Mozilla 1.4 and Netscape 7.1 News and Reviews
Sunday July 6th, 2003
It's almost a week since the double release of Mozilla 1.4 and Netscape 7.1. The new Netscape version came out first and it was reported on by Slashdot, LWN.net and Macworld UK. Mozilla 1.4 followed shortly after, leading to articles at Slashdot (again), Neowin.net, LWN.net (again), GnomeDesktop.org FootNotes and the Temple of the Screaming Penguin. As the two browsers came out on the same day, several sites — including ZDNet News, Techweb, The Mac Observer and OSNews — produced single reports for both releases. Meanwhile, CNET News.com and Ars Technica tied their stories in with Marc Andreessen's recent comments that browser innovation is dead.
Finally, for those who think that Mozilla 1.4 doesn't offer any real improvements, Asa Dotzler has a changelog. Thanks to everyone who sent us links to articles.
I notice that the Windows installer's about 500k lighter than the last one (for 1.3, that is). Starts up faster on my 400MHz Celery. Seems to load pages bit more quickly as well, and things looks a little crisper, especially form elements. Noticeably much better performance on a slow connection -- previous versions tended to "hang" and never quite finish loading a lot of pages.
I just noticed a couple days ago that Mozilla seems to be the only browser that supports title attributes or mouseover/mouseout events on OPTION elements -- neither MSIE 6.0SP1 nor Opera 7.11 does. Chalk up another one in the standards-compliance and usability departments for The Lizard. :)
(BTW, what happened to flat view of responses to Mo'Zine news items? It's rather less than convenient to have to click a different link in order to read each response.)
#8 Re: No Improvements?
Monday July 7th, 2003 10:19 PM
"(BTW, what happened to flat view of responses to Mo'Zine news items? It's rather less than convenient to have to click a different link in order to read each response.)"
It was removed with the hope that no-one would notice. Boy were we wrong! When the site moves to the new server (the weblogs and forums are there already), we'll have an even better comment display system that should obsolete the need for flat mode.
It seems a shame that what's probably the best release so far of Netscape and the Mozilla app-suite doesn't seem to be getting very good reviews. Both Netscape and Mozilla are now miles ahead of IE and offer a range of useful features (plus tons of useless ones) which make them both good choices for people to consider.
Hopefully the good reviews will start coming as soon as Firebird and Thunderbird reach maturity, however I think the press will think of something else to whine about.
Marc Andressens comments were totally braindead too, I'd say there's been more innovation in the browser area recently with products like Mozilla, Opera and all those browsers that are really just better front ends for IE. There's been a lot of new concepts in naviagtion including tabbed browsing, typeahead find, and gestures.
I'd say that there's a lot more innovation now than in the early days where a browser was just a means to display pictures and text in a window, with a back and forward button.
I do agree in the next few years we'll have reached what we can do with a desktop browser but there's still a little further to go.
I don't think there has been that much innovation.
'Find as you type' (formerly known as type ahead find) and gestures have been around for a long time, just not as part of the browser, and I fear they are still only going to be used by a few geeks (gestures aren't even built in - they're an optional extension). Tabbed browsing is a variation on a theme - in terms of using it as a navigation device, you can do the same with multiple windows (main windows or MDI), and some people have been for years.
Most people still just click links as they read the page, use the back button, and the bookmarks menu. On the other hand, I don't know how much more you can expect - in the first few years of browsers, there weren't that many users, relatively speaking, and more of them were geek types. Once you have hundreds of millions of users familiar with something, trying to get innovations to catch on is a lot harder - it has to be something that's so good that those hundreds of millions of users want to make the effort of learning how to do things again.
And as for the changelog, that doesn't prove innovation, it just proves that some bits of code have been changed in some way. It would be quite possible to make a thousand changes to the code without innovating or improving anything (not that I'm saying there hasn't been improvement - there certainly has, I'm just saying that a bugzilla count of fixes doesn't mean improvement, any more than the 20,000 open bugs means that Mozilla is bad.)
I can't really agree with your "Find as you type" statement. It's like saying "CD players have been around for a long time, just not as part of a car". "Find as you type" may not be an "innovation" anymore, but it's certainly an useful feature "new to a browser".
And it's not really "learning how to do things again". It's just another/better way to do things. Like "find as you type". After you learned about this (come on, remembering "/" is not hard), you will feel very annoying to use ctrl-f to find stuff.
Another example is keyword. After using keywords, you'll feel very annoying going through all those bookmarks or typing part of a link on the location bar waiting to see the link to appear in the "history part" of the location bar. Keyword is not really a "geek" function you know, people uses short form when writing english anyways. They can just use the same short forms for keywords.
You're right that some functions need to be very very good for hundreds of millions of users to "learn again". But when it's just a faster method to do something, people will just learn to use it.
Having said you didn't agree about "find as you type", you then seem to have agreed. Yes it's a nice feature - there are lots of nice added features and improvements in browsers, but I don't think that's innovation in navigation.
