Bing Bar Gets An Update; Adds Facebook Chat, Better Entertainment and News

After the neat refresh of Bing Bar 7.0 with useful app buttons, the Bing team has released Bing Bar 7.1 with a slew of new features that provides richer access to your social network, more entertainment options, and updates to the popular Bing Bar apps.

Bing Bar

Apart from several improvement under the hood regarding notifications, configurability, and performance, following are the benefits that the latest update offers you:

  • Facebook Chat: Bing Bar now allows you to chat with your Facebook friends without having Facebook opened in your browser.
  • Slacker Radio: The latest update brings Slacker Radio to the bar. It allows you to listen to music, sports, news, comedy and more without interrupting your web browsing.
  • Updated News App: The existing Bing Bar news app has been updated to be more visual now and includes more sources. While you can focus on the topics that interest you, the app notifies you in case of a breaking news within the Bing Bar.
  • Search Suggestions: The Bing Bar provides suggested search terms as you browse. The Bing team has been working on expanding the sites and the methods to suggest searches making it more effective and easier for you.

Download and install manually, or if you’re already a user of Bing Bar 7.0, you’ll get the upgrade automatically delivered to you over the next few months. While the Bing Bar is available in different languages and for different geographies, some of the features of the latest version are not yet available in all markets. The Bing Bar is available for Internet Explorer 7 or later on Windows XP with Service Pack 3, Windows Vista, and Windows 7.

Microsoft Releases HTML5 Version of Cut the Rope for Free

Even though the nitty gritty of HTML5 and related technologies are still being hammered out, they are already mature enough to be used for more than just nifty tech demos. Last year, Google brought the massively popular Angry Birds to the web by leveraging the power of HTML5, and now, Microsoft has followed suit. Microsoft has partnered with ZeptoLabs to release a browser version of the mobile game Cut the Rope.

Cut-the-Rope

Cut the Rope has already proven to be a big hit in mobile app stores thanks to its addictive gameplay, fluid graphics, and satisfying physics. However, the sophistication that helped it become a raging success also made it challenging to port it to the standard web stack. Cut the Rope for iOS was originally written in Objective C and consisted of about 15 kilo lines of code. JavaScript, which is often criticized for being heavy and slow, lacks many of the advanced programming constructs available in the object oriented programming languages used on mobile platforms. Microsoft’s stance on WebGL added further complexity to the project, as in order to be compatible with Internet Explorer, Cut the Ropes had to be rendered using Canvas. Even ZeptoLabs was not sure if web technologies had what it takes to pull off the physics computations demanded by the game in real-time. However, when the devs started building the basic framework, the common preconceptions about the “slowness” of JavaScript were quickly disproved. Modern browsers were found to have sufficiently optimised JavaScript engines to be able to do heavy number crunching with relative ease.

The end result of Microsoft’s collaboration with ZeptoLabs and Pixel Lab is pure gold. Cut the Rope for the web is as fun as the mobile version, and unlike Google’s Angry Birds, Cut the Rope is truly cross-browser compliant. It is designed to run on Internet Explorer 9 and above, but I played the game at length without experiencing any difficulty on Opera 12. Firefox and Chrome might have intermittent audio issues, but are otherwise capable of providing the desired experience. It’s inspiring to see that Microsoft not only resisted the urge to use browser sniffing to block other browsers, but also put in the effort to ensure that it was playable on all major browsers. Perhaps there is a bit of lesson in here for Google, which loves to trumpet openness whenever it’s convenient.

To begin feeding candies to Om nom, head over to cuttherope.ie.

Microsoft Finally Makes Internet Explorer Updates Automatic and Seamless

Internet-ExplorerInternet Explorer users have proved to be extremely stubborn when it comes to updating their browsers. Internet Explorer 6, which was released more than 10 years ago, still commands 8.3% of the market share. Millions of users have clung on to outdated releases in spite of the fact that many modern websites don’t even work on them. One of the main culprits behind the slow adoption rate of newer versions of Internet Explorer has been the update system.

