A View from Erica Naone
The Browser Gets Fragmented
Browser manufacturers are finally really competing with each other. But is that good for users?
Each browser maker wants to teach users to evaluate browsers in terms that will favor its product.
Mozilla, which makes the Firefox browser, doesn’t want to play Google’s speed game.
Brendan Eich, Mozilla’s chief technical officer, says the browser should be the user’s representative on the Web. Firefox has given users ways to customize their Web experience - with add-ons that block ads, for instance - and now Eich says the browser can help people manage their online identity. For example, many people log into websites through social sites such as Facebook. Eich says such data instead could be stored securely in the browser and passed out to sites as needed.
Yet another vision of the browser comes from Opera Software. Hakon Wium Lie, CTO of Opera, stresses the idea that people should have the same experience on the Web no matter what device they’re using. Indeed, Opera has focused much effort on its Opera Mini browser, which is the most popular browser on mobile phones.
The problem with having these differing visions is that it can make it harder for Web developers to design their sites. If developers choose to support advanced features offered by only one browser, they are potentially cutting out a large portion of the audience for a website. Or if they aim to serve the largest possible number of users, they might have to skip new features such as those enabled by the new HTML5 Web standard. HTML5 will add significant animation and video capabilities to the browser. This also means Web users will find sites that look different depending on which browser they have. Google has been releasing experiments that showcase the capabilities of Chrome and don’t really work properly in other browsers.