Tag Archives: WebKit

Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 Developer Preview Is Here: Internet Explorer Even Better Now

Cortana Windows Phone 8.1 Update

As communicated by Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore on Windows Blogs on July 30, the first update to Windows Phone 8.1 is now rolling out to devices with the preview program. The update, simply called Windows Phone 8.1 Update (although it has been referred to as Update 1 too), brings Cortana to more markets in beta and alpha form, adds a Live Folders feature, adds a Live Tile to the Store icon, allows multiple SMS merge/delete operations, brings new Xbox Music app, adds a new feature called App Corner and increases privacy and security by enabling consumer-level VPN when connected to wifi hotspots.

Among the several unnamed changes and fixes are “hundreds of fixes” made to mobile Internet Explorer 11 to make it more compatible with the mobile web. The irony here is that on the desktop web developers had to code specifically for Internet Explorer 4 or 5 because it had several non-standard features. Now, Internet Explorer (both on the desktop and mobile) is promoting coding to web standards whereas web developers have catered their site for Webkit and specifically for iOS. This unfortunate reality made the Internet Explorer team re-think their strategy, and for their customers’ benefit, they made some tweaks to mobile IE that make it appear as an iOS browser to websites. Therefore, many sites which have browser sniffing enabled, will now provide the iPhone version of their site to mobile IE visitors as well.

As the blog post on Internet Explorer blog depicts, websites render very differently before and after this update:

 

Twitter on IE11 before update
Twitter on IE11 before update
Twitter on IE11 after update
Twitter on IE11 after update
Twitter on iPhone
Twitter on iPhone
Hawaiian Airlines before IE11 update
Hawaiian Airlines before IE11 update
Hawaiian Airlines after IE11 update
Hawaiian Airlines after IE11 update
Hawaiian Airlines iPhone
Hawaiian Airlines iPhone

 

After reading that blog post, I was very curious to see how Google’s websites render after this update. Another irony here is that Google, the company that beats the standards drums, has most of their properties coded for Webkit and/or detects mobile IE as a feature phone browser. The result is that GMail, Google News, etc. render very poorly.

I am happy to say that these changes in mobile IE11 do make the experience better, at least at first glance. See the comparisons below:

 

GMail before IE11 update
GMail before IE11 update
GMail after IE11 update
GMail after IE11 update
Google News before IE11 update
Google News before IE11 update
Google News after IE11 update
Google News after IE11 update
Google Calendar after IE11 update
Google Calendar after IE11 update
Google App Drawer after IE11 updateGoogle App Drawer after IE11 update
Google App Drawer after IE11 update

Apps Corner is much like Kids Corner where one can set one or a few apps to be available in a “corner” so when it is activated, no other apps are visible or accessible. This has good uses in the enterprise setting but it is clearly not only targeted to enterprises.

Windows Phone 8.1 Update Apps Corner Setup
Windows Phone 8.1 Update Apps Corner Setup
Windows Phone 8.1 Update Apps Corner
Windows Phone 8.1 Update Apps Corner
Windows Phone 8.1 Update Apps Corner Exit
Windows Phone 8.1 Update Apps Corner Exit

Live Folders is an interesting take on folders. Live Tiles have been a distinguishing feature of Windows Phone since it launched as Windows Phone 7. Instead of creating “dumb” folders which just hold the icons included in the folder, Live Folders presumably show the live tile contents of all the tiles included in the folders. This is neat because now you can reclaim some of the real estate on the Start Screen but not have to give up on one of the key features of the platform. It is also good to see that the icons included in the folders retain their tile size inside the folders, and the folder tile itself can be set to any size.

 

Windows Phone icons without Live Folders
Windows Phone icons without Live Folders
Windows Phone 8.1 Update Live Folders
Windows Phone 8.1 Update Live Folders
Windows Phone 8.1 Update Live Folders expanded
Windows Phone 8.1 Update Live Folders expanded

 

I don’t see how I can enable the consumer VPN feature, but that sure sounds extremely useful if I understand it correctly, which is, when connected to wifi hotspots, one would be connected to a VPN server right away. I may have misunderstood the feature so I will wait on reserving judgement until I actually find out more, or experience it myself when I connect to a public hotspot.

