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Browser Wars Redux: This Time It's the Apps 170

Posted by timothy
from the everything-that-rises dept.
itwbennett writes "Yesterday's release of the Amazon Kindle Cloud Reader brought to mind the bad old days of the browser wars, but with a new twist: while the app works on any iOS device, it only works on computers with Safari and Chrome. Blogger Brian Proffitt knows as well as anyone that 'this isn't a deliberate snub of the other browsers. Clearly the developers of this web app had to get it to work on Safari, because that's the only vector to get it onto an Apple device. And, since both Chrome and Safari have a shared ancestor in WebKit, it makes sense that what would work in one browser would work in the other.' But it raises an interesting question: 'If HTML5 and other web technologies are supposed to be open and standardized, then will web app developers have to continually tweak their apps in order to accommodate deficiencies or advantages between browsers, or will browsers have to constantly stay in sync with each other's features just to be able to run all the web apps out there?'"
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Browser Wars Redux: This Time It's the Apps

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  • by zget (2395308) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @01:31PM (#37060018)
    It works in Steam too, since they also changed to WebKit. The in-game and Steam store browsers feel so much faster with it, too.
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Yeah, it improved the experience using it in Wine/Crossover too.

    • Yeah so I've been playing with HTML5 lately, Chrome handles about everything I've thrown at it yet. When I take my site to firefox or IE9 it just falls apart, Somehow I don't consider this a problem. for me the big thing is being able to use the <input type="range"> tag. This is just so much easier then doing some sort of jquery it's not even funny.

      Take a look at this:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_layout_engines_(HTML5)
  • by c0d3g33k (102699) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @01:35PM (#37060068)

    I'm not sure how "running it in the browser" is supposed to magically erase all the problems that in years past were associated with running in multiple operating systems. The more power and control is given to the browser, the more complex they become, and the less likely it is that different browsers will be able to provide the same experience.

    This isn't "browser wars", this is "Operating System Wars, The Sequel". The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    • The more power and control is given to the browser, the more complex they become, and the less likely it is that different browsers will be able to provide the same experience

      This isn't necessarily true. After all, there is the historical counterexample of Java. While it isn't particularly popular for desktop applications these days, it did manage to provide the same applications on any OS with a JVM without any serious discrepancies. It's certainly possible for this stuff to work out very well, we just don't have much faith in the browser makers, for good reason.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Not for any app more complicated than "Hello World". Java is write once debug everywhere.

      • by exomondo (1725132)

        After all, there is the historical counterexample of Java. While it isn't particularly popular for desktop applications these days, it did manage to provide the same applications on any OS with a JVM without any serious discrepancies.

        Until you take anything more than a basic Java program and run it on a non-Sun (or Oracle) JVM implementation.

    • With operating systems you distinguish with #ifdef at compile time. With browsers, you have to do it at at run time. With Javascript, no less. So, pretty much the worst of everything.
      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        So..when will Firefox run HTML5?

        I've got version 5, and it won't run the Kindle Cloud app....

        • by Skuto (171945)

          Firefox runs HTML5 just fine. The Kindle app uses Web SQL (never fully standardized, deprecated) instead of IndexedDB (standardized) so it won't work on standards-compliant browsers.

          Safari doesn't support the IndexedDB standard, which is why they didn't use that, so your question should be addressed at Safari instead.

      • by DarkOx (621550)

        You are also forgetting that you have user culture with browsers that often provides you with disinformation, and unpredictable filtering. I can't count the number of sites I have to send a Firefox user agent string so my favorite browser SeaMonkey is permitted to download the page. Its practically the same engine so of course it works 99.9% percent of places Firefox does, but these means if you have done something which depends on one of the few differences, I have possibly obscured information that is n

    • Mod parent up. There will always be platform wars on all levels. Hardware-level, OS-level, browsers, cloud wars, media format wars. Even wars between differing implementations of open standards. There will never be a time where there isn't a heavy battle for market share and control on every level. It's what drives everything forward. It's what kills off bad ideas and good ideas. It's the hallmark of any full-fledged ecosystem.
    • by jellomizer (103300) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @01:56PM (#37060356)

      However current history shows this isn't true... Browsers right now are the best way to display data, WebKit, Mozilla or IE for HTML 4 strict does an excellent job of following the specs.
      HTML 5 is new and not all the features are implemented yet, and right now there is some shield bashing on who has implemented the most useful set of the HTML 5 standard first. So for the developers who are blindly jumping to full HTML 5 are coming across compatibility issues, because not all browsers are close to be fully HTML 5 Compliment.

      There is no Magic here. The browser runs on top of the OS and interprets the command send via files and follows the same methods to display the data. It is actually quite easy concepts, it didn't happen before because computing power wouldn't allow useful speed in doing such work without the need to go out and run some custom machine level code. Once Browsers finish their full support in HTML 5 then things will render the same again?

