Category Archives: Webbrowser

The Grassroots Dilemma, The Return Of Browser Wars And
The Death Of The Plug-In

With sullenness I look back to the early 2000s when webpages always required ”specific engineering“ simply in order to display properly in certain vendors’ webbrowsers. And it was only a couple of years ago, that the market had consolidated and standardized enough to start fading out that practice. All strictly for the birds.

It indeed has been beneficient to online production, that web standards (much different from their associated markets…) have only used to change slowly over time and that chances are good, web content will display properly for the time being, from the date it has been sent live.

Though, unfortunately, over the years the arising argony caused by interest conflicts, political games and bureaucracy at W3C, the standards giving institution for the web, created more and more resentments among the more practically engaged part of the online creative community. It just hat become too obvious, that the old standards (more often than not from an entire decade ago) were not to keep up with the functional requirements of today’s advanced web applications.

That said, the absence of a credible authority sparked the uprise of open opposition by ambitious revolutionaries, putting themselves and their daily needs at the heart of their very own web standards revolt.­­

As enlightning as the ideas of these freshly founded ”working groups“ are, just by their nature, these concepts lack any kind of official recognition. With a groups core members (often just 1 to 5 people…) by chance even refusing to name a final publishing date or even a version-system for their so-called ”standards“, from a creator’s perspective, it is more and more becoming impossible to publish online content which can be reliably assumed to work for most of its prospective users. ­― So, who cares at all?

The part, which makes the topic worth discussing, is that (after years of rather slow, incremental improvements and despite the missing assurance about the outcome) browser vendors just seem to have waited for a chance to add tons of brand new funky bells ad whistles to their widely adopted software – in order to show off their superiority over any anticipated competitor. But, just as with the standards revolutionaries themselves, every company also tries to add their own approach for deploymemt. Along with unique features to each webbrowser-product, the most advanced developers shall eventually be lured away from the competitors’ software – in pretty much the same way Microsoft wasted billions pushing its free Internet Explorer webbrowser in the late nineties.

The current result now appears only too well-known to year-long web developers: we go back in time and again start to engineer every webpage template separately for any software-client in question, including the upcoming new mobile ones. And to really get the results right, the required adjustments add to development costs by at least a third – which, of course, may be fun for web agencies, but much less for their customers – companies simply needing these websites to run their business.

After all: Is there anything in it for the avage web user with this game? Sure. Since most revolutions, despite considerable collateral damage, use not to go all-bad, there are clear end-user advantages involved:

  1. The death of the plug-in: It already today is very unlikely you will need to install additional software only to properly display an average webpage’s content, such as sound, video, animation, immersive imagery or even 3D objects.
     
  2. Easier-to-handle forms: Web forms will start verifying your input already as you type and assist you to easily enter appropriate values, especially on mobile devices.
     
  3. High performance content: Previously unseen display quality for web content will become common to an amount as it has only been available to high-end computer games just a couple of years ago.

So please prepare for the most innovative technical changes to online experience since the late nineties, and watch out for those just wanting to cash-in on you for plain eye candy that will likely available to a selected few only anyway.

MashMaker — Intel entering Semantic Web"through the back door" ?

   That’s at least the way they put it. As I unfortunately have not yet been able to make it among the lucky ones, who get the first bunches of early-adopter tickets for Intel’s MashMaker, I have to stick with the documentation when it comes to figuring out the details:
screen-thumbnail of the Intel  MashMaker websiteIn order to bring mash-up creation to "the rest of us", the service provides you a toolbar for Firefox 2+ (with other versions still to come) which brings pre-programmed access to service APIs like Google Maps or Yahoo! Search with it. Whenever you then visit a webpage and choose a mash-up kind from the toolbar’s menu or simply push one of the buttons for the more popular services, the program trys to relate and mash-up the (optionally selected) webpage content with popular web services of choice.

   And while the toolbar software seems to make use of semantic web content extraction more in the sense search engines do it, obviously users are enabled to share with others if they are being happy with the automated processing results and especially if they could successful use the mashup they created. So you can annotate and refine the results lateron and in return the MashMaker server will lern about web pages’ content and start soon proposing suitable mash-ups by itself.

   While it currently still looks a bit like messing up DabbleDB and de.icio.us, it may indeed have a real semanti RDF based backend, making sure, it won’t mess with its databases either (which has not yet been confirmed) ;-) . Nevertheless MashMaker finally seems to be a really powerful new tool for collaborative webpage annotation.

Trying out my Nokia 770 Internet-Tablet (Developer Device)

When I finally received my Nokia 770 Internet Tablet some weeks ago I was very excited about it, since it will be the first mobile client device for our SemaWorx Project.
   Our context-sensitive backend-interaction already works pretty well with PCs, so now it’s time to try out some smaller clients. If the N 770 works well, hopefully a couple of cellphones will be next.
 
About the 770 itself: No, its certaily not slow as the first press feedback assumed, but it’s just as fast as most other PDAs. The preinstalled Webbrowser (the OS is linux-based, so you will be able to install a broad range of apps yourself soon) seems to be an Opera for Linux, the e-mail software comes with support for encryption and signature certificates and IMAP4 for comfortable, server-based e-mail handling.
 
There have been theoretically two ways to go online with the Nokia 770: Wi-Fi (b/g) or via Bluetooth Dial-Up. Unfortunately the current Bluetooth software only dials up via mobile phones but not via common household access points. So Wi-Fi access is much more convenient, though activating encryption is somewhat ponderous.
 
This is what leaves you hoping for the promised firmware upgrade early next year which will hopefully not only include some fixes for its mediaplayer but also some sort of scheduling software which is missing by now.
 
Something to praise: Although Nokia published a battery life of only three hours, I have to admit I had almost no chance to get it empty within less than three DAYS. Clearly enough time to find a place for recharge.
    I’m also a fan of the handwriting recognition software: Right after teaching it the often strange looking of the characters I produce ;-) i t did an amazing job on their transfer to plain text.
 
I’m really looking forward to what the maemo.org community has saved us for the next upgrade…
 

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FLOCKing to the Future

Last Wednesday I – as many others, I assume – read about FLOCK for the first time on TechCrunch: It’s a new Firefox-Clone with built-in Social Networking.
 
So if you’ve been annoyed by using half a dozen of apps and web services, until you finally get your thoughts on your blog, the photographs on Flickr and the new bookmarks on del.icio.us (proper tagging goes without saying here… ;-) ), this new program may have been built for you.
 
Although their FAQ say, that FLOCK originally had been intended to be released as a set of extensions for the "common" Firefox, it obviously turned out that it would need too big efforts to get it all work together properly, so that its developers decided to release it as a separate app.
 
Despite its current beta state, most of the intended functionality seems to work quite properly and I had quite some fun trying it all out.
 
It is said, that this could be an early predecessor of future Web 2.0 browsing apps.
 
Serverside a readily hosted WordPress-Blog seems to be the appropriate counterpart.
 
Maybe this could also be a way for future deployment and interaction with our SemaWorx services. I’ll have to take some time to think about this option… ;-)
 

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