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The State of Web Browsers – 2019 edition (ferdychristant.com)
51 points by zwliew 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 45 comments



This article celebrates the proposition that "Almost every user will experience websites the way they were intended to be experienced." I doubt this is a good thing.

I enable Safari or Firefox Reader View. I no longer "experience websites the way they were intended to be experienced." Because it's way, way better! When will Chrome implement a reader mode? Dumb question: they barely snuck it in on Android and drag their feet everywhere else.

Browsers may be the user's ally or adversary. We know which one Chrome is. Microsoft has one hell of an opportunity here - not in a financial sense, but in a way that could greatly benefit Windows users.


Very good point, and 100% agree.

Browsers need to be on the side of users, if only because authors are demonstrably terrible at user experience.

This isn't just because there's intrusive, bright/colorful/motion ads everywhere (though that's part of it). It's because authors suck at font choice, text size, line length, line height, text/background color & contrast, reflow across device sizes, and all the other basics of written content.

Browsers need to also do things like:

- make content more accessible to people with visual impairments and other disabilities

- filter out content that doesn't need to be loaded

- translate content into your language

- make content appear consistent across sites and according to your preference (e.g. most recently, dark mode)

- protect users from malicious content

- bake in standard functionality like sharing & bookmarks

A necessary feature of browsers should be 'render the author's intent faithfully', but that's by no means sufficient in today's browser market. Browsers are translators of content, both figuratively and literally. They're a window to another world, but also your guide. We need a guide we can trust, something that's on our side.


I agree that authors suck at font choice, text size, line length, line height, text/background color & contrast, etc. I generally do not specify any in documents I write, instead the client will render the document according to the user settings; this also reduces the file size. (In fact, I would even want to ensure most of them will work on Lynx, too.) (Also, many thing I write I use plain ASCII text files anyways; that is far more portable than HTML anyways)

It need on the side of users not only because authors are demonstrably terrible at user experience, but also the user may wish to override anything.


Chromium - and with that I assume Chrome - has a reader mode, you just need to enable it on startup. They call it 'DOM distiller' instead of 'reading mode' but it does more or less the same thing. It can be enabled using the command line parameter '--enable-dom-distiller', just add it to $CHROMIUM_FLAGS (which I assume is called $CHROME_FLAGS when using the Google-branded product...?) and choose 'Distill Page' in the menu to see what it does.

https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Chromium/Tips_and_trick...

https://chromium.googlesource.com/chromium/dom-distiller


So user-friendly. /s


I want a browser that defaults to “reader view” ... I don’t even want to see the web as it was “intended to be viewed” if it means endless tracking, wasting my battery life & optimization for addictive ness.

Remember when stylesheets were just a suggestion & you were supposed to be able to swap it out for your own preferences?


What the author is missing is that Google is not forever the owner of the dominant browser engine, and in fact, if Microsoft executes well, they might well take control of Chromium in a few short years. All Microsoft has to do is persuade Windows users that the new Chromium-based Edge (CEdge) is so good that it is no longer necessary to download Chrome. Because of Microsoft's still-dominant position on the desktop, CEdge will become the most popular web browser. At that point Microsoft can fork Chromium and now they own the dominant engine! Google did this to Apple when they forked Webkit and now Microsoft can do it to Google.

In fact, Google is doing everything they can to help Microsoft do this. Consider the fact that logging into Gmail from Chrome logs you into Chrome. (Yes, there is an option to disable this but that's a fake non-functioning option.) If Microsoft offers better privacy--and they will--CEdge will be the preferred browser in no time!


They can just fork the Chrome code base if Google ditches its "Don't Be Evil" mantra (oh wait).

Actually Microsoft is being real smart here because the swell over time will become Chrome is Microsoft Edge so why do you need to install Chrome? This is the downfall for Chrome IMO.


As a non-google user, their chrome entanglement is what keeps me away. If MSFT does what you predict, I could see myself stepping away from Mozilla. More so because I like keeping the system as barebones as possible. So if there is no added benefit to installing Firefox — I won’t.


Firefox will always be because I'm pretty sure I read Mozilla has half a billion dollars banked.


They do, but that's about one year's worth of expenses for Mozilla.


They might have to become slimmer, then. I doubt they had $1B/year expenses back when Firefox first started gaining on IE, after all.


Browsers were simpler and cheaper to develop back then. Mozilla's yearly budget today is roughly what Google spends on marketing for Chrome alone.


