While being number three in the browser wars is akin to fighting over table scraps, Google is probably happy at the news that Chrome’s combined platform use has pushed it ahead of Safari, by a whole 0.03 percentage points. (“We’re number 3! We’re number 3!”) Chrome’s elevation in status was reported by Net Applications, which tracks the browser habits of 160 million unique monthly visitors to the 40,000 sites it monitors. The results are for the month of November.
Let’s first put things into context: Internet Explorer (IE), in all its glory, dominates the browser market with a market share of 63.6%, and Firefox a distant second at 24.7%. That leaves 11.7% for everyone else. Chrome now owns a 4.4% share, closely followed by Safari at 4.37%. There are some who might argue otherwise, but does it really matter who fills out the remaining 2.93%?
Chrome’s bump up into third place comes on the heels of the introduction of betas for Mac OS and Linux--basically moving Chrome into two new market niches. Collectively, this added 0.4 percentage points to Google’s total: from 4.0% of market share in October to 4.4% in November. On a percentage basis that’s not an insignificant increase, but in the overall scheme of things it doesn’t seem all that much. Still, “We’re number 3!”
Chrome doesn’t appear to be posed to threaten the dominate browsers in these new markets anytime soon. Chrome’s share of the Mac OS market went from 0.32% to 1.3%--Safari seems safe for now. And on Linux Chrome went from a 3.81% share to a 6.34% share--and safe too is Firefox.
Vince Vizzaccaro, an executive vice president of Net Applications doesn’t see Chrome threatening the OS hegemony of IE or Safari, but does suspect that Chrome might one day give Firefox a run for its money on Linux: “With the emergence of Chrome, I'll be curious to see if Chrome will be to Firefox on Linux what Firefox is to IE on Windows...a forceful competitor.”
The Khronos Group is asking for comment from web developers interested in working with the new standard. Those involved see the WebGL development moving at a rapid pace if awareness remains high. "I anticipate us moving toward a spec that is not provisional, not merely a draft, in early 2010, the first quarter," said Mozilla’s Arun Ranganathan. Building 3D support into the framework of the internet could revolutionize web applications and games. Full on 3D shooters may not be in the cards right away due to other browser constraints, but we can dream.
If this sounds intriguing, that’s just what Mozilla is banking on. Mozilla is hoping that early adoption of WebGL could give it an important edge over the still dominant Internet Explorer. Keep an eye on this one folks.
Get ready Android fans. The mobile browser space is about to get a lot more interesting with the imminent release of Opera Mobile for Android. Don’t confuse this with Opera Mini, which has been available through the Android Market for some time now. Whereas Opera Mini is a java-based browser that was developed for feature phones, Opera Mobile is a full on browser that can stand its ground against the competition.
The odd part here is that it won’t be coming to the Android Market. Opera is only making the software available to OEMs for now. So the next big Android phone could ship with Opera Mobile installed; it could even replace the stock Android browser. Assuming this version of Opera is like the Windows mobile version, it runs a different rendering engine and supports server-side compression like its Mini sibling.
While it will not be available to current Android users just yet, it’s safe to assume that it will soon be in the wild. If Opera doesn’t make it available, the dedicated Android modding community is likely to get a hold of the APK before long. Since the Android Market is really just a suggestion, apps like this can be obtained from outside sources. Between this and Mobile Firefox, it’s going to be an interesting ride. Sorry iPhone users, you’ll be sitting this one out.
By 1996, Netscape had captured 80% market share. Development was rapid, seeing the incorporation of CSS and table layout features as time passed. Microsoft put out the first version of Internet Explorer a year after Netscape, but found little success.
The good times couldn’t last forever, though. Microsoft released IE 4 in 1998. Thanks to some advanced features, IE captured the number one spot in only 12 months. A series of poor decisions left the Netscape browser in the hands of AOL, and we all know how that went. Development slowed, and the once great browser languished. Support was finally completely dropped in 2008.
