One of my favorite bloggers, Carolyn Collins Petersen, has posted some info on how you can follow along with the upcoming Deep Impact collision event. Thanks for the heads-up, Carolyn!!
June 2005 Archives
The Yahoo! team that put this together did a great job (and that includes a cross-platform Toolbar for Firefox.)
I hope to have a more in depth review when I've recovered from Gnomedex and caught up on my Mozilla workload. It's a very interesting service and I can see some great opportunities for Firefox extensions or Greasemonkey scripts (using the Yahoo My Web API) to start layering these community created semantics on top of the live web.
update the first couple of posters seem to have not read the article I linked which says
"The Minister, as part of the plan, has charged all government institutions, both at the national and local level, to by the end of 2005 have worked out a recommendation for the use of open source code in the public sector. Further by the end of 2006 every body of the public sector in Norway must have in place a plan for the use of open source code and open standards."
This is not just about open standards, but open source as well.
Dave Winer explained that RSS was a "juggernaut" and that OPML is "the next web."
Dean Hachamovitch and Amar showed us IE 7 under the theme "Longhorn Loves RSS." IE7's RSS support appears to be a combination of Firefox's Live Bookmarks and Safari's feed view. It's so innovative that it even does RSS auto-discovery and "shows an RSS icon right in the chrome."
Microsoft will be extending the RSS 2.0 specification and release their extensions under a Creative Commons license. The extensions seem to be primarily in simple ordered lists (not hiearchical OPML).
The core of the platform described so far seems to be a feed store in longhorn. This persistent storage mechanism will be accessible through published APIs and most or all Longhorn applications from Microsoft will be RSS aware.
We may see some of this in pre-Longhorn XP (with IE 7?)
After some discussion, we've decided that Firefox and Thunderbird 1.1 and later will no longer support Macintosh OS X 10.1.
We value all of our Macintosh users and this decision wasn't taken lightly but the advantages unsupporting this older version is that we can start to take better advantage of the capabilities of newer versions and drastically improve the Firefox and Thunderbird experience for more contemporary Mac users.
I'm gonna be traveling tomorrow and probably offline most of the day.
Thursday through Saturday I'll be at Gnomedex, "The most affordable conference of its kind," where I expect to do some moving, shaking and deal making with some grade A influencers, entrepreneurs, and tech enthusiasts!
Wish me luck.
Go read what Johnny has to say about killing more popups.
JST's been working on this popups from plugins problem for some time and all of the Firefox 1.1 users are going to see a much improved popup situation. Go read what he's got to say and then test it out on a Deer Park nightly build.
And welcome to the world of the blogging, Johnny!
Unlike the other closed source browsers, Firefox's reach extends when capable individuals decide to take action, not when some browser company decides it's worth their time to support an additional OS. See the latest Firefox port, Firefox for RISC OS (formerly Acorn Computers,) for an example.
Robert Accettura has been sifting through the preliminary Reporter data and is seeing lots of reports that Firefox users are being blocked by certain pages at microsoft.com (and this isn't Windows Update he's talking about.)
C'mon, Microsoft. If the pages are working in Firefox, let the browser through.
Josh Aas has posted an experimental Mac Firefox build that uses the CFRunLoop event system which should drastically improve performance, especially around plugins.
If you're a Mac user, please grab this build and hammer on it for a while. If you find anything that's broken here that's not broken in recent nightly builds, please let me know. If no major regressions turn up or they do and we're able to easily fix them, we might be able to make this change in time for the next Deer Park Alpha.
We're starting to get a handle on the remaining bugs blocking our Deer Park Alpha 2 release and I'm hopefull that we can start getting candidate builds for more widespread testing in the next week or two (though, if you've been following my predictions for any time at all, you'll know I'm always unreasonably optimistic :-)
This second alpha release, like the first, will be targeting developers. We're interested in feedback from web developers, theme and extension developers, and Mozilla-based application developers.
