mPulse

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Does the browser really matter?

Last fall it was Chrome. Now it's Safari 4 Beta. Soon it will be Firefox 3.1 and IE 8.

Each browser has its harsh critics and fervent supporters. But in the end, does the browser really matter?

The answer to this question depends on who you speak to. Developers will say yes, because browsers make their lives hell, as none of them subscribe to the same set of standards for display, rendering, or code processing. I would bet that if you asked any developer, they would prefer that only one browser existed and was used by everyone.

The people at the end of the browser chain, you and I, don't really care either. We only care when the browser drops an unexpected rendering surprise on us, or doesn't work because the Javascript functions were designed with Browser A and B in mind and we use C and the submit button on our purchase doesn't work.

The question isn't Does the browser matter? but Why does the browser still matter?

There is no reason to have five large browsers out there. There is no reason why they should all behave differently, render pages in their own unique way.

And while people will say that having multiple versions of multiple generations of uniquely developed browsers drives innovation and prevent stagnation in Web development, I say enough is enough.

There is no reason to have yet another browser. The browser doesn't matter.

The content matters.

And when you switch the perspective around to that view, you should easily realize that the browser, any browser, is simply a window into the content being created for and by us. It should not matter to anyone that I use Opera, Safari, Firefox, IE, Camino, Chrome, or Lynx.

What does matter is that the content can be delivered to me the way I want it. Not the way the browser wants it.

What we need to realize is that browsers no longer matter. They are software. They are portals into what we are trying to do and say.

The browser is not the application; the Web is the application.

6 comments:

  1. [...] sums up many of the comments that I have made about browsers over the months [see Does the browser really matter?]. The browser is not a passive browser any more. It is a Web application portal/container. With [...]

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  2. If the web is the application, the browser is the operating system. And although no one likes it, everyone understands that Windows and MacOS are different. They are built out of different bits and pieces by different development teams and each have their unique strengths and weaknesses. The same is true for different browsers.One might as well say that we have no need for multiple desktop operating systems - Windows, MacOS, Ubuntu/Debian, Red Hat EL/CentOS, Fedora, Novell/SUSE, etc., etc.

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  3. Quite right, Mr. Unger. That is exactly the point that I am saying.If the Browser doesn't matter, and most applications are run over the web, then does it matter what operating system you use? Or if you use a traditional operating system at all?It's just as likely in the future that the primary device will be a phone/computer hybrid that is dockable and portable. As long as the apps are available and seamlessly integrate no matter what the platform is, then the operating system will go the way of the browser.Interesting, but irrelevant.

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  4. If the web is the application, the browser is the operating system. And although no one likes it, everyone understands that Windows and MacOS are different. They are built out of different bits and pieces by different development teams and each have their unique strengths and weaknesses. The same is true for different browsers.One might as well say that we have no need for multiple desktop operating systems - Windows, MacOS, Ubuntu/Debian, Red Hat EL/CentOS, Fedora, Novell/SUSE, etc., etc.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Quite right, Mr. Unger. That is exactly the point that I am saying.If the Browser doesn't matter, and most applications are run over the web, then does it matter what operating system you use? Or if you use a traditional operating system at all?It's just as likely in the future that the primary device will be a phone/computer hybrid that is dockable and portable. As long as the apps are available and seamlessly integrate no matter what the platform is, then the operating system will go the way of the browser.Interesting, but irrelevant.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I think the reason why Microsoft and Apple have any work at all is precisely because that issue is not irrelevant, at least as far as they're concerned. After all, if an OS was not really different from any other, why buy Windows 7, or Snow Leopard? Or even why pay money at all, and go with any of the GNU/Linux flavors? Is it artificial? Clearly. But so long as consumers actually think there is an appreciable difference in operating systems, and gear their thinking specifically towards those differences, then the particulars of the software industry will continue to thrive. Once consumers get smart, then things will have to change.

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