As you say, when there's a better method to do something, people will just learn to use it. But that hasn't happened yet - the majority of users are still just clicking links, and using the back button.
And actually, I do still tend to use ctrl+F myself, because I'm used to it and it works in most other apps I use...
I think part of the problem is that these reviews compare Mozilla 1.4 to 1.3 and Netscape 7.1 to 7.02. When you've already made the jump from IE, these minor version upgrades hardly seem all that spectacular (Netscape's being moreso, in this case). What we need now are reviews that look at Netscape 7.1 in fresh light, comparing the latest version to IE for those who haven't switched yet.
#6 Have you read the Inquirer's review?
Monday July 7th, 2003 2:27 PM
IMHO, it is *very* positive. Charlie sums it up quite nicely:
"Overall, the Mozilla team deserves a hearty pat on the back. They put out a solid product that has displayed no bumps or warts after a day of use, and solved a few nagging ones. The only problem is that it doesn't look like much. For that reason alone, I was going to give it a 7/10, but as I was typing this article, it caught my first spam message without me training it at all. 8/10. In a week, it will probably be a 10/10, but I haven't beaten it into the ground enough yet to venture out on that exceedingly safe limb."
Now, the Register has a very specific (humorous) writing style, but Carlie seems to love Mozilla and Netscape 7.1.
#7 Re: Have you read the Inquirer's review?
Monday July 7th, 2003 4:09 PM
Oh, I agree it's plenty positive, and I caught the humor. But the Inquirer's article is more geared towards Netscape 7.0x users and seems to try to put them at-ease when it comes to upgrading to 7.1. It's pretty light on substance that would be of interest to an IE user, telling them the compelling differences of switching to Netscape from IE.
#10 browser innovation - a visual history?
Tuesday July 8th, 2003 8:56 PM
I think the comment about browser innovation had more to do with just navigating the web. I remember reading somewhere some ideas that one of the Netscape designers had for a different browser paradigm. What I think he was getting at was to make a tree-like structure to represent your history as you browsed sites. Each node on the tree would represent a site you visited. The current node would be highlight or a different color. If you just went from one site to another, all the tree would be is a straight line. But if you opened links in new windows/tab, or went back to a previous site and then clicked on a different link, the tree would form a new branch to represent your new path.
We could probably make a Mozilla extension to implement this kind of 'visual history' as a sidebar. It would make it easier to visualize your path if you had been looking at a lot of different webpages at the same time. You could also use this type of tree structure to visualize the links on the current site by showing more branches coming out of the current node of the tree.
With tabs now I don't think there is a real need for something like this, but I still think it would look cool if done right. You could also make a little globe that would, when you moved to a new website, rotate to center on the location of the server and mark it with a star or something. I know this offers no real functionality, but remember what made SETI@HOME so popular among most users what is pretty screen saver, not the excitement over the science or new distributing computing technology behind it.
Any ideas or interest? I'd implement myself, if I just had the know-how and time :)
#11 Re: browser innovation - a visual history?
Tuesday July 8th, 2003 9:11 PM
an example of something vaguely related to the globe/map thing would be the Neotrace Express: <http://www.networkingfile…inger/Neotraceexpress.htm> Neotrace draws lines on a map showing the network of computers that connects your computer to the server of the website you are visiting. It also adds in information about the connection, like a visual version of tracert.
#13 Re: browser innovation - a visual history?
Wednesday July 9th, 2003 8:20 AM
This idea comes up periodically, and you know what? It was originally done c. 1993! IBM WebExplorer, for OS/2 Warp v.3.0 (and maybe 2.1), did exactly that! I can't find screenshots, but Google on "WebExplorer WebMap". Too bad Blue hasn't released the code for that function to the Warpzilla team....
#14 RE: Re: browser innovation - a visual history?
Wednesday July 9th, 2003 10:40 AM
Thanks for the reply. I did the websearch and found two places where this idea was already discussed:
It seems like a few people would be interested in this. If the idea has come up so many times, why hasn't anyone gone through with it and built it? Too many technical problems? Doesn't Mozilla have powerful-enough features to deal with the graphics? It seems from the GeoCrawler thread that someone named Aaron built a basic version of a tree in Java. Has anyone asked them about releasing the Webmap code? I thought they stopped releasing OS/2, and so it should not be a big deal for them (i.e. no lost revenue).
I've upgraded to 1.4 and I'm having problems loading in some extensions for Mozdev. So far I've tried Checky and Cardgames. They install OK, I restart Mozilla, but then nothing. I can't access cardgames via chrome://cards/content/ and Check doesn't appear in the pop-up menu.
They are listed in the installed-chrome.txt file, but not in the chromelist.txt file (don't know if this is significant).
Is anybody else having problems with loading extensions in 1.4? Or does anybody have any idea if there is an issue with the above extenstions?
I've tried the old uninstall and delete everything then reinstall trick, but still no joy.