I'll have more info as we get closer so stay tuned.
I gave you all a few of my early impressions of the IE 6 tabbed browsing implementation available in the new MSN search toolbar with tabbed browsing. I was pretty harsh and upon further reflection, I'm still comfortable with those remarks. It is a piece of crap.
Now, what's amusing to me is that I had some assumptions (unexpressed at the time) that since IE 7 was going to be a completely new beast, they'd be able to build a smarter feature there, and that it would be less buggy. Maybe they'll get the less buggy part, but from what I've read over at the IE blog and adam style's blog it doesn't look like they're going to get the smarter, more usable part.
All third party toolbars are going to reside inside of the tabs and have an entirely separate instance for each tab? WTF?
I was just reading the Ars interview with Larry Yaeger and one comment struck me as totally on the mark. He's discussing the Newton and the complete failure of its original handwriting recognition software (created by ParaGraph) which ultimately doomed the Newton project.
The Newton project was now under Larry Tesler, and he led this meeting. I got a chance to use their handwriting recognition. It got 1 out of 10 things I wrote correct. It was terrible. The experience was the same for pretty much everyone. Yet Tesler beamed. I never understood it. Later I learned he'd simply become fascinated by the technology, and its potential, and I guess that blinded him to the realities of the technology at the time.
"he'd simply become fascinated by the technology, and its potential, and I guess that blinded him to the realities of the technology at the time."
I am often guilty of this and I have to reel myself back in at least two or three times a week. Working in such a fascinating industry with some of the brightest people on the planet, it's hard not to get all jazzed up by every new invention. What I think many in this industry have a difficult time with is stepping back and acknowledging the realities of the technologies we're building -- that the overwhelming majority of it is ridiculously complicated and utterly incomprehensible to Regular People.
We're seeing all kinds of amazing technologies coming into our mainstream -- from basics like RSS feed aggregators (and even cooler things like RSS enclosures and podcasting,) to social bookmarking, tagging, social networks, Skype, etc. As producers of innovative technologies, it's critically important that we not get blinded to the usability realities of these new tools and technologies. If we fail to recognize that almost none of what's emerged in the last year is even close to "just working" for Regular People, I think these technologies will remain in our mainstream and never make it into the mainstream.
The web developer site, W3Schools.com, has updated its browser tracking statistics. There's really only one story here.
Today I'm installing FC4, under VMWare Workstation 5 on my ThinkPad T42. Wish me luck :-) I'll update this post with my experience. If you have any suggestions or commentary on FC4, please share it here.
Install was mostly painless (I still don't understand why after requesting my location and language about half a dozen times, the installer still presents the initial clock configuration in 24-hour time.)
Installing VMWare Tools required I grab the kernel sources which don't seem to be included in the default packages any more. Not a huge deal. (I think this was also the case with FC3 but it's been a while since I set that up so I don't remember.)
The theme improvement is nice. I like the buttons and window decoration. The overall feel of GUI is a bit crisper than previous releases.
This "Stretch icon" feature might be nice if the icons didn't look like total crap scaled up beyond their basic size. Are we expecting SVG icons soon, or maybe some higher-res icons at least?
I'm not terribly fond of the default menus at the top of the desktop. First, why are we still including more than a dozen games right up at the top level of the menus like that, most of which will probably never be used by most of the product's users, ever.
The Places menu seems mostly reasonable but this Desktop menu is just awful. Not one item on that menu has anything to do with "Desktop". Why on earth is the menu named that. Also, what the heck is the distinction between Preferences and System Settings. With every release I anticipate this mess being cleaned up and with every release I'm disappointed. What makes "Sound" and "Preferred Applications" preferences while "Display" and "Root Password" are system settings? And why does all of this have to be exposed in primary menus like this. Are we really running the "Soundcard Detection" applet so regularly that it deserves to sit in these menus? The Gnome and Fedora camps could both take a lesson from Firefox here.