Amid all the dark times, one great thing did happen with Netscape. The browser code was open-sourced in February 1998. It wouldn’t become apparent until years later how well that worked out for the web. From Netscape, the Mozilla Foundation built Firefox. Many feel that the Firefox browser is the best available, and it enjoys a healthy 27% market share. Let’s all have a moment of silence to remember Netscape on, this, its 15th birthday. Was Netscape your first browser? Any fond memories of those dial-up days?
Google is taking steps to make viewing PDF files that appear in search results a whole lot easier. With “Quick View” PDF files can be viewed directly from the search results page, rather than having to visit the originating site, load the page as HTML, or use a third-party plug-in.
PDF has the advantage of displaying material as originally formatted. This is invaluable for forms or other complexly formatted documents which HTML is a poor substitute. This feature, which Google has been testing since July, is now available.
For search results that are PDF files Google will include a “Quick View” link. Clicking this opens up the original PDF file in Google Docs, where it can be reviewed or downloaded. (A plain HTML display option is also available, for those who can’t live without.) The only downside, so far, is that Google has connected Quick View to about half of the PDF files in their index. Unindexed PDFs will still have to be handled old-school.
It may even be possible to see support for WebGL in native WebKit browsers in as little as 6 months. Safari and Chrome are probably on the forefront of this technology, as they are based on WebKit. Firefox, while based on the Gecko engine, has an extension capable of displaying a WebGL 3D canvas. As for Internet Explorer, don’t hold your breath. Microsoft still has yet to implement HTML5, let alone upcoming technologies.
Upon the release of the Safari 4 Beta, Apple was boasting some mighty impressive speeds. Now, thanks to some extensive testing, it looks like the boys down in Cupertino deserve a pat on the back, with their browser clocking in at a staggering 42 times faster than Internet Explorer 7.
Most surprising, is that Apple’s latest addition was able to beat out Google’s Chrome (the proclaimed “Speed King”) in testing, along with Firefox 3, Opera 9.6 and Mozilla’s developmental Minefield. The tests were conducted on both a PC running XP SP2, and a Mac running OS X 10.6 with all of the latest updates applied.
If you’re looking to check out the full results of the speed testing, check them out here.
Outside of mobile Safari, and perhaps to a lesser extent Opera Mini, the mobile browser experience can be somewhat unsatisfying. Poor page rendering, or completely unusable interfaces seem to plague the mobile experience. That’s where Mozilla has seen an opportunity to expand its browser platform, and a market that is still relatively untapped. With the launch of Fennec Alpha 2, Mozilla is one step closer to its goal of a mobile Firefox. Alpha 2 seems to address many of the performance issues that hindered the previous version, and these complaints were clearly acknowledged in a blog posting by Mozilla’s Mark Finkle.
“While we focused much of the previous alpha on getting the user experience how we wanted, we’ve spent much of the time since focused on improving performance. We’ve made major strides improving startup performance, panning and zooming performance, and responsiveness while pages are loading.”
My somewhat unscientific testing seems to backup these claims and performance has defiantly improved. Currently support is limited to Nokia's Maemo based N800 and N810, but compatibility with Windows Mobile and Symbian is apparently well underway. These platforms could defiantly use a bit more choice when it comes to browsers, and many are hoping it will finally give the power enjoyed by mobile Safari users to those who prefer non Apple hardware.
In the last few months there have been a couple of pompous browser launches – FF3 and Chrome. But the launch of Opera 9.6 beta went largely unnoticed. In fact, Opera’s latest browser version failed to elicit any interest whatsoever. Its Opera 9.6 announcement felt like an inaudible whisper compared to Google’s bellowing Chrome marketing campaign. But Opera Software’s PR manager, Thomas Ford, offered a sanguine view of the entire situation to DailyTech. He took pride in the fact that Opera had managed to stay in business, despite the challenge offered by new entrants like Chrome. Ford pointed that Opera’s usage grew by 3% after Chrome’s launch.