Capping IT Off

Capping IT Off

Opinions expressed on this blog reflect the writer’s views and not the position of the Capgemini Group

The browser wars are on again! Boo yah!

“Keep Internet Explorer 8 from adding any sites you visit to Browsing History with InPrivate Browsing. Now you can shop for that special gift with confidence knowing your family won't accidentally find out.”

While Microsoft is preparing to put the world upside down with the imminent (?) release of Internet Explorer 8 with one of the most awaited features for 99 % of the internet browsing crowd (also known as “porn mode”, I’m one of the 1 %), Mozilla (the team behind the Firefox browser) hasn’t been sitting quietly either. They’ve created in the past couple of days a lot of buzz amongst the nerds in the blogosphere (guilty!) with their attempt to bring mash-ups to the end-user with the Ubiquity project.

The idea is that with natural language you can tell your browser WHAT you want instead of thinking yourself HOW. We all know how annoying it is when you want to email something you’ve seen on a website (text, image) that there are a couple of steps you need to do in order to achieve that. With Ubiquity you just type in “email this to Lee Provoost” and it opens your “Compose message” screen of your Gmail account, pulls up the email address from Lee Provoost out of your address book and copy pastes the things you want to send automatically. It’s not only limited to email, no you can Twitter, translate, schedule events in your calendar, etc. This gives us tremendous opportunities in mashing up tasks like translating the text from an event site, add it to your calendar and twitter about it to your friends, all in one easy way without switching apps or browser tabs.

The news from the guys (and girls?) from the Mozilla Labs was quickly pushed to the background because one Internet giant decided to tell the world about their “world domination” plans, as my fellow blogger Rick Mans points out. Instead of releasing a 200 page technical whitepaper about how amazing their view of how the Google Browser (named Chrome) should and will be, they just released a … comic book! To be honest, it was pretty clear about the design decisions they’ve made in a way that even your grandmother would understand.

Apparently the whole buzz about Google releasing an Operating System, turned out to be an advanced browser (based on WebKit, the same engine as the Safari browser on Macs and iPhones) that borrows ideas from Operating Systems. It seems that Google has not released “just a browser”, but I think more some kind of application platform. Of course, while they were at it anyway, they’ve thrown in a complete new, high-performing (?) JavaScript virtual machine kind of thing.

So… what does this mean? First of all, next to Internet Explorer, Opera, Firefox and Safari, we’ll have yet another browser that we can choose from. Secondly, what impact will this have on the market share of browsers like Firefox, Safari and Opera? Depends a bit on how smart they will take this. I can imagine a scenario where you buy a new computer that has Linux, but it doesn’t matter anyway because you get Google Chrome with it that gives you Gmail email, Calendar, Google Docs office suite, etc. No need of Microsoft Office and Outlook anymore.

While I've been beaten by my fellow Capgemini bloggers (not only Rick, but also Carl and Ron) on the scoop part, I do have the honour to give as first person a review on the Capgemini blogs :-) So, first impression? It's... a browser! Don't expect something that will blow you away at first sight, while the technology behind it might be mind-blowing, for the end-user Google Chrome is not that spectacular. The first and most interesting feature that I noticed is the fact that your address bar has become much more. The direct search bar that we know from Firefox and IE7, is now a part of the address bar. So, when you type in "Berlin", it will search through your browser history (unless you run in "porn mode"), look it up in Wikipedia (why can't I add my own sites?) and suggest a Google search result. With that, the excitement also ends...

Does Firefox needs to be afraid? At the moment not. Being a nerdy software engineer, I am prettchrome.jpgy impressed with the technical implementation, but I can imagine that the regular John Doe does not care about that and is still pretty happy with his/her IE6 (or Firefox if he or she as a nerdy nephew that fixed the computer). I do believe that it might gain market share when people start to move their apps more and more to the web (think about Google Apps or SalesForce), than a solid platform like Google Chrome might be the thing you are looking for. I just hope that Google can monetize the buzz that they have created, unlike their Android product which status seemed to have changed from "the next big thing" to "could have been"...

Looking at these three browsers, I can only say that the browser wars are not over yet… I think it has just started…

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L. Provoos
L. Provoos

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