What’s your favourite web browser, a trick job interview question?

Thursday, 11 February, 2016

A job applicant’s choice of web browser can say a lot about how they work, and even the potential tenure of their employment, and it might be worth sneaking a question on the subject into an interview, the next time you’re recruiting.

People who download an alternative to the browser that shipped with their personal computer, Internet Explorer in the case of a Windows device, or Safari for an Apple computer, tend to think a little more outside the box, as it were, as they don’t always accept what is offered as the default option:

What browser you use signals something about the way that you tend to live your life. If you use Firefox or Chrome, you have to download those browsers; whereas Safari and Internet Explorer – they come pre-installed on your computer, they’re the default. And if you’re the kind of person who just accepts the default, you tend not to take as many original steps as the rest of us. If you’re somebody who had that instinct to say, you know, “I wonder if there’s a better browser out there,” that’s just a tiny clue that you might be the kind of person who’s willing to reject other defaults in your life too.

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Proof, I think, that returning to your past is never wise

Monday, 28 January, 2013

Anyone else feeling nostalgic for the good old days, being the 1990s, of Internet Explorer?

No, I didn’t think so.

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Tabbed web browsing was devised before the arrival of the tabs

Tuesday, 18 October, 2011

What’s interesting about many of the very early web browsers, those that were in use in the early 1990s, are the number of features they have in common with their contemporary variants… for instance a number of them, including one called Erwise, virtually offered what we now call tabbed browsing, albeit without actual tabs.

Erwise came next. It was written by four Finnish college students in 1991 and released in 1992. Erwise is credited as the first browser that offered a graphical interface. It could also search for words on pages. Berners-Lee wrote a review of Erwise in 1992. He noted its ability to handle various fonts, underline hyperlinks, let users double-click them to jump to other pages, and to host multiple windows.

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What a tangled web our internet technologies weave

Friday, 9 September, 2011

Trace the evolution of web technologies, that make every last thing we do online possible, since the early 1990s.

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Firefox and the upgraded browser that wasn’t so updated

Tuesday, 30 August, 2011

Regular users of the Mozilla web browser Firefox (FF) will doubtless be aware of its flurry of software upgrades in recent months. After standing still at version three for what seemed liked years, we are suddenly up to version six, with number seven probably due any minute now.

While I’m all for regular upgrades, which are necessary in an ever changing web environment, there is a feeling that Mozilla is rushing through upgrades simply to bump up its version numbers. For instance is there really any significant variation between version five and six of FF, aside from the version number?

FF, for those not familiar with it, ships as a relatively simple web browser. Users then have the option of installing add-ons, or plugins, which would be a little like smartphone apps, that extend the browser’s functionality. Rather than ship with a pile of components no one will use, FF allows a user to pick and choose the features they want.

There is certainly some merit in the idea. The problem of late though is that many of these add-ons, which again like smartphone apps, are usually made by third party developers rather than in-house, are often left incompatible with the newest version of FF, rendering the browser only partially functional.

Firefox updates on the other hand, are of the most obnoxious variety intrusive, inconvenient, and obstructive. It forces the user to make a choice to upgrade, forces the user to stop browsing then insists on taking a very long time to upgrade. Most intrusive. Once upgraded it disables most the plugins as they are not yet compatible, thats the real catch, with the auto disable of all plugins till they are compatible I’m left with a version of firefox that basically doesn’t work for me.

With FF pushing out so many apparently major upgrades, add-on developers are struggling to keep up. No sooner have they modified a plugin to suit one version of FF, when along comes another upgrade. Allowing add-ons to run in some sort of “quirks”, or backwards compatibility mode, would surely make things easier for all concerned.

If Chrome, the Google produced browser, which is also going through a rapid series of upgrades at the moment, can do so with virtually no disruption to the user, why can’t Firefox?

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Browser version numbers? That’s so Web 2.0

Tuesday, 19 April, 2011

With web browsers increasingly updating/upgrading themselves automatically, often with their users little aware of the process, is there any point in continuing to publicly assign numbers, such as Firefox 4, to new versions of web browsers?

Internally, or behind the scenes, if you will, naturally you’ll have a web browser version number. It will be needed for development and support cases. But with the advent of IE10, Firefox is the only web browser who haven’t reached a two-digit version, and also with the frantic version update rate of Google Chrome, version numbers are really losing the point. Right now it seems to be only for branding and getting attention, but I think it would be much better for everyone if that focus was spent on why people should use a certain web browser (features, performance, integrity etc).

So long as everyone is receiving browser updates at the same time, and most web users have the same version of a certain browser, then sure, why not. I think web developers/designers will still need to be aware of browser version distinctions though so they are able to cater – in whatever way – for those who remain on legacy versions though.

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Some web browsing experiences more high powered than others

Monday, 4 April, 2011

A side by side comparison of the power consumption of recent browsers running on a Windows 7 laptop computer. While Chrome 10, Firefox 4, Internet Explorer 9, make the least demands on the battery, Safari 5, and especially Opera 11, are a little more draining.

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The browser’s back button ain’t going nowhere anytime soon

Thursday, 8 July, 2010

Use of the “back” button on web browsers exceeds that of the “reload” button, and even the search box, according to recent research by Mozilla engineers:

By a landslide the ‘Back’ button was the most clicked of all navigation buttons which include the Back, Forward, Reload, Stop, and Home buttons. Across Windows, Mac and Linux 93.1 percent of users clicked the button at least once over the course of a five-day period. In total the study reported that users clicked on the back button 66 times over the course of five days. The next most used button is the ‘Reload’ button with 73.2 percent usage and 22 clicks on average per user over five days.

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Would you update your web browser if it had a use by date?

Wednesday, 7 July, 2010

How’s this for an idea, web browsers with expiry, or use-by dates, a feature that would force users to update their web browser after a given period of time.

I propose that web browsers will have expiration dates. Every specific version will have its own specific expiration date. For example, Firefox 3.7.1 will have an expiration date of July 1st, 2011. (Just an example, you may want a shorter or longer time period.) If you try to run a browser after its expiration date, it will refuse to start, and give you a message instructing you to download a new browser.

It’s an idea that might have had some merit prior to the advent of the “auto-renewing” browsers, such as Chrome and (I think) Safari, but it also has several drawbacks. For instance what if a browser refused to function until it was upgraded, and that browser happened to be Netscape, which has not been updated since 2008?

While the more net and tech savvy would start hunting around for an alternative browser, other less knowledgeable users could be considerably inconvenienced by that sort of situation.

While I think applications such as web browsers should be updated as often as possible (in the interests of security, eliminating bugs, etc) doing so by way of expiry dates isn’t the best way to go about it.

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Browsers can turn web standards into works of fiction

Friday, 29 May, 2009

Ian Hickson, editor of the HTML 5 specification, warns that browser manufacturers could yet render it a work of fiction should they offer insufficient support for the new spec.

The reality is that the browser vendors have the ultimate veto on everything in the spec, since if they don’t implement it, the spec is nothing but a work of fiction. So they have a lot of influence – I don’t want to be writing fiction, I want to be writing a spec that documents the actual behaviour of browsers.

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