web and how to best use it, they are going to expect applications that will let them do what they want to do. For this reason alone, browser innovation will continue and we may even see, as Jack Schofield put it, a "Browser Wars 2.0."

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