The GUI feels pretty responsive (though I've given FC4 just over a GB of RAM to play with and VMWare 5 maybe also just be that much better than VMWare 4.5 (another recent upgrade).
I also think it's a bit uncool that in the default panel launchers, we (Firefox) get called "Web Browser" while Open Office's Writer gets called "OpenOffice.org Writer" - but that's a minor nit.
I'll probably have more as I dig further in.
update: unfortunately, as with FC3, the mozilla.org Firefox builds do not run on this system because, in their infinite wisdom, the FC team stopped shipping libstdc++.so.5. I can't imagine this is a space issue given all the other garbage that's installed in the default packages.
Oh, nice, I can't even get it from the Legacy Software Development package group any more because while that includes -296, it doesn't include -33 (though it's easily harvested from the DVD or disk 3) Jeeze.
update2: I know that some of these issues are app issues, some are Gnome issues, and some are Fedora issues, but that's immaterial. If the Linux desktop is going to be successful with Regular People (who don't make the distinction between the parts that are Fedora and the parts that are Gnome) then things like a painful set of menus need to be corrected. If Gnome doesn't do it, then Fedora needs to. If Fedora doesn't do it, then some other distro will.
It sounds as though a team from the University of California, Santa Cruz has discovered the first terrestrial extra-solar planet! Head over to Space.com for the scoop. Wow. I really wasn't expecting that for a few more years. Awesome!
Thanks to Adaxl for the heads-up. Heise.de has published its May browser statistics. Gecko, driven by the successes of the Firefox web browser continues to occupy the lead spot at 49.2%.
In the last year, Gecko has reversed spots with Microsoft's technology which has dropped to 32.6%. Opera has lost 2.2 points, from a high at almost 10% down to 7.2% in that same timeframe but still holds on to third spot. Apple and KDE have remained under 3% each during the last year with Apple rising slightly and KDE dropping.
Firefox (and Gecko) seem to be doing quite well in Germany with over 20% of the broader market there and up to nearly 50% at popular technology sites like Heise.de. Congratulations and thanks to the German localization team and all those responsible for helping Firefox make such a strong move in Germany over the last year.
Happy birthday, Blake. If your third decade is as productive as your second was, we're all in for some good times on the web.
Net Applications has released more market information noting Firefox's increasing marketshare while IE continues to fall.
FireFox reached 8% during the month of May up from 7.38 % in April. FireFox's gain is Microsoft's loss whose base dipped to 87.23% in May down .77% from April of 2005. Safari also gained a modest tenth of a percentage posting 1.91% in May 2005. Most other browsers experienced little change during the same time period.
While 87-percent market share may seem like market dominance, the numbers are revealing an average of .5 to 1% loss of users each month," noted Dan Shapero, Chief Operating Officer of NetApplications. "FireFox is gaining traction with early adopters and its popularity and adoption rate are starting to tap into mass-market acceptance as buzz continues to build.
Firefox, Netscape, and Mozilla together (Gecko browsers) now account for over 10% of the market as measured by Net Applications. Safari comes in in third place with just under 2% of the market and Opera is the lowest of the measured browser with about one half of one percent of the market.
The more I play with IE + MSN toolbar (now with tabbed browsing) the more I just feel embarrassed for the MSN developers who (probably pushed by 'marketing') released this POS to users in this pre-alpha state.
It's obviosly a hack thats actually based on new windows for each tab. I can crash it at will. It's so flickery as to be completely unusable. It's filled with serious dataloss bugs. It's just crap, plain and simple. Anyone that makes any excuse for this embarrassment, please trackback me because I'm very interested in hearing how anyone can defend it.
A while back Yahoo! promised to continue to improve support for Firefox and they've just made another major leap forward with Firefox support for Yahoo! Avatars.
I take great pride in the work we've done to create and distribute a browser that web developers and web companies want to support. Thanks to everyone over at Yahoo! for helping to build a cross-browser web.
