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Mozilla The Internet

Why Browser Innovation Matters 574

dvanatta was one of a several people who noted a new article by Mitchell Baker on about why browser innovation matters - especially Gecko, and why it will survive things like Safari Whoops - got the name wrong. Updated.
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Why Browser Innovation Matters

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  • The author of the piece is Mitchell Baker. He's a bit miffed you got his gender wrong.

  • Inovate (Score:5, Funny)

    by A Swing Dancing Dork ( 324614 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:06PM (#5477106)
    Nothing beats the web gestures of opera. It has not only made me a faster researcher, it has improved my social life.
    • Re:Inovate (Score:4, Informative)

      by xZAQx ( 472674 ) <<zrizer> <at> <>> on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:10PM (#5477132) Homepage
      Optimoz [] (for Mozilla [] has mouse gestures, too, you ignorant clod.
      • Re:Inovate (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Fizzlewhiff ( 256410 )
        Optimoz [] (for Mozilla [] has mouse gestures, too, you ignorant clod.

        People like you are the reason I spent $39 for Opera and $15 for subsequent upgrades.
      • Re:Inovate (Score:5, Informative)

        by packman ( 156280 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @04:18PM (#5479304) Homepage
        Nice flame... *sigh*

        I tried all the guesture plugins mozilla/mozilla based browsers have - but none of these work well.. Actually - the one you pointed out cause my mozilla to show up a completely blank window - nothing on it - guess the XUL interface choked on it... And since I couldn't find how to install such a plugin in an easy way as a normal user - I installed it as root on my gentoo system - bad Idea - it modified the global settings - so for every user - mozilla was suddenly useless... Oh yeah - phoenix choked on it too... Galeon wasn't affected - but the mouse guesture plugin doesn't work for it anyway... had to re-emerge the whole mozilla bloat-thing to get rid of it (in an easy way ;) :p) And when recompiling mozilla - I can't stop wondering what that huge amount of code does - when gecko can be - and is so fast (see galeon) - and mozilla is plain slow.

        I still favor Opera for a lot of other things, like the multi-window interface - not the "fake" and uncomfortable in use "tabbed window" interface... You can't even customize the position of the tabs (top/bottom/left/right), let alone reorganize or drag and drop (only in Opera 7 however - not yet there for linux :( ) - or save window setups...

        Until now - opera seems to me as the most innovative browser around - in every version - new and handy (little) features show up... In mozilla - maybe it's just me - I can't detect such innovations. The only innovation in mozilla is the gecko engine - I consider the bloatware XUL user interface as a (very very very) bad thing (thats why I use galeon from time to time - but it lacks a good user interface).

        If you would ask me - what innovations are you talking about? - well there are some very nice things here:
        - page zooming
        - back-forward using mouse only without even moving the mouse (as already pointed out)
        - Quick menu to enable/disable/control popups, proxy's, java, javascript, plugins, cookies, referrer logging and browser identification
        - inline find
        - hotkeys for everything... keyboard-only browsing is not only perfectly possible - it's even quiet comfortable..
        - crash recovery (no program is perfect - opera also crashes now and then) - continue exactly where you were before...
        - Linked background windows
        - Easy to reach page reload timer
        - Powerfull file transfer manager
        - quick search with any search engine using the adress bar

        For any of these features - you need more than 2 mouseclicks - I didn't had to look into menu's or preferences to find them - they are all right here on my screen, being used - or easy to reach thru right-click-menus... That's what I like about opera - and no other browser even comes near to what opera has to offer on UI level. Open source is nice - I like it - but out there are companies that also have to earn money and deserve it - Opera is one of these where I gladly give money for to have this comfort. Opensource will catch up - but when it does - the opensource community will 'bring/keep their own standards' (on ui-level at least - like it already tried a lot) while other ways can be way more handy - so users that are used to the Opera interface will have difficulties to switch - and rather stay with opera (and maybe pay for it - or look at banners) than to switch to a simular but 'incompatible' user interface, or Opera will maybe have a whole load of new handy small features... Don't be mistaken - a user interface is something very complicated - details are everything - and with opera - almost all the details are there...

        PS: Guys like you piss me off... calling peepz you ignorant clod while it could very well be applied to themselfs... You clearly never used opera - so you don't know what you are talking about... - you should really try it - you could learn something from it - and maybe even bring it to an opensource project...
    • Re:Inovate (Score:5, Interesting)

      by galaxy300 ( 111408 ) <> on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:10PM (#5477133) Homepage
      I beleive that Mozilla is working on or has integrated gestures into it's system. I've also used a program called Stroke It [] (funny name, good program!) that automatically includes gestures in all Windows programs and works pretty well.
    • Re:Inovate (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )
      I've recently dropped Moz in favour of Opera [] for a number of reasons.
    • Try RadialContext (Score:4, Informative)

      by jeti ( 105266 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:39PM (#5477388) Homepage
      Opera ouse gestures are nice and efficient. But as you have
      to learn them by heart, people use only a few of them.

      An alternative is the RadialContext [] menu
      for Mozilla and Phoenix. It has the same feel as gestures,
      but adds a GUI to them. It takes some getting used to, but
      you'll end up using a lot more gestures than you would with
      other implementations.

  • by furrygeek ( 657108 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:09PM (#5477127) Homepage
    Innovation is to be commended, for sure, but what about some consistency?

    As an occasional website designer, I would like to avoid having to delve into the DOM to maintain a consistent appearance and functionality across platforms/browsers.

  • What innovations? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FooBarWidget ( 556006 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:10PM (#5477137)
    Browsers are mature. IE, Mozilla, Netscape, Konqueror, Opera, etc. are all mature pieces of software now.
    What "innovations" can you put in mature software, other than small details?
    If big innovations are possible in mature software, then people wouldn't stick to MS all the time. Remember that a lot of MS software won because they were "good enough", not because they were "the best".
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I don't want innovation, if it means that CSS across browsers is inconsistent. You would think that implementing the Box Model would be straightforward, but try to name two major browsers that do it exactly the same way :-(

      Fix CSS implementations first!
    • Like having bookmark folders on the bookark toolbar in Konqueror.

