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World Wide Web

 What is a web browser?

A Web browser is a software application that interprets the coding of the World Wide Web in graphic form, allowing the user to “browse the Web” by simple point –and - click navigation. Web browsers communicate with Web servers to “fetch” Web pages, allowing users to obtain and submit information to the World Wide Web.

 

The browser evolution.

The first true Web browser - “Mosaic” - was released in 1993 and unlocked the internet to the public. Mosaic evolved into Netscape during the mid 1990’s, and remained the web browser of choice until Microsoft began pre-packaging their own Web browser – Internet Explorer - into the Windows operating system.

Netscape (having evolved into Netscape Communicator) released its source code to the general public in 1998, and after a massive rewrite, emerged as the open source based browser called “Mozilla”. Over time, the Mozilla Foundation - as caretaker of the application – developed Mozilla into “Mozilla Phoenix”, and subsequently (2003) “Mozilla Firefox”.

Microsoft’s Internet explorer (versions 4, 5 & 6) held the market unchallenged during this time, but remained hassled with security issues and numerous bugs. Due to extensions built into it, some web pages did not display ‘correctly’ when developed according to IE’s web browser coding, rather than standard Internet conventions and protocols. It was seen as a passive aggressive manipulation by Microsoft to dominate the internet, and heavily criticised.

During this time Mozilla Firefox had become the browser of choice amongst knowledgeable internet users. It has been called “the Swiss army knife of the Internet”. It’s expanded feature set, improved functionality, adherence to internet standards and higher security made it superior in many ways to IE.  

 MS's Internet Explorer remains the browser most used - by a substantial margin - today. IE8 has borrowed several popular features from Mozilla and Safari, but - unlike Chrome - in beta version it remains "raw", subject to problematic installations  and rife with crashes. Will it be enough to swing Joe Soap to a new browser? Only time will tell.

 

Alternative browsers.

Opera Software - from Oslo (Norway) – offered a proprietary browser as from 1996. It evolved from shareware to adware, and finally, as of September 2005, to freeware. Opera has maintained a small market share with a loyal following among those who insist on the 'fastest browser', and as of 2006 it has been partnering with Nintendo to provide an Internet Web browser for the Dual Screen game console.

Apple's Safari browser is the standard on Macintoshes (although Firefox is also a fine choice on the Mac, albeit a bit sluggish.)

 

Google’s Chrome.

In September 2008, Google released its own browser - “Google Chrome” – in a beta format, as a new, free and innovative browser for internet users. Despite the inherent critical nature of the Web, the application has been positively received (with constructive criticism shown).

Chrome is (relatively) open-source based freeware, with a  minimalistic frontend that has been designed to be as light as possible, and relatively few of the ‘usual’ options are available at first glance. The interface is characterized by so-called “Fischer Price” simplicity, but implements very clever under-the-skin engineering.

The address bar (Chrome's “Omnibar”) extracts the best features from Firefox and mixes it with Internet Explorer’s domain highlighting feature (with auto-completion). It  automatically suggests related queries and popular websites based on both your browsing history and the set default search engine!

Opera’s drag and drop tab-function has been incorporated, but with Chrome you can open an existing tab in a new window by grabbing-and-dragging it outside the tab bar, even over the desktop. (Firefox does this too, but where Firefox then saves the page as a link, Chrome opens it as a new browser window.)

Chrome’s search function features auto-completion that allows you to almost ‘slide’ to your search query. Results will highlight as you type, you don't even have to finish the query to find what you need.

The ‘new tab’ page shows the links to most visited websites, whilst recently closed tabs  and recent bookmarks makes it very easy to find websites. The searchability contained under the history function is innovative, user friendly and fast.

Application shortcuts enable users to create an easy entry for special websites. This is an extraordinary addition that allows you to open web applications without launching your browser.  The inherent potential contained in Google Gears (being built into the browser) combined with the application shortcuts to give you simple, standalone Web applications, is perhaps the ultimate in web application design, today. No Web application can afford not to take notice thereof.

Multiple threading / crash controls in Chrome ensure that in the event of a rogue page dropping its connection, it does not take the browser down with it. Although you will have to reopen that crashed tab or window, you won't have lost any other tabs. It is similar to the improvements made in the recent IE 8, called ‘tab isolation’.  Whereas Chrome takes a 'purist' approach, launching multiple, discrete processes to isolate and protect each tab's contents,  IE 8 - on the other hand - goes ‘hybrid’, creating multiple instances of the iexplore.exe process (but without specifically assigning each tab to its own instance). Chrome’s approach – we believe - should prove to be more robust, albeit at a slightly higher cost of resource consumption.

