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Update: I wonder if this will turn the tide and give other browsers more usage? Depends on how much ad blockers are used. So many people don't bother with anything tech.

Web Browser Scene

2019: The State of Web Browsers

As expected, Google Chrome increased it's market share. For this reason, a website developer will make the first priority to be compatible with Chrome (and therefore the open source Chromium project backed by Google). For this reason, an extension developer will make the Chromium extension framework his first choice.

Despite its trailing market share, the wealth of the Apple consumer base is a push to also develop for Apple's Safari. Also a factor, is that Safari's extension framework is not that different, because Chrome and Safari used to have the same browser engine, named WebKit. In 2013, Google created a fork of WebKit called Blink, and it became part of Chromium.

The majority of browsers ditched their own browser engines and started using Chromium's Blink, because they saw the inevitable. Thus, Chrome, Opera, Vivaldi, Brave, and many more run the chromium engine.

Firefox is a notable exception, wanting to continue with their own browser engine. “…we're looking at a world where Chrome and Chrome-derivatives take about 80 percent of the market, with only Firefox, at 9 percent, actively maintained and available cross-platform.”

Firefox has been in the process of major overhauls to their web browser. Though they kept their own browser engine, they adopted Chromium's extension framework. I believe they should have retained backwards compatibility, as all existing extensions got left behind, if the authors did not update them. All new shouldn't preclude backwards compatibility, even if it makes it easier. They ended up throwing away a lot of work accumulated over many years, and many extension jewels were lost. The bad juju cannot be redeemed. They broke their own internal platform standards.

The future of Firefox is uncertain: Mozilla execs clash over whether Firefox has a future. However, there is an even smaller group of grass-roots contenders still holding on, continuing to develop the Gecko web browser engine that Firefox left behind. The new fork of Gecko is now named Goanna.

Web Standards

Google isn’t the company that we should have handed the Web over to.

Overviewing the function section of Wikipedia's article of the World Wide Web, the underlying way things work have not changed. The biggest change has been the size, which has created the need for a new standard called IPv6. Aside from Internet Standards, you also have Web Standards.

The internet and web have grown more complex, but the HTML that renders a web page in a web browser hasn't changed much. The revisions to the standards have been slow and methodical to improve, but not to completely overhaul the standards.

“The Web Standards movement declared that HTML, CSS, and JavaScript were more than simply interesting technologies. “They are a way of creating Web pages that will facilitate the twin goals of sophisticated and appropriate presentation and widespread accessibility.”[11] The group succeeded in persuading Netscape, Microsoft, and other browser makers to support these standards in their browsers. It then set about promoting these standards to designers, who were still using tag soup, Adobe Flash, and other proprietary technologies to create web pages.” source

Which is how things should be, but with Chrome having such a monopoly, web developers are coding for Chrome, instead of coding to standards. The article Chrome is turning into the new Internet Explorer 6 describes the situation:

“ “One issue is that Google developers often create many of the new standards, they are extremely active in new feature development for the web,” explains Jason Ormand, a performance engineer at Vox Media. “They write up proposals and get them through the working standards group, W3C, so that they become standards.” That often means Google is the first to ship with these standards, because the company has been advocating for them. Mix that together with a lot of developers using Chrome for web development and the issues are obvious. ”

Standards are not standards if they are in flux. Change is getting pushed for the wrong reasons. There is no need for new HTML code. As the head developer for the Pale Moon web browser writes:

“Pale Moon's core is in flux, just like the web is. With the current practice of a total lack of standards and everyone implementing things based on draft specifications and recommendations instead of established standards, a lot of the features in Pale Moon are determined on an on-demand basis: If there is enough demand for a certain feature or if it is considered beneficial to the browser and the web, it will be implemented - other features may be put on hold or decided against altogether.” source

2016: The State of Web Browsers

Firefox was awesome, because of how much it could be modified by extensions / addons. With Electrolysis (aka e10s), they are doing away with their XUL foundation for extensions, and the new foundation does not afford as much customization of the browser. Existing extensions, of which there were over 12,000, unless updated, will become incompatible. I think they are killing off the uniqueness of Firefox, that maintains its existing user base.

Why would they do this, intentionally? Because they don't like to share control: “The tight coupling between the browser and its add-ons also creates shorter-term problems for Firefox development. It’s not uncommon for Firefox development to be delayed because of broken add-ons.” More importantly, they have conceded to Chrome as the winner, and are adopting a format for extensions that is compatible with existing Chrome extensions.

Pale Moon is a fork of Firefox, that is lightweight on system resources, and works with a majority of the XUL based extensions available for Firefox. Pale moon will not be adopting e10s. However, since the user base is a minority, the garden of extensions is likely to continue to wither away.

Update: So far the developers maintain compatibility with old extensions. While Mozilla has taken down the pages to the XUL extensions, Pale Moon members like JustOff have saved them as the Classic Addons Archive, and there is a site called Legacy Collector that stores them as well. It's not like how we use a web browser has changed, that you can't find something already made. In addition, there is active development of a few dozen extensions at the Pale Moon Addons page.

At the end of 2012, I tried to configure Google Chrome the way I had Firefox, since at the time, they had a plentiful library of extensions. I couldn't get what I wanted, because their foundation for extensions does not go as deep into the workings of Chrome. Perhaps I am exaggerating. I got 80 to 90 percent of what I wanted. I did notice, though, that Chrome consumed more memory than my Firefox / Pale Moon counterparts.

I can continue to use Pale Moon for now, but going forward, I may look into the Vivaldi Web Browser. It is based on Chromium, which is the code that Google Chrome works off of. Chromium and Chrome are not very different.

I think the best design for a web browser, is to be minimalistic, where you can select more functionality through extensions. However, the features added by Vivaldi seem to be few and well selected. The head developer of Vivaldi, used to work for the Opera Web Browser. I never liked how Opera included a lot of functionality I either didn't want, or preferred from another source. I hope he keeps it simple.

While I prefer lightweight web browsers, I don't use them as my primary browser, because they are not mainstream enough to have a rich library of extensions.

I really don't want to use a Microsoft product (it would be like voting for Trump). Microsoft Edge has a dismal library of extensions. There are 5. Internet Explorer didn't have many either. Perhaps there isn't much interest, from anyone with intelligence enough to code an extension.


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information-technology/2019-web-browser-scene.txt · Last modified: 2020/06/01 05:04 by marcos