Google launches web browser: Google Chrome

The duckies invade Google
Creative Commons License photo: Yodel Anecdotal

Wow, what can I say. This surprised me. Google is launching it’s own browser called Google Chrome. They created a comic book to announce it to the world, which is summed up at Google Blogoscoped.

It’s based on the WebKit engine also used in Safari, and includes Google Gears by default. They’ve taken bits from Safari and Mozilla and included it in this project, which they’ve also open sourced.

It’ll be interesting with another browser in the space. It launches tommorow when us web developers can finally have a play with it and see what it’s like.

Firefox 3 Victory, Release on June 17

Mozilla Developer News announces that Firefox 3 will be released on Tuesday June 17. Take part in the Download Day to break a world record (the server admin for Mozilla must be pretty brave to encourage everybody to download all at once).

To celebrate, the guys at Mozilla have created an absolutely awesome movie-style Victory poster:

Firefox 3 Victory

See a larger version. Apparently there will be a limited edition 18×24″ poster at the Mozilla Store soon.

I absolutely love the Firefox 3 robot branding!

Opera Market Share Eclipsed by Unreleased Browser

Net Applications has just released their browser usage statistics for May 2008. The statistics show a 73.8% market share for Internet Explorer, 18.4% for Firefox and 6.3% for Safari. Opera is stuck on 0.7%.

Feed the Firefoxes
Creative Commons License photo: Glutnix

An in-depth analysis shows something quite interesting. The unreleased Firefox 3 already has a market share of 0.78%. With the quite addictive Awesomebar, fresh new interface, revamped bookmarking system and lower memory use, that’s not such a surprise. Firefox 3 is simply a fantastic product.

Opera 9.x, first released in June of 2006 (that’s 2 years ago) has only managed to accumulate a market share of 0.73% in that time.

Week beginning May 25th, 2008

Firefox 2: 17.53%
Firefox 3: 0.78%
Opera 0: 0.73%

That’s right: Opera 9 has had it’s market share eclipsed by a browser which hasn’t even been released yet.

Mozilla’s Asa Dotzler says:

I wonder if Firefox 3 will be able to break 1% global share before it’s even released. That would be pretty crazy.  With millions of people already using the pre-releases of Firefox 3 and the enthusiasm around the arrival of the final release, I have no doubt that we’ll see Firefox well above 20% global market share in the very near term.

Personas for Firefox

Personas for Firefox is a really nice extension for Firefox which adds lightweight theming without having to restart your browser.

Personas for Firefox

I’ve been using it several months now and it’s really nice so I really recommend having a look. There are a dozen Foxkeh themes which are pretty cute too.

Personas was recently updated so the theme could be dynamic web content. People have started to play around with this feature: for example theming the browser with a live webcam from Germany.

Find out how to create your own Personas. The team hope to release the final version of Personas in time for Firefox 3.

Effortless Good

Effortless Good is a fantastic idea and great extension. Simply, Amazon runs an affiliate system which gives webmasters a fee for every purchase they refer. Effortless Good is a Firefox extension adds a referral code to when you visit Amazon so that the referral fee is collected and then split between four causes: the Rainforest Alliance, Save the Children, Grameen Foundation and the Participatory Culture Foundation. A fantastic idea and some great causes too (although I’m not too sure about the last one)

Firefox 3 Feature Plan

The Mozilla Wiki has a page of Firefox 3 Requirements. It’s an interesting insight into what we may see in the next version of Firefox.

Just a glance at the document indicates the following features labelled as "mandatory":

  • Improved Addon install, configuration and management.
  • The addition of YaCy to the browser. I’ve never heard of this before but its an open source distributed search engine.
  • Better content handling and plugin support.
  • Better and simpler printing.
  • Improved password/identity manager e.g. OpenID, Microsoft CardSpace
  • Redesign of Security/Privacy UI
  • Replacing the existing proprietary closed-source Talkback application with Google’s open source Airbag.

In the highly desirable priority 2, we have features such as:

With the integration of a serverless and open source search and instant messaging tool, Firefox would be taking a bit of a step away from the philosophy that it just provides a browser and no more. However, if done correctly, it could be a really powerful force to make the web just a bit more democratic.

An instant messaging tool could open up a lot of new possibilities especially with the "social web" and "Web 2.0". We could see all kinds of new applications exploiting the social networks and connections such as "web of trust" and social bookmarking.

Of course, I’m extrapolating a lot from the feature plan, but Firefox 3 could be Flock "done right". 

Firefox 3 Alpha 1: Acid2

Alpha 1 of Gran Paradiso, or what will eventually become Firefox 3.0, has been released. This release is not for end users; it only consists of backend and rendering changes.

Gran Paradiso Alpha 1 is being made available for testing purposes only, and is intended for web application developers and our testing community. Current users of Mozilla Firefox should not use Gran Paradiso Alpha 1.

Acid2

Boris Zbarsky:

After almost exactly two years of working on it, David Baron landed the reflow branch last night. In addition to fixing numerous bugs (including all remaining Acid2 issues) and improving layout peformance some, the changes significantly simplify, the table column balancing code and block reflow. The landing lays the groundwork for implementing inline-block and inline-table display values, as well as some further optimization work.