Safe browsing warns you if you're about to visit a suspected phishing, malware or otherwise unsafe website.  It works via a updated (black)list of sites, via Google.

One-click bookmarks, and a simpler download process (you can view the progress and open the file directly from Chrome, there’s no need to look for it in the file manager) just adds to the ease of Chrome’s operation.

Chrome seems to be the fastest web browser available today. Despite there not being much difference in loading speed between it, IE7 and Firefox3 - it just feels quicker and snappier.  In a stresstest wherein 15 tabs were opened on each browser whereafter a YouTube video was launched, Chrome returned a noticeably better result.  

In memory resources used Chrome is slightly heavier than Firefox3 (with no plug-inns), however, with plug-inns Firefox3 would slow down.

From a cold start Chrome is faster than Firefox3 (no plug inns), however, there is no real difference when quitting and restarting the browser.

From what we gather from the Internet, tests reveal that Chrome renders pages substantially faster on lower specked hardware (windows experience 2.2 and lower) than Firefox3, whilst IE8 would somehow (unfortunately) not install on such system.

 

Concerns with Chrome

 

 Licensing

"By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any content which you submit, post or display on or through, the services. "

 The above (original) license wording. Silly stuff, that attracted voiciferous indignation in its attempt to arrange for a transferable license that - royalty free - could publish both your own and 3rd party work ad inifintum.  It stands to note that  "services" seems like a description of the browser's function, but is extended to cover all "Google’s products, software, services and web sites, and the idea that Google could publish anything having merely been "displayed" in the browser not only sounded non-sensical, but a bit evil... However, the situation has been remedied - quickly - and the situation replaced with:

"Google acknowledges and agrees that it obtains no right, title or interest from you (or your licensors) under these Terms in or to any Content that you submit, post, transmit or display on, or through, the Services, including any intellectual property rights which subsist in that Content (whether those rights happen to be registered or not, and wherever in the world those rights may exist). Unless you have agreed otherwise in writing with Google, you agree that you are responsible for protecting and enforcing those rights and that Google has no obligation to do so on your behalf. "

 and, critically (further on):

"You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services." 

 

The amended version's conditions constitue a much more sensible license-arrangement. (Google would seem to have explained the initial position as some kind of mistake that was made as a result of an attempt to conform license conditions over all of their available products.)

 

Privacy 

It is said that Chrome's installation contains a unique ID that allows potential identification of the user (or perhaps more correctly, the computer), and Chrome's "Omnibar" could potentially access keystrokes typed. It results in Google potentially being able to store some of this information that allows for profiling.

It feels big-brotherish, but also unneccessarily conspiratorial. the browser seems -  at this time - still innocent enough, but we retain the right to change our opinion in this regard. The right to privacy is a very sensitive issue, and it's protection a fundamental right. Whoemever dares to go there ...

 

 Malicious Vulnerabilities

A very specific (initial) vulnerability to 'tricking' users to download malicious content has been shown, but this - in fact - is no different to any other browser out there. All in all, the vulnerability in respect of 'carpet bombing' has been outlined and addressed. 

  

Market concerns

Chrome will have an uphill battle in competing against MS Office & MS SharePoint Server's extensive range of applications and development tools. Business IT is often contained within a MS world, forcing users to use IE for full functionality. At the same time it is being said that :"Our guys have looked at it and poked at it. It shows real promise."

 

 

Chrome and Ks4. 

Google Chrome is a browser that combines a minimalistic design with sophisticated, powerfull technology (dubbed "V8 JavaScript") to make the Web experience faster, simple, and just a bit easier. It's already much more impressive than Internet Explorer 8, and - despite the odd glitch, lack of a RSS reader and a strange font size selection in the Omnibar -  it could even rival Mozilla's Firefox in due course.  

There is no reason for there to be “one browser to rule them all”, but we believe Chrome’s unconventional thinking makes it the most open, flexible and upgradeable browser - model available today.  It forms an exciting, solid foundation for a new generation of web applications.  Multiple threading, internet protocol adherance and simple, innovative thinking gives it our endorsement.

We’ve prepared Ks4, accordingly.

 

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