Last night I tried the MSN toolbar's tabbed browsing feature and said of it "it sucks." Today, after another 15 minutes of use I've revised my opinion some; it _really_ sucks :-) Now, I'm not digging into this too much because it's just too painful (and I don't have a lot of motivation to start with) so I might be mistaken about some of this. It's all still just first impressions.
Here's what sucks. First, the flickering of the entire UI when moving between tabs is just horrible. It's enough to give me seizures. Each time you move to a new tab, the entire browser seems to pop in and out of existence. I've got a pretty fast Pentium m with 2GB of RAM in this machine, I'm running the latest and greatest windows update on XPSP2 and this is just awful.
The second problem is the focus stealing. Various IE dialogs steal focus when I'm loading tabs in the background. This is really annoying. The proper solution, I believe, is to hold that dialog modal to the tab (out of site) and flash the tab to indicate that that page needs the user attention. (We don't get this right either, but at least we don't steal focus like IE). Not only do dialogs steal focus, but tabs loading in the bacground themselves distrupts focus on the current page. Overall, this is just way too disruptive an experience to use for any length of time.
The next problem I have is the overflow mechanism. I know this is a tricky one, but their solution of adding the scroll buttons and allowing the currently selected tab to be made invisible is a usability nightmare.
Another problem is that with the default IE button set, menubuttons that become enabled or disabled when moving between different tabs cause the toolbar to shift around when switching tabs and that's just plain ugly. I guess that's what you get for just bolting on a tab implementation withough working through all of the ramifications.
Finally, using Alt+click to open new tabs seems just wrong. On top of that, it seems to fail some of the time for no obvious reason.
Oh, and one last thing, the toggle on the toolbar which determines whether or not your links open in the same tab or a new tab doesn't persist for the window, it's toggled off every time you switch tabs so so you have to remember to toggle it. It doesn't even persist for the tab you toggled it for. This only kind of sucks but is extremely aggrevated by the lack of middle-mouse for open new tab or context menu for open in new tab. Not only that, but with the buggy keyboard modifyer, you can't even count on that to work.
This sure feels "alpha" quality to me. I'm surprised that MS would ship something so broken as a final product. Maybe I'll say more after I've used it a bit more. We'll see.
How was your experience with it?
update: I know I should be focused on Firefox bugs and not IE bugs, but check this out. With the new MSN toolbar, go to here and open any of the examples (located in the upper left corner of the screen) in a new tab.
update2 Ugh. It's so much worse than I thought. Wanna lose some data? Try going into and leaving fullscreen mode with multiple tabs. Try hitting ctrl+w with multiple tabs.
This is just a really poor implementation. I've stopped counting the show-stopper level bugs and I'm gonna just uninstall and move on now. What an embarrassment.
I just downloaded and have been playing for about 15 minutes with the MSN Toolbar. My initial reaction: it sucks.
There's all kinds of flickering in the browser when you create new tabs or switch between tabs. The UI feels a bit clunky and you can't have tabs without also having the search tools displayed. Maybe I'll post more later when I've played a bit more. Maybe I'll just uninstall it.
There have been a lot of people accusing me of hating Opera. They're simply wrong. I don't hate the Opera browser at all. I think it's moving in the right direction and for my use (and I suspect for many power users) it's the second or third best browser available -- depending on whether or not you have access to a Mac.
I have had every version of Opera on my machine for the last 7 or 8 years. I was promoting Opera on my personal website (and so was my wife) well into my Mozilla involvement (which began about 6 years ago.)
This was also the case for Mozilla. It wasn't until we made the move from the ridiculous complex UI (primarily the chaotic and overloaded menus and the franken-preferences) to Firefox with its powerful but lean feature set, that our growth rate among the less savvy web users started it's dramatic rise. The Mozilla Suite peaked at just a couple percent market share, down near Opera's territory. It simply wasn't going to ever be the right browser for a large enough audience to take share away from Microsoft (something that Firefox has been much more successful at.)
