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October 16th, 2002

Beyond the Browser

One thing I’ve been really thinking about lately is the idea that the web browser is starting to fade away.

More and more, it seems, standalone applications take advantage of an Internet connection if you’ve got one. And the upshot is that these programs are useful. I can think of Weatherbug (Windows) and Meteorologist (OS X): both programs retrieve weather information from the web, and display it in your menubar or taskbar. That’s pretty cool, and a very transparent use for the web.

Similarly, Watson and Sherlock (OS X) do this by breaking out of the browser, but still providing somewhat useful information. RSS aggregators and newsreaders do this, too. All may point a user back to the browser at some point, but it changes the starting point to a program instead of a website.

In the end, I think it’s all very cool… but I’m not sure how useful I find it. I still think that, for me, it’s easier to go to a custom homepage I created to search for movie times versus opening up Sherlock and looking through the Movies “channel”. But part of that, I’m sure, is due to habit. I’m used to the web being a browser-only thing, and now it’s really trying to break free from that.

What do you think? Is the browser going to become less important as time goes on?

Posted in Technology

FROM: Chris [E-Mail]
DATE: Wednesday October 16, 2002 -- 2:19:48 pm
I think both options will be available. The open source community sees Mozilla as the front end to everything.Personally, I like discreet applications. Shared code, whether it be Mozilla or all the sharing in MS Office applications, is a security risk.

FROM: Jace [E-Mail]
DATE: Wednesday October 16, 2002 -- 6:39:00 pm
I believe that the browser will morph to take whatever shape it needs to to present data to/from the internet and web. As long as plug-ins exist, I think the browser will remain a point to tie them all together for use whenever necessary.
One phenom worth mentioning is programs using IE's tight integration with Windows to make it appear as though the browser is built into their program. I assume it's an API for IE. One example of this is Winamp. While it works nicely, it's just a subtle reminder that Microsoft has their fingers in everything.

FROM: Marcus Mackey
DATE: Friday October 18, 2002 -- 8:43:17 am
Everyone likes to think they're an innovator, and find a way to branch the content to their own "centralized" services so they have you pinned. That's nothing new, as that's sort of the idea where the "portal" came from (if you provide a one-stop shop for everything, why go anywhere else?). Now it seems we're deporting the portals in favor of embedding a "lack of choice" into the systems by default, swaying away from your multiple choices of map services by integrating a map service into something like Sherlock. Factor in that Apple is sorta' the bastion of many for what they did with Sherlock in regards to the same functionality in Watson, it's becoming an area where people are going to step on each other's toes to no end.

That said, I do believe that the web browser is here to stay, but I do see that the OS's case of "featuritis" is going to continue (inevitable), and this is one area that it's going to transition. That said, I expect to see increased evolution of these "single-purpose" technologies. Is it good/bad? I'm sorta' positive on it as some of the single-purpose services are pretty neat, clever, save time, and are elegant in their design. However, I also can see where they can increase clutter and complexity when you have to click one of 50 programs to replace what "ONE" portal had in entirety via the web.

I also, instinctively, have a nagging negativity/knee jerk reaction at the idea because it sort of stifles the choice. It'd be nice if like, a weather-based embedded program could be linked to one of many weather websites to pool it's data, rather than come straight from Apple or Microsoft or After all, it's sort of like the difference between people's preference in meteorologist's on tv. Having that alternative there is a positive, even if the idea of a singular purpose tool isn't bad if it saves time. I'm actually all for Apple or Microsoft providing a weather service within the OS that displays the weather (maybe current temperature with an icon for rain, snow, sunny, cloudy, etc. etc. next to the temp) next to the time in the menubar or in the system tray by the clock. Clicking on it could bring up a contextual-menu with a 7-day forecast, and clicking on any of them could bring up a mini-window or launch a website with a map of the conditions, and help show other stats.

Noone would argue that simpler is better, but when it comes down to simplification on the magnitude of taking a GM car stereo (simple, easy to operate, elegant interface, if not shotty sound) and turn it into an even more simplified BMW-style iDrive (hell-scorned by most magazines in that it's simplified into added complexity); I think you can get the idea that there comes a point where single purpose functionality reigns over multi-purpose controls/programs.

Then again, if it gets too cumbersome... it's a time to step-back. Knowing the various industries lack of concerted ability to understand the word "moderation", we can probably see the single-purpose functionalities spreading like wildfire to the point where we're drowning in them. Can you honestly see yourself looking at a menubar or system tray with 7,000 icons to single purpose programs? ::groaning and shivering at thought:: Sifting through the rubble, hopefully some good comes along with the bad, and that some semblance of tact or "MODERATION" will be exhibited in these services usage(s).

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