Monthly Archive for December, 2007

Duck and Weave

So, Weave. Essentially, Mozilla wants to create a persistent desktop and services platform for your browser across any computer you run into with Firefox. It’s a good concept, and it works pretty well (as advertised) after you get past the buggy signup page and email server (I just gave it a few shots and on the fifth try the request went through). As far as I can tell from using it so far, it only really tracks your bookmarks and history thus far.

It will be interesting to see how the concept develops and evolves on its march to fruition, as Mozilla’s exact intentions aren’t exactly clear just yet.

The Internet is already the most pervasive and important persistent platform in existence. Anywhere you go, you can log into the same accounts on the same sites and services and – trifling details such as browser compatibility aside – be presented with the same experience as you would on your own machine. We all know this; this is why it’s so popular, why Google’s plethora of web-based applications, most notably GMail, are as popular as they are.

Mozilla appears to be unsatisfied with stopping there, and the basic concept behind Weave appears to be to extend this fundamental nature of web browsing up one level of meta to the browser itself. This, however, raises some interesting questions.

For instance, even in its current incarnation, Weave appears to displace at least one aspect of at least one major web service – del.icio.us. At least one reason of del.icio.us’s fundamental utility is that it allows its users to persist their bookmarks across the web. There are many, many other reasons for del.icio.us’s existence and popularity, but who’s to say that as Mozilla’s initiatives to push social browsing and persistence into Firefox via The Coop (speaking of which, whatever happened to The Coop?) and Weave, that del.icio.us won’t slowly be forced out of the equation? Mozilla’s well-being is based largely upon Firefox’s, and Firefox’s well-being is based entirely on the web. At what point does a browser cease to become a better browser and begin to impinge upon the sites and services whose job it is to render?

Of course, the above is just a question. There is no accusation, there is no prediction in that question. It’s too early to tell what Mozilla’s plans and direction for Weave is just yet. However, if we make the assumption that Mozilla will recognize such scenarios as being contrary to its interests and missions, all of a sudden Weave becomes a lot more meaningless, a hollow manifestation of its promise – after all, at the point that Weave is restricted to merely persisting the existing browser experience and functionality across multiple machines rather than extending that experience, we quickly find that Weave has already reached its full potential. After all, the only horizontal growth Weave could find in this regard is, as far as I can tell, to also provide each user’s favorite extensions across machines, which would make it, and Firefox immediately and immensely improved. However, this feature is a technical and security nightmare, and not likely to see the light of day.

Thus, color me skeptical about Weave thus far. However, it’s extremely early, and the Mozilla Foundation may yet surprise us all. Most of what I have presented are merely questions, and perhaps they will, or have already, answered them all.

Side Note: A good OS X browser

I’ve been running 10.4.9 for a good long while now, refusing to install either the 10.4.10 or 10.4.11 updates that have rolled along in the past few months. Something just didn’t seem… necessary about them. iWork, however, begs to differ with my delusions and in fact requires the .10 update in order to install, thus rendering the whole sordid affair altogether too unavoidably necessary. As it turns out, my hesitation to take the plunge wasn’t without merits, though I had no rational explanations at the time.

Some of you may recall that I stubbornly stick to Shiira, an alternative web browser on OS X based on the same WebCore technology as Safari. Though it crashed every so often, and the bookmark experience left a bit to be desired (not to mention the overall grammar), I stuck to it because the core experience was nearly exactly how I wanted it to be, because without the rough edges, the promise of what the browser was supposed to be was worth it. However, Shiira 2 didn’t really fix what was wrong with Shiira 1.2 and move on, instead introducing a slew of very questionable issues, including the lack of any sort of documented method of renaming bookmarks. The least that can be said for it is that it is stable. Thus, I’ve been sticking to Shiira 1.2 far past its support period.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, the .10 update in face comes pre-packaged with Safari 3, and thus a new version of WebKit. A radically new version. One Shiira has issues coping with. It’s fine for the basic needs, but throw nearly any AJAX-laden Google app at it and it balks. Well, I thought, it’s a bit late to go back now, so it’s time to pack up my things and move onto some other browser, I suppose. A little sleuthing drops me onto Demeter, a branch of Shiira 1.2 that’s still supported. Hey! Things are looking up. A download and a few package contents modifications to replace the icon with that of Shiira later, I find myself staring at essentially Shiira resurrected, with working support for the latest WebCore! Well, not quite.

Clicking on links in emails seems to raise Demeter’s wrath, leaving it to deposit you on a blank page. Searches in Google Maps work smoothly with AutoComplete and all, right up to the point where you actually hit Search, at which point all hell breaks loose. Not to mention the small issue that it seems even more unstable than Shiira 1.2.

And so now I’m stuck without a solid browser for my OS X setup. Safari isn’t flexible for my needs, Shiira 1.2 is no longer functional, Demeter only works most of the time, Shiira 2 is just a joke, and Firefox is too ludicrously slow on OS X to even consider (though Firefox 3.0 beta 2 makes small strides) and fails to respect OS X conventions (hitting the up arrow in a single-line edit should result in going to the beginning of the line, etc). I’ve become slowly accustomed in the past week to opening increasingly “safer” browsers each time I run into a compatibility issue on the web, and I found this morning to my utmost horror that I had every single browser mentioned in this paragraph opened with various pages without even realizing it.

I’m tempted to write my own browser just to solve this once and for all, but all the issues mentioned above make the whole ordeal seem strangely understandable.

It’s been a while

Here are some things on my radar right now:

  • Apparently we still live in the 19th century. Ah, how we wish we could kidnap foreigners again. Oh wait, we can.
  • GameSpot.com head reviewer Jeff Gerstmann was recently unceremoniously terminated after ten years of loyal service. Rumor has it that he was fired for rating Kane & Lynch: Dead Men fairly low, while publisher Eidos has been pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into reviews on GameSpot. This one deserves further comment, but that requires further knowledge. Suffice it to say for now that I have terminated my GameSpot paid subscription, and you should do the same.
  • Our facebook app is doing fairly well.