January 2009 Archives
I sure hope not, but it's looking more and more like there will be two distinct experiences of the Web, one that moves forward with impressive applications and exciting and fast new capabilities, and one that's stuck in a performance dungeon and offers little or nothing new for users.
Will Internet Explorer and Opera join the modern era of browsers and build JS engines that can compete? Or will they continue to hold us all back?
Just in time, the new Foxkeh February wallpaper has arrived -- and now with even more fire tail :D
It looks like the Google Toolbar team is going to be porting more Chrome features to Firefox. Thanks, guys!
Maybe it was because I really needed a good laugh after a difficult few days, maybe because it's just been too long since the last one, or maybe this week's Flight of the Conchords really was the best one yet. Any is quite fine with me.
We're one week away from the next installment of Net Application's monthly global browser market share report so once again I'm posting my prediction for how I think it'll turn out.
First, after an awesome November and December where Firefox picked up a total of 1.37 points to end the year with 21.34% of the global market, many predicted that it was all or mostly attributable to the holiday season which usually favors non-IE browsers and that Firefox would give up some or all of those gains in January. Not so, I'm predicting. Firefox is likely to even add a fraction to its December measure with the January number right about 21.5%.
Next, all eyes have been on Google's Chrome over the last few months so what happens (or doesn't happen) there will no doubt get lots of attention. After a pretty exciting launch that saw some initial usage numbers above 1.15%, Chrome fell back to a pretty steady level of around 0.8% for the next three months until Chrome 1.0 was released. The 1.0 release pushed Chrome up to 1.04% for the month of December. January will probably see Chrome increase to just under 1.09% for a January gain of about 1/20th of a point. Even at the end of its 5th month, though, Chrome still hasn't been able to put in a month that matches the usage of those first few days.
Safari continues to ride Mac OS X adoption to increased usage share and will likely close January with about 8.2% of the global browsing market. Nothing really unexpected there given Mac's recent strong showings.
Opera has been basically flat for as long as anyone can remember (bouncing around for the last four or five years between 1/2 and 3/4 of one percent) and the only question for Opera in January is whether it will stay flat or lose share to the other browsers. I'm predicting a loss, but small enough that it wouldn't require any real generosity to call it flat. The good news for Opera is that with the total browser market growing so quickly, even with their share remaining flat or falling slightly, their absolute number of users is still increasing.
Finally, as has been the case for several months now, I.E. is the big looser. I'm predicting that I.E. will lose about 2/3rds of a point this month and end January at a new low with a market share of 67.5%. I.E. 7 has actually made a very slight gain (0.3 points) from where it was 6 months ago, so all of the loss is coming from I.E. 6 which I think everyone can agree is a good thing, probably even Microsoft. Nevertheless, every month in recent memory has been a negative one for Internet Explorer's total share. I like that trend.
These predictions are based on the frequent updates at Net Applications and they're likely to be off a little bit but I think it's fun to try to guess. I'll post again with the final numbers and some analysis this time next week when the final numbers are out.
A number of people have asked me what I think about this week's news about the methane releases on Mars.
From the people I've talked to and read, this is big but not huge news. The most interesting bit is how variable it is. It's being released in pretty large quantities and scrubbed quite fast. The mystery of production is what everyone's talking about, but I want to know what's clearing it out so quickly. Some rather effective oxidization process must be at play.
Another cool bit is that those two possibilities, geologic or biologic production, have one important thing in common. They'd both require the presence of decent amounts of warm water.
What's most exciting to me are 1) the timing of this announcement which could help shift a few NASA budget dollars away from people in aluminum cans orbiting Earth or kicking up dust on our cold and boring Moon to more investment in robots going to Mars where all the fun is ;-) and 2) that we're still doing amazing science from right here on Earth with some pretty awesome telescopes.
But my favorite Mars story of the week was not about methane, it was about wind moving sand moving rocks. I just love simple and elegant explanations for formerly puzzling questions.
As is often the case when people are discussing the browser market, there has been a spate of articles around this EU anti-trust thing that claim something along the lines of "Safari has eaten into I.E.'s market share."