      This isn't a browser war type of activity and not an OS War Especially as things work the same in Chrome for Windows, Linux or Mac... The old browser war was each side making their own special commands in complete disregard on what the standard said in hopes that developers will use it over the others and force people to use their browser. Eg. the Netscape Layer Tag, ActiveX or Java Aplets. Right now it is more of a bragging right of saying Hey we got this in first or our implementation is faster then yours. But it doesn't mean the next version your version won't be faster of have that feature... It isn't a war but healthy competition.

      In a War the Consumer Looses and Competition the Consumer wins.

  • by John.P.Jones (601028) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @01:37PM (#37060104)

    I'm just as concerned with the tendency of websites with 'mobile apps' to intentionally break their own website experience when browsing on a mobile device in order to push their native app instead. Deep links redirecting to mobile homepages are also breaking the web (from mobile at least). In many cases the web worked better on my iPhone 1 then it does today on my iPhone 4.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Change the User id. Not sure how easy that is to do on an iPhone but I do it on my Droid running CM7 all the time for these broken websites.

      • by psyclone (187154)

        Isn't that a pain to keep switching the User Agent though? Some sites /are/ well designed for mobile, and I enjoy that on the mobile browser. I suppose some sort of menu setting or quick-action extension (see mobile firefox for android, etc) could work. But like the GP pointed out, by the time you've changed user agents, the deep link broke and presumably you have to go find it and click it again.

      • Change the User id. Not sure how easy that is to do on an iPhone

        I know it's possible when you jailbreak. I have a "UAFaker" icon on my SBSettings menu. I swipe the status bar, tap the icon, and try the link again. Same thing to turn it off. Without jailbreaking, I believe there are alternate browsers you can get on the App Store that will fake the user agent for you. Or you could use Opera Mini or Cloud Browse, but that's getting somewhat excessive.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      I'm just as concerned with the tendency of websites with 'mobile apps' to intentionally break their own website experience when browsing on a mobile device in order to push their native app instead.

      I see this a lot ... visit a web site on my iPad, get popup telling me they have a native app, and wouldn't I rather be running that.

      No, go away ... show me the damned web page, and leave me alone. Sometimes the redirect they use makes it almost impossible to use the back button to get out of the damned site.

      Or,

      • Try the Atomic Web browser which lets you easily set the agent response as Mobile Safari, Mobile Safari - iPhone, Mobile Safari - iPad, Safari Desktop, Wap Device, Firefox 3, IE 6, IE 7, IE 8.
        I only wish I could specify the setting per web site.
    • by ShakaUVM (157947) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @02:54PM (#37061194) Homepage Journal

      I'd mod you up, but I'm using Slashdot on a smartphone.

  • by sunderland56 (621843) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @01:37PM (#37060106)

    Clearly the developers of this web app had to get it to work on Safari, because that's the only vector to get it onto an Apple device.

    So, Apple locks out downloading/running any other web browser? How come you didn't say "Clearly the developers had to get it working on IE, because that's the only vector to get it onto a PC"??

    Since Firefox works on all computers, and has a higher market share than Safari [wikimedia.org], it seems that Firefox would have been the better choice.

    • RTFS, they're talking about getting it onto an iOS device.
    • I think "Apple device" means something running iOS; as opposed to an "Apple computer".

    • by wsxyz (543068)
      Show me where I can download Firefox for my iPad.
      • by kikito (971480)

        That's not a computer.

        • by X0563511 (793323)

          Oh really? You might want to explain that to the general-purpose CPU inside of it attached to a clock source, RAM, storage, and various other peripherals...

          • by Pope (17780)

            So go write some code on it. You don't have to report back.

            • by tepples (727027)
              So you're saying the iPad is missing some basic capability that all computers should have. Hmmm, basic [apple.com]...
            • by Lanteran (1883836)

              Protip: When arguing about the inability of an iPad to execute arbitrary code to an apple fan, they'll always try to trot out javascript.

          • by kikito (971480)

            Allow me to make a car analogy.

            The iPad is not a computer the same way that a golf cart is not a car.

            A cart and a golf cart have the same structural elements - 4 wheels, an engine, etc. And yet, you can't use a golf cart like you would use a regular car.

            It's the same with the iPad and a regular computer (be it a PC a Mac, or whatever).

            • by X0563511 (793323)

              Somewhere you've gone and redefined what a car is, because a golf cart is most definitely one of them (just not approved for use on state/federal roads).

              • by kikito (971480)

                From wikipedia:

                Car: Most definitions of the term specify that automobiles are designed to run primarily on roads, to have seating for one to eight people, to typically have four wheels, and to be constructed principally for the transport of people rather than goods.

