UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Archive for the ‘browser’ Category

Who Needs Social Networks? I’ve Got Opera Unite

Posted by Brian Kelly on 16 Jun 2009

Opera, the browser vendor, have released a new version of their browser, Opera Unite. And they launched their browser will the slogan “Today, we reinvent the Web“. So what’s behind this rather grandiose claim?


Opera Unite allows you to easily share your data: photos, music, notes and other files. You can even run chat rooms and host entire Web sites with Opera Unite. It puts the power of a Web server in your browser, giving you greater privacy and flexibility than other online services.

In addition:

What if you use Opera at home, and a different Web browser at work? Opera Unite services can be accessed from any modern browser, including mobile browsers! At home, just select what you want to share, and you can view it later using your work Web browser without any problems.

A post on sums this up nicely “Opera Unite: Web Browser Becomes the Web Server“. But do we need another Web server environment? Do we need the ability of every networked PC to be able to share files? What are the networking implications? What are the security implications? How will we find the stuff?

I suspect this may the the reaction of members of institutional Web teams. But, on the other hand, mightn’t this free us from a reliance of the commercial sector and the concerns we have over companies such as Facebook? And might not the innovative e-learning developers welcome the opportunity to explore how the sharing of learning resources and the use of collaborative technologies can be provided without having to rely on the local Web services team whilst avoiding the need to deal with companies such as Google and Facebook. Opera, it might appear, are unlikely to have a desire to take over the networked world as Google, Facebook and Microsoft want to do.

Have Opera really reinvented the Web? And is this announcement good news or bad? Or perhaps it is irrelevant – this is file sharing for home users and need not concern those of us who work in a networked environment?

Posted in browser | Tagged: , | 16 Comments »

“#firefoxcrashes or #firefoxisfine”

Posted by Brian Kelly on 12 Jun 2009

Recently the FireFox browser has been crashing on me.  But because FireFox is a Good Thing TM I’ve tending to gloss over the problems (we do this for our loved ones, don’t we). But when the browser started to crash consistently when embedded images in this blog I decided enough was enough. I’ve moaned a bit on Twitter about FireFox over the past few days and was interested to see that other people had had similar experiences. So I thought I’d try and find out how widespread this problem might be.

In order to minimise the time and effort in analysing responses  I sent the tweet:

Firefox is crashing frequently. Is this true for others? Respond with #firefoxcrashes or #firefoxisfine. Please RT.

I then used the search capabilities in Tweetdeck to search for tweets containing #firefoxcrashes or #firefoxisfine (bearing in mind that retweets would contain both strings. The response are illustrated in the screen shot (or you can see the live search results for #firefoxcrashes and #firefoxisfine).

Twitter responses to "#firefoxcrashes" or "#firefoxisfine"
There seems to be growing evidence that FireFox is not as reliable as we might have expected. And as I know a number of the people who responded I am confident that these responses aren’t coming from people who think that open source software is some form of communism, but from people who prefer the FireFox browser to Internet Explorer.

The next question might be “what is the cause of the problem?” A couple of people suggested it might be FireFox plugin bloat or maybe problems with specific FireFox plugins.

The final question is “what do I do next?” Tolerating the problem was no longer acceptable, so I wondered whether I should use Google Chrome (which is installed on my PC) as my main browser. But I also wondered whether it would be timely to try out a new browser, But rather than installing Apple’s Safari browser, which a couple of people suggested, I decided to try out Flock.

However during the installation of Flock I also restarted my PC, which had been put in hiberation at the end of the working day for a while. And as there were various plugins I was missing I decided to restart FireFox – which I’m now finding is working fine. So I think I’ll stick with FireFox unless the problems re-occur.

But to me the ease of getting a rapid and semi-structured response from Twitter was the most interesting part of the exercise.  A couple of people responded asking for details of my operating system I was running, FireFox version number, installed plugins, etc. Now I could have set up a SurveyMonkey form to gather such information – but I know that not many would have responded. I feel that the important thing was that the survey was available from within the recipient’s environment – they could immediately respond from whichever Twitter client they were using.

What, though, of the others for whom #firefoxcrashes? What do you intend to do? Opera, Chrome, Safari, Flock – or even the other browser?