      I can have loads of links quickly accessible from the toolbar all classified into different sections.

      News, Linux, Music, Film, TV etc.....

      Love it.
    • by pinkUZI ( 515787 ) <slashdot.7.jmasker@spamgour m e t .com> on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:25PM (#5477258) Homepage Journal
      The innovation lies in making the engine that turns markup language into a layout on your screen faster and less buggy, resulting in a better web experience.

      By the way, there is always room for innovation in every aspect of everything. There was a time when Columbus must have said, What is there "innovations" can you put in English ships. They are the best in the land"

      Of course the innovative thing isn't immediatly obvious - if it was it wouldn't be called innovation would it?
      • by FooBarWidget ( 556006 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:41PM (#5477395)
        You're missing my point. This isn't about wether innovations are possible. This is about whether *big* innovations are possible; innovations that will convince the masses of IE users to switch.

        MS won by being "good enough". Now we have to make something *significantly* better in order to gain a big market share. But can we make something significantly better? What big innovations are possible in a mature product?
        • by Spoing ( 152917 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @01:25PM (#5477734) Homepage
          This is about whether *big* innovations are possible; innovations that will convince the masses of IE users to switch.

          I think that Mozilla's current feature set is good enough. It doesn't wash your dishes for you, or take out the trash, but it does browsing very very well. When I get a chance, I show it or Pheonix to folks and most decide that they do want to switch -- for reasons that they think are substantial enough. That said, here's a true story;

          Like many of you, I get tapped as tech support by friends and relitives. In one case, I was attempting to figure out what was wrong when a friend of my little sister went to a web page.

          When asked what browser she was using, she replied "Netscape -- I always use Netscape". Asking the version was painful, so I skipped that question (bad idea).

          After going through the menus for 15 minutes over the phone, looking for an option that might enable support for what she said was "broken", I decided that she was must be lying. For one, she seemed so certian ("definately Netscape -- it's all I use"). Also, she kept telling me how "I don't know about this new version -- it's not as nice".

          An old tech support method kicked in;

          1. Me: "Could you describe what you see?"
          2. Her: "I dunno -- it's just not working."

            "Do you see an N in the upper right hand corner?"


            "Do you see a little E or a globe in the right hand corner?"

            "Yes! The little globe."

          Five painful minutes later, and a couple misdirections, I figured out what to tell her to get her to make the repair.

          Last time I asked, she still insists that she uses Netscape, only Netscape.

          Point 1: Many Janes and Joes don't have a clue what software they are using -- yet they will brag or defame it at the drop of a hat.

          Point 2: People won't switch but will use what they get -- and only if it's bundled. This is the core problem with adoptation of software -- from browsers to operating systems.

          • by FooBarWidget ( 556006 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @02:07PM (#5478095)
            "I think that Mozilla's current feature set is good enough. It doesn't wash your dishes for you,"

            The kitchen sink they put in Mozilla doesn't wash dishes for you?
            Wow, I never knew!!!
          • by Surak ( 18578 ) <surak AT mailblocks DOT com> on Monday March 10, 2003 @02:49PM (#5478469) Homepage Journal
            I there was some way to give you a 6 for that comment!

            That's exactly it. Mundanes use what came with the computer. The attitude is often "Well, this is what came with the computer, it works, why switch?" They don't know what software is on there, nor do they even care.

            However, if you give them a compelling enough reason to switch, they will. Everyone who has ever complained to me about popup ads I've showed them Mozilla or Phoenix. Most of those people ended up adopting the alternative browser. Why? Because popups were a big enough pain to cause the switch. Did most care about tabs or standards compliancy or a skinnable GUI? Not really.

            People *will* switch -- there just has be a good enough reason...
      • Re:What innovations? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by vocaro ( 569257 )
        The innovation lies in making the engine that turns markup language into a layout on your screen faster

        I've never understood why people complain about the rendering speed of modern browsers. Whenever I browse HTML files on my local hard disk, they come up almost instantly. It's only when I hop on the Internet that things slow down, which means that the bottleneck is the net, not the browser.

        On modern systems, page rendering seems plenty fast to me. A cable modem is hooked up to my 800 MHz laptop with 256 MB of RAM (not exactly a powerhouse machine), and surfing is very fast. If it's slow for you, then I suggest upgrading to Mozilla 1.3b. The team seems to have made some noticeable speed improvements in this latest release.

        Of course, when pages load in just a few seconds anyway, I still don't understand why people complain. Does it really matter if Slashdot loads in two seconds instead of four? Even if it does, I wouldn't call it "innovation".

        and less buggy

        Now that I can agree with. All browsers can use bug fixes. Of course, web pages can be buggy, too, and if web designers followed standards more carefully, our browsers would be both faster and less buggy.

    • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:34PM (#5477343) Journal
      Browsers are mature.

      And yet over 4 years after the CSS2 spec was released, none of them fully implement it [].

    • Re:What innovations? (Score:5, Informative)

      by gmuslera ( 3436 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:43PM (#5477418) Homepage Journal
      Normally one don't see innovations until they are used and proved that are good. Tabs, gestures, popup blocking, form prefilling and a lot more were in their moment big innovations in mostly mature browsers (well, I think that browser tabs in opera were there from the start).

      I don't think that browsers should "innovate" in HTML (like Netscape 2 frames or all the crap in IE), that is the job of w3c, but there are a lot of usability innovations waiting to be done.

    • by bogie ( 31020 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:54PM (#5477506) Journal
      Well you could head over to and see for yourself. To say that once something is mature you can't innovate with new features has been proven wrong over and over with any number of software projects.

      "Remember that a lot of MS software won because they were "good enough", not because they were "the best"."

