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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Browsers are undergoing continuous innovation.

It was sometime since I blogged about anything. I have had several things on mind and many of them are presents as drafts. But this one really caught my attention and I felt I should put in my thoughts about this.

Until a couple of years, people rarely looked beyond Internet Explorer for their browsing experience, though they kept cursing it a lot. After that came the Mozilla Firefox web browser with its pack of addons allowing users to actually customize for their needs. They could actually make the browser do what they wanted it to do and not just set some options. The browser wars had started again. At least I started reading about browsers and started following up on things happening with these browsers. Opera and Safari and a few other, actually used, browsers were not really "news" as such.
This was dying off. Firefox had created a sizable chunk of user base and was pretty stable with it. Except for few traditional enhancements like memory optimizations, bug fixes, etc.. nothing big was happening. It was a lot silent.

Then came the next wave with Google announcing the release of its browser with a nice, easy to understand "comic" book. It came with a whole new paradigm for building browsers with the "process-per-tab" concept. It was really innovative. Though discussions about this happened in other browser communities also, Google Chrome was the first one to implement it. Also it boasted of its super-fast V8 JavaScript Engine and also the browser UI, which gave more screen real estate to content than chrome. This was a real big thing and made the browser wave go much higher than what it had ever been. With the Google branding a vast majority of internet users rushed to have a sneak peak at Google Chrome or may be try it or even keep it as their regular browser. There was a lot of noise about this and people indeed listened. Mozilla and IE people were not silent and did responded very well. Mozilla came up with its ultra-fast "Tracemonkey" JS engine, implementing the trace trees and there by making it much faster than V8. IE8 also has the "process-per-tab" and "private browsing" features first presented by Chrome. But like any other sound this too dampened a little after it was created and browsers were back in the silent phase doing traditional improvements and bug fixes. At least that's how I percieved the situation.

[Edit 06-Mar-09 : Shawn Wilsher suggest that Tracemonkey had appeared before Chrome made the pubic appearance. He certainly knows these things better than me and I believe he is right. But still I wanted to keep my original post as it is and instead I put this separate edit note. :) ]

But I was clearly, totally wrong. People have realized that internet is the place to be in the future and thats where a large part of our life will be. With browser being the main and central interface for people to use that internet, it makes a real good sense to make this browser as robust and reliable as possible. New things keep coming on the internet, both and bad, the latter being more often, and the browser has to keep up with all of it. What we thought yesterday as being a good design apporach might just look senseless tomorrow. There just seems no end to it and researchers appear all ready for it. I am coming across so many innovations happening in the browser domain. This article : Researchers Say Gazelle Browser Offers Better Security -- Campus Technology -- gives us an idea about how much effort the scientists are putting in making our internet lives better. The article is about Gazelle, but it also mentions about another experimental browser OP.

This browser Gazelle, uses the Trident rendering engine (used by IE) but builds upon a OS based process architecture where websites form the processes and they communicate by passing messages like IPC (Inter-process communication).

I am not yet sure how this will all work out. Probably the websites need to built with some intelligence so that it can do the so called IPC when it actually has to. But the evoltion in browsers is for sure. They will not be same as they are now. Several things are going on along the UI front. When these things mature and come togther you can have the scenes of your favourite sci-fi movie scenes right in front of you everyday.

Lets just hope these come soon enough for people like me to enjoy, not when I am all grey hair and toothless.

Hari Om.

1 comment:

  1. For what it is worth, TraceMonkey was around before Google Chrome was announced.