Have you downloaded the update? What are your thoughts?

Chromium Flavored Opera for Android Released

After spending a little over two months in the beta-zone, Opera for Android is now ready for prime time. The Norwegian browser maker has published the first stable version of Opera with Chromium rendering engine to the Play store.

Opera for Android is a major revamp for the popular mobile browser. Under the hood, it ditches Opera’s Presto engine in favor of Google’s Chromium rendering engine, which itself is based on WebKit. The biggest advantage of Opera for Android is that it supports Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and up. Chrome for Android on the other hand requires at least Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0). This is crucial as almost 40% of Android users are still on Gingerbread. Opera also mentioned that it intends to “stay closely in sync with the Chromium development cycle, doing frequent updates”. This might indicate that Opera intends to move away from feature driven release cycles to schedule driven rapid release cycles like that of Chrome and Firefox. Google has already announced that it will be forking WebKit to create its own rendering engine called Blink, which Opera will also be adopting.

In addition to everything that Chromium 26 supports, Opera for Android also features some additional ‘standardsy goodness’ like WebGL 3D context and CSS3 @supports. Another new feature is background playback support for native HTML5 audio. You can start playing a song on Soundcloud, switch to a different tab or even a different app, and the audio will continue playing. You will be able to control the playback from the notification area.

Opera-Android

Opera for Android also features a complete revamp of the user interface, which is now more in line with Android design guidelines. It adds a new speed dial with folder support, a discover feature with latest news and updates, a combined search and address bar, and an off road mode. Off road mode is the new name for Opera Turbo, which compresses web pages to save bandwidth and improve browsing speed on slower networks. Some of the major features that didn’t make it to this release include Opera Link (sync) integration, custom search provider support, and access to about://flags. Support for tablets like the Nexus 7 and the Nexus 10 is also missing.

[ Download Opera for Android ]

First Beta of Opera browser for Android with Webkit Impresses

Lately, Opera Software has been in the news a lot, but, most of it hasn’t been about new product launches. It kicked off a firestorm of debate on the interwebs with its decision to ditch its own rendering engine in favor of Chromium flavored Webkit, it raised eyebrows by acquiring Skyfire, and it continued to focus on new sources of revenue by promoting innovative initiatives like the Opera Web Pass. Today, however, it has something new for its fans.

The Norwegian browser developer has released the first beta of Opera browser for Android, which it touts as the “result of a passion for design combined with 17 years’ worth of know-how and innovation”. As you might have noticed, Opera has dropped the word ‘Mobile’ from its name. With the new name, Opera Software is following in the footsteps of Google and Mozilla, and is indicating that the mobile browser is no less competent than its desktop counterpart. It also signifies the new beginning of Opera’s efforts in the mobile landscape.

Opera browser for Android looks and feels like an entirely different beast. It bares little resemblance to Opera Mini or Mobile, having taken oodles of design cues from both iOS and Android’s Holo design conventions. The new tab page now consists of three distinct sections – History, Speed Dials, and Discover. As always, the speed dial feature shows visual bookmarks of your favorite and most accessed websites; but, now, it is also supports folders and custom titles. The discover feature showcases popular and interesting content from your selected region and topics.

Opera-Android-Webkit-Off-Road-Mode
Opera for Android: Off-Road Mode

Many of the existing features, including the neat download manager, find-in-page, private browsing, and user-agent changer are still present. Opera Turbo also made it through. However, it is now being called the Off-Road mode. Once you enter this mode, your webpages are routed through Opera’s servers where they are compressed to save bandwidth and also speed up surfing on slower networks. The new user interface prominently highlights the data savings that you have achieved through the Off-road mode. Another handy feature is ‘Save for Later’, which can save entire webpages so that you can continue reading long articles on flights without Wi-Fi. The biggest missing feature is Opera Link. Currently, the only way to access your saved speed dials, bookmarks, and notes is through the web interface.

