The current sea of web browsers is awash in promises, but what makes Firefox better then Internet Explorer? And is Google’s Chrome really any faster or better at rendering web pages then Safari? Neowin.net was looking to answer this very question when it authored an excellent roundup of browser rendering engines. The report helps to break down which browsers and applications make use of each of the four most prominent technologies: Trident (Microsoft), Gecko (Mozilla), Webkit (Apple/Google), and Presto(Opera). While both Trident and Presto are both closed source projects, Gecko and Webkit remain open source and are likely to be the basis of any future browsers entering the market. It is an excellent reference for users looking to switch browsers and is a reminder that we should pay attention more to the underlying engine being used then the name of the browser itself. Market share of the various engines is a very telling indicator of general compatibility on the web. It will also help you the next time a Mac head goes on rant over how much better Safari is than Chrome. You now have the tools you need to put him in his place.
Business executives will soon be able to view porn without fear of mucking up their system with malware, and they'll have HP, Mozilla, and Symantec to thank for it. The three-pronged team has set out to create what HP calls the Firefox Virtual Browser, which will appear on the upcoming HP Compaq dc7900 business desktop.
If the concept of a virtual browser sounds familiar, it's because these solutions already exist outside of the OEM realm, some of which have been covered in your favorite computer magazine (assuming Maximum PC is your favorite rag). Like Trustware's BufferZone, the Firefox Virtual Browser consists of a virtual layer independent from the operating system. This sandbox approach means that any downloaded cruft that manages to spread its contaminates stays contained and can easily be undone by simply emptying the virtual environment..
"What we have created is a virtual layer where your browser runs and all the downloads, all the clicks, all the cookies and everything is placed within...a virtualized run-time environment," explains Kirk Godkin, HP senior product manager for business PCs. "With the browser, the user only has to click the mouse and it will reset the browser to its original state and all their favorites will remain the same."
Godkin went on to say that the virtual browser will eventually spread to all of HP's corporate desktops by the end of November, but didn't say whether not HP is also working with Microsoft on a similar option for Internet Explorer.
NBC's fling with Microsoft's Silverlight platform appears to be over, at least for the time being. NBC had previously agreed to stream the Beijing Olympics to viewers using Silverlight instead of Flash to deliver the content, but now that the Olympics have wrapped up, NBC has turned back to Flash for this week's NFL season opener.
Even still, the short-term relationship can be viewed as a success for Microsoft, who managed to increase its install-base through the apparently time limited partnership. Overall download specifics were never disclosed, but we do know that at one point 1.5 million downloads were being registered per day, and according to a spokeswoman for Microsoft, at one point "more than 50 percent of the visitors to NBCOlympics.com on MSN already [had] Silverlight 2 installed." Having a large install base is important because it makes it easier for Microsoft to convince developers to use its platform.
And for Adobe, it means getting back a major partner, but not without a downside. While viewers were able to watch NFL games with Flash installed, reports have surfaced complaining of unwatchable video quality saddled with freeze frames, blurry action, and skipping back and forth while as the feeds tried to buffer.
It's a good time to be a browser connoisseur. Last week Google unveiled it's beta Chrome browser to the public, and Mozilla has now made available for download Firefox 3.1 Alpha 2. Code named Shiretoko Alpha 2, the new browser is built on a pre-release version of the Gecko 1.9.1 platform. New features include:
Drag and drop tabs between browser windows
New selector to create areas of Aero-style "glass" in XUL
Support for some CSS 2.1 and CSS 3 properties
Improved performance and new preference values for color managment profile support
After a few eyebrows were raised over Chrome’s highly libertarian end-user license agreement (EULA) – almost a proclamation of a man’s fundamental right to piracy, an amendment or an explanation was inevitable. Chrome’s EULA stated that users were at liberty to use anything posted online through the browser. But Google has amended the EULA. The web juggernaut also downplayed the entire episode as a mistake. Setting the EULA aside, a few chinks in Chrome’s armor have already been sighted. Avi Raff, a researcher, has discovered that Chrome is vulnerable to carpet-bombing a la Safari.
If Microsoft and Mozilla were content to shrug off Google's Chrome browser as just another also-ran, they might want to reconsider their position. Chrome still has a ways to go before it poses a legitimate threat to either of the market leaders, but its off to a damn good start, surpassing Opera in market share right off the bat. Net Applications' Market Share statistics site shows Chrome peaking at 1.48 percent the day after release, and as high as 1.73 percent yesterday. By comparison, Opera sits at .71 percent for the month of August, the highest it's been all year.