This just isn't true. I.E. faces next to no competition from Safari. Safari has approximately one third of one percent of the usage share on the Windows OS and that's been essentially flat the entire first year of Safari on Windows' existence.
Another way of looking at this is to measure actual user ratios rather than usage. The numbers are less good here but approximations can help put the growth of the Internet itself into the equation. It's a safe bet that in 2008, Safari's first year of availability on Windows, Microsoft added at least 200 times more I.E. users than Apple added Safari on Windows users. No, Safari is not eating into I.E. in any way.
Now, it's reasonable to say that there is some competition at the OS level where Apple's Mac OS X has taken some market share from Microsoft's Windows. That's where all of Safari's real growth has come from. But that is not the same thing as I.E. facing competition from Safari and until we see some data suggesting that some non-trivial number of people are choosing Mac OS X over Windows expressly because they prefer Safari to Internet Explorer it sure would be nice if the tech press stopped muddying the waters with this talk of Safari's impact on I.E.
The truth of the matter is that I.E. faces almost no real consumer pressure from any browser except Firefox. Chrome may eventually assert itself on Windows some, but today there just isn't anything except Firefox that's doing anything to challenge Internet Explorer. I think that's unfortunate (and thanks be to Mozilla without which everyone would probably still be using I.E. 6) but as I said in my previous post, there's just no viable way to effectively compete commercially with Microsoft when they have locked up the most valuable distribution channel and what success Firefox has had against I.E. is attributable to factors not readily available to commercial competitors -- including but not limited to massive grassroots volunteer development and advocacy/distribution communities.
There are a number of folks around the Internets that seem to fundamentally misunderstand the competitive landscape in desktop Web browsers today. The thinking goes like this: Firefox has more than 20% share of global browser usage so how can you say that Microsoft still has an unfair advantage.
I see it a little differently. When the only real competition comes from a not for profit open source organization that depends on volunteers for almost half of its work product and nearly all of its marketing and distribution, while more than half a dozen other "traditional" browser vendors with better than I.E. products have had near-zero success encroaching on Microsoft I.E.'s dominance, there's a demonstrable tilt to the playing field.
That tilt comes with the distribution channel - default status for the OS bundled Web browser.
Downloading is an alternative distribution channel, but not nearly as effective because it costs so much more and has a much lower take rate and while the cost to the OS vendor of bundling its browser as default is zero, the cost of becoming the default bundled browser for any but the OS vendor is completely prohibitive. You can see this clearly on both Macintosh and on Windows. The bundled and default Web browser has the lion's share of the respective desktop with no distribution costs at all, and all other competitors depending on downloads for distribution (with the exception of the completely non-traditional Mozilla project) add up to only a tiny fraction.
Let's take Windows first, but the same applies to Macintosh. On the Microsoft Windows OS, you have Opera, Apple, Google, Maxthon, Avant Force, Netscape, AT&T, Flock, Fenrir, AOL, and probably several other browser vendors that have tried to compete with Internet Explorer over the last few years. None of them have had any real success at taking significant share from I.E. via downloads and thanks to the growth of the Web itself, I.E.'s absolute user growth is outpacing every one of those vendors combined.
Look at Mac. You have Opera, Flock, HMDT, The Omni Group, iCab, and a few others and you add up all their share and it's just minuscule compared to Apple's bundled and default Web browser Safari.
This is not a healthy competitive landscape. Against all odds, an odd-ball organization called Mozilla has had some success in breaking Microsoft and Apple browser strongholds, but no one else has been able to make a real dent.
Some will say "yeah, but there's no money in browsers so it's not a real commercial market anyway." That's simply wrong. There's plenty of money in browsers and that's why most of the browser vendors are in the game (Mozilla is the notable exception.) That there's gobloads of money to be made and there are a dozen vendors or more trying to get a piece of that pie and they are all failing to take significant market share from Microsoft and Apple and while producing competitive and in many cases superior products, is a clear demonstration of a commercial market that's out of balance.
The best channels just cost too much for everyone but the OS vendors where those channels (OEMs) are zero-cost. In a functioning market, vendors producing superior products would take share from vendors producing inferior products. Today that's simply not possible because the cost of the most effective channel for distribution, shipping as the default browser with new computers, for everyone except the OS vendor is prohibitively high.