I'm a power user. So are most of you. We're all extremely sophisticated and appreciate all kinds of configuration and control. We love spending time learning about how to use our browsers more effectively. There is a market for browsers that cater to people like us -- it's us ;-) We love having our Firefox+extensions and our Opera browsers. We're an ideal target market for Firefox and Opera. Unfortunately, we're a very small market, and getting smaller as a percentage of the overall web population.
You and I are nothing like the overwhelming majority of browser users. Nothing. Most browser users (approaching a billion of them) don't need or want all kinds of configuration and control. They want to get on the web, take care of what they got on to do, and get off -- without difficulty, and most important, without having to learn new features to accomplish that. They understand the basics of entering addresses, clicking links, adding pages to their bookmarks/favorites, using the primary five buttons, and that's about it. They're not interested in learning a whole lot more. They want it to "just work".
As browser makers, Mozilla and Opera can do a lot to make the web a better place and to improve the experience that these users have when they get on the web. But most of that won't be accomplished by adding more user features and more complicated user interaction. Take pop-up blocking. When implemented correctly, pop-up blocking shouldn't require any user interaction 99% of the time. That's a great feature that should "just work" for the user. Anyone moving from pre-XPSP2 IE to Firefox or Opera will have a vastly improved experience of the web and they won't have to learn how to dig through menus or press buttons or anything like that. The more we do to make these kinds of improvements for "normal" users, the better we'll do at growing our user bases.
The big difference I see between Firefox and Opera today is that Firefox, like Opera can satisfy most of the power user audience (by virtue of the nearly 700 available Firefox extensions) but unlike Opera, Firefox is also ready to go, comfortable and capable out of the box, for "normal" users. Opera has made good strides with Opera 8's out of the box experience, but it still has a ways to go if it wants to attract users who fall into the biggest piece of the pie.
I don't hate the Opera browser. My criticism of the feature set and user interaction complexity is not intended to "bash Opera" as many seem to think. I've pointed out what I think needs to improve if Opera is to gain a significant user base. If you're paying much attention, you'll see that the people making the Opera browser also believe that it needs to be easier to use. The move away from complexity, between the 7.5 app and the 8.0 app, seems very much in line with making Opera easier to use and I think makes Opera viable to a somewhat larger audience. A bit more cleanup, and removing the advertising or dropping the cost much closer to 0, I think are necessary (though not sufficient) steps to becoming a mainstream browser. If Opera can start taking significant market share away from IE, I will be cheering right along with the Opera users.
Firefox isn't there yet either. We've got plenty more to do to make the web easier to use. We've also got a ways to go on improving our distribution channels. The next year is going to be crucial for Firefox and while I'm confident we're up for the challenge, we're not yet where we need to be.
update Ingrid Marson, over at C|Net has published a short article noting this post.
Opera Software seems to have decided that it's easier to lie than to win. Here's the chain of events as best as I can tell.
PC World announced their 100 Best Products of 2005.
Firefox not only won the coveted Product of the Year award, sweeping all 99 other products in the list, but it beat out two other browsers, Maxthon at number 12 and Opera way down at number 88.
Opera puts out a press release claiming "A Winning Streak: Opera once again wins PC World's World Class Award for best Web browser". Opera.com then places this same thing on their front page (see the third checkbox with the claim that they've won best browser in '05.)
Conclusion: Opera is simply lying. They were one of 100 products to be labeled as "World Class" but they did not win any "best Web browser" anything. They were last in the ranking of three web browsers. They got beat by both Maxthon and Firefox.
update 2: While they still haven't fixed the press release that states they won the PC World Best Browser of 2005, or done anything make a correction available for those who reprinted that press release, one of their employees, Haavard, has commented at his blog/journal saying "it appears that Opera might not have won the best browser of 2005 award from PC World after all". It looks like he's also locked the discussion in their community forums here and here.
update 3: OK, the press release is corrected and Opera's saying it was all just an innocent mistake.
