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Author Topic: the actual browser divide: plugins  (Read 4560 times)

urlwolf

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the actual browser divide: plugins
« on: September 14, 2008, 08:05:28 AM »
Now that chrome is out, it seems that there's a new browser divide:
IE, FF and Chrome have plugin/extensions. (well, chrome in the future).

Opera, Safari and other webKit-based browsers don't.

This could be a big deal. Plugins are adding pretty outstanding functionality right now. Have you tried Gnosis?

Quote
Gnosis is a Firefox (3.0 and 2.0) and IE  plugin that automatically analyzes content as you read it and provides you with a variety of tools to explore the people, companies, places and things you’re reading about.
 

Really impressive.
 
Tip of the iceberg of what the semantic web can do and much smarter machines can get!

What I'm saying is: other than standards, 'real-life compatibility, speed, etc... the killer feature is right now plugins.

After seeing Gnosis, I'm having a hard time using Opera only. I want that functionality. And things will only get more interesting with time...

What do you think?

f0dder

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Re: the actual browser divide: plugins
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2008, 08:23:06 AM »
I definitely wouldn't use a browser without plugin support. An out-of-the-box browser might come close to serving my needs, but I prefer a relatively LEAN_AND_MEAN base browser, with room for adding the extensions I need.

Btw, it might take a while before Chrome gets plugin support... a quote from this arcticle:
Quote
What is not immediately evident, however, is any kind of extension mechanism. There is no directory in the source tree called "plug-ins," for example. Building an ad blocker for Chrome might be harder than it sounds.
- carpe noctem

Dormouse

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Re: the actual browser divide: plugins
« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2008, 08:46:36 AM »
Not an issue for me. I use Opera for 99(ish)% of my browsing. No biggie to use FF or something else for specific issues. Certainly don't want to be bogged down by plugins for most of my browsing.

f0dder

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Re: the actual browser divide: plugins
« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2008, 08:52:26 AM »
Noscript, adblockplus, scrapbook, "it's all text"... wouldn't want to browse without them. And I much prefer integrated ad-blocking to external solutions like admunch or privoxy.
- carpe noctem

housetier

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Re: the actual browser divide: plugins
« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2008, 05:01:38 PM »
A web browser which is extensible and customizable with plugins simply make a point of "the web is the OS": in a typical OS you install software you need or want and twist settings until it has become a tool you can work/play with.

Whereas the OS is a means to access the resources of your computer, the web browser is a means to access the resources of the internets.


azgarth

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Re: the actual browser divide: plugins
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2008, 05:45:38 AM »
the one thing stopping me from using chrome is the ability to use plugins,
opera has userjs though, which can replace some of the more basic firefox plugins, and supports most greasmonkey scripts.
so does chrome if you use greasemetal.
not enough though, i need coolpreviews, for example.

plugins allow for a lightweight browser, adding what you need beyond simple browsing to it, and nothing else, it also ensures that if someone needs a certain something, he or she can build it if need be.


zridling

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Re: the actual browser divide: plugins
« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2008, 06:49:29 AM »
Quote
[urlwolf]: the killer feature is right now plugins.

I think you're right on this. When you can take an essential app on every computer and directly improve it via customization, it's the difference between night and day for users. As long as users support Firefox, it will continue to thrive and compete with anything out there (because users know what they want).
__________________
urlwolf, you also mentioned the semantic web. If/when that ever comes about, we will evolve to the next level as a species.

Paul Keith

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Re: the actual browser divide: plugins
« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2008, 08:16:18 AM »
I disagree.

Key things to support my case:

(1) Internet Explorer users outnumber Firefox even with it's plugin
(2) A better out of the box program with the same level of extensions would have equalled or surpassed Firefox (Flock userbase doesn't even scratch Firefox userbase)
(3) Google Chrome would not have gained marketshare this fast even with all the marketing if people thought plugins were a killer app.

This doesn't mean plugins aren't great but in the words of someone I can't remember and someone who I'm not sure I'm quoting correctly "Firefox is more of a Web App but when I need a browser, I look elsewhere."

The killer application requirements are still:

(a) Support for most if not all sites
(b) Speed
(c) Stability
(d) Don't redesign the wheel too much at first glance or the users will run away from it.
(e) If things don't work well, make sure your users can easily find a way to link a functioning app to your application. (IETab, Open in Opera/FF/etc, Customize which RSS Feeder will be used, Customize which Mail Client will be used, etc.)
(f) Listen to your users before the opposition steals your ideas.
(g) Redefine the core basics and steal the beachhead from under your opposition's niche.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2008, 08:21:02 AM by Paul Keith »

urlwolf

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Re: the actual browser divide: plugins
« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2008, 08:30:32 AM »
I disagree.