Now, I have no idea what can be done to fix this imbalance. I don't think there are any easy answers. But that doesn't mean that there's not a problem.
update: And yes, I wholeheartedly agree with Opera's CEO Jon von Tetzchner when he says, "The Internet is just too important to limit the choice in browsers. It's very clear that Microsoft's tying the browser to the operating system has limited choice in browsers for end users." I'd add that with nearly 10% of the computer market, the same applies to Apple's tying of Safari to the OS.
update2: The EU has confirmed the reports.
update3: I've posted a few more thoughts here.
No, the title of this post doesn't refer to my holiday eating :-)
I keep meaning to say how much I appreciated the little UI correctness fix at bug 391984 and not getting around to it so here's where I finally do.
Mozilla has always paid something of a penalty in performance and perception because we use a cross-platform toolkit. The win is that we're able to design most of our user interface once and have it "just work" on Macintosh, Linux, and Windows. We went down this path back in 1999 because of resource constraints and a faith in the languages of the Web.
It took us some years for the implementations to get performant, some of which was the hardware advancing, and it took us a few more years to get the support for sufficient native look and feel built into the toolkit that we didn't stick out like a sore thumb, but today, I think we're building first-class application on a variety of platforms and in a way that has empowered thousands of participants in Firefox development as well as add-on development.
Still, with platforms evolving, there are always a few things that change and can make Firefox feel a touch less than "native" and I'm really pleased to see one of those bugs fixed.
Thanks, Markus! I love our new roundy cornered menus.
This last week, I finally got the prototype for Air Mozilla 2 up and running. Air Mozilla is the live streaming video presence of Mozilla.
With the release of Firefox 3.1, we'll have native video support in the browser, actually Theora video + Vorbis audio in an Ogg container, and so I'm working on building our Air Mozilla capabilities out to support this and the new HTML5 <video> tag.
For the first prototype, the tool-chain is still very basic. I'm just focused on getting the video from my camera to your browser and none of the nice web-based UI and other cool bits I've got planned for later.
I've got Ubuntu 8.10 installed on my MacBook Pro (2.2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo). I'm using dvgrab to pull the DV content off of a Panasonic AG-DVX100B via FireWire. The camera supports 480i/60 (NTSC), 480p/24fps, and 480p/30fps but I'm also likely to be supporting HD cameras sometime later this year. I pipe the data to ffmpeg2theora v0.23 for encoding and then use oggfwd to push the resulting video up to an icecast2 server.
This all works rather well as long as I'm using low or medium quality encoding settings in ffmpeg2theora but as soon as I move up the dial in quality, I start pushing the CPU on my MBP pretty hard. This will only get worse with HD.
I know for MPEG1, H.264 and other codecs, there are dedicated encoding cards but I don't think any such thing exists that would work with ffmpeg2theora. The standard libtheora isn't multi-threaded so I don't think more cores would help, though I could be wrong. So is this just an issue of speed then? I'd like to have some more freedom here so I'm hoping you all can help me answer this question.
What is the best value CPU for video encoding using the tool-chain I described above.
I got tagged by Chris Blizzard, so here's me.
Oh, first the rules.
- Link to your original tagger(s) and list these rules in your post.
- Share seven facts about yourself in the post.
- Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
- Let them know they’ve been tagged.
OK. Here’s me, in no particular order.
- I like sneakers and own (and regularly wear) about 30 different pairs.
- I was raised a vegetarian, actually a vegan but we never called it that.
- I've been in 7 serious automobile accidents, 3 of them my fault.
- I have pretty terrible stage fright.
- My wife and I have traveled together to every continent except Africa and Antarctica.
- I volunteer for the Gorilla Foundation and know Koko personally.
- My wife and I haven't spent a night apart in nearly 12 years.
Chrome is unique among the current field of browsers in that there are three ways to run it — the default, which is simply the latest stable release (currently 1.0), the beta channel, which offers monthly updates and could have bugs here and there, and the developer channel, which will give you the latest bleeding edge builds and is almost guaranteed to have bugs.
Except that it's not unique at all.
Is it really too much to expect that if you're writing for a popular online tech publication that you be careful about making claims of uniqueness without, you know, actually checking first?