I wanted to remind everyone testing Deer Park Alpha 1 that we need your help in analyzing billions of web pages out there. I simply can't do it by myself ;-)
If you did a custom install and included the Reporter tool, then when ever you hit a website that doesn't look or behave correctly, please go to the Help menu, select the Report Broken Websites, and just follow the instructions in the resulting wizard.
We'll analyze these reports in aggregate and use them to tackle any regressions in Gecko and to help evangelize standards-based solutions to sites using proprietary code.
If you've got Deer Park Alpha 1 and you didn't install the Reporter tool, please reinstall and select the custom option. Thanks.
Again, there are billions of pages out there and I can't check them all myself, so please report any sites you find not working correctly with the new tool. Thanks.
In case you ran across this report that the "Mozilla Suite aka Mozilla Application Suite aka Mozilla 1.x is changing name to SeaMonkey" I wanted to point out that it's inaccurate in several ways.
First, the Mozilla Suite, aka Mozilla Application Suite, aka Mozilla 1.x is _not_ being renamed. It will never be renamed. Those names will continue to describe the suite of applications maintained by the Mozilla Foundation on the Mozilla 1.7 branch. The latest release of this product is Mozilla 1.7.8 and is available from here. Maintenance releases will continue from this branch so expect to see a Mozilla 1.7.9, Mozilla 1.7.10, Mozilla 1.7.11, etc.
Second, there is a new project, organized by a new community group, to build and release a new suite (similar to the official Mozilla Application Suite which is now officially in maintenances mode). This new project will necessarily have a new name. That name is being worked on now and the current hope is to secure the name "Seamonkey" for this new project.
To repeat, The Mozilla Application Suite is in maintenances mode on the 1.7 branch and will retain it's name(s) for as long as we continue to support it (years.) There is a new project with the goal of building a new application suite from the trunk. This project is not Mozilla 1.x (the Mozilla Application Suite, or the Mozilla Suite). This project is searching for a new name and hopes to secure the name "Seamonkey".
If and when this new project does do a release, it will probably be called Seamonkey 1.0. It will not be the Mozilla Foundation supported upgrade path for Mozilla 1.x users. Those users are encouraged to migrate to Firefox and Thunderbird or continue to use the security maintenances releases of Mozilla 1.x. Again, this is a new project and it will necessarily have a new name. It is not the renaming of an old project.
Oh, and third, the new name hasn't been finalized either :-)
We're back from a very enjoyable vacation (more on that in a later post.) With the exception of about two hours, we were without phone and internet service most of the trip so I've got some catching up to do :-)
From reading the comments here and a quick skim of my email, it looks like a lot of interesting things have happened in the last week.
First, on the Mars front, Opportunity has driven free of the sand dune that's had her trapped for some time. You can read the good news over at Steve Squyres' weblog. In addition to the great news about the MER, it's also come down from NASA that the 2007 Mars Pheonix Lander has been green-lighted. I mentioned this project back in January (also mentioned in my NASA briefings coverage here, here, and here.) This is an interesting project because it's built from components and ideas originally designed for earlier missions. The lander will arrive at Mars in mid-2008.
On the Firefox front, Deer Park Alpha 1 was released (Chofmann, Chase, Marcia, Tracy, Sarah and Jay, you guys ROCK!)
In general news of interest to me, and maybe you, C|Net has added an Open Source category to its C|NET Networks UK Technology Awards, XYZ Computing says that the browser wars are back, Google announced the Summer of Code, and Yahoo is beta'ing a new kind of search.
Oh, and I shouldn't forget to mention that Microsoft announced that IE 7 will not be available for Win2K. This comes as no surprise to me. For the 200+ million users of pre-XP systems: Microsoft has abandoned you. It's time to Get Firefox!
Tomorrow I return to work and more regular blogging.