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Archive for the ‘Browsers’ Category

Why Operating Systems Become Irrelevant

The same old argument returns, but it seems evident that while operating systems are not going away, their role will be lessened.

The importance of an operating system will always be tied to fundamentals such as hardware detection (driver support) and the ability to run a Web browser with simple services. Watch this video.

Be aware that Microsoft strives to end this nirvana of platform-independent use of a PC. It recently introduced Silverlight, which is a Web technology that is tied to Microsoft’s desktop technology. Essentially, Microsoft wants to make the Web (including services and mashups) more Microsoft-dependent. Under the guise of choice and functionality, Microsoft strives to regain lockin. It schemes to do so by making the Web work better (or work only) with Windows.

Netscape and Digg Kings of the Hill

Wikipedia statistics

WEB statistics/tracking services share some very encouraging figures which suggest that Netscape and Digg lead the pack of social-driven news sites. As I am active on both sites, I am more than pleased to see this. Some time this weekend I will have submitted my 10,000th story to Netscape.

Knowing that Netscape attracts roughly 5 million unique users per month, I am certain that my contributions have an impact. They primarily promote digital freedom — something which I passionately believe in and therefore perpetually promote.

Alexa Ranks – Only Make Belief

Alexa ranks can be fun. But can they ever be trusted?

What does a high Alexa rating mean to a web master? It shouldn’t mean that much as it’s not accurate. Alexa is a website that tracks a website’s traffic history, and gives a ranking based upon the number of visitors. However the fact that it requires a tool bar to work flaws it in many ways.

[...]

Apparently the folks at Alexa have never heard of any other browser besides Internet Explorer and FireFox. This seems quite unprofessional coming from a company owned by Amazon.com.

My main site peaked at ~17,000th for Alexa (with Netscraft rank currently at 18,608th for schestowitz.com). In the latter case, however, the figures are grossly biased because I have the toolbar installed. Ranks very much depend on the audience the site attracts. System administrators , for example, fancy the Netscraft toolbar. Its primary service addresses a niche.

Alexa traffic ranks prove to be a real problem (as well as a perpetual pain) to Webmasters. This remains the only number which can conveniently be assigned to a Web site. It is a silly label that should be disregarded, but the average user does not know this. Luckily, not every average user will have such ranks displayed. Alexa as a comparator is a misleading assessor. Even top sites cannot be compared, unless one judges by orders of magnitude (and takes these with a grain of salt). In fact, PageRank and the likes of it weigh more factors other than traffic, so they ought to surpass Alexa in terms of validity.

As a timely rant, I was temporarily able to influence Alexa rank with a local installation of the A9 toolbar, but then Microsoft took over A9′s operations and forced them to shut down some competing services, the toolbar included. Yet another example of acquisitions or mergers that are practically death knells (and a penalty to Mac/Linux/BSD users in this case). That is just why I took it personally.

AlexRank
SearchStatus in action

Related item: Firefox Toolbars

Browser Diversity and Security

Firefox in the dock

There has been a great deal of talk about browser statistics recently. Market share has become a measure of diversity, which ensures that Web developers tailor their site according to standards rather than for one particular application. Security remains at the heart of this debate, but it’s clear that the complexity of this problem is high.

All Web browsers are insecure to some degree, because they all must work with flawed code in the operating systems. There are some indications of progress, such as frequent patches from Microsoft and Mozilla to close security holes. Still, these actions may be too little too late if a zero-day exploit is the attack weapon.

It all comes down to patching speed, then number of flaws, as well as their severity (e.g. privilege escalation can be catastrophic).

Related article from the same day (and same Web site):

    Will Security Worries Dull Ajax’s Cutting Edge?

The 90 Percent Barriers

Bill Gates
Bill Gates arrested in his younger days (photo in public domain)

MICROSOFT have managed, over the course of many years, to sustain over 90% market share on the desktop. It is a figure that is easy to defend and argue in favour of given an unknown and uncountable number of Linux installations. Dropping below 90%, unlike what many would state or even insist on, is harder than getting there, but much is about momentum, as well as ethics. Allow me to explain why, primarily using an analogy.

Windows has deliberate lockins, so its popularity punishes those who attempt to change and ‘dance’ between applications or platforms. They get discriminated against, due to planned strategies that attain this state. That used to be the case with Internet Explorer once it elbowed Netscape, mainly by means of corruption and corporate aggression. Internet Explorer was adverse to standards and its source was kept in a safe as to avoid inter-operation with browsers on other platforms. At that stage, with inarguable domination in the browser market (well over 90%) — that which was seized through monopoly in the operating systems market — ‘defection’ became hard. This exemplifies the dangers of a totalitarian prevance of a browser that is extending itself unilaterally. The World Wide Web played along ‘to its tune’, which was not agreed upon universally. Later came Web standards.

Mozilla Firefox, quite fortunately, made a Netscape comeback and took away that ‘glimmer’ from Internet Explorer. Web developers can no longer discriminate against other, non-Microsoft browsers. Returning to topic: Once Linux pushes the Windows market share below a particular point, hardware vendors and software makers will simply have to support all platforms (if not lean towards Open Source development models altogether). They will no longer blindly make Windows a pre-requisite. We are now approaching that tipping point as Wi-Fi vendors begin to collaborate with Linux and it will soon be included in the kernel level. This is only one example among many others.

Related items: Web Browsers Statistics (2004), Firefox Eats Internet Explorer (2006)

Web Applications Without JavaScript

Horde

Web-based calendar in the Open Source Horde project

ONE of the more ingenious technologies around involves user interfaces that are embedded in Web pages. Taking full advantage of powerful, modern Web browsers, it is possible to build fully-blown applications that are operable from merely any platform. One of the latest packages as such achieves all of this without any JavaScript. Have a look at the project summary.

ZK is an open-source Ajax Web framework that enables rich UI for Web applications with no JavaScript and little programming. With event-driven feature-rich components, developing becomes as simple as programming desktops. With a markup language, designing becomes as simple as authoring HTML.

Cutting-Edge CSS

The Web Developer extension in action

CSS analysis with The Web Developer extension (click to enlarge)

STUART Nicholls has been doing some stunning work on cutting-edge cascading style sheets (CSS). I first noticed his work roughly one year ago. More latterly I came to discover that he had implemented pure-CSS fonts! Imagine the complexity. Have a look at some time-consuming illustrations of the power of CSS:

No images are involved in creating any of the above, among many more which you can find in the site.

Also see: Barcharts using CSS

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Original styles created by Ian Main (all acknowledgements) • PHP scripts and styles later modified by Roy Schestowitz • Help yourself to a GPL'd copy
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