Google automatically and seamlessly updates Chrome whenever a new version is available. Mozilla Firefox and Opera also does the same. However, updating Internet Explorer requires manual intervention. Now, this is finally going to change.

“With automatic updates enabled through Windows Update, customers can receive IE9 and future versions of Internet Explorer seamlessly without any update fatigueissues”, wrote Ryan Gavin, General Manager of Internet Explorer Business and Marketing.

Going forward, Microsoft will be automatically updating users to the latest version of Internet Explorer for their system. Enterprise users and others who don’t want to be automatically updated can use the Automatic Update Blocker toolkits. Users who have declined previous installations of IE8 or IE9 through Windows Update will also not be automatically updated. Browser settings including favorites and search preferences will be retained between updates.

Even this won’t solve the issue completely as Microsoft has refused to support older operating systems in the recent versions of Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer 9 ditched Windows XP, while Internet Explorer 10 will drop Vista compatibility. However, it should at the very least help us in getting rid of Internet Explorer 6 and 7. Microsoft plans to begin the Automatic Update procedure with Australia and Brazil in Janurary, and then move on to the rest of the world.

Chrome Overtakes Firefox Globally

Ever since its launch, Google Chrome has been gaining market share at a steady rate. Now, StatsCounter is reporting that Google Chrome has finally managed to surpass Firefox globally. Chrome’s worldwide market share rose to 25.69%, while Firefox slipped to 25.23%. Microsoft Internet Explorer also continued its slide and fell to 40.63% at the end of November.

Browser-Market-Share-Nov

Google Chrome gained 21% over the past two years, while Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Opera lost 15.94%, 6.98, and 0.2% each. Safari also managed to gain 2.255 market share since November 2009. In India the figure are slightly different as Indian users have typically been more reactive to market changes than Americans. Only 26.9% Indians surf using Internet Explorer, while 34.29% and 34.75% rely on Firefox and Chrome respectively. Opera controls a shade above 2.5% of the market share in India.

Browser statistics tend to be wildly inaccurate and inconsistent. However, they are still good enough to gauge the market trend, and in this case the trend is clear. Google Chrome’s rise in popularity has been nothing short of spectacular. Introduced in late 2008, it has won the hearts of millions of web users with its focus on speed, security, and simplicity. Although Chrome is undoubtedly benefiting from Google’s deep pocket and wide reach, the Chrome team needs to be applauded for getting their priorities right. Within a short span of time Chrome has made its presence felt with its innovative drive and commitment to web standards.

Firefox on the other hand struggled to ship the ambitious Firefox 4 update, lost out in the browser speed wars, and seems to perennially lag behind Chrome. Many fans believe that Mozilla’s lack of vision is hurting Firefox, which was once the darling of the alternate browser crowd.

IE 6 is Dying

10 years ago a  browser was born.  Its name was Internet Explorer 6. Now that we’re in 2011, in an era of modern web standards,  it’s time to say goodbye.

http://www.ie6countdown.com/

IE6 countdown is one of many websites that has sprung up in recent times, which anxiously documents the point of time when IE 6 will be used no more (or negligibly). Once upon a time, IE 6 was one of the most popular browsers around, for better or for worse. This was when Microsoft commanded an awe-inspiring 95% of the browser’s market share. In those days, IE 6 was actually the standard by which  other  browsers were often judged by and most often found to be sorely lacking.

Users moved to IE 6 in droves then and many of them stayed put, even to this day.  I recently came across a friend in class using IE 6. Needless to say, I was shocked! And that is an understatement. Even in the world of HTML 5, this browser still holds its own in the youth  market.

There were a lot of tears shed, I am sure, over this  temperamental  browser. I remember the extra  tweaking that had to be done to allow a website to work on IE 6. It is, after all, the standard browser for the very popular MS Windows XP. However, this does not stop many web-based companies from cutting off their support for IE 6 as they felt that it hindered their progress to provide a rich UI experience to  their  users. Despite its terrible security and all, this browser has still not been isolated by its fans.

