Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Browser Wars 3.0?

Holy smokes! I thought the browser wars had come to a standstill with Internet Explorer as the raining champ (as far as market share goes) with Firefox slowly, but consistently nibbling away at that lead.

But suddenly, out pops Google Chrome. A browser I took for a whirl and forgot to stop using. Sure it's a bit glitchy as any beta program would be, but the speed and UI advances suite me so well that I am willing to overlook its shortcomings.
And of course, there is Safari for both the Mac and Windows. The windows version is surprisingly appealing. It did not drag me away from Firefox (like Chrome did), but I fire it more often then I do Internet Explorer.
And let us not forget Opera. The perennial 'also ran' that never gets much love but for a few fringe fanboys, has slowly morphed into a nearly prime time read app with some markedly nice and unique features. Features that other, more successful browsers had no quibbles about 'borrowing'. I may not be an Opera fanboy, but I sure have to give them the nod for coming up with a lot of brilliant stuff.
So, the original browser war (let's for the moment put Mosaic aside) was between Netscape and Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer won that war. It won based on a two prong attack: 1. Microsoft illegally leveraged it's operating system monopoly to intimidated PC makers from shipping new PCs with any browser but Internet Explorer. 2. Microsoft actually invested in making Internet Explorer a good browser. Internet Explorer 4 was truly better then Netscape. Then Netscape assisted Microsoft here by sending its own browser to new lows. Remember Netscape 6? Worst browser ever?
Round one of the browser wars goes to Microsoft.
Round two starts very much where round one left off. Firefox rises out of the ashes of Netscape and diddles around for a few years making itself into a usable browser, but posses no immediate threat to Internet Explorer. Fact is, the only real threat to Internet Explorer turns out to be Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer pretty much hit its zenith with 4. Following iterations ad bloat, bugs, headaches, and proprietary Microsoft crap.
I don't recall the exact build, but around .9, Firefox becomes what Netscape never was, an Internet Explorer killer. I switched full time to Firefox, and the slow migration from Internet Explorer begins. Internet Explorer wins round two, but Firefox has pried open the door and is making real progress in market share and has completely blown the doors off Internet Explorer in terms of performance, UI, and security.
Round three opens with Microsoft finally getting off its ass just enough to release Internet Explorer 7, which does not completely suck, but is still no match for Firefox from a performance standpoint. But I did not fully recognize round three as having started until today. Sure, Chrome and Safari had been released, and I love Chrome. But, I saw a browser today that I have to have. It came from out of the blue, like Chrome. But this one is Mac only. And worse, 10.5 only. I'm to cheap to upgrade from 10.4, so I can't get it.
But I want.
I really want.
It's called Cruz.
It has this simple little plug in that makes you think, 'Why didn't I think of that'. The plug in is called Browser Browser. It essentially lets you take one tab and split it (frame like) into two (or three) panes, so you can simultaneously see two (or three) web sites side by side. And you can control where the frame is (left, right, top, bottom) and how it behaves. Brilliant, and completely thought out. 
Of course, there are plugins for Firefox that let you do something similar, but there are so badly thought out and implemented as to be useless.
Cruz is, let us remember, a brand new browser (based on webkit) and a brand new plugin for that browser. Naturally, I saw this on John Gruber's site.
The heat is on. Round three is on.

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