Tag Archives: Internet Browsers

Yahoo Launching It’s Own Web Browser for Desktop and iOS Devices

Updates below

The browser market is exploding with several big players like , and Internet Explorer  leading the market and several others like and Safari catching up. However, it looks like the market is not so saturated after all because Yahoo will be launching their own web browser called Axis later today.

Yahoo Axis Logo

The news was leaked by Launch through an email they got their hands on. The email subject read, “Yahoo! Axis launches on May 23- Redefining what it means to search and browse” and described the browser and its launch.

Yahoo! Axis is a new browser that redefines what it means to search and browse- enabling a seamless search experience on your iPhone, iPad, and even your desktop.  Here are some highlights of how Yahoo! Axis brings search to life in a whole new way:

Smarter, Faster Search with Rich Design: Get instant answers and visual previews so you can continuously discover and explore content without interruption. Never leave the page you are on to view your search results again.

Connected Experience: Move seamlessly across devices, picking up wherever you left off as you move across your desktop, iPhone, and iPad. Recently visited sites, searches, saved articles, and bookmarks are automatically accessible across all your devices.

Personal Home Page: Get direct access to your favorite sites and content across all your devices with the customizable Home Page.

Yahoo has reportedly been working on Axis for a long time now, but the release will finally be coming today. With competition from some of the established browsers, Axis might find it a little hard to gain traction. But hey, you never know. A couple of years ago, Chrome launched out of nowhere and is almost the most used browser today. So Yahoo could go miles too.

However, lets hope that this is not another Yahoo product which they run for a while and shut down. If you are looking forward to download Yahoo Axis, you can visit the website http://axis.yahoo.com/ or catch up on some video demo of Yahoo Axis above. Yahoo Axis is available as a desktop download, you can also download it for and iPad

We’ll be doing a review of the product as well in a short while, so stay tuned for it.

Update: I tried downloading the browser but it the link is downloading a browser extension for Google Chrome or add-on for Firefox which does not work as of now.

Firefox 13 Will Have a Reset Button

You install Firefox on your freshly minted computer. Everything is great for a while. Firefox loads up in seconds, web pages open in a snap, and everything works. But then, over time, Firefox starts acting up. It gets slower and slower. Things that used to work stops working. Sudden freeze-ups and crashes begin appearing. I am sure this is something many of you have personally experienced. As our Firefox profile begins accumulating clutter, the performance and stability of Firefox takes a hit. This might be due to a toolbar you unknowingly installed, or some extension that has a memory leak bug. The thing is that finding out the root cause is both time consuming and frustrating.

Reset-Firefox-Troubleshooting-Option

In order to make things simpler, Mozilla is adding a magical reset button to Firefox. The new option will be available under about:support (accessible via Help –> Troubleshooting Information). Clicking on this button will create a new profile with default settings, which will hopefully solve your performance issues. Firefox will also copy over your browsing history, cookies, saved form history, saved passwords, and bookmarks. This means that you will essentially have a fresh install of Firefox, but with all of your personal data intact.

Reset-Firefox

The biggest drawback of the reset feature is its location. It’s buried deep within Firefox, and is practically impossible to discover. To counter this problem, Mozilla is currently thinking about prompting the user to reset Firefox after it crashes for the third time. It is also exploring the possibility of giving Windows users this option when they are reinstalling Firefox.

Make Chrome Canary the Default Browser on Windows/Mac

has several versions of their browser which includes the stable version, beta version and development version. However, users can only run one instance of them at any given time. Google does provide another cutting-edge version called the Canary build. The Canary build is a nightly build and contains untested code and features which will be introduced in other version of Chrome at a later stage.

Chrome Canary Default Browser

I prefer to use Google Canary builds because they usually contain cutting edge technologies and newer features which are not yet available in other versions and gives me a chance to test them out. However, the one thing I have had a problem with the Canary version is that Google does not allow you to set it as the default browser.

The explanation they give for it is that it is a secondary installation of Chrome and cannot be set as the default browser. Well, that is a problem for me because some times the dev version (which I also used) was buggier than the Canary version and was not updated as frequently to address the reported bugs.

So I decided to find a way to set the Google Chrome Canary version as default and found a neat registry hack at this forum. All you have to do is download a simple registry file listed in the forum post and edit it to replace your username in the Registry.reg file. Once you have done that just double click and click on the “Yes” button when prompted to add the entries to your registry.

After you have inserted the registry entry, Chrome Canary will be set as your default browser. If you are looking to reverse that, just head to control panel and change the default application or use your browsers’ preference to set it back as the default browser. The forum in question requires you to register before you download the file as an alternative, you can download the file directly from here.