The loyalty to IE 6 may be caused by the familiarity of using the same web interface for the last 10 years; in addition, the lethargy on part of the corporations/users must be playing an important role too. I believe that most of us usually encounter IE 6 only at work.  The web is moving  on in spite  of IE 6, but one has to pity web developers world over for the extra efforts that they need to take to make  special  allowances  for IE 6.

The time has come to say…

Image from  elevatelocal.co.uk

 

 

Apple’s Safari Grows To 8% Browser Share

According to a new report from Net Applications’s NetMarketShare data, Safari has exceeded 8 percent of web browser use across all devices due to the strong growth in iPod touch, iPhone, and iPad sales. Also, Apple’s WebKit, the second most widely used rendering engine, combined with Google Chrome makes it second to Internet Explorer and slightly ahead of Firefox.

Net Apps Browser Data

In addition, the data shows that in the last two years, Internet Explorer’s marketshare has dropped from nearly 67 percent to 52.8 percent. Firefox has also seen a decrease in marketshare from almost 23 percent to 21.48 percent. However, Google’s Chrome has seen massive increase in marketshare. Chrome’s marketshare increased from 2.84 percent to 13.45 percent, while Safari’s nearly doubled from 4.07 percent to 8.05 percent.

Safari and Chrome’s marketshare combined now represent over 21.5 percent of web users, making it slightly ahead of Firefox even before counting the small number of WebKit browsers.

Clearly Safari’s growth isn’t going to stop here. Apple’s development of not just a desktop browser but also converting the desktop version of their browser to the first “fully usable” mobile version browser has not only tremendously changed the web browser market but also has affected the web-related development market as well.

Internet Explorer Popular Among People with Low IQ, Study Suggests

Aptiquant, a Vancouver based Psychometric Consulting company, which specializes in helping organizations objectively assess applicants and employees, has released the results of its study in which it correlated the IQ (Intelligent Quotients) of users with the browser they were using. The results aren’t all that surprising.

On an average, Internet Explorer users were found to have the least IQ, while Opera users had the highest. Camino users and Internet Explorer users with Chrome Frame plugin were also found to have higher than average IQ. The results are pretty much what you would expect. The dominance of Internet Explorer has long been attributed to its bundling with Windows. A sizeable portion of users tend to just use what Windows ships with instead of looking for alternatives. Heck, many people don’t even know what is a web browser. On the other hand Opera, which has remained the niche browser, is often dubbed as the browser for geeks and power users.

Browser-User-IQ

In order to collect the data Aptiquant relied on the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (IV) test, which is available on its website. The gender, geographic location, and browser of netizens taking the test were recorded along with their test results. The scores of more than 101,326 individuals were analyzed.

Aptiquant also compared their recent dataset with the data they had collected in 2006. The older dataset paints a significantly different picture. The mean IQ of Opera users drops significantly, and Internet Explorer (6 and 7) gets a significant boost. Clearly, over the last five years, Internet Explorer has lost its share of intelligent users, as power users have migrated elsewhere.

Aptiquant also divided the users into IQ groups based on their percentile ranks. Once again, Internet Explorer users dominated the lower percentile groups, while Firefox, Opera, Chrome and Safari users dominated the higher percentile groups.

Aptiquant’s study reinforces that stereotype that Internet Explorer is a dumb user’s browser. It also demonstrates that Microsoft has simply not been able to stay abreast with its competitors. Even though Internet Explorer 7 and 8 users have a higher IQ score than Internet Explorer 6 users, Microsoft has failed to stop the flow of power users to third-party alternatives. Internet Explorer still has a healthy market share. However, masses often follow the early adopters and power users. Microsoft will need to come up with something pretty brilliant if it hopes to reverse Internet Explorer’s fortunes.

Hat tip: @Opera

Google Chrome the Most Used Browser on Techie Buzz

There is something about which I have not seen in any other browser. It is one of the fastest growing browsers across the world and currently has around 20% usage world wide.

Google Chrome Market Share Techie Buzz

Many tech related websites around the world are seeing that Google Chrome has been overtaking . Last year both TechCrunch and Techmeme reported that Chrome was the most users on their site which prompted me to write the article; Why is Chrome Winning and Firefox Losing Market Share?. Back then, Chrome’s market share was around 10% was constantly growing on our site too.