                Golf Carts are not designed to run primarily on roads, ergo they are not cars.

        • That's not a computer.

          But it is an "apple device" which was the wording used in the summary.

    • by BZ (40346)

      > So, Apple locks out downloading/running any other
      > web browser?

      On iOS (which is what the story is explicitly talking about when it says "Apple deveice") that is _exactly_ what Apple does.

      • Opera is also available on iPhone and iPad. For the iDevices, there are multiple browsers which embed the Safari component, too.

        • by BZ (40346)

          Opera Mini is available for i*, which is not really a browser running on the device; it's just an image viewer, with the images generated on the Opera servers. Opera Mobile, which is an actual browser, is not available last I checked.

          And yes, if you make a "new browser" by just creating a new UI around the shipped WebKit you can have it on iOS, of course. Whether you consider that a new browser is up to you.

  • between competing vendors? Maybe standards that have been used for a decade have stabilized compatibility issues between vendors, but this is always a struggle and there will always be exception handling to provide a common experience across all platforms. I am not sure where the idea comes from that because it is standardized, it will be implemented equally and the same. Have you paid attention to the last decade of web development where standards have always existed. Unless a vendor has a mission stateme
  • The comment that they "had" to get it working on WebKit in order to get the Cloud Reader on the iPhone/iPad is probably correct - but it also seems like Webkit has been leading the pack when it comes to implementing advanced HTML5 features. Generally these features appear to get added to Firefox somewhat later (after someone files it on Bugzilla).

    • by Dahamma (304068)

      Yep. Vudu's streaming movie web app is also HTML5 on the iPad, and it does a hell of a lot more with HTML5 features than an eBook reader...

    • by sgt scrub (869860)

      it also seems like Webkit has been leading the pack when it comes to implementing advanced HTML5 features

      Don't it though! It is like the Firefox guys are more concerned with where you put book marks and the uri text box.

    • by BZ (40346)

      What you're mostly seeing is that Mozilla is not as good at marketing the features they have that WebKit doesn't as Chrome is at marketing the features they have.

      Which is not surprising, since Chrome spends a lot more money and effort on marketing than Mozilla does.

      There is also the effect where Mozilla tends to value correctness of implementation over breadth of features when it has to choose between the two, whereas WebKit doesn't necessarily prioritize in the same way.

  • Wow, this must be the first time that some content only works in a proper subset of modern browsers and is broken in the others. Until now, browsers have stuck to strict standards, so that developers wouldn't have to rewrite their code for the quirks of each browser. But I guess that's all over now. What a shame!
  • HTML5 is still a W3C Working Draft standard (see http://dev.w3.org/html5/spec/) and is still changing so browser developers are slow to spend effort implementing it. Even after it becomes an official 1.0 standard, some browsers may not implement parts of it for years, so some amount of browser-specific code (and occasional non-availability of some features on some platforms) will always be a fact of life when building Web UIs.

    • by Lennie (16154)

      It doesn't really matter if it is a working draft or standard.

      Browser vendors will propose specifications and implement it.

      Usually with a browser-prefix like with CSS3 features: -webkit or -moz

      This is to get in the field- and implementation-testing. If everyone has seen how it works, it will be made a standard otherwise it will be changed and deprecated.

  • Sounds like the developers used webkit to render but didn't care if webkit was already present.? Why didn't they just optionally install webkit?

    • by tepples (727027)

      Why didn't they just optionally install webkit?

      There's a WebKit extension for IE, called Google Chrome Frame. I haven't heard of one for Firefox.

  • IndexedDB vs WebSQL (Score:5, Informative)

    by jgon (1840424) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @02:25PM (#37060736)

    Good lord slashdot, I was hoping to see informed technical discussion like that slashdot of old instead of scaremongering gossip over motives for the Book Store compatibility. It has nothing to do with Apple controlling Amazon, or browser wars. The HTML5 database storage spec is not fully standardized, and so chrome and safari both implement the WebSQL spec while Mozilla has chosen to go with their own IndexedDB spec.

    The book store will be ported to firefox shortly as both DB implementations basically accomplish the same thing. It came out for Chrome and Safari first because Amazon wanted to circumvent Apple's in-app purchasing requirements on the iPad and that meant working with webkit first. Down the line I am sure that browser makers will eventually converge on either IndexedDB or WebSQL and that will become part of the HTML standard but for now the discrepancy is explainable purely in terms of using a non-standard technology that browser makers are still experimenting with and trying to shake out.

    • by wsxyz (543068)
      Wouldn't it be better then if Firefox just implemented WebSQL?
    • by roca (43122)

      IndexedDB is not "Mozilla's own". It was co-developed in the open with Google and Microsoft.

