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Once upon a time…. Firefox

A couple of months ago, my son was struggling with the old laptop from his elder sister. Old laptop, running the same original Vista since 4 years…. you know what I am talking about, right? Bad, very bad perfomances. The kind of performances where you cannot event enjoy surfing the web….

The teen-ager was not so hot on the fact that his old IT daddy would try to fix something…
…but, once he asked me an opinion on something he was doing and I saw something unexpected on his laptop: “Hey, are you running Chrome?“.

Yes, dad, it is the only way I can use this old PC“.

My son, for my great disillusion, is not at all a “tech guy”. He just uses the PC, without asking too many questions about how it really works. Internet, MSN, Facebook, Google, Wikipedia….. He just “has an hotmail mail account” (despite I have a domain name and an hosted IMAP server… in my naivety I thought he would have found cool to have an email address containing his family name after the “@”….).

As a person with a minimum of “computer culture”, I would have thought to Firefox first…. Why? because …
ah yes, because it is cool and it has a lot of handy exstensions (could I leave without Foxear, Scribefire, Tmmy and Session Manager ?)

Indeed, I have Chrome as well (and I wrote a long article on it and some other posts). But I do not use as my daily gateway to the Internet world.

I just use Chrome via the “Chrome Applications”. For instance I created one for BluePages so that, when I need to find the BP record for a collegue, I quickly fire the Chrome BluePages icon… et voilà, I quickly get to where I need.

So, I have Chrome and I seldomly use it. I would have never thought to get Chrome as THE ALTERNATIVE to IE !

But my son, who “just uses” the PC… well he installed Chrome and uses it everyday (by the way, at Christmas he got a brand new laptop and, guess what, he still uses Chrome even if the PC is very very fast…)

Why ?
Well, at the end because of the same reason I created my Chrome Bluepages application: speed!

I (the father, the “pseudo-geek” or the “once-the-geek”) use Firefox because I like the extensions and because I got used to it. Actually it was “cool” in 2003 when I started using it and, in reality, the only extension I could not avoid is Foxear. But, sort of “I choose Firefox because I like the container in which I play“.

I think my son does not care about the container. He cares about the content. And the quickest way to get to the content is Chrome. Full stop.

I thought to this post when I read this article : “Why Firefox is doomed“. I do not know if firefox is really “doomed”…

…but I think Firefox lost the train (or, at least, one train). It lost the possibility to establish a new pattern for accessing the web. I am not that good to validate the merit of a given technology, but I think that XUL could have become something closer to RIA and Firefox the tool that would have helped transforming the web of pages into the web of applications. Concentrating on the content more than on the container.

Microsoft paving the road to Google towards a common target?

Couldn’t resist from posting this after having read the artcile “The 5 best, and 5 worst, features of Google Chrome OS“.
At page 2 of the article, we can read the following:

A surprising way to support Microsoft Office. If you ask a Google executive any question involving Microsoft, you’ll hear the cliche answer — that they company thinks only of users and not of its perceived competitors. But in one of the giggle-inducing moments of Thursday’s demo, Pichai, showed how Chrome OS would handle Office documents — via Microsoft Office Live, the free Web app version of Office available to Windows Live users. If a user clicks on an .xls document, Chrome launches Excel via the browser in Office Live. “Microsoft launched a killer app for Chrome OS …and is working very hard to do that,” he quipped.

Cool, isn’t it?
Outside of joking, the other thing that hit me in this article was the following point:

The application menu. As new Web applications come online tweaked for Chrome OS, Chrome OS will showcase them on a permanent tab it now calls the application menu. This will help users find new applications. Developers with new apps will find this an easier method to showcase them, too. Any Web application that runs in a standards compliant browser should work on a Chrome OS device. But Chrome OS is focused on supporting new protocols such as HTML 5, which, among other improvements, natively supports rich media.

We find a (rather not surprisingly) similarity between the two talks. They both use the browser as a trojan-horse for a way in which applications delivered over the web can be executed as native applications. In this sense, I think, the fact that Silverlight is not a browser technology and Chrome-OS is supposed to fully use HTML 5, is just a technological detail.

On the browers again

An article on ZDNet UK reports the following:

…Silverlight 4 will also host HTML content using a control that supports media plug-ins — so Flash will run inside Silverlight applications.
Business applications written in Silverlight will become more like ordinary applications, Guthrie said, and will now be able to print, access the Windows clipboard, and use more mouse actions, including context menus.
Access is also extended to low-level Windows features such as the Windows Communication Foundation, and Silverlight 4’s development tools
will work with the upcoming Visual Studio 2010.

Out-of-browser applications can now be installed as trusted apps that run outside the Silverlight sandbox on both Windows and Macintosh, Guthrie said, with trusted applications getting access to the local file system and external devices…

I wrote a post almost exactly one year ago, The Struggle for the Soul of the Web.

The browser is universal, but people do not only interact with web sites. People use applications!
The road paved by the iPhone of having dedicated applications delivered just to the point, remembers us that the new technologies for the web need to exploit the power of the devices on which they run.

Perhaps this is what Firefox is indeed planning, according to this article:

“The browsers that are on the horizon aren’t just incremental changes — they represent the pieces to build the next-generation Web — rich with standards-based graphics, new JavaScript libraries and full blown applications,” wrote Christopher Blizzard, an open source evangelist with Mozilla, on Mozilla’s Hacks blog.

Let’s hope it !

Who is David and who is Goliath ?

I am reading this article, Ballmer still searching for an answer to Google. The article explains that Microsoft “may be the only company in a position to provide ‘any real competition’ for Google in the online search business.“, that it may invest some significant amount of money in a “five-year task” :

We need to do some work to fundamentally reinvent the search business model… You don’t brute-force your way into a market. You only make great strides when you redefine the category for the user.

Well, it is not simple to understand who Goliath is in this case (because, of course, we would try to support David here). So, who is David? I personally think that promoting a real alternative to Google can only be great for all of us, the users. I would have certainly preferred that an alternative to Google would have been provided by a non-for-profit organization. I want, though, highlight two points:

  1. the idea of reinventing the search business model is, IMHO, great. Let’s stop copying what others do… Let’s put the face on!
  2. providing alternatives to an hegemonic system is too important.

From Internet to Oligarchy

The recent announcement of Microsoft’s intention to buy Yahoo! is, in my opinion, marking the end of the short, initial period during which the Internet was populated by different subjects. During these initial 15 years, the proliferation of different subjects, all fighting against everybody else to gain market share, was allowing independent producers to break in and to find niches not yet occupied by the principal subjects (which were too much busy in fighting….).

The Yahoo! acquisition will, at the end, create a de-facto oligarchy. The two actors (Microsoft and Google) will split their dominance on the world of the Internet thus, de-facto, preventing independent forms of content production to flourish.

The fault of this lays, in my opinion, on the weakness with which the Business and Political worlds accepted the enormous power of Google.

  • It is very sad to see that, instead of facilitating more democracy and competition (and, thus innovation!) by forcing a split of Google or by empowering a non-profit organization for managing the “Internet Search” business, the lack of governance of this fundamental aspect of the modern world (the Internet) allowed the creation of this oligarchy.
  • It is sad to see that, from now on, opposing to Google would imply choosing Microsoft!
  • It will be interesting to understand which effects this new situation will have on IT departments and on the “providers of IT departments” (editors, consulting firms, outsourcing…)
    Will a more safe dominant position in the Internet area (with all the cash flow that could happen from that) change the way in which Microsoft will approach and will be approached by IT shops?
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