This means that Firefox finally passes the Acid2 test. Here’s a screenshot I took:

Acid2 

It is true that other browsers such as Opera and Safari managed to pass the Acid2 test. The Acid2 test actually came at a bad time in the development cycle for Mozilla. Gecko 1.8 was stabilized and trying to get Acid2 to work on it would have been extremely risky. And the next Gecko update after that, 1.9, won’t be used in a Firefox release until version 3.0.

Acid2 also contained a load of useless stuff which web developers are unlikely to need anyway, so not trying to pass the Acid2 test until Firefox 3.0 was a smart move.

Other Changes

According to the release notes, this is what’s new: 

  • Cairo is now being used as the default graphics library, affecting all graphic and text rendering
  • Cocoa Widgets are now used in OS X builds
  • An updated threading model
  • Changes to how DOM events are dispatched (see bug 234455)
  • Changes to how <object> elements are loaded (see bug 1156)
  • Changes to how web pages are painted
  • New SVG elements and filters, and improved SVG specification compliance

 

Planet Mozilla – Blog of the Week

Planet Mozilla isn’t a blog in the traditional sense. It’s an aggregation of all things Mozilla including build updates from The Burning Edge, the Mozilla Developer webwatch, discussions about the internals of Mozilla Corp., MozillaZine news, Mozilla Labs and posts from Mozilla developers. These range from posts about Thunderbird to Songbird, from XULRunner to Addons.

For anyone with an interest in browsers or Mozilla technologies in general, this is a fantastic aggregated blog to subscribe to. The number of off-topic posts seems to be pretty low and all the stuff there is pretty interesting. It also means you are the first to hear about Mozilla developments and straight from the mouth of the developers.

If you don’t want to subscribe to the full deal but just specific Mozilla blogs, check out the list of blogs on the right hand side.

More on Firefox Tabs

Further to my post on Chromatabs, I decided to investigate a few other Firefox tabbed browsing related extensions.

Chromatabs

Chromatab was an interesting extension. Although it’s a really nice concept, I didn’t really like it so much in practice. It made it really hard to identify the active/selected tab and as the vast majority of sites I had open I had never visited before, I didn’t form a connection between the site and the colour. Additionally, various sites ended up with very similar colours.

See also: Colourful Tabs 

Aging Tabs

Aging Tabs is a really nice extension which stays out of the way. Its unobtrusive but it manages to display useful information. I love it on it’s default configuration. When I’m developing or designing I may often have about 6 or 7 tabs open – only two or three of which I use. Aging Tabs makes it really easy to identify those tabs pertaining to the current task.

If you are the kind of person who visits Slashdot or Digg and opens up 10 tabs and then spawns even more tabs for interesting links found on those pages, Aging Tabs could come in really handy.

I experimented with the options of Aging Tabs and adding colour, but I found it worked fantastically on it’s default configuration. 

FaviconizeTab 

This extension adds a new "FaviconizeTab" option to the context menu of the tab.
When it is clicked, The width of the tab becomes small up to the size of favicon.
It returns to the former size when "FaviconizeTab" is clicked again.

I haven’t tried this extension yet but it looks quite cool. It could come in handy if you have a few tabs open and you want to keep them open, but don’t plan on using them for quite a while.

Chromatabs for Firefox

There is a really interesting extension called Chromatabs at Mozilla Labs today. Mozilla Labs is Mozilla’s ongoing project to develop some innovative and new techniques of presenting information to users and to investigate new technologies.

Chromatabs

Chromatabs is an extension developed by Justin Dolske which aims to make tabs a lot easier to locate by colourizing tabs to provide a strong visual indication. To demonstrate the concept, there is an example on Mozilla Labs which asks you to locate all letter Ks and all red letters. Locating red letters is a lot easier.

The blog entry also discusses existing solutions and problems. At the moment, tabs in Firefox all essentially look the same, so finding that page when you have 20 tabs open requires a deep visual inspection of all your tabs. Favicons can help, but not all sites have them.

Mozilla Labs also points to Colourful Tabs which attempts to implement a similar concept:

Its solution is to simply assign each new tab a color from a fixed list, in sequence. First example, the first tab will be blue, the second is yellow and the third green. The tab remains that color until it is closed. Each time you browse the web, you’ll have to remember what a particular color means at the moment.

Chromatabs is different. Rather than giving each site a different colour each time, it’ll take a hash of the sites domain. This means every time you visit a site, it’s tab will be the same time. The idea is that as we visit these sites again and again over time, we’ll develop a strong connection between the colour and the site.

At the moment, it’s still a proof of concept extension. One of the concepts discussed in the further work section:

It might be more intuitive if Chromatabs analyzed each page to determine the most prominent color on the page, and then used that color for the tab. You would then see Slashdot tabs in their distinctive green, Fark tabs in purple, and Zombo.com tabs in, uhhh… oooooo….

I do see several problems from Chromatab’s current implementation. Probably about half the sites I visit I’ve never actually been on before, or don’t visit very frequently. I won’t have any mental relationship between that site and the colour of the tab. Various sites can also end up with the same colours e.g. my blog and Mozilla.

If you want to try it out, download the extension from Firefox Add-Ons. This extension is definitely one to watch.

If you’re interested in finding out about how the extension was developed, check out this blog entry