For Mac users all you need to do is run Safari and then head to preferences and change the “Default web browser” to Canary from the dropdown menu. You can visit this site to find visual instructions for doing that.

Will Microsoft Face the Ire of Antitrust Regulators for Windows 8?

As you must have heard by now, Mozilla is furious. The non-profit organization behind Firefox is angry because Microsoft is practically making it impossible to develop third party browsers for Windows 8 for ARM through artificially imposed restrictions. A short while back, even Google backed Mozilla and expressed its concern about Windows 8 restricting “user choice and innovation”. My colleague Paul Paliath has already weighed in on the debate. While he believes Mozilla’s complaint is baseless, I am not quite so sure.

Windows-8-Platform

Before proceeding any further, let’s delve a little deeper into the technicalities involved. With Windows 8, Microsoft is introducing an entirely new class of applications. These applications will run in Metro mode, and will be built using the WinRT API. The Windows applications that we are accustomed with are all built using the Win32 API. Now, Microsoft isn’t exactly killing the Win32 API. Windows 8 for x86 (desktops) will continue to offer a classic mode, which will be capable of running all Win32 applications. However, if an app wants to run in Metro mode it has to use the new WinRT API. The trouble is that in an attempt to make WinRT power efficient, fast, and secure Microsoft ended up making it way too restrictive. Due to this, several classes of modern applications can’t be developed by leveraging WinRT alone. In order to skirt around this significant roadblock, Microsoft created a third category of applications. This category of applications have a frontend developed using WinRT, but they can also leverage the power of the Win32 API. In other words, they look like Metro apps, but offer the power and flexibility of a traditional Windows app. Unfortunately, on ARM devices, the only apps which will be allowed to leverage both WinRT and Win32 APIs are apps from Microsoft. Paul is right in saying that Microsoft isn’t specifically targeting browsers. In one fell swoop Microsoft has put all third party apps at a significant disadvantage. Whether it be office suites, media players, or browsers – all apps will have a hard time matching products from the Redmond giant as they will practically be running on two different operating systems. To make matters worse, Windows 8 for ARM won’t allow third party apps to run as pure classic apps either. Asa Dotzler explained the trouble faced by browser developers quite succinctly.

Microsoft has made it clear that the third category won’t exist on Windows for ARM (unless you’re Microsoft) and that neither will the first category (unless you’re Microsoft.) That means that IE on ARM has access to win32 APIs — even when it’s running in Metro mode, but no other Metro browser has that same access. Without that access, no other browser has a prayer of being competitive with IE.

You might be wondering exactly what kind of restrictions does WinRT impose that makes it impossible to develop a competent browser. Here’s an example – WinRT doesn’t allow translation of code at runtime. This is something absolutely critical for a technique called JIT (Just-in-time compilation). You might have heard of JIT before, as over the past few years, all browsers have been using JIT to deliver astounding improvements in JavaScript rendering speed. Lack of JIT will instantly push a browser back by several years. Keep in mind that this is just one example. Modern browsers are pushing the limits of what is possible within a browser. With the restrictive sandbox offered by WinRT, many of the bleeding edge features offered by modern browsers can’t be implemented in WinRT.

Mozilla has already issued thinly veiled threats of legal action, and considering that Windows 8 is pretty much done, the threat of another anti-trust ruling is the only thing that can realistically make Microsoft change its mind. However, is Microsoft really abusing its monopolistic position to crush competition? The answer is trickier than you might think.

Mozilla Working on Firefox Redesign to Unify Desktop and Mobile Browsers

Mozilla designers have been pretty busy in the recent past. Mozilla introduced a significant user interface overhaul with Firefox 4, which received somewhat mixed reviews. Since then, Mozilla has periodically tweaked the interface to address many of the complaints. Now, a little more than a year after Firefox 4 was released, Mozilla is gearing up for another significant redesign.

Mozilla’s Stephen Horlander is working on a new design called “Australis” that will unify Firefox’s appearance across platforms and form factors. This includes Firefox for desktop (Windows, Unix, and Mac), Firefox for Android (phones and tablets), and Boot2Gecko.

The most distinctive features of Australis are soft textures, smooth curves, and a streamlined experience. Here’s how Firefox is expected to look in Windows, Mac, and Unix respectively.

Firefox-Australis-Windows
Firefox-Australis-Mac
Firefox-Australis-Unix

As you can see, the tab strip has been redesigned in accordance with Australis’ design principles, and the menu button has been overhauled. It has now been merged with the address bar, and features a completely reworked layout.

Firefox-Australis-Windows-Menu

Firefox for Mobile already looks a lot like the Australis mockups. It will be tweaked further to bring it in close alignment with its desktop counterpart.