I understand that with "blogs" and all, there aren't really any editors or other staff doing any kind of proofing or "editing" but it's just not that difficult, especially when making absolute claims, to check first to see if they're factually true.
For the record, Firefox has had release, beta, and nightly update channels for years. There's absolutely nothing new or novel about Chrome's program there. Nothing at all.
It's really not that hard. Please try to do better.
update: Oops, left off the link. Sorry. Just an oversight while I was cleaning up the post to be less inflammatory. Also, Chris Blizzard has a nice blog post up explaining how to follow the different channels and Myk, in the comments here, links to the Channel Selector add-on.
If you're a Firefox 3 user and you do any kind of web development, from blog template adjustments to application development, you're gonna want to get the brand new Firebug 1.3.0.
Over the last couple of months there's been a lot of talk on the blogs about how Google's homepage promotions of Chrome along with the upcoming OEM bundling deals is going to mean huge user numbers for Chrome in very short order.
I'm not so sure though.
One reason I'm skeptical is that for a time Google distributed Firefox with its Google Pack, advertised Firefox on the Google Search page, and even paid people $1/download through its AdSense Referrals program and all of that together never amounted to more than a few percentage points of Firefox's total user acquisition.
Another thought is that if OEM bundling was a magic bullet, then how did Microsoft lose 8% of the browser user share last year while shipping bundled as the default on 300 million new computers.
Here's how we grew ~22% of the Web browser market:
Average daily downloads for each new version of Firefox. Firefox 3.0 is averaging just over 1.2M dl/day.
It didn't come overnight, but we've developed a substantial distribution channel with simple downloads from the Web. Where just a few years and a few versions ago, we were getting a few hundred thousand downloads of Firefox every day, we're now seeing well over a million.
We will have more Firefox downloads this year than there will be new PCs shipping with IE. Or, to put it another way, if one were to compete with Firefox's downloading distribution via PC OEM distribution, it would take shipping on pretty much every single new machine.
I'd go a step further and say that shipping on a new machine isn't likely sufficient. It would take being shipped as the default browser on most new machines to be competitive with what we've built in Web downloads over the years.
What do you all think? Will Chrome distribution at the Google websites and through OEM bundling lead to massive success this year?
One paragraph in a CNBC article on Microsoft's cost cutting really stood out.
One of the units already seeing cutbacks is Microsoft's sagging browser business. A report in the Seattle Times says 180 contract workers were told last month that their services would not be renewed.
Wow. We're really in a different place than we were just a few years ago.
Anyone out there know if there's any credence to Microsoft's IE team seeing personnel or other cutbacks?
update: well, it looks like the (not linked) story that Jim Goldman referenced was about the MSN Homepages team and had nothing at all to do with the IE team. Perhaps Jim misunderstood the Seattle Times article. Maybe he'll post a correction.
Akkana just blogged a crafty little hack for Firefox.
It hadn't occurred to me that you could use user.js to keep a pref set the preferred way while using about:config for the occasional in-session flipping.
Nice hack, Akk!!
Thousands of Web developers will soon be able to breathe a big sigh of relief. Microsoft's IE 6 really is on the way out.
In really rough numbers, IE 6 has been losing about 20 points per year. That's freefall! Just take a look at that line and what it represents and then ask yourself, "what can I do to kill off IE 6?"
data for this chart is courtesy of Net Applications browser market share report.
The only question is how quickly this will happen. I think it will definitely fall under 10% by the end of this year, and it's not at all unreasonable that it would fall to low single digits if Firefox has a really good year.
There is a floor considering that IE 7 and 8 won't be available for pre-XP SP2 users, but fortunately that's a very small percentage of the global market. (Hey Opera, how about seriously targeting those users since you guys are the only modern browser left supporting ancient versions of Windows?)
So you've got my prediction. Now it's your turn. How low and how quickly do you all think IE 6 will go?
2008 was a pretty awesome year for Web browsers, the Web itself, and for everyone using the Web.
The major factor in all of those, I believe, is the increase in browser competition and the choice and innovation that came out of that. 2008 saw the "performance wars" heat up. It saw the "standards wars" heat up. And it saw new vendors joining the fray. It really was an awesome year for the Web.