      Well being "good enough" was part of the reason. The reason people stick with MS as we all know is because of strongarmed OEM bundling and a large marketing budget. MS with Window 95 struck at the right time and has rode that wave up till now. By the time Win 98 came out MS had the world by the balls and could do whatever they want, and they did. This of course has created a market where ISV's are encouraged to stick only with MS and to avoid working with other OS's like linux. Part of this is due to linux's small market share, part of it is due to MS's considerable power. Developing for the linux desktop market can be absolutly brutal, but also anyone remember Corel dropping linux after a "deal" with MS? The pressure they've put on companies like Dell? How many other companies has MS threatened over the years to tow the MS line. This applies to ANY OS trying to gain marketshare, not just Linux.

      Now after 8 years of this companies, let alone people are conditioned to think that computing=Windows. That kinda sucks and its the reason people "stick with windows".

      My fiancee was at lunch last week and at the time they got on the subject of computers and how they keep crashing all the time, how unstable they can be.(They run Win98 campus-wide). Anyway, she mentioned that there ARE alternative but people just don't know about them. That the people at her table didn't even know that speaks volumes as to how well MS's bundling tactics have worked and how good a job their marketing department does.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Where the hell is phoenix (or whatever it's going to end up calling itself) 0.6? This was due, what, in Janurary?

    I want my fav. browser to become even better damnit!

  • survive safari? (Score:5, Informative)

    by asv108 ( 141455 ) <.asv. .at.> on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:13PM (#5477157) Homepage Journal
    I've tried safari and besides getting rid IE as the default browser on OSX, there is nothing that is great or revolutionary about Safari. I can understand the joy of "mac fans" because they are getting rid of another MS program, but Safari is not an innovative product, it is a lightweight IE replacement.

    Personally, I use Chimera on OSX, Moz on faster linux and windows machines, and Phoenix on slower linux and windows machines. Konq is a good choice too.

    • Re:survive safari? (Score:2, Informative)

      by iJed ( 594606 )
      What is great about Safari is its integration with things like Rendezvous and the address book and small details like the snap-back button for searching and its clean and simple interface. Its this kind attention to detail that differentiates an Apple product from everyone elses.
    • Re:survive safari? (Score:5, Informative)

      by quigonn ( 80360 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:32PM (#5477326) Homepage
      Safari is _fast_, extremely fast, but you can only see (and feel) it when you're network connection is fast enough, too. ;-) Rendering time is just great. I compared it with some complex websites that our company created, and Safari definitely rendered it all fast enough.

      And it starts up quickly, which is very nice, too. And it has this sexy brushed-metal look that most OSX application created by Apple have. :-) And, what I find really great is that the development of Safari also improved Konqueror's quality in terms of rendering speed and Javascript support.
    • by ianscot ( 591483 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @01:22PM (#5477720)
      No objection to the other choices you list, but Safari does offer leanness, in both design and responsiveness. That's a change from Mozilla in both respects, as long as the article's about Mozilla. You're right, though -- the "survive" line in the article overblows the thing.

      As usual, Apple releases a beta of an app and people either a) exult or b) express dismay that it didn't utterly change the world. It's a Web browser. By version 1.0 maybe they'll have a nice, stable, lean little browser that hooks into the rest of the OS without becoming cancerware like IE on a Windows box. That'd be handy.

      -- fellow Chimera user.

  • by TopShelf ( 92521 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:15PM (#5477172) Homepage Journal
    While this article presents a nice summary of the browser developers mission, the last few comments seem troubling:

    New innovations should be judged on their own merits, on their ability to benefit human beings, and not solely by their effect on the business plans of one or even a few companies.

    The comparison here isn't really between two opposites - business plans are driven by the goal of satisfying customer demand, which is the best measure whether something "benefits human beings". All too often techies get wrapped up in what they think is a great innovation, but in reality the broader user base doesn't really care (see the dot-com bust)...

  • by daVinci1980 ( 73174 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:15PM (#5477173) Homepage
    ...Because everytime it occurs, geeks everywhere complain about the new way, and how good it was in the ol' days.

    (Remember Arpanet and Gopher? I remember when we used to complain about the world wide web, and how it was going to ruin the internet.)

    Flash popups anyone? That's innovation for ya.

  • by wolrahnaes ( 632574 ) <sean&seanharlow,info> on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:16PM (#5477185) Homepage Journal
    Safari/KHTML vs. Gecko/Mozilla is just like KDE vs. GNOME. It's a matter of personal preference based on what is important to the end user. Some will choose speed, others choose features, and still others choose standards compliance. The end result is the great thing about open-source projects: They will all eventually gain the features pioneered by the competing projects if the public shows enough of a demand to make it worth the developers time. Also, if you like feature a of x browser, but it doesn't have feature b, FIX IT!

    damn i love open source
    • Safari/KHTML vs. Gecko/Mozilla is just like KDE vs. GNOME. It's a matter of personal preference based on what is important to the end user.

      Safari vs Mozilla is not a simple comparison. Safari is an extremely competent web browser, with a few shortcomings in the XML department which will no doubt be tackled and fixed as developers get to it. Mozilla is really the first viable web platform to appear that has the capabilities necessary to deliver a fully integrated web UI, using all the power of XML wrapped up in the XBL integration with XSLT, XUL, SVG and other XML-based markup and integration utilities. With Mozilla, you really can build a fully operational crossplatform application to do considerably more than trivialities.

      While the previous platform sounds like the worst marketing blurb, it also happens to be a crucial point for the next generation of the web. The "Web As A Platform" is where Microsoft really wants to be - to fully integrate everything you see and do through one web delivery system is an extremely attractive proposition for a number of software vendors. Being certain that the platform will remain around even if the parent company moves on to other things or goes into the financial abyss is also extremely important if vendors are going to leverage Mozilla as the next big thing.

      Of course, given that all the XBL/XUL/XSLT/etc. are published specs, there is no reason why Safari won't get them in time. Vive la difference.