Key things to support my case:

(1) Internet Explorer users outnumber Firefox even with it's plugin
(2) A better out of the box program with the same level of extensions would have equalled or surpassed Firefox (Flock userbase doesn't even scratch Firefox userbase)
(3) Google Chrome would not have gained marketshare this fast even with all the marketing if people thought plugins were a killer app.

This doesn't mean plugins aren't great but in the words of someone I can't remember and someone who I'm not sure I'm quoting correctly "Firefox is more of a Web App but when I need a browser, I look elsewhere."

The killer application requirements are still:

(a) Support for most if not all sites
(b) Speed
(c) Stability
(d) Don't redesign the wheel too much at first glance or the users will run away from it.
(e) If things don't work well, make sure your users can easily find a way to link a functioning app to your application. (IETab, Open in Opera/FF/etc, Customize which RSS Feeder will be used, Customize which Mail Client will be used, etc.)
(f) Listen to your users before the opposition steals your ideas.
(g) Redefine the core basics and steal the beachhead from under your opposition's niche.
[/QUOTE]

Agreed. (a) and (f) are particularly bad in Opera right now. (b) and (c) are particularly good.

The problem is that, considering the huge amount of plugins, one is bound to find one that one cannot live without, and that's bye bye for non-plugin browsers!

Here's something very telling about (a). Chrome has better support for the current (broken) web as it stands right now, and Opera has been around for years...
http://my.opera.com/.../topic.dml?id=249930
« Last Edit: September 15, 2008, 08:33:43 AM by urlwolf »

urlwolf

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Re: the actual browser divide: plugins
« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2008, 08:32:10 AM »
Quote
[urlwolf]: the killer feature is right now plugins.
__________________
urlwolf, you also mentioned the semantic web. If/when that ever comes about, we will evolve to the next level as a species.

Hehe, I hope you are right. I'm working full-time on making the semantic web work :) so if it nevers comes around, you have someone to (partly) blame :)

Lashiec

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Re: the actual browser divide: plugins
« Reply #10 on: September 15, 2008, 08:48:12 AM »
Gnosis does seem similar to IE slices in a way, but I ignore what are the benefits of this 'semantic' web thing hype it has been building for some time. If someone cares to explain... :)

Personally, I still find the integration of plugins with browsers quite faulty, as somehow their developers feel like they own your browser and install a toolbar here, a menu entry there, and one or two buttons in the status bar without asking and sometimes without an option to move them. I think there should be some guidelines on how to make extensions visible in a browser without taking over it, but so far there's nothing, and so plugins don't integrate as cleanly with a browser as they do with other type of programs. And that's why I try to keep the number of extensions in Firefox to a minimum, they already take enough space right now. That does not mean I'd love to have a plugin system in Opera, but it would need time to get it right (and UserJS is quite chaotic as it is now so...)

Plugins are also a double-edged sword, not only for the known performance problems they cause in Firefox, and the security havoc in IE, but also because of the attachment to them. So far I don't think it's a real problem, but in the future it could be, as not all developers can continue to develop their plugins, and some people are still keeping Firefox 2 because some of the extensions they use were not ported to 3. Such divides can be troublesome if the web moves forward, and browsers with less capabilities (and more security holes) are still around, and it also creates problems within the communities supporting those browsers.

Similar things have happened in other projects. For example, when foobar2000 developers decided to remove certain API calls used by a popular plugin, a sizeable portion of the users decided to remain with older versions so not lose this, and harsh criticism arose (which is being revived from time to time). Even the same Firefox project had a revolution with the AwesomeBar, with a long thread in MozillaZine full of people complaining about it, and a extension being developed to regain the old behaviour (I still don't know what it's exactly wrong with the AwesomeBar BTW).

Paul Keith

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Re: the actual browser divide: plugins
« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2008, 09:49:12 AM »
Agreed. (a) and (f) are particularly bad in Opera right now. (b) and (c) are particularly good.

The problem is that, considering the huge amount of plugins, one is bound to find one that one cannot live without, and that's bye bye for non-plugin browsers!

Here's something very telling about (a). Chrome has better support for the current (broken) web as it stands right now, and Opera has been around for years...
http://my.opera.com/.../topic.dml?id=249930

I agree on everything except for the part about the non-plugin browsers going the way of the dodo. This is already happening now and people still stick to certain browsers. I don't think all these can be attributed to user loyalty either but I can only really speak from my own experiences.