Recently, I wrote an article on How Chrome is Growing in India and Hurting Microsoft and Mozilla. In that article, I delved upon how Chrome has been dominating Indian markets even though the internet usage there is around 15% of the population. This definitely showed how much impact Chrome has had on the browser market.

Google Chrome Market Share Graph Techie Buzz

Today when I was checking the browser market share for Techie Buzz I saw that Chrome has overtaken Firefox as the most used browser. Last month, Chrome was behind Firefox by 2%, so the month over month growth is pretty impressive. This means that almost 1+ million out of the 3.5+ million users on the site were using Google Chrome to visit Techie Buzz.

One of the reasons for Google Chrome’s growth is the heavy advertising Google is doing for it. I see many ads which pitch users to play Angry Birds on Google Chrome and I can swear that those have converted many users to switch to Chrome including my own brother who is a big fan.

Google is also landing some punches on rival browsers like Firefox and Internet Explorer by stopping development on certain products while providing plugins for them too. Recently, Google has decided to stop development of Google Toolbar for Firefox 5. This has sent Mozilla in a frenzy because lot of users are not upgrading to Firefox 5 from because of the incompatibility of the .

Google also provides Internet Explorer users with something called as Google Chrome Frame to bring Google Chrome’s technology to Internet Explorer. As you can see from our browser stats, we have around 0.13% IE users who have installed the Google Chrome Frame.

Additionally, Google has also been blocking several features in their products on . Our in-house Opera guru Pallab has always been finding problems using Google’s features on Opera including the recently introduced .

So is Google intentionally doing all these things to switch users to their own browser? It could very well be possible, however, they are also backing that up with an excellent browser and I for one have been using Google Chrome as my primary browser since it launched and yes some of the new features in it including the Multiple Chrome Profiles are definitely good.

What do you think about Chrome’s dominance? Is it good or bad? Do you use Google Chrome as your primary browser? If not which one do you prefer to use? Please let me know through your comments.

Google+Facebook: Get Going with Facebook Without Leaving Google Plus

google-plus-facebook-iconUPDATE: This plugin has been reported as spam and the links are disabled till further updates. Refer the comments section for more details.

ight from the launch of the new social network, there has been huge buzz around Google Plus. Now that Google has opened doors to everyone, it would be worth watching the public response. With Google Plus giving Facebook a run for their money, here is something that can make things even worse for the latter. Here is a browser extension that will let you access Facebook from within Google+. So you won’t have to miss out on your already over-burdened social-life (thanks Facebook) while being on Google Plus.

1. Head over to the Google+Facebook download page and get the extension for your browser. Use the Google+Facebook button.

get-google-plus-facebook

2. Allow the download to start if your browser (most likely Firefox) blocks it. Install it as you do for other add-ons or extensions.

3. Now log into your Google Plus account and you will notice a Facebook button to the left of the Home button in the top navigation. Click on it.

access-facebook-on-google-plus

4. You will now need to use the fConnect button to connect your Facebook account.

5. Once prompted, allow the request for permission to access your Facebook data.

access-facebook-on-google-plus-2

Voila! you will now be able to check your Facebook wall feed from right within Google Plus. You can also update Facebook using this added functionality.

update-facebook-from-google-plus

The extension is available for Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer.

Techie-Buzz Verdict:

Users of both the service will naturally love the added usability of Google Plus. However there are limitations to the extension currently. You cannot comment or like any of your friend’s activities or updates the Facebook way unlike any other popular apps. Well that would mean I’m too demanding. Whatsoever, it definitely is a good attempt to bring things together specially when socializing is the word of the day.

NOTE: You can also try and get a Facebook lookalike Google Plus and vice versa with a little help.

How Google Chrome is Growing in India and Hurting Microsoft and Mozilla [Editorial]

India has had a history of being a tech savvy country for more than a decade now. The adaption rate of newer technology in India has been higher than many other countries, which is why there are around 840 million mobile users (TRAI data – PDF File). However, hardly 10-15% of the Indian population have access to internet.