      Toby Haynes

  • Whatever... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:16PM (#5477193)
    Will it let me find pr0n faster? No? Not interested.
    • Re:Whatever... (Score:3, Informative)

      The gestures in opera let you hide your porn faster. It's easier to just move the mouse a little than it is to hit the little x in the corner.
      • It's easier to just move the mouse a little than it is to hit the little x in the corner.

        Come on people, use keyboard shortcuts.

        In certain circumstances, it is much easier to hit Alt-F4 (left hand) than to use a close-window gesture (right hand). Think about it.

        • by TKinias ( 455818 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @03:01PM (#5478593)

          scripsit Idarubicin:

          In certain circumstances, it is much easier to hit Alt-F4 (left hand) than to use a close-window gesture (right hand). Think about it.

          In those, um, ``circumstances,'' there are probably more important things to hide than a window.

  • by kraksmoka ( 561333 ) <grant.grantstern@com> on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:17PM (#5477196) Homepage Journal
    fact is, camino made a huge jump in stability and usability for its first non-chimera release. kudos!

    the fact is, every time i turn on a regular L-user to Mozilla as an alternative to IE, they make the switch and never go back. they love the pop-up blocking, and the control they have been given back. lets face it IE allows those drive-bye shooting like viruses (spyware) to be presented for install so fast, it is the worst security risk out there today, and the biggest dump on useability (cuz spyware is obnoxious as hell) in the entire os.

  • *IE is dying (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:21PM (#5477226)
    No, no, not a troll. Just a subject to grab attention.

    Compare IE v5, v5.5 and v6.0. Nothing much really changed between them. Sure, they cleaned up some of the CSS support (although there are still some large gaps), and added some non-browser type things, but overall, they're basically the same. Now compare that to the changes between IE 3, 4 and 5. There were HUGE changes, and they happened quickly.

    What changed? Well, for one thing, the web was still fairly new, and people were still figuring out what would be possible to do with it. But, more importantly, during that time, they had heavy competition from Microsoft. IE didn't win the marketshare battle simply due to being in Windows (although it helped). It leapfrogged over Netscape in features. And as long as Netscape was stuck on the 4.x codebase, it stayed that way. That code was crap.

    But, now, here were are in 2003. NS 4.x is dead, IE 4.x is dead, and the web is growing up and finally truly embracing CSS. And you know who's in the lead? Mozilla, followed by Opera and others, and in last place? IE. This, plus innovative features in non-IE browsers is beginning to show IE users what they're missing. And some are switching. For the first time since "winning" the browser war, they're facing real competition. And, the early signs of IE 7 don't make it look like anything too revolutionary. (Will they even manage to get PNG right this time?)

    IE is dying, and if Microsoft doesn't act quickly, it'll be too late for CPR. Being a part of Windows gives IE a competitive advantage, but it doesn't stop people from finding something better.
    • Re:*IE is dying (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JimDabell ( 42870 )

      Compare IE v5, v5.5 and v6.0. Nothing much really changed between them. Sure, they cleaned up some of the CSS support (although there are still some large gaps)

      Large gaps? Perhaps if you are the kind of person who would describe the Earth as a "large rock".

      It leapfrogged over Netscape in features.

      That's not the way I remember it. The "new features I remember were channels (ignored by virtually everybody), the ability to embed a page on your desktop (ignored by virtually everybody), and the fact that it was embedded into Windows 98.

      And as long as Netscape was stuck on the 4.x codebase, it stayed that way. That code was crap.

      Users don't care about the quality of the code. The users were getting sucked up into the MS machine simply because they used the defaults. This could have been avoided, but Netscape went four years or so without a major release.

      During that time they were dropped as the default by virtually all ISPs, the only significant source of new users.

      During that time, developers started to use CSS, and as less and less people were using Netscape, and as the support for CSS in Netscape 4.x was terrible, websites began to look worse and worse for Netscape users. The quality of Netscape dropped through the floor in terms of what its users were getting out of it.

      NS 4.x is dead,

      Actually, plenty of people still use it (mostly organisations that standardised on it years back). Netscape 4.8 was released just a few months ago.

      IE 4.x is dead

      That's the primary benefit (for me) of having IE embedded into the OS. People automatically get newer versions of IE as they upgrade their OS to use all the new applications that come out. It's virtually the only thing that can force a user to upgrade his browser.

      the web is growing up and finally truly embracing CSS. And you know who's in the lead? Mozilla, followed by Opera and others, and in last place? IE.

      The users don't even know what CSS is. They don't see its effects or IE bugs, because virtually all web authors are force to code workarounds for IE or lose visitors.

      Where something works better in other browsers, most visitors won't even know because most users only use one browser.

    • Re:*IE is dying (Score:3, Interesting)

      by David Gerard ( 12369 )
      Speaking as a Mozilla/Phoenix partisan, I must in fairness point out that there is in fact a version number's worth of difference between IE5 and IE6: they rewrote large chunks of the renderer to be standards compliant. In fact, they had to use the Gecko model of 'standards mode' and 'quirks mode' to cope.

      So we've had our influence on Microsoft, and they've had to come into line with real standards!

  • by YeeHaW_Jelte ( 451855 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:22PM (#5477229) Homepage
    The author is saying 'Mozilla is innovative, Apple is going with KHTML instead of Gecko, which is not a bad thing, but do come join us!'.
    I'd have to read the article a few times more, but the subtext to me here is basically that the author finds it very disappointing that Apple is going for a KHTML based closed source solution, instead of a Gecko based open source solution.

    Or am I missing something?
    • by mikey504 ( 464225 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @01:08PM (#5477610)
      It's not subtext-- the author plainly states, "We would have preferred to have Apple use Gecko or collaborate with us on the development of the Camino browser...", but goes on to say that the larger goal of providing alternative, standards-compliant browser platforms is still being met.

      I read the whole thing as, "we would love to have Apple as part of our team, but are still happy that there is another team out there doing The Right Thing."