Firefox-Australis-Android-Tablet-Tabs
Firefox-Australis-Android-Tablet-Menu
Firefox-Australis-Android-Mobile-Browsing
Firefox-Australis-Android-Mobile-Tabs

We also know that Mozilla is working on a Metro compatible version of Firefox for Windows 8. Development on that still has a long way to go, but the mockups suggest that Firefox for Metro will look a lot like Firefox for Android tablets.

Firefox-Australis-Windows-8-Metro

Although the frequent redesigns might irk some users, it’s hard to not get excited about the Australis mockups. The new design is modern, beautiful, and minimal. You can get a taste of the new Firefox design with the Australis theme that is already available in the Firefox add-on repository. Don’t forget to chime in with your take on the planned Firefox redesign.

Opera 12 Beta Released; Dumps Old Features, Introduces a Boatload of New Ones

After several dozen snapshots and months of testing, Opera Software has finally released Opera 12 Beta. Opera 12, which also goes by the codename Wahoo, was initially planned for late 2011, but was then postponed to allow the hardware acceleration feature to mature.

Opera-12-Beta-Windows-Default-Appearence

Opera Software is finally ready for the concluding sprint towards a stable release of Wahoo. The hardware acceleration and WebGL support is now stable enough to yield significant benefits on most configurations. Unfortunately, it still has some quirks, and is known to cause a performance hit on some systems. As a result, Wahoo’s most promising feature is disabled out of the box, and needs to be enabled by the user. If you wish to take hardware acceleration and WebGL for a spin just set opera:config#UserPrefs|EnableHardwareAcceleration and opera:config#UserPrefs|EnableWebGL to 1.

Recently, Opera was crowned the fastest browser by Tom’s hardware. Opera 12 introduces even more refinements to build on Opera’s existing lead. Opera is promising speed improvements by optimizing the network SSL code and using smarter tab loading to accelerate start-up and shut-down times. With Wahoo, Opera is also introducing 64 bit builds that are compiled to take advantage of the current generation processors.

In the past, Opera has made it clear that it is reluctant to follow Chrome’s process-per-tab model, even though Opera was the first to come up with the idea. With Wahoo, Opera Software has decided to at least offload plugins from the main process. In the newest builds, third-party plugins will run as independent processes. The expectation is that this would allow Opera to continue working, even if a plugin crashes. This should significantly improve stability, since a third of the crashes are caused by plugins like Flash. This very feature also makes it easy for Opera to run as a 64 bit application, and still support 32 bit plugins.

Opera-12-Beta-Windows-Theme

Other new features in Opera 12 include:

  • Lightweight themes, similar to Chrome themes and Firefox Personas.
  • Support for right to left scripts (Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Hebrew) in the main interface.
  • Support for “Do Not Track” header.
  • Redesigned security badges for the address bar.

Opera-12-Beta-Security-Badges

  • Improved standards support including lots of HTML5 and CSS3 goodies like WebRTC (native camera access), HTML5 drag and drop, CSS3 animations and transitions, and CSS generated paged media (new proposed standard from Opera for paginated content suitable for consumption in devices of multiple form factors).

Opera 12 also sees the departure of a few significant features. The first casualty is the IBM powered speech recognition and text to speech functionality (Windows only), which was introduced way back in Opera 7.6. The second feature to depart is Opera Widgets, which was introduced in Opera 9, and has since been made mostly redundant by extensions. And finally, Opera Unite, which was announced with much fanfare, is also being shuttered. Opera Unite is the feature I am personally the saddest to lose. It has perhaps been made redundant by the multitude of digital file lockers and media streaming services. However, it was something truly neat and also handy. It’s a pity that Opera did never figure out how to take Unite to the next level. The failure of Unite reminds of Google Wave, which also generated a lot of hype, but crashed as everyone struggled to figure out compelling use cases for the technology.

[ Download Opera 12 Beta ]

Gmelius Extension for Firefox, Chrome and Opera Makes the New Gmail a Bit More Usable

Beginning this week, Google is forcing Gmail users to switch to the new interface. While the new interface looks slick and modern, it suffers from numerous poor design choices that have users up in arms. Some of the issues are fixable with a few settings tweaks. For example, you can use the compact, high-contrast theme to reduce the wastage of space and enhance readability. But for others, there is seemingly no cure.

