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The Future of Browser Choice 188

New submitter plawson writes "CNET offers an in-depth discussion of the browser's future, making the case that 'new mobile devices threaten to stifle the competitive vigor of the market for Web browsers on PCs.' Given the vertical integration of many mobile systems, the article predicts that 'the only opportunity you'll get to truly change browsers is when your two-year smartphone contract expires.' The trade-offs are security and performance. Web pages that rely on JavaScript and JIT will be big losers. How important is browser choice on a smartphone or tablet compared with a PC?"
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The Future of Browser Choice

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  • history repeating (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @02:28PM (#40091441)

    Will no-one look to history to see what happens if you are tied into a single browser? Would we all be happy to have the equivalent of IE6 on our smartphones?

    I know Microsoft is not keen on WebGL or Websockets, so imagine a world where they simply did not exist, or failed to gain traction because there was no incentive for the new monopoly to support it.

    The only answer is consumer choice, and we all know 2 years is a lifetime in 'internet time'. Smartphone time is just as fast as that used to be.

  • Jailbreak (Score:4, Insightful)

    by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @02:32PM (#40091495)
    Jailbreak and install whatever browser you want. Or better yet, stop shipping restricted computers that are dressed up to look like phones, and start shipping computers that respect user freedom and which happen to come in phone-form-factor with a cell phone module. Why is this so hard?
  • by recoiledsnake ( 879048 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @02:33PM (#40091505)

    >Google is a far more serious threat to open computer systems than any other company, including Apple, Microsoft and IBM.

    Not to say that they wouldn't do it if they could, I doubt that, just because Chromebooks suck. They sold very few and they were a huge flop.

    "In June 2011, Acer and Samsung launched their Chromebooks ahead of other PC brand vendors, but by the end of July, Acer had reportedly only sold 5,000 units and Samsung was said to have had even lower sales than Acer, according to sources from the PC industry

    No wonder Firefox is more worried about Windows RT. They think that the Microsoft tablets are going to sell in good numbers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @02:33PM (#40091513)

    So you would expect a chrome book to run... IE? Firefox? Would it still be called a chrome book in that case?

    The consumer _DOES_ have a choice here. By buying a chrome book they are choosing... duh... chrome. Not only that but Chrome books actually has a trivial way for you to "hack" the device itself (you open the battery and flip a switch) which would allow you to install whatever you want on it. Can you even imagine Apple or Microsoft providing consumers with that same option for any device they sell? No.

    The problem that existed in windows was that there was no real alternative to Windows in consumer market at the time of Microsoft anti-trust hearings.

  • by oakgrove ( 845019 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @02:46PM (#40091687)

    Non-techies don't care about "browser choice".

    Do you have citable evidence for this claim? Last I checked, IE was steadily losing market share despite being the default browser on 90+ percent of computers sold so obviously people do care about alternative as I highly doubt 50 percent of the market (people not using IE) can all be described as techies.

    They do care about their phone not getting hacked.

    Strawman. Also, many iPhone jailbreaks have been done through browser exploits and since there isn't any real alternative on iOS, the situation of only having Safari and Safari skinned browsers is actually worse for security.

  • by recoiledsnake ( 879048 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @02:46PM (#40091691)

    >Not only that but Chrome books actually has a trivial way for you to "hack" the device itself (you open the battery and flip a switch) which would allow you to install whatever you want on it.

    Flipping that switch does not allow you to install native programs on you Chrome OS, it just allows you to load a different OS.

    From their docs:

    Show a scary warning that its software cannot be trusted, since a command line shell is enabled (press Ctrl-D or wait 30 seconds to dismiss).
    Erase all personal data on the "stateful partition" (i.e., user accounts and settings - no worries, though, since all data is in the cloud!).
    Make you wait between 5 and 10 minutes while it erases the data.

    >Can you even imagine Apple or Microsoft providing consumers with that same option for any device they sell? No.

    Last I heard you could dual boot any PCs or Macbooks to Linux or Windows without having to erase your OS X/Windows data.

  • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @02:49PM (#40091753)

    It may seem that the web has won, and with Ajax and regular HTML 5 that may be the case, but it also is true that a few years ago we had a well-ordered world with 3 platforms at most and now with the mobile revolution we pratically are back in the 80ies with a bazillion proprietary platforms none of which are really compatible to one another.

    You could develop a standard such that it's compatible over all browsers and the server only sends the data and the browser decides how to display it.

    Oh, hang on. We had one of those, it was called HTML. Then web developers started demanding more and more bells and whistles so they could display the page exactly how they wanted it to, and then they had to determine exactly what browser it was being displayed on so they could work out how it wanted to display the page and use different hacks to make it display differently.

  • dumb question, no? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by markhahn ( 122033 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @02:56PM (#40091855)

    or at least one that's been asked a million times before.

    the question is whether you want to use an appliance or a general-purpose device. an appliance is relatively fixed-format, and congruent with the concept of a walled garden, as well as revenue plans that make your vendors mbaciles happy. an appliance normally does not have user-serviceable parts, so the vendor is in control of the UX. appliances are fundamentally fixed-function devices, even if the vendor is able to update and even extend it, since they define what the fixed functions are.

    being general-purpose is the opposite: it means that the owner really does own (control) the device, and can change its function, install software without regard to what the device vendor provides, approves or even knows about. PCs are fully general-purpose, since everything, from the roms to the OS to add-in cards can be replaced by the device owner.

    so the question is really: to what extent is the vendor trying to draw a line across which the device owner cannot cross? no device is truely fixed-function, and even control-freak vendors like Apple provide _some_ affordances through which the device may be extended (hardware connectors, software app-stores). this has always been controversial, since any vendor restriction is at odds with our natural understanding of what "ownership" means (and even companies like Apple tend to show some variance in how locked-down and fixed-function their devices are - I can install Linux on an Apple laptop/desktop without much trouble, but they put a lot of effort into making it hard to root any of the smaller devices.)

    I think it's time we get back to basics: when I buy a device, I should completely control it. any anti-rooting mechanisms should be illegal - the same way it would be illegal for a car vendor to specifically detect and sabotage my car if I put on third-party wheels. sure, make me click through a license-revoking agreement. but if you sell me something, and then take control of it out of my hands, you've committed fraud.

    we should not allow this issue to become an opportunity for vendors to segment their market by selling a version for tinkerers and another for grandma. mostly, vendors have this impulse because their mbaciles want to lock in customers. instead of just selling devices, the popularity of which is subject to whim, the mbacilic approach is to sell service contracts as well, preferably multi-year, to ensure that customers can't get away without paying, even if the vendor's quality degrades. fixed-function devices are inherently like long-term contracts, since customers want upgrades and new apps, and since they're locked in, you can shove profitable advertising down their digital throats, or at least mine their usage/search behaviors.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @03:04PM (#40091979)

    Microsoft is fine with Websockets. It's just that the draft was rapidly changing, and had incompatible versions. It's in a shipped product now IIRC.

  • Re:Choose one (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thoth ( 7907 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @03:12PM (#40092085) Journal

    And I'm sure there are car geeks simply appalled with the car you own, food geeks who would vomit in horror at what you eat, beer/wine geeks who would rather die of thirst than drink whatever it is you like, music geeks who would pierce their eardrums rather than listen to your music collection, etc.

    Basically, not everybody in this world actually cares about the same stuff you do, at the same level of intensity.

  • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @03:37PM (#40092459)

    >>>Safari and dozens of different skins of Safari

    There was a time when Apple was a good company. After Commodore Amiga went to pasture I bought a Quadra Mac (68040) and liked it. A nice easy-to-use system (though it lacked preemptive multitasking). But then it all went downhill.

    Though I now have a PowerPC mac I would never buy another one, or any other apple product, because of their love to lockdown things. Its non-apple products from now on. I want freedom.

  • Re:Choose one (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cyber-vandal ( 148830 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @04:18PM (#40092921) Homepage

    Until it does something unexpected and there are a million different non-working answers on Google. That's why I'm typing this on a Mac.

VMS must die!