      While the Aqua user interface elements necessitate a binary end product for the time being, it is reasonable to expect two-way traffic between the Apple folks and the folks responsible for the care and feeding of the KHTML widget. As I understand it, some of this has already happened. Apple's decision to base Safari on KHTML is good for both Apple and KDE, and represents a departure in the right direction from a completely closed development model.

      It may even be ideal-- all the standards based parts are out in the open for access by the community, and Apple is free to add their own proprietary icing on top of that foundation.

      It does take a leap of faith that Apple will release their changes to the KHTML base, but it is most likely in their best interest to do this.
  • Do we care? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:24PM (#5477246)
    There are two great opensource browser backends out there: Konqueror and Gecko. We know that they will attempt to stay compatible with eachother and currently Konq is a bit faster. I say, let each have their own.
  • Seems to me the truly innovative browser is Opera. Gecko seems to be stealing all its good ideas from Opera. From mouse gestures to good cookie management, Opera's the one that's lead the way.
  • Survive? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by arvindn ( 542080 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:28PM (#5477286) Homepage Journal
    What do you mean, survive Safari? The author goes out of the way to make the point that safari and their way of doing things and their choosing khtml is not a bad thing. Examples:
    What is clear is that both Camino and Safari are wicked fast browsers. This is excellent news. In addition, Safari uses code and ideas from Gecko, and high quality ideas from the KHTML/Safari world will make their way back into Gecko. This brings benefits to both layout engines. The big picture question is the performance of open alternatives compared to that of the dominant Internet Explorer browser, and the open source community can share satisfaction as the open alternatives continue to improve.
    Current information suggests that Apple will work with the KDE project in connection with the KDE technologies Apple uses, while still developing Safari internally and making decisions about its development in line with Apple's business model and view of its situation. The Mozilla project actively supports this model of development, where open source and proprietary software is combined into a single product or project.
  • by 16977 ( 525687 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:30PM (#5477299)
    I'll tell you one thing, the world doesn't deserve a browser as good as Opera. I had the pleasure of using a computer that had Windows installed the other day, and the new Opera 7 is simply amazing. Not only can you do anything by using exclusively the mouse (or the keyboard), but the small screen rendering works perfectly. And I thought that was just going to be a crap marketing feature that mutilated the page. It's got integrated e-mail with spam filtering and PIM features, button themes for skins, and renders stuff that Internet Explorer chokes on. And that was just what I found in one night. I know I sound like a corporate shill, but it's not advertising if they didn't pay you for it. This is one thing I would GLADLY pay for if it came out on Linux (and think it was a small price to pay, too). If I browsed the web a lot, I think I might consider booting into windows just to browse, for this reason.
  • by szcx ( 81006 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:32PM (#5477324)
    If browsers like Opera and IE and Safari don't innovate, Mozilla wont have anything to clone.
  • Why the complaining? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kaimelar ( 121741 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:33PM (#5477339) Homepage
    The references to Safari using KHTML instead of Gecko in this article reminded me of a previous Slashdot story, Mozilla Project Hurt by Apple's Decision to use KH []. My question is, why all the ruffled feathers regarding Apple choosing to use KHTML in Safari? I'm sure they shopped around and chose what they considered the best engine for their project. The article mentions that they evaluated an older version of Chimera (sorry, Camino), and some more technical details, but I can't shake the feeling that some of this discussion is simply sour grapes. The author goes on for a bit about standards, too, but I doubt that we're going to see "This site best viewed with Safari" any time soon.

    In my experience, KHTML and Gecko are both good, and ideas get passed around between both and improve both. Apple has decided to use and improve KHTML, other companies choose to use and improve Gecko. Why is this a bad thing?

  • by DarkSarin ( 651985 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:37PM (#5477361) Homepage Journal
    As a web developer, I am more interested in seeing all browser being 100% compliant with the w3c standards than anything else.
    As a surfer, though, I want my browser to be fast on loading, handle bookmarks properly, and to start quickly. That is why I almost exclusively use Phoenix, despite it being only version 0.5 (at least, that's the one I am using). It starts up on my windows machine much faster than IE, Mozilla or Opera. I don't use Netscape itself, because the difference between that and Mozilla is negligible (yep, I know it's blasphemy to say it, but there it is.)
    But to me, the most important part of the whole equation is this: give me WEBSITES that comply to standards as set by w3c. No, you don't HAVE to use CSS, or even a particular scripting method (php vs asp? who cares. If you know one, design with it, but be ready to learn the other if a company wants it).
    Part of the problem is that a lot of people making websites are not programmers, or even really that informed about standards. A lot of sites are done by graphic designers, who only want it to be pretty.
    Thats great, but pretty doesn't mean a thing to the people surfing with an alternate browser that doesn't display pictures. People who are blind come to mind. But if you come from an art background, its hard to think about that. It's worse than you think, though. I know a man who teaches at a University here locally. He teaches graphic design, holds a Ph.D. from a presitigious university (I think Texas A&M), and regularly requires his students to create web pages as part of the course. He uses almost nothing but Adobe products (GoLive in particular), and Macs. He doesn't worry about accessibility that much though, and he is COLOR BLIND! Standards don't seem to matter, as long as it looks good.
    With that kind of situation being common, it is going to take a long time to make the community aware of the need for standard compliance.
    Now that I am off my soap box, any one who needs it is free to borrow it.
    • by awol ( 98751 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @01:13PM (#5477641) Journal

      Part of the problem is that a lot of people making websites are not programmers, or even really that informed about standards. A lot of sites are done by graphic designers, who only want it to be pretty.

      Nope, that is 100% of the problem. Web designers that want to control the render are the bane of the web. The sooner they let it go the happier _everyone_ will be, themselves included. The web _is_ content. Within 5 years, the rendering will be so far removed from the designer that it will become impossible to control unless they us something like flash, where the browser is no longer the renderer and then that is no longer the web.

      • "The web _is_ content."