Sources people, sources


I have a hard time believing that Chrome spends half a billion on advertising each year, given that Google can run its own ads for free. Perhaps that's a estimate for what an equivalent ad campaign would cost a third-party? I agree. A source for that would be useful.

My source on Mozilla financials is the "Mozilla Foundation and Subsidiary: 2016 & 2017 Independent Auditors' Report and Consolidated Financial Statements" - https://assets.mozilla.net/annualreport/2017/mozilla-fdn-201...


What you are describing is a very large ad campaign. Chrome is advertised on the most valuable piece of web real estate in the world; Microsoft would have to spend quite a bit to offset this. And for what? If Edge exists to drive traffic to Microsoft web properties, then it makes no sense to advertise on this level.

I very much like privacy, but better privacy is only a market winner when coupled with an advertising budget. Firefox has proven that.


Microsoft's ad campaign would be their desktop.


They tried that with edge.


Edge had other problems - most notably, having its own engine that was neither quite IE nor WebKit/Blink nor Gecko, it had to be specifically tested. So there was a chicken and egg problem there - getting web devs to support it was hard because there were no users, but getting users to adopt it was hard because many websites didn't work quite right.

Problem is, at this point it would be hard to convince people to try Edge again.


I think it all comes back to two major issues. First, Microsoft jumped into Edge way too fast when it really wasn't in a position to complete thoroughly enough with Chrome or Firefox. For users interested in the touch interface (I prefer the slightly larger buttons, context menus, etc, even when I'm on keyboard and mouse/trackpad), it was acceptable and had more usable features than the rest, but the actual site rendering, options, and extension support was completely missing, so users went back to what made them comfortable: Chrome.

The second issue is that Microsoft (and it's not just them, here) is terrible about advertising their new features. It's hard to get users to go through walk-throughs and tutorials when they first set up a device, because most users just want to jump to actually using the devices, but I'm a big fan of the 12-15 tab slideshows that Mac devices show right when you first update. It's not thoroughly intrusive (it's pretty similar to Microsoft's "Tips" app), but it's got animations and really shows how useful the features could be.

Microsoft has to get better at showing off new features, and they REALLY need to get better at making extensions available to users. The Microsoft Store just doesn't feel like the best place for Edge Extensions as it is right now.


They may have to rename the browser again.


- 63% of browsing is done on mobile. Having a dominant position on the desktop doesn’t mean much.

https://www.stonetemple.com/mobile-vs-desktop-usage-study/

If people cared about privacy, they wouldn’t be using Facebook of anything Google made.


> If people cared about privacy, they wouldn’t be using Facebook of anything Google made.

Except both of those companies still track your activity across the web, with or without an account... In order to care about privacy, a user has to do a hell of a lot more than just not use any of these invasive services.


The other half of the equation is an ad blocker....

iOS has a built in content blocking framework that other developers can plug into

The content blockers submit rules to iOS that Safari uses - the ad blocker doesn’t have access to your browsing history.


What % of that is Chrome vs Safari? On Androids Microsoft could cut a deal with Samsung to ship CEdge.


It depends on the country.

In the US, iOS has more market share - it surprised me too. iOS market share is relatively high in more affluent countries.

http://gs.statcounter.com/os-market-share/mobile/united-stat...

https://deviceatlas.com/blog/android-v-ios-market-share


This assumes that people aren't using Edge because the engine isn't good enough. I don't think that is true.


> In fact, Google is doing everything they can to help Microsoft do this. Consider the fact that logging into Gmail from Chrome logs you into Chrome.

Is that feature and others like Chrome syncing your bookmarks available to non-official Chrome browsers?


Actually Chrome’s API is not available for Chromium browsers so that can’t be an issue.


Ten+ years ago, we derided Microsoft for having a dominant position by bundling IE on the Windows desktop, and the resultant 'This site is best viewed in IE' banners all over the web. As Chrome/Google are now in the same position, are we now heading for a resurrection of these banners that say 'This site best viewed in Chrome' ?

A monopoly on anything is rarely a good thing.


That's already happening. Not with banners, but notes. I could imagine them becoming more obtrusive in the future.


I think we're probably at a mature enough point in websites-as-documents that browser compatibility won't be an issue, except in very specific more cutting edge media like 3d where they're dependent on non-standard features.

However, on the apps side, there's definitely a preference for Chrome. I've noticed a couple web apps over the past few years do this, recently and most notably Coda (https://coda.io).