Indian Internet Penetration

According to public data available in Google, the total internet users in India was over 61 million in 2009. This should be more than 100 million now. However, this is a really small number considering a population of 1.2 billion. Nevertheless, this is still 1/3rd of the population of U.S. on which most of the metrics and measurements are made.

This definitely makes India a very lucrative market and considering the growing economy and purchasing power there it should definitely be. Consider this, when I bought my first mobile phone in 2002 or so (it was a Motorola), I parted with Rs. 4500 (~$115) with a heavy heart. This was a second hand phone with no contracts etc. Coming back to 2011, I see people splurging Rs. 20,000-30,000+ for a mobile phone without blinking an eye. This shows how the spending power has increased in India.

Looking at some of the public data available today, I was intrigued to look at who is dominating the market and guess what, it is none other than good old Google. I did some research and here are some facts on how Google is dominating the browser market which was once the forts of Microsoft and Mozilla.

Browser Growth in India

browser_global_stats_june

Recently, there were quite a few blog posts about overtaking 20% market share worldwide in the Internet browser market. In those cases, people were measuring Global traffic (U.S market share is still below 20%). However, one region where Google Chrome is really putting the pressure on Internet Explorer  and is India.

Browser Stats - April to June 2011 India

Take for example the above chart which displays the usage for Google Chrome in India for the past three months. The total usage for IE was around 36%, Firefox was around 33% and Chrome was around 27%.

Browser Stats June 2011 India

The scenario remained the same if you take June 2011 into consideration. No surprises there.

Browser Stats July 2011 India

However, if we now take a look at the stats for July 2011 (which is only for 8 days), you will see a huge jump in the number of users who are using Google Chrome. Of course, this data is premature, but it does reflect a huge jump. What could be the reason? It could be anything any everything including more and more users shifting to Google Chrome thanks to .

The %age gain in the above graph may not look significant, but even a 1-2% jump might mean that around 2 million users switched to Google Chrome in the last 8 days, that is a significant number in itself. The loser was Internet Explorer which shed their percentage. Firefox remained almost stagnant.

Browser Versions in India

Browser Versions India June 2011

In June 2011, was the most used browser in India followed by Google Chrome 12 and . Firefox 5 which launched last month was at 8, followed by Internet Explorer 9 which launched earlier this year. There were several other users who were using outdated browsers, but the growth of the latest stable version of Google Chrome is significant.

Browser Versions India July 2011

However, July 2011 tells a completely different story altogether. Chrome 12 has jumped to become the number 1 browser in India by a huge margin followed by Internet Explorer 8 and Firefox 5. The traffic measured during this period might not add up when we see monthly stats at the end of July 2011, but it is definitely surprising that there is such a huge difference.

Looking Back and Summarizing the Future

In 2009, Google Chrome had a 8% market in India even though it was released only in September 2008. This says a lot because it took market share from both Firefox and IE and jumped who have been languishing at the bottom for quite sometime now. A new browser gaining so much traction was unknown prior to that. During that same period, Google Chrome’s worldwide market share was around 2%.

In 2010, Google Chrome had a 10% market share worldwide, whereas in India it had a 18% market share. The growth rate more than double for Indian users. Since January 2011 till date, Google Chrome has a 26% market share in India whereas the worldwide usage is still less than 20%.

All in all, Indian users have adapted Google Chrome at a much higher rate than any other country and this definitely means that they are moving ahead towards newer technology. The adaption rate for Firefox in these periods have either remained the same or have dropped, similar for Internet explorer.

India is definitely a lucrative market for Internet Browsers, Mobile Phones and Operating systems. This goes on to show where these companies will invest in the future. Even if the internet usage in India grows by 20-30% all these companies will be vying for around 300 million users, and that is not a small number by any denomination.

So how did this happen? Money power, sheer brilliance or the power of Google? I will leave that to another editorial I will write in the next few days. Till then, tell me your thoughts through your comments.

(All stats in this post were collected using Google, TRAI and Stat Counter)