        True, however the delivery of such content is just as important as the content itself. If I hand you a bound book, and ask you to read it, no problem right? Now, what if I take all those pages and just hand them to you loose. You might not have a problem getting through, but you are more apt to get the pages out of order, lose a page...all kinds of mess ups.

        A good design holds the content together. A good design helps direct the user's focus to important content. A good design will support the user without being obvious about it.

  • Standards (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sparky69 ( 537855 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:39PM (#5477379)
    While I completely agree that mozilla is very good with standards, esp w3c standards, it still has a way to go. This might be flame bait but have you ever tried to make a website that uses pure css2 layout that looks the same in opera, mozilla and ie (latest versions). It's almost impossible. Yes a lot of that is due to the fact that IE's standards compliance in CSS2 is abismal to say the least but still Mozilla is getting stuff wrong as well. I wish the W3C would put out a reference implementation so that the browsers could hammer out these stupid little differences.
  • by crazyphilman ( 609923 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:41PM (#5477394) Journal
    1) Because in some ways, the browser is the most important piece of software we use. Modern computers are valuable not so much for computation, but for communication.

    2) Because if the browser is done well (like Mozilla or Opera) it can handle other tasks as well, like email and usenet, thus improving the whole user experience (yes, I know some versions of Opera don't do email anymore, but some do, or at least did).

    3) Because if the browser is done well (like Mozilla) it can become a platform for running new classes of application, which brings all sorts of interesting things to light.

    4) BUT, MOST IMPORTANTLY, if the browser is done badly (IE), it becomes a ready-made backdoor into your system, a virus and worm propagator, a stumbling block in the way of people trying to innovate in other areas, and in general, a royal pain in the ass. If there weren't alternatives to IE, there would be wailing and gnashing of teeth (cats and dogs, living together, etc).

    To sum up:

    Browser innovation is what saves us from having to use crappy proprietary tools like the rest of the rubes, and what allows us to actually get some use out of our computers (instead of being hacked ten times a day by bored script kiddies).

    Or is that too cynical a take on this?

  • by XshadowstarX ( 655137 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:44PM (#5477428) Homepage
    I wonder when any browser will truly compete with the speed and precision of the almighty Lynx! Bring forth your pretty GUI "innovations"! The power of the lynx should not be questioned!
  • by El Neepo ( 411885 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:47PM (#5477444)
    seems to me to be about why Gecko/Mozilla is better than anything, namely Safari. It seems to boil down to "Mozilla is better because it is truely open-source."

    Personally, I liked Mozilla (well now I use Phoenix on windows, less bloat) on windows and I used Chimera on Mac OS X. Chimera didn't crash as often as IE 5.2 did plus it had tabs and was faster. Once Safari was reveiled I jumped instantly. (The introduction of tabs has made me never look back)

    The real big thing that grabbed me with Safari was the Bookmark management and the orange arrow thing (I forget what it is called) While they may be small, they feel like big end-user innovations. It just kind of irks me that the Author implies the only reason I use Safari is because it is "bundled" with Mac OS X. I use it by choice because it feels better. I could care less if my browser renders a page a half second faster.
  • Baker rocks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pjdepasq ( 214609 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:47PM (#5477449)
    Mitchell Baker was one of two Mozilla folks who came to Virginia Tech [] this past fall. I got the chance to hear her talk and speak personally with her on several occasions. She's very bright, represents the group well, and gave us lots to think about.

    (Plus, I had the added benefit of taking her back to her B&B that night. Ok, I was dropping her off, but still!)

  • by ptaff ( 165113 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:48PM (#5477452) Homepage

    We may have super-elegant-configurable browsers now. But innovation remains important: the people at w3c are working hard to set new guidelines for the future:

    • CSS3 will allow even better control of look/layout reducing the need for graphics which still plague the web and waste bandwidth;
    • MathML which is now only a hack for a few browsers will make it possible to export scientific data 'a la LaTeX' instead of relying on poor resolution images;
    • SVG reducing the need for Flash and other alternative proprietary technologies;

    Trouble is, if MSIE doesn't follow, will the web evolve? I mean, why are there still GIFs all around as they were designed for 8-bit VGA (remember the pre-web times in its glorified 320x200 mode?) Why is there a problem with PNG implementation on MSIE? It's a 1996 recommendation! Will that be the same principle holding us back from browser innovation?

    • I mean, why are there still GIFs...?

      Because GIFs are still an efficient, non-lossy bitmapped format for NON-photographic images, such as charts and diagrams. This is an area where SVG can eventually save the day, but until they are widely implemented and used, GIFs very much have a use. They may continue to have a use for very complicated line art or tables where the equivalent SVG description might exceed that of the GIF in size.

      • by ptaff ( 165113 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @01:27PM (#5477759) Homepage
        Time to clarify fileformats.

        GIF: non-lossy bitmapped format
        PNG: non-lossy bitmapped format
        JPG: lossy format

        GIF: 8-bit, 1 alpha channel
        PNG: n-bit (as needed, up to 24), 8-bit alpha (as needed)
        JPG: no alpha

        PNG is also patent free and typically gets smaller file sizes than GIF.

        There is no reason left but MSIE to use GIFs.
  • by RalphBNumbers ( 655475 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:49PM (#5477460)
    It is, however, different from Camino, whose development is not based on the perspective of a single vendor.
    This is just plain not true in my experience. Chimera, now Camino, is developed by a small team of employees securely loyal to the company.

    They are not especially receptive to patches concerning anything they're not allready looking at doing, and they have been known to ignore user input in favor of following the Netscape party line.

    The most obvious and complained about example is there splash screen. It ties up memory, noticablly slows down launch times, leaks memory, and impedes usability when users are waiting for the browser to launch, There have been many complaints about it on bugzilla, and far more on various mailing lists and bulletin boards. Patches to add a prefrence to disable it have been submitted. Yet they continue to prioritize branding their browser above user needs. The splash screen is still there, and the only way to disable is if to hack arround in the application's contents, and exploit a known bug in apple's NSImage object by substituteing the wrong kind of data.