Posted in browser, Twitter | 6 Comments »

The Demise of Netscape Navigator

Posted by Brian Kelly on 1 Mar 2008

Netscape Navigator logoAn article entitled In praise of … Netscape Navigator announced  that today (Saturday, 1 March 2008) sees the official end of support for the Netscape Navigator Web browser.

The “In praise of” column does indeed praise Netscape for “opening the web, [and] pav[ing] the way for everything from Google to Wikipedia“.

What the column doesn’t say is the that the browser went from strength to strength after it was launched by ignoring standards bodies and introducing several new proprietary HTML extensions which infuriated HTML standards groups when they were released. As an article in Wikipedia describes:

Through the late 1990s, Netscape made sure that Navigator remained the technical leader among web browsers. Important new features included cookies, frames, and JavaScript (in version 2.0). Although those and other innovations eventually became open standards of the W3C and ECMA and were emulated by other browsers, they were often viewed as controversial. Netscape, according to critics, was more interested in bending the web to its own de facto “standards” (bypassing standards committees and thus marginalizing the commercial competition) than it was in fixing bugs in its products. Consumer rights advocates were particularly critical of cookies and of commercial web sites using them to invade individual privacy.

But why is the Guardian praising Netscape, if the company behaved in this fashion? Well I think the Guardian was right when it says that “Everyone from secretaries to salesmen started logging on” thanks to the initial success an popularity of the browser.  But let’s not rewrite history and suggest that this was due to the software vendor supporting old standards – rather, and ironically, its success was due to flouting the standisation processes and forcing innovations (which, in some cases, subsequently became standardised) through seeking to position itself as the dominant vendor in the marketplace.

Netscape Navigator usageOf course, although they were the dominant player for a short period, this did not last, with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser eventually finding itself as the world’s most widely-used browser, despite the appeal which FireFox has to its admirers.

Strange how  things turn out.

Posted in browser | 2 Comments »

Firefox Use In UK Is Near The Bottom Of The League

Posted by Brian Kelly on 26 Feb 2008

Via a post on Seb Schmoller’s blog I came across an XiTi Monitor article which gives statistical data on usage of FireFox across Europe.

The news isn’t good for use supporters of the open source Web browser, with usage in the UK in December 2007 at 17.2%, with only Ukraine and the Netherlands below. The top three countries which make use of FireFox are Finland (45.4%), Slovenia (44.6%) and Poland (42.4%).

Firefox Usage Across Europe

I must admit I find these figures disappointing and also somewhat surprising. Last year I wrote a post entitled FireFox – The Researchers Favourite Application? in which I was confident the the clear superiority of FireFox over its competitors would lead to much greater use of FireFox as a platform, with increased use of FireFox plugins. Mark Sammons, however, responded by arguing that “Firefox is not Enterprise-ready enough to be considered for migration from IE” and Phil Wilson agreed with Mark’s comment: “I’m glad Mark wrote that comment because it’s exactly what I was going to write when I read your post Brian“.

The evidence, it seems, backs up Mark and Phil’s views – for whatever reasons, FireFox isn’t the success many of us would have hoped for within the UK. Sad, but true.

Posted in browser | 6 Comments »

A New Search Interface for HERO

Posted by Brian Kelly on 26 Sep 2007

I have been reading the September issue of the HERO Headlines magazine, which provides “the latest news from HERO Ltd, the company behind the UK’s official online gateway to higher education and research opportunities“.

An article in the magazine describes the release of a search tool which can be added to Internet Explorer and Firefox browser to enable the Web site to be searched directly from the browser, without first having to go to the HERO Web site. Use of this search facility to search for articles about UKOLN is shown in the diagram.

Search for 'UKOLN' on Hero Web site

At one stage there was a tendency in various Web development circles that browser-specific enhancements should be avoided, as they don’t necessarily provide universal solutions (in this case, users of the Opera browser may feel disenfranchised). I don’t go along with this argument – I feel that this provides a richer and easier-to-use solution for many users, whilst still allowing users of more specialist browsers (or old versions of Internet Explorer or Firefox) to search the Web site in the traditional way.

Congratulations to HERO for this development. Now how many institutions are configuring their browsers with similar search interfaces for their institutional Web site, I wonder?

Posted in browser, search | 6 Comments »