So what's the big deal? That remains to be seen, but Google's muscle in the online community should be obvious. For all of Chrome's potential, it's a beta release that so far doesn't support extensions and isn't yet as polished as other established browers, at least not yet. And while Opera isn't nearly the opponent that either Firefox or Internet Explorer is, many would consider it a niche favorite.
Is Chrome's initial success a sign of more to come, or will the initial buzz wear off?
Update: Chrome Beta is now available for download! Get it here
Mozilla's Firefox and Microsoft's Internet Explorer dominate the browser market, and more than a handful of alternative browsers have been able to carve out a niche following. With all the competition already in place, is there room for another contender?
Google thinks so, and tomorrow will release its Google Chrome browser in beta form to more than 100 countries. The announcement comes earlier than expected thanks to a leaked comic book making the rounds on the web. In it, the characters discuss what Google Chrome purports to bring to the table.
"Because we spend so much time online, we began seriously thinking about what kind of browser could exist if we started from scratch and built on the best elements out there," Google wrote on its blog. "We realized that the web had evolved from mainly simple text pages to rich, interactive applications and that we needed to completely rethink the browser. What we really needed was not just a browser, but also a modern platform for web pages and applications, and that's what we set out to build."
Google claims its new open-source Chrome browser will be clean and fast. To help with speed, Google says Chrome will keep each tab in an isolated "sandbox," with a separate process rendering each one. Not only should this help with performance, but if there's a bug in the code, you'll only lose one tab instead of crashing the entire browser. This also means that memory leaks can be identified and addressed by closing a single tab instead of exiting the browser.
These and all the other goodies outlined in Google's leaked cartoon all sound good on paper. Should Mozilla and Microsoft be worried?
Google inked another 3 year deal with Mozilla to remain the default search option in the open-source Firefox browser. Originally set to expire back in 2006, the deal was extended to 2008 and will now run through 2011.
"We're very, very happy about our relationship with Google," said John Lilly, Mozilla CEO, "and this makes sure that Mozilla will be sustainable and thrive for quite a long time to come."
Lilly has good reason to be happy, as the partnership netted Mozilla around $57 million in 2006 alone, or about 85 percent of the company's total revenue. The funds go towards paying staff, supporting its bandwidth and hardware infrastructure, and to distribute grants.
Google comes out ahead, too. As Firefox continues to grow its marketshare and increase its userbase, that means more searches and clicks for Google, which in turn translates to advertising revenue. But for as much as Google and Mozilla may seem intertwined, Mozilla maintains that the two operate independently.
"We develop our product and technical direction as part of an open process unrelated to the search relationship with Google," Mozilla wrote its 2006 Financial FAQ. "We talk to Google about the parts of the product that offer Google services (i.e., the Firefox Start Page) and the services they provide, like anti-phishing. Otherwise Google does not have any special relationship to Mozilla project activities."
Sometimes you have to roll the dice if you're to have a shot at a big payout, and that's exactly what NBC did when it scheduled no less than 2,200 hours of live streaming coverage to be available free of charge on its website. Without enough viewers tuning to turn those pageviews into advertising dollars, the decision could have turned into an epic fail for NBC. Instead, the broadcasting company was able to cash in on the virtual gold.
As of Saturday, NBC reported it had received a staggering 1.2 billion pageviews resulting in an equally impressive 72 million video stream views. Those numbers represent more than the totals for the 2004 and 2006 Games combined.
But NBC wasn't the only big winner in this years' Olympics. According to research firm Nielsen Online, search engine and news aggregation Yahoo was getting 4.7 million unique visitors a day at the Olympics' peak. AOL, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, the Beijing Organizing Committee, The New York Times, and USA Today also saw heavily increased traffic.
Google doesn't often trail the competition in the search engine market, but while others had already implemented a suggest feature to online searches originating from their respective home pages, the same thing was noticeably absent from Google.com. Having a suggest feature means related search queries to the ones you're typing in appear below the search bar. You may have noticed this when typing search queries in Firefox's search box or the Google Toolbar, but up until now, it hasn't been a part of Google.com. So why did it take so long to implement?
"Quality is very important to us, and since so many people visit the Google.com homepage, we wanted to make sure to evaluate and refine our algorithms to provide a good experience using Google Suggest," a Google spokesperson said.
If you're not seeing it just yet, not to worry, your interweb isn't broken - a full roll out is expected to be complete by the end of the week.