    There are other examples. Key behaviors that follow Netscape precedent at the expense of usability and Apple HIG compliance, tab options and layout, etc...

    The source may be open, but the project isn't especially open to outside direction. I like the browser alot, and really look forward to the .8 release, but I have to say the browser is just as corporate controlled as Safari.
  • by scovetta ( 632629 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:56PM (#5477520) Homepage
    There seems to be a great divide between the Microsoft World and the *nix World. The former creates easy to use software at the expense of power, and the later creates the reverse. The middle ground MUST be reached.

    Perfect example: I bought a new box, installed Redhat 7.2, ran Netscape, viewed a couple web pages. Looks like absolute crap! Don't tell me about getting new fonts and blah blah blah--thats not my problem. Even if the software is free, the goal is to make me (the customer) want to use it. I don't have the time or energy to fiddle around with settings all day and night. I just want it to work. When I see a webpage in browser XYZ, I want it to look the same as it does in IE 6.0 on my windows box. You know why? Because 94.5% of visitors to my website use IE, and 97.5% use Windows. I know that IE renders things "wrong", but because of those percentages, that makes it right, and everyone else wrong. So why can't Netscape/Gecko/Mozilla/etc render things the way I want them to? And until they do, I'm using IE.

    All of this talk about ECMAScript, XUL, all of these new technologies that will make my life so wonderfully easy mean nothing to me until they become adopted, and they will never become adopted until they are easy to use. That should be the focus area--not cool techno addons that 0.0001% of sites will utilize. I want my browsing experience to be simple and powerful, but simple is more important.

    • by Kourino ( 206616 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @01:38PM (#5477861) Homepage

      Gee. I really wish only 0.0001% of sites used ECMAScript :3

      I take by your comment that you run your own website. If you code it right and stick to standard HTML 4.01 Transitional (Strict is cleaner IMO, but hey) and CSS 1, everybody will see your site the same way. Literally everybody. I think it's safe to say that even IE 6 has gotten to that point. If you can't code to W3C standards, I'll be less sympathetic for your position.

      Frankly, Gecko has a lot of code built in to it to do just what you say. You know how most people don't care about correct HTML these days? Gecko has a rendering mode it hits a lot that's designed to deal exactly with that. So have you had problems with recent versions of Mozilla? (Not Netscape - Mozilla. They're similar, but different.) What are these problems? I'm curious.

      Seriously. Code to standards. IE is not a standard just because Microsoft wants it to be. IE understands CSS. Stick to correct HTML and CSS 1 and I guarantee everyone will see your page the way you want to. If they don't, don't whine because you won't write correct markup.

    • And what are you going to do about it if someone claims that this 'middle ground' has been achieved, and is Mac OS X []?

      You get your Unix software, your Mac software, and your Windows software. You've got your pretty fonts, you get your 'Out of box experience', you get your IE, you get your Mozilla, you get your Safari...

      You get your whole mantra that "simple is more important" than powerful.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 10, 2003 @12:57PM (#5477525)
    There has been some interesting stuff done with browsers recently. However innovation seems limited to the GUI. I suggest that we should innovate to the left of the URL's ":".

    When mozilla (the initial NC*SA browser) came on the scene it did something that had not been done before -- it put a common GUI in front of multiple protocols - http, ftp, and gopher.

    Since that time we've added what? Well, there's https, which was a necessary addition for commerce & security. But how many new applications have appeared on the 'net since 1992? A lot - like all those P2P applications, multimedia streamiing (mp3, ogg, video), etc. We have been content to allow the number of 'net clients grow, but why? Why not incorporate these into the browser experience? Why not support new protocols s they go mainstream, or at least have a way to support plug-ins at this level?

    Doing this would strike fear at the very core of proprietary browser vendors. This is what MS didn't want Netscape to become -- an OS-agnostic platform for the Internet. To MS' credit, they have limited what people think a browser should be and have made the battle about speed and content plugin support. I say we change the rules of the game - produce protocol plugin support and begin development that leaves the current concept of a browser in the dust.

    Now that would be true innovation.
    • When mozilla (the initial NC*SA browser)

      You mean Mosaic? Mozilla was originally the codename for the rendering engine behind Netscape, which was based on Mosaic.

      We have been content to allow the number of 'net clients grow, but why? Why not incorporate these into the browser experience?

      Because the usability sucks. Look how unfriendly webmail is to the user. Look at how advanced usenet clients are, compared with discussion forums like slashdot.

      Why not support new protocols s they go mainstream, or at least have a way to support plug-ins at this level?

      I know you can do this fairly easily with internet explorer and konqueror, I expect you can do it with mozilla as well.

  • by Publicus ( 415536 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @01:00PM (#5477550) Homepage

    Quoth Mitchell Baker:

    Everything we've seen suggests that KHTML has a ways to go to catch up with rendering real web pages. At the same time, Gecko should become smaller and simpler.

    This statement and the fact that Apple chose KHTML over Gecko seems to resonate with a comment I saw the other day about OS X. "Apple realized that it's easier to put a good GUI on UNIX than to debug Windows."

    I am all for the improvement of Gecko, whatever slimming down it needs, but I don't think Apple was so mistaken to choose KHTML. From what I can tell, it's a smaller project and I think they will undoubtedly have more of an influence on it than they would on Gecko/Mozilla. It shouldn't be anay more difficult to extend KHTML, at least not any more difficult than it would be to speed up Mozilla.

  • Biased? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Pope Raymond Lama ( 57277 ) < minus poet> on Monday March 10, 2003 @01:13PM (#5477637) Homepage

    I just started reading the article to find something as childish as:
    Everything we've seen suggests that KHTML has a ways to go to catch up with rendering real web pages.

    Not even a little bit biased. I use konqueror for my day to day surfing - 3.0, and am yet to find a signle page it doesn't render as well as fatzilla. Moreover, at work I use Konqui 2.0 which actually does not render well a good deal of pages, but is still quite usable, and it's integration to the desktop make I prefer it as well.

