Why Chrome Will be Your Next Browser

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Google Chrome‘s market share numbers are skyrocketing, blowing past Safari and Opera to become the number three most-widely-used Web browser. That’s pretty impressive, and I don’t think it’s going to stop there. I fully expect it to overtake Firefox and challenge, if not beat, Microsoft Internet Explorer sometime in the next 5 years.

It took Firefox most of this decade to achieve its solid number two status, but the one-and-a-half-year-old Chrome is growing faster and, in some ways, developing more quickly than Firefox ever did. The question, though, is not whether or not Chrome will beat other browsers, but why it is rising while Firefox seems to have stalled or is falling.

Over the years, most tech-savvy users I’ve talked to have said they run Firefox. It’s faster—I agree—and it has amazing features, which is true. The Awesome bar, also known as Firefox’s address bar, works better than virtually any other address bar in the business. When I start to type in a URL, its best guesses are almost always on target. Those same tech-savvy users have always touted Firefox’s extensive add-on library. I use a handful of them, but I’m not an extension nut like some people I know. I find it fascinating how, say, a “27 Best Firefox Extensions” story can kill on Digg and drive thousands of page views. What, exactly, is the attraction to stuff you can add to your browser? Does everything we use need to be customized?

Firefox has also, traditionally, been faster than the competition. It usually loaded pages lickety split, and it did so with an admirable level of precision. The pages looked the way they should and everything worked—most of the time.

Here at PCMag, many of our developers use Firefox when coding updates for our Web sites. That was fine until I tried to look at the updates in Internet Explorer and wondered why they didn’t work. I’d march over to the developer and wag my finger in his face, “Why are you coding for Firefox? Don’t you know that 90 percent of the Web uses Internet Explorer?” This was years ago, of course. The developer would smile and shrug his shoulders. Eventually, he’d fix the code so it worked in Internet Explorer as well.

In essence, Firefox had the growing support of average consumers and the critical support of early adopters, the tech-heads who were building the Web.

When Google launched Chrome in 2008, it was almost laughably under-powered, but it was wicked fast. It let you search right inside the address bar (a feature I love to this day) and loaded pretty much every page (almost always with an odd HTML translation error or two). Wonkiness aside, it just worked. We were all impressed with Google’s first effort. Chrome beta was followed in a remarkably short time by a full-blown first version. Now, less than 2 years later, we’re testing Google Chrome 4.0. Firefox is still beta testing version 3.6!

As Chrome has risen, something disturbing has happened on the Firefox side. I’ve heard grumblings from people who previously supported Firefox, saying that it seemed slower, bloated, and, worse yet, that it’s a resource hog. This is the worst thing you can say about a Web browser.

Web browsers are the ultimate Internet utility and the one that we most need to get the heck out of the way. If using it is weighing your system down, then it’s no good. All modern browsers—Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera, Firefox, and Chrome—use tabbed browsing. This means they all have to manage multiple instances of themselves, with each one featuring full-blown Web pages that could be running everything from basic HTML to Flash video. I do not envy the developer’s task.

Microsoft has made some strides with Internet Explorer, a perennial resource hog. It’s a slightly better task citizen. Still, each tab is a separate process and all of them together can bring your system to a halt. Firefox lumps all the tasks into one, but the overall process number can get pretty big and, to be honest, it can get a bit slow at times. What’s worse is when it becomes unstable and crashes. Internet Explorer does this, too. Chrome spawns multiple processes when you launch new tabs as well, but it just seems to handle the whole thing better.

Every week I participate in a radio show where I have to answer listener’s questions. I can answer some questions off the top of my head, but with some, I need an assist. Usually, my Web site or a search engine can help me unlock at least the start of the answer. But once I find something, I don’t want to switch away from that Web page, so I open a new tab. I used to try this with IE and with Firefox. After a half dozen tabs, both made my system feel like it was swimming through molasses. Not Chrome. I open almost a dozen tabs and it still simply screams.

At its core, Google Chrome is a very good Web browser (I know it, like Safari, is based on Webkit, but I could never warm up to Safari.). It’s still not as full featured as competitors and there are, to this day, pages (even my own PCMag.com) that it does not render 100 percent correctly. On the other hand, Google is updating the browser on an almost weekly basis. Recently, it added bookmark sync and now it has a growing list of extensions—just like Firefox.

As it grows more popular, Chrome will surely suffer from one of the growing pains common among popular Web browsers: Someone will exploit its vulnerabilities. Google automatically updates Chrome when you launch it, so I’m positive it’ll take care of these issues as soon as they crop up.

Microsoft and Mozilla may be glancing confidently in their side-view mirrors right now, pleased that Chrome is, at just 5 percent, a mere spec in the distance. However, they may want to pay closer attention to that little note printed faintly on the glass: “Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.”

Originally posted to PCMag.

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Sexting and the Single Girl by Jhon C. Dvorak

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These seven tips can save your kids—and you—from a lifetime of online embarrassment.

The Internet is often eternal. Once something appears on it, someone will invariably keep a copy of it—or the thing will simply stay online forever. Just as the rest of us are finally forgetting that video of the chubby kid prancing around the room with his light saber, someone will reintroduce it to a whole new generation of viewers. When this kid turns 60, I guarantee that someone will pull out the video at his birthday party.