How about the fact that AOL basically got entirely pushed out of the messenger business for making their messages only work on their messaging platform (this gave Trillion and others a way of including AIM in their software).

Fast forward to today, where every messaging platform is proprietary, yet there's no lawsuit to force them to open their systems out to other messaging software...


A lot of web browser software just isn't very good. I have mentioned how to do better way in my opinion. One principle is that the user can customize everything and it assumes the user know what they are doing and wants it, while the data from the remote server is assumed to be hostile (regardless of whether it is HTTPS or not). There are other principles too, to use. (One feature of Firefox I don't like is when you try to save a webpage it tries to use the title of the document by default; the title does not usually make a very good filename. The filename in the URL is often better.)

However, often HTML/HTTP(S) is just the wrong protocol for many things (I am not so sure it is so good for this Hacker News either!); we have other protocols as well as other file formats, such as plain text over HTTP, plain text over gopher, telnet/SSH for interactive sessions, IRC for chat, NNTP, SMTP, MIDI, and one reason I invented Remote Virtual Table Protocol for exposing data sources.


> However, often HTML/HTTP(S) is just the wrong protocol for many things

Indeed! First we lost all of the IP protocols except TCP and UDP, thanks to aggressive firewalls. NAT managed to kill any hope of end-user hosts acting as true servers, so we ended up with a client-server internet.

Another round of aggressive firewalling killed off pretty much everything except for 53/udp, 80/tcp, and 443/tcp. Middleboxes playing with unencrypted DNS and HTTP then broke 53/udp (good luck introducing new RR types or extending the protocol now!) and 80/tcp. Now we're left with HTTPS on 443/tcp as our only remaining protocol that actually works reliably for end users in the real world internet.

[Not to mention the fact that iOS and Android 8+ both prevent applications from holding long-lived server connections. Want real-time notifications? No choice but to go through the vendor's push notification service.]


I could care less about concerns about monoculture in web browsers. The web is now dominated by a open source browser that works across many platforms. That's a dream come true.

I'm more concerned about where the internet as a whole is heading. All the privacy violations and censorship that's going around makes me want to find an alternative or maybe become a hermit.


The web is dominated by a closed source browser built on an open source core, owned by the company that has the most private information and power to censor of any public company.


> I could care less about concerns about monoculture in web browsers. The web is now dominated by a open source browser that works across many platforms. That's a dream come true.

This is an optimistic take on the situation. A more grim one would be that the web is now dominated by a nominally open browser that caters to the whims of a single corporation that would like nothing better to have complete control over the web, using its leverage over the dominant browser to push de-facto standards that will end up being adopted by others. The truth is likely somewhere in between those two extremes, or a mix of both.

> I'm more concerned about where the internet as a whole is heading. All the privacy violations and censorship that's going around makes me want to find an alternative or maybe become a hermit.

And, unfortunately, said company doesn't have a particularly spotless record on this front.


Unfortunately, Google is not the only party interested in pushing censorship and accessing your private lives. Nearly every company big and small making money online has their hands in it. And it's not just companies involved either.

Changing the browser engine doesn't change the power these organizations have either. They would still be doing these things if Gecko was the dominant engine.


A follow-up to this recent submission:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18617189

State of web browsers in 2018 (ferdychristant.com)

212 points by petethomas 2 days ago | 196 comments


In the thriving mid-2000s, there was Trident (Microsoft), Gecko (Mozilla) and Webkit (Apple forks KHTML). Presto (Opera) and KHTML proper brought up the rear. Basically three major companies/organizations.

Today we have: Blink, Gecko, Webkit. Basically three major companies/organizations. Goanna (Pale Moon: old FF codebase) brings up the rear here.

Like before, one company takes a huge lead. It was Microsoft, now it's Google. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The only thing that's changed for me is that I feel much more protective of the work Mozilla is doing with Firefox. I consider them vital whereas before, they were an option.

Note to Mozilla: stop playing around with borderline business practices that force users to question your ethics.

source, browser engines: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Browser_engine


So what exactly is wrong Safari in terms of Web Standards, what is missing that pisses people off? I see lots of Safari bashing but I have yet to see a list of features / functions / bugs to back it up.


Apple seemingly refuses to implement modern web APIs, especially those required for SPA's, in Mobile Safari. The popular theory is that this is to avoid SPAs threatening their App Store.


So which "modern" Web API did Apple refuse to implement ?


i wanted a graph, he wrote 2 articles which were too long to enjoy with no graphs :(




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