Firefox right now is an application I can't live without but it is for this very reason that it becomes an application I don't use as a browser.

All these features are:

(a) Very scary to get used to when browsing especially when you end up in a computer with none of these features. It could really leave you in a rut.

(b) Also very scary when you need speed and stability so that is one of the features, plugins take away.

(c) Truly very scary when plugins break each other or become unsupported.

That's why I'm much more comfortable being a multi-browser user. It's like transportation. Sometimes you like to walk or use a bike both for the exercise and the lack of fuel necessity and other times you want to be the driver and other times public transportation is just enough. 9 times out of 10, most people have a certain bias towards one over the other but they can't live in a world where only one such mode of transportation exist or if they do, they'll end up crippling themselves when trouble happens.

Quote
I think there should be some guidelines on how to make extensions visible in a browser without taking over it, but so far there's nothing, and so plugins don't integrate as cleanly with a browser as they do with other type of programs.

I'm not a developer but I think many developers already have adapted many of these guidelines.

Here's just a few of them:

a. When in doubt, turn a toolbar into a drop down button.
b. Always provide an option to remove everything viewable and scrunch it up in the tools submenu
c. Make extensive use of the sidebar
d. Always provide a start page after every installation
e. Always give the option to provide a changelog every update.
f. Always provide hotkey and context menu support.

Role Models:

Shareaholic
Diigo
Scrapbook
Taboo
LastPass

It now has become a case where the problem isn't on the plugin maker but on the developers handling the core program and how disconnected or politicized they may become from having millions of free servants at their whim.

Quote
Gnosis does seem similar to IE slices in a way, but I ignore what are the benefits of this 'semantic' web thing hype it has been building for some time. If someone cares to explain... :)

For me the hype is overblown because I think many proponents are ignoring the value of the prosumer consciousness. The usefulness of semantic web comes from the idea of better and more intelligent searches. Think of your music organizer overblown and adapted into the entire world wide web. The outcome is something that provides you with a list of search results extracted from meta-tags which in turn gives you this whole view of search results but in much more details and in more categories than you would normally get from using Google + keywords.

The idea is to aggregate all these information so you basically get Answers.com on steroids as opposed to requiring a user to key in certain keywords to "feeling lucky" through the results that they are shown.

It's aim is to give you a file explorer like way of browsing through searches so not only are you now able to better filter through the noise and the information, you can also merge Wikipedia, Crunchbase, RSS Feeds, Lifestream and other services into the entire internet in such a case that the ideal vision is to have something as convenient as Wikipedia but now no longer held back by the Wiki or the Encyclopedia concept and gobble that concept up into Google so the ideal result is that it no longer is a case where you search until you get tired but you get relevant results tailored to you and make you want to read it all even when you get tired transforming search from what was once a directory into a computer generated novel that you would not want to put down.

For more casual examples of Semantic Web, get a bunch of friends and abuse the People Sidebar of Diigo or upload a bunch of your rss into BlogRovr and see how information finds you instead of the other way around. Not that you need to go through such lengths because many Semantic Web features have already been painlessly integrated into our tech lives without us noticing. Ex. tags, visual searches, online mindmaps, Twitter, Plurk, FriendFeed, Profilactic, Social Media, etc.

I'm not a coder though so this definition may be wrong but as a casual user who've heard little of it, this is what it all sounds to me. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

« Last Edit: September 15, 2008, 09:55:10 AM by Paul Keith »

zridling

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Re: the actual browser divide: plugins
« Reply #12 on: September 15, 2008, 08:15:11 PM »
Quote
[Paul K]: For me the hype is overblown because I think many proponents are ignoring the value of the prosumer consciousness. The usefulness of semantic web comes from the idea of better and more intelligent searches. The outcome is something that provides you with a list of search results extracted from meta-tags which in turn gives you this whole view of search results but in much more details and in more categories than you would normally get from using Google + keywords.

That's part of it, but if coders are able to build the software correctly, this effect could be factored in. The reality for the semantic web to come about is redesigning and rebuilding the tools that make the very pages on which we throw content.
__________
Finally, don't confuse [software] marketshare with quality. In any medium, this seems to be true -- watched TV lately and the #1-rated shows each night? Driven the "best-selling" car? Point is, while lots of superior software has gone under, the fact that Firefox is open source insulates it from market whims. (Disclosure: I'm a huge Opera fan, though I enjoy Firefox as my 2nd browser daily.)