Opera-Android-Webkit-New-Design
Opera for Android: Redesigned Interface

I haven’t benchmarked the new browser, but it feels fast and snappy (not that Opera ever felt slow). Cold start times have noticeably improved, but Opera still seems to be taking a second or so more than Chrome. Panning and zooming is still fast and fluid, but the engine change seems to have nuked Opera’s ability to reflow text.

Opera for Android supports Gingerbread (Android 2.3) and above. As Opera Software points out, this is important as 45% of Android users are still on Gingerbread. Needless to say, this is an early build, and might be unstable or might not work at all. But, as far as first impressions go, I am impressed.

[ Download Opera for Android Beta ]

Apple Violates Open Source License in Cold Blood

Open Source codes are used by almost everyone in the tech industry and that is the reason why, large companies release different parts of their application with different licenses. The world would be a really bad place without Open Source software with people writing their own shitty implementations or stealing codes from others. Open Source has simplified all this at a simple cost: you have to give back to the community.

apple-webkit-lgpl

Though, as tech giants grow bigger, they seem to care lesser for this. All they want to do is suck out all that is there from Open Source codes. When it comes to giving back to the community, they go MIA.

Apple uses a mix of licenses in its iPhone, which includes BSD and LGPL codes. Clearly, these two licenses require that Apple gives back to the community. Apple makes all its Open Source releases on a website www.opensource.apple.com. Though it is interesting to see that the website has not been spotted distributing their WebKit code after iOS 4.3.0.

Apple has a process in place to do exactly this, which is appreciable. However, this negligence from Apple can cause immense agitation in the Open Source community. If Apple gets away with doing this (which they will not), it will send out a dangerous signal resulting in massive theft, violation and misuse of Open Source codes and principles.

Update: After extensive coverage and scrutiny by the FOSS community, the code is finally up for download. Congratulations Apple, this was long overdue. Next time, please be on time.

BlackBerry OS6 WebKit Browser Video Preview And Benchmarks

BlackBerry, like Nokia have been unable to catch up with the touchevolution in mobile phones. The BlackBerry Storm and the Storm 2 were a major failure, thanks to the out-dated BlackBerry OS. Now all the BlackBerry fans have pinned their hopes on the next generation BlackBerry OS, and it looks like they won’t be disappointed. Salomondrin have posted a video of the new browser in the upcoming BlackBerry OS in action.

The new browser on the BlackBerry OS 6 is based on the same webkit code used by Apple’s Safari web-browser and the Android web-browser. In the Acid3 benchmark, the new BlackBerry browser outperformed both the iPhone 4 and HTC Incredible. However, users should keep in mind that the HTC Incredible was running on Android 2.1, and not on Android 2.2 (Froyo).

Here is the video I am talking about :

The HTML5 score of the webkit browser is impressive as well. Looks like RIM has been working hard behind the scene to make sure BlackBerry OS 6 and its future devices meet the expectations of the general public. Kudos to RIM for this!

What’s New in WebKit2 | What Webkit2 Has to Offer to The Browser World

WebKit, the open-source engine behind browsers like Apple Safari and Google Chrome has recently announced that it will bring a new API layer to itself creating a WebKit2. This will let web content and the application to run in two different processes.

This model is already implementated in many browsers like Internet Explorer and Google Chrome. Google Chrome has gained some great success in launching tabs as separate processes.

Though, the addition of the feature to the WebKit engine itself means, other browsers using this engine need not develop their own. This feature is exactly what Mozilla has been working on for a while now. Chrome already has this and calls it the Sandbox. This change will make it much easier and faster for Safari to implement this feature and get even in the race.

The name WebKit2 has been chosen because it is the next version but it does not feature any major changes apart from this.

As soon as the change arrives, browsers based on WebKit will directly see this. This includes the iPhone OS browser, the Google Android and the Symbian s60 browser. This will make them much more stable on mobile devices.

WebKit2 will release a C API to make use of this new implementation model. This will facilitate development of browsers using this new feature.

(Via: WebKit-Dev)