  • by epine (68316) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @02:26PM (#37060744)

    After forty years of following technology, I assure you that wherever there's a land rush in progress, a compatibility clusterbuck is sure to follow. Early mover advantage is a broken window [wikipedia.org] for everyone else. It's not actually the nature of the standardization process to be out in front of the gypsy caravan waxing behind the Spanish Galleon of zeitgeist redux. As much as we complain about this, the gypsies are a tribe of legendary endurance, hardship, and snark (as often featured here on snarkdote).

    Standardization is the introverted naturalist's account of rats, cockroaches, raccoons, ravens, seagulls, and urban deer: what's left behind after progressive forces have eradicated the dodo, pillaged the cod fishery, and turned most of the polar bear population into shaggy rugs of bravado.

    • by grnbrg (140964)

      Standardization is the introverted naturalist's account of rats, cockroaches, raccoons, ravens, seagulls, and urban deer: what's left behind after progressive forces have eradicated the dodo, pillaged the cod fishery, and turned most of the polar bear population into shaggy rugs of bravado.

      New .signature!

      Who said poetry was dead? :)

      grnbrg.

    • Early mover advantage is a broken window [wikipedia.org] for everyone else.

      The Broken Window fallacy is about the idea that the economic activity required to replace destroyed property can be counted as a net benefit to society. It is a fallacy because that activity does not create new wealth; instead, it represents an expenditure of resources and effort merely to return to the state before the property was destroyed. If the "window" was not broken, that effort and those resources could have been spent on moving society ahead, rather than regaining what was lost.

      In your example (r

    • by Coppit (2441)

      Jon Katz, is that you?

  • Considering that the spec is not finalized, why are you so surprised that browsers are't done implementing it all yet?
    The 11th draft of HTML5 was released this month http://dev.w3.org/html5/spec/Overview.html [w3.org]
  • How about, instead of sniffing for the browser types you (think you) know support what you need, sniff for the features you need directly? That way your app will work just fine with any browser that supports what you need, and if it doesn't support what you need you'll be able to tell the user exactly what his browser's missing so he can fix it (it may be he just needs to update his browser, or install a plug-in or optional feature he hasn't gotten around to yet).

    • by tepples (727027)

      How about, instead of sniffing for the browser types you (think you) know support what you need, sniff for the features you need directly?

      What makes you sure they're not doing that? It could be the case that Trident and Gecko don't support some HTML DOM feature that WebKit supports.

  • Really, this sounds like a great thing for browsers and the internet. When developers write things to a standard (HTML5) instead of insane-crazy-time (whatever the hell internet explorer 6 renders), everybody wins. If browser authors want market share, they are forced to pick up features. Even the IE behemoth appears to be realizing that some HTML5 may be critical to its long-term survival.
    In the old days the problem was that IE had a monopoly, and sucked, so people wrote crap for IE and it continued the

  • Pretty silly to complain about HTML 5 "standards" when the real problem isn't with the standards, it's with the implementation of those standards. That's why we have tests such as Acid, of course.

    I will say, however, that the implementations of the browser standards for HTML 5 and CSS3 are SO much better than earlier rounds of the browser wars. At least it's not a complete nightmare as before. Where you find problems are in edge-cases such as websocket and threads for which there is really no workaround p

  • The expectation that HTML5 would end compatibility issues is not only unrealistic, but completely ridiculous. Vendors and developers have extended, misunderstood, incorrectly implemented and violated standards since the web began, and a more complex and more powerful standard only offers more ways to do so.

  • They want royalties on your browser wars/standards argument.

    You can deposit it in the account of one honorable Nelson Malambe, somewhere in Nigeria. Check your spam for the address and account number.

    -R

    (sorry for the double post, I accidentally posted as an AC.)

  • It's not as bad as it sounds...

    Yes, web developers do need to support multiple browsers. It may be worse with HTML5, but when I was a full-time web developer, it wasn't bad at all -- I spent maybe an hour a week fixing crap so it'd work in IE7 (we dropped IE6, thankfully) and everything else Just Worked -- we'd develop in Firefox (since it had Firebug, since this was before Chrome was as cross-platform as it is now, and before its dev tools could really match Firebug), and maybe once or twice a month there'

  • I would guess Amazon's done this for future insurance (in case Apple tries to further tighten appstore rules which impact Amazon), and to say 'Hey Apple, most of our customers would rather deal with a less usable HTML 'app' for their books than convert to iBooks'.

    I'm a big Apple fan in most things, and a big fan of Amazon; they've got me locked into their store unless they behave really badly. I think Apple went too far telling Amazon et all 'no app for you if you have a handy link or interface to YOUR

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