Thankfully, few users are taking up the challenge themselves, and are trying to make the new Gmail more intuitive through extensions and userstyles. Among the better attempts is Gmelius, which is a free, cross-browser compatible extension that tweaks and refines the new Gmail interface.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the stuff that Gmelius does:

  • It reclaims space by collapsing the Search and Share bar, stripping away the footer, and removing the People widget. Gmelius can also be configured to block all advertisements.
  • It enhances the appearance of Gmail by adding subtle row highlights, and disabling fancy fonts and colors in incoming mails.
  • It makes navigation more intuitive by colorizing the navigation icons and supplementing them with text.
  • It adds an auto-scroll to the top action that can be triggered by clicking on the black Google bar.

Gmelius

Gmelius Gmelius is dead simple to configure, and the tweaks it offers go a long way towards enhancing the new Gmail interface. The new navigations icons drove me nuts for weeks, and even after using the new interface for a several months, I still get confused occasionally. I only wish that I had discovered Gmelius sooner. There’s undoubtedly a lot more stuff that Gmelius could do. For example, it could bring back the reply links beneath every message or re-enable color coding of conversations. However, Gmelius already does enough for me to encourage you to go ahead and install it. It’s currently available for Chrome, Firefox & Opera.

[ Download Gmelius ]

New Google Chrome Beta Gets Tab Syncing Across Devices

One of the coolest features of Chrome for Android is its ability to sync tabs with its desktop counterpart. You can start researching a topic on your desktop, leave for work, and continue researching from your phone while in the subway. Now, Google is taking this feature to its logical next level. The latest Google Chrome beta supports tab syncing across multiple operating systems and devices.

Google-Chrome-Tab-Sync

The new beta makes all of your tabs from one system available on all other systems. You can simply click on the “Other devices” link in the “New Tab” page to access open tabs from any system on which you are logged in with your Google account. This feature was first spotted in the bleeding-edge versions of Chrome (including the Dev Channel, Canary, and recent Chromium snapshot builds) by Geek.com. Now, Google will be gradually rolling out the “Other devices” menu to Beta channel users over the coming week. If you want to take tab syncing for a spin, download the latest Chrome beta from here.

Opera Mini 7 Arrives on Android

Opera Mini 7 for Android is now available for download from the Google Play Store. The feature set is fairly similar to the Opera Mini 7 for J2ME, BlackBerry and Symbian S60 devices, which was previewed in last month’s MWC. Speed dial feature has been bolstered to support unlimited number of speed dials. Find-in-page as well as tab management features have been tweaked to make them more intuitive.

There are also a couple of significant enhancements that are exclusive to the Android version. Opera Mini now supports Android Beam, which uses NFC for data transfer. Rendering performance should also be significantly improved as the latest release supports OpenGLES.

Opera-Mini-Android-7

Opera Mini is the slightly less capable sibling of Opera Mobile. It was originally meant for feature phones that lacked the processing power required for a full-fledged mobile browser. However, it has since managed to find an audience among the smartphone users too. Opera Mini doesn’t render webpages locally. Instead it routes all requests through its servers where the page is rendered and compressed. A highly compressed static representation of the page is then sent back to the mobile user. This technology is both Opera Mini’s biggest strength and weakness. The compression enables Opera Mini to achieve massive bandwidth savings (up to 90%), and also improve browsing speed on slower networks. However, it also means that Opera Mini is unable to render some of the more dynamic webpages properly.

You can download Opera Mini 7 for Android from the Android Play Store or Opera’s website.

New Opera 12 Snapshot Introduces Boatload of Changes Including 64 Bit Versions

Opera 12Opera 12, also known as Wahoo, lost several of its features to Tunny (Opera 11.6), which was an interim release meant to give hardware accelerated graphics more time to become fit for primetime. Tunny came out in December with a revamped mail client and several interface tweaks. Standards support was beefed up in a big way with a new HTML5 parser, ECMAScript 5.1 support, and support for CSS3 radial gradients. The latest Opera 12 snapshot continues this focus on standards with a host of goodies for web developers. HTML5 drag and drop – a technology that enables dragging of elements from one page to another or files from the operating system to a web page, makes its first appearance, as does support for CSS animations. CSS transition support has also been improved.

While including of support for the latest and greatest web technologies is always welcome, users often don’t feel their impact immediately as adoption of new standards invariably takes time. The good news is that the new snapshot has a couple of exciting changes whose benefit users should be able to feel immediately. The new snapshot introduces out of process plugins (OOPP) and 64 bit builds, which have been among the most requested features for a long time. OOOP increases stability of the browser by detaching it from plugins. So the next time your flash plugin crashes, it won’t bring down Opera with it. OOPP is also how Opera can manage to support 32 bit plugins in its 64 bit version.

You can goahead and download the snapshot from here. As always, the snapshot will be installed as an Opera Next build, and won’t affect your stable Opera installation.