Parents and siblings do enough damage riding their own immediate family members about their missteps as a four-year-old. But in-family embarrassment has nothing on the Internet. Family faux pas is seldom self-inflicted—most of the Internet’s embarrassing moments, however, are created by the targets themselves.

Tech-savvy parents—I include myself in that group—often lecture their kids about how every dumb thing they do on the Internet will never be forgotten. It’s like a tattoo. As for tattoos, I’ve prevented my kids from getting those by reminding them that they’re like buying a dumb sweater and wearing it for the rest of their lives. Posting dumb things on the Internet is worse. At least there’s a painful process to remove the tattoo. The Internet has no such safe guard. If something actually does disappear, that’s just luck. And there’s also the Wayback Machine for looking at those old pages that have been cached forever.

There are seven deadly things kids should be leery of, when it comes to electronic tattooing.

1. Sexting. This means sending lewd SMSs or pics via cell phone. This is probably the dumbest thing you can do, and, according to studies, as much as 40 percent of teenagers do it. I can understand the sophomoric humor in the concept of “virtual flashing” to gross someone out or tease them, but you know that these flirtations are being saved by other giddy teens. Since most of these pics are technically kiddie porn, you don’t see kids putting up Websites with these photos. But anyone playing this game is subject to child pornography laws and can be put on the various sex offender watch lists (which have been watered down by these sorts of dumb activities). Try to get a job in 10 years and see what happens. Get used to living at home for the rest of your life or pushing around a shopping cart.

2. Facebook and Myspace. People are often far too open on Facebook. This includes posting too much personal information and revealing or embarrassing photos you think are funny. Facebook is a product you use after agreeing to its terms of service. It’s a well known fact that the guy who runs the site is not interested in your privacy. Never assume that anything you post on the Internet is going to stay private. Nothing is. This is a giant, public network. Nowadays most employers, suitors, and would-be friends do their research through sites like Facebook. Try not to look like an irresponsible dummy.

3. Twitter. Did you know that various credit reporting agencies are now using Twitter to find out information about you? Sounding like an idiot on Twitter with hour-by-hour chatter about your feelings is incredibly revealing. Every so often I check in on someone’s “tweets,” only to discover that the person I just met is a total dingbat. Folks, these remarks never go away! Do yourself a favor and up the ante on your tweets. Try: “Wow. I just finished the last volume of Gibbon’s Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. Great history!” Rather than: “Yuck. I just squished a spider. I hate spiders. Eeeeeeew.”

4. Blogging. Before Twitter and Facebook usurped much of the idle chatter, blogs were used for this purpose. Story after story emerged about how some dummy was fired from their job for blogging about their boss or co-worker in an unflattering manner. The weird part is that they were flabbergasted when it happened to them. I’ve never understood why someone wants to reveal their innermost feelings on a blog. It’s generally not that entertaining. Too often it focuses on someone’s cat. You have to wonder why people present such sad personalities online. Do they even know that they’re doing it?

5. Chat Rooms. While they’re not in the news as much as they once were, there are probably more chat rooms now than ever before. Many today are video chats on sites like Stickam. It’s impossible to condemn chat room since their value as support channels for open-source programs and feedback is so incredibly valuable. But sex chat rooms were participants titillate one another ought to be mentioned as potentially dangerous. If someone wanted to track you down, your IP address is easily captured and logged by the system itself. It’s also very easy to record a video chat. Again, since much of this activity is between teens, little is posted on the Internet, because of kiddie porn laws. But it could happen. Unless you are seriously thinking of becoming a porn star, do something else with your time! What would an employer think if they got a hold of the video? What would your mom think?

6. Flickr. I constantly use Flickr to do due diligence on people. Why not? If someone has hundreds of pictures posted of him or herself, an immediate red flag goes up. Why do you need so many pictures of yourself online? These pictures were usually taken at parties where people end up acting like the Whore of Babylon or an out-and-out drunk. Believe me, these pictures define you to others. “Did you see this picture of Joan and Alan? What is wrong with those two?!”

7. YouTube. Don’t post your personal rants. A handful of people are actually entertaining while in their room at their parents’ house complaining about friends or current events. But most people look idiotic doing the same thing. While you can indeed remove videos from YouTube, I can assure you that, if you are really making a fool of yourself, someone will capture the stream and repost it. Again, you can expect to see yourself as a dopey 15-year-old on the big screen of every birthday part from 21 to 60. Like the fat kid with the sword, you may forever be defined by that video. It’s like a tattoo.

Two 13-year-old kids sexting each other are not going to be dissuaded by casting a sexual predator as a bogeyman. And, expect in chat rooms, this is not the issue. The issue for them is long- and short-term reputation.

When I was a kid, there seemed to be more of a concern about reputation. I’m sure it hasn’t changed that much. I’m convinced that it’s only the lack of understanding as to the permanence of the Internet. It can haunt you forever. I’m still fighting about a column I wrote 26 years ago.

If you have children, make them read this column. Hopefully they’ll realize that they are treading on thin ice with some of their habits. Adults should read this column, too—though if they’re still acting like kids online, it may be too late.

Originally posted to PCMag.

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