  • "Why We Still Feel Okay About Ourselves Even Though Those Nasty Safari Developers Chose to Use Khtml instead of Gecko, Those Jerks."

    by Mitchell Baker

  • by MrJones ( 4691 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @02:18PM (#5478205) Homepage Journal
    Innovation in Mozilla need to stop for a couple of months in order to fix all the Bugs #.

    This is what happends:
    you have a constant number of developers but an incriesing number of inovation. Every innovation has an increising number of bugs reports. Developer have a constant capacity of fixing bugs.

    So, do the Math. Mozilla can't support so many innovations in every release because the number of developers are not incriesing.

    What do we need? An aplication with costant features that has no bugs, or an aplication that has many features but is buggy?

    Seems to me that this innovation stuff is more like a marketing campaing. Sad to hear that the campaing is comming from the development department and not from the marketing department.

    BTW, I love Mozilla and I use it every day since Netscape 2.0
  • by Squidgee ( 565373 ) <[moc.liamtoh] [ta] [1OOeegdiuqs]> on Monday March 10, 2003 @02:41PM (#5478387)
    A pile of propaganda, of course. What'd you think I meant? ;)

    Seriously, though, I'm using Safari build 64, with tabs flipped on. And, IMHO, this browser trumps Chimera hands down. It is fast on my iBook where Chimera was a bit dumpy. Its implimentation of tabs not only looks better, but switches instantly whereas Chimera woulda take its sweet time in switching tabs. Its interface is damn prettier than Chimera's. Safari takes up much less CPU time. And let's not forget Safari's excellent implimentation of Bookmarks.

    Safari also has some other nice things. Like, when I click "History", I get the last 10 URLs I've visited. Then if I want to wade through history, I get a context menu with the dates. This is much preffered to as opposed to Chimera's "Click history, wait 10s for history to load, search for URL" bull.

    Finally, KHTML is far better than Gecko. I apologize, yes, Gecko was once king. Then it became a bloated mess. Safari, with far more features than Chimera mind you, is 2.9m. Chimera is, last time I checked, 7 or 8megs. This is not neccesary, and it is because of Gecko.

    So, in conclusion, don't listen to this article. Safari is better, and if you wish to work on the part of the browser that actually does anything important, you can. I don't know about you, but I'd rather help impliment better CSS positioning in a browser than make the interface look better (Hey, I love interface programming, but let's be serious; an interface isn't worth a damn if the browser can't render properly; if it were I'd be using Omniweb over all of these browsers (If it had tabs, of course) because its rendering engine is the most beautiful thing I've seen, as is its interface. Sadly, it mangles pages too often).

    Now if Safari were to impliment the "Ask if you want to accept cookies" feature, I'd be set for life. But as it is, Safari is still better than Chimera, and I don't blame Apple for choosing KHTML. Seriously, which would you want: A lean, quick, beautiful, works-but-is-slightly-unproven rendering engine (That can be quickly whipped into shape if there's an issue) or a bloated, slow beautiful, proven rendering engine? I think the choice is obvious.

  • by iLEZ ( 594245 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @03:28PM (#5478842) Homepage
    How about having a "forward" button that is more useful than todays.

    Heres what i have in mind:
    Modern browsers are advanced enough to see repetitions in archives.

    How about letting the browser take you to the next file in the opened archive when pressing forwards?
    For example, im reading textfile1.txt, and i want to view textfile2.txt. I simply press the forwards button
    and my nice little dreambrowser takes me to the next numbered file in the archive. Yes, you get the point
    if you see how useful it would be for pr0nsurfing. :D

    I have heard about the function in an old browser, but i cant see the reason NOT to put one in a modern one.

    Lets demonstrate for better pr0nsurfing capabilities in our bundled browsers! Whos with me? Yea or Nay?

  • by Go Aptran ( 634129 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @03:38PM (#5478947)
    I'm curious. Do most people limit themselves to just one web browser?

    I use Camino, Explorer, and Safari on my Mac for different things.

    Explorer is the slowest of the three and I have to endure pop-up adverts, but it allows me to save an entire web-page with formatting and pictures intact for off-line viewing AS A SINGLE FILE. I frequently save several dozen pages from various news-sites for offline reading in coffee-shops or while I'm flying. Safari can also save as a single file with formatting intact but without images. With Camino you get a file and a folder of images, etc. The single file format makes archiving a web-page MUCH easier.

    I almost never use Explorer for general on-line web browsing due to the pop-up ads, lack of tabs, etc.

    Camino is my usual on-line choice. Camino has tabs that are easy to get to, and I like the tray. Most important for me, Camino allows me to pick where I want to save files or images. Safari's tabs still have to be coaxed into appearing, and your file is downloaded to a default place. Both suppress popups. Safari may be a little faster but I hardly notice the difference.

    I use Safari just because I'm curious about it, but it's all the way there yet. Yet. Of the three browsers, it renders on-screen text the best, and I like the minimalist brushed metal.

    If I could find a web-browser that had tabs, killed pop-ups, looked sleek, rendered text beautifully, loaded pages quickly, could save an entire web-page intact as a single file, and allowed me to choose the location that I save a file in on the fly, I'd get rid of all the others.

  • a bit of whining (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ByTor-2112 ( 313205 ) on Monday March 10, 2003 @05:47PM (#5480028)
    I'm sorry, but I must say that much of this article seems to be whining that Apple went with KHTML instead of Gecko.

    Opera has become my browser of choice. It's interface is not weighted down by the complex XUL. It creates new windows lightning quick, and loads the content much faster. I have a native FreeBSD version that supports nice AA fonts, and looks fabulous. For some reason, it's tabbed layout seems absolutely natural, whereas all the other browsers' tabs seem forced.

Disraeli was pretty close: actually, there are Lies, Damn lies, Statistics, Benchmarks, and Delivery dates.