Jumat, 01 April 2011

The Browser Wars Get Dumber

The Browser Wars Get Dumber

Once upon a time there was NCSA Mosaic. And then there was Netscape Navigator, and then there was Internet Explorer.
And then, Netscape begat Mozilla. And then there was KHTML. And then KHTML begat WebKit, which begat Safari (after a failed tryst between Mozilla and Apple). And then Mozilla begat Firefox. And then there was Opera. And then WebKit begat Chrome.
And that describes the history of most of the major browsers available on Windows up until now.
The rivalry between Mozilla and WebKit based browsers in particular has got a lot of bad blood associated with it. WebKit was created by Apple as the basis of Safari after Apple took a look at Mozilla and decided it was too bloated (which it was at the time, being a whole communications suite instead of a lean mean browser). Mozilla’s response was to create Firefox. So the main browsers for a while were Safari, Firefox, IE and Opera. Mozilla cruised along with Firefox through the first three releases, until Google rolled out Chrome, based again on WebKit. Suddenly Mozilla felt threatened again, and they rushed out a very similar looking Firefox, copying many Chrome features. So Mozilla can be characterised as reactionary rather than innovative. Clearly, Mozilla feels they have to prove that their open source development model can keep up with market realities.
Chrome is an interesting and yet dumb piece of software. The dumb part is the installer that comes with it. The default mode of installation for Chrome, when you go to Google’s website and click on the download button, is a local installation for the current user only that runs from their AppData folder. It is specifically designed to get around application installation restrictions that an administrator may have placed on a system. As such Chrome is written by a bunch of cowboys.
The way that you are supposed to be able to do a global installation is by downloading a version of Chrome called “ChromeStandAlone”. But it still incorporates similar dumb behaviour as the regular version. The only time I have been able to make the standalone installer do a global installation is when starting from scratch with a brand new installation of Windows. As soon as the image got sysprepped and deployed, ChromeStandAlone switched back to local install mode. Even when it is installed properly, the first time any user runs it, it has to waste time creating a shortcut on that user’s desktop, even if there is one in the public desktop already. Bet it doesn’t know how to uninstall hundreds of extra Chrome shortcuts when the administrator decides to uninstall it. Dumb, dumb, dumb…
When I see all the dumb ways that companies like Apple and Google try to hijack the Windows platform to advertise their own (Apple puts videos of Steve Jobs into iTunes, Google does the above kind of thing) I think how dumb do these companies think users are? No, it is these companies who are just plain dumb.

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