Fun with browsers24 Oct 2006
My first browser was Lynx, back when my Internet connection consisted of dialing into an ISP using a terminal emulator (I still remember the keyboard shortcuts). I still think there's a lot of beauty in the simplicity of the Internet back then — text-only websites, IRC, BBS, Gopher, newsgroups, etc. Even minus the technological advances of the modern Internet, there was still a lot of great information out there, and I spent hours in front of a black-and-white terminal trying to soak it all up.
A big breakthrough for me was the discovery of ZMODEM, a terminal protocol that enabled me to upload and download files from the Internet. Now I could download all kinds of applications (OK, mostly games) for my computer. I experienced Christmas mornings practically every day — mornings when the night before I had started an 8 hour download over a 14.4k connection, and was overjoyed to find a new toy waiting on the desktop.
From there I upgraded to a PPP dialup account where I discovered the fun of browsing the web with Netscape Navigator 2.0 and reading email with Eudora Light. I was a die-hard Netscape fan throughout the first Browser Wars and just couldn't get why anyone liked Internet Explorer. Even after Netscape lost the war I switched to Mozilla, opting to struggle with periodic crashes and memory leaks of the beta releases rather than deal with ... periodic crashes and memory leaks of IE5.
It's been a good week for the web, as Firefox 2.0 was released tonight and Internet Explorer 7 came out last week. The new browsers will definitely provide a better browsing experience. Sure, there are a lot of developers scurrying to fix broken web pages and applications. But I don't feel much empathy for them since I haven't run across any problems with my applications so far :)
I have to admit that IE7 is the first version of Internet Explorer that I've liked. If I had to, I could actually use IE7 as my day-to-day web browser — tabbed browsing was a must-have feature that came a few years too late in IE, and the updated interface improves a lot on the clunky IE6 UI. (I still keep IE6 around for testing, thanks to the evolt.org browser archive). Even though IE7 has its good points, it still doesn't beat Firefox in functionality. I'm really excited about the introduction of spell-check to Firefox 2.0, something that I've found essential in the time I've spent writing this post. The tweaks to tabbed browsing and RSS feeds are pretty nice too.
And Firefox is far ahead of anything else (yes, even Lynx or GET) when it comes to usefulness for a web developer. Extensions like Web Developer, HTML Validator, CSS Viewer, FireBug, ColorZilla, and MeasureIt add on magnitudes of power.
I'm already looking forward to 3.0.