So how did the year wrap up? Net Applications has just released their December monthly browser market share report so here's a look at what it says.
First, it looks like Firefox picked up over 1/2 of a point to put us at 21.34%. That's not quite as good as our November growth, but still a solid month for Firefox and probably puts us out of danger of ever dipping under 20% unless something pretty dramatic happens. (I mention this just because there's a lot of month to month wobble and it's nice to not be right on that edge :-)
After three months of availability, Chrome broke out of the sub-1% club, landing at 1.04%. That's a healthy gain of 0.21 points for them over November, and it may get some press attention for being above 1%, but it's worth keeping in context that it was only about 1/3rd of the growth that Firefox had in the same month, so not really too exciting for them. It was also their coming out of beta month so with that "bounce" and having transitioned ~99.9% of their beta users to 1.0, not as good as what they were hoping for, I'm sure.
Safari had its best month of the year in December, growing just over 3/4ths of a point to 7.93% share. Like us, they've consistently had strong months for November and December. As with previous months, that's all on Mac. Safari for Windows is basically dead in the water.
Opera didn't see any change in December, locked in at a measly 0.71% I suppose it's better than slipping lower, but it can't be encouraging.
The big looser, again, is Internet Explorer which dropped more than 1.5 points to land just above 68% share for the month of December. The good news here, for everyone (including MS?) is that while IE7 growth is leveling off, IE6 continues it's swift downward spiral.
Because this will be NetApp's final report of the year, here's my quick 2008 summary based on their numbers.
Firefox is unquestionably the biggest winner in 2008, gaining approximately twice as much as its closest competitor and taking more share from Microsoft than all other browsers combined. Adding more than 4.5 points (a ~25% improvement) to where it started the year, Firefox couldn't be better positioned for 2009 and the upcoming round of releases from all the major vendors.
Safari had a decent year too, adding about 2.3 points to their share of Web browser usage. That's a bit better than 40% growth for them and I'm sure the Apple OS X folks will be pleased. All of that is growth of the Mac OS against Windows, though, and none of it at our expense. (Mac Firefox has actually gained about 3 points against Safari and others on the Mac in 2008.) So what you're seeing here is not so much the effect of browser competition, but the advantage of being bundled with the OS. Safari is rising with Mac OS X, though not quite as fast as Mac OS X -- thanks to Firefox :-).
Chrome obviously had a short year and during that time really only did just so-so. It grew just over 1 full percentage point of the market in only 3 months which isn't bad. But that all came during the "good months" for not-IE browsers, and Chrome was easily outpaced by Firefox in those same three months. Not the greatest browser launch of all time that so many predicted.
Opera was mostly stable in 2008, just like they were in 2007, 2006, 2005, etc. I think they're pretty much dead on the desktop. My guess is they're mostly using it as their "real Web" testing platform so that their engine can continue to be strong on Mobile. Mobile-only browsers just don't get enough usage to be well tested enough to stay current with real Web content but a few million desktop users can get you plenty of testing. It can also be a decent source of revenue for a medium sized company like Opera (which, incidentally, is up to ~600 employees.) But stable or falling and well under 1% market share for year after year can't really be called competitive.
And finally, as with the month of December, the entire year has been bad, just awful, really really bad for Internet Explorer. IE has dropped just about 8 points!! since this time last year. That's twice the amount it lost the year before. They're not just falling, they're falling a lot faster. They've got huge advantages owning the desktop and even that isn't saving them. Consider that they've lost 8 points of the browser market in a year where 300 million new computers shipped with IE as the default browser. That can't be encouraging for them.
As I said in the opening, all of this is good for the Web. We've got increased competition, real movement towards open Web standards, and all kinds of innovation that's benefiting Web developers and end users alike.
And 2009 is going to be even more exciting.
The clocks just rolled over in my neck of the woods and it seems like a fine time to wish you all a happy and fulfilling 2009.
My New Year's resolution is to focus on making more allies and fewer enemies. Wish me luck.
Oh, and my audacious prediction for 2009 is that it will become obvious to the world that Microsoft has finally lost the browser war it started when it bundled IE2 with Windows 95 OSR1 nearly 13 years ago.