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A revived browser race – the web application is not dead

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# Sunday, October 5, 2008
A revived browser race – the web application is not dead
Sunday, October 5, 2008 1:59:48 PM UTC ( General )

Finally, the wheels have started turning again, and once again we are seeing a renewed browser race.

Personally I’m quite happy about this; the web browser is a very central part of my daily routine and I welcome the new improvements. Further, my company develops a web application frontend for our services which must support several browser types, and platforms. Primarily this means we’ll need to support Internet Explorer, FireFox and Safari.

The primary problem with this scenario is standards support, of which Internet Explorer 6.0 offers the biggest violations. Unfortunately, this browser accounts for about 65% of our traffic – probably because of our corporate client base. In my experience quite a few corporations are unable to upgrade Internet Explorer as it is required for existing web applications, intranets and so on. And, unlike most other browser manufacturers, Microsoft doesn’t support side-by-side installation of its browser stack. This may also be one of the reasons why we don’t see too many Vista clients in our logs. Perhaps, a multi-browser strategy can help our customers get into the current millennium – and we can justify moving our application to a more modern browser foundation.

Looking past these issues it is refreshing to see that when Google announced their new browser Google Chrome it didn’t ship with a new web renderer, but rather employed the proven and popular WebKit engine. This engine is also used by Safari and a breed of Nokia Phones. Luckily this fits well with our standards compliant rendering profile, and adding support for Chrome was a no-brainer. It does ship with its own JavaScript engine though, so if you’re application relies heavily on this you might need some more thorough testing. It will be very interesting to see how it looks once it gets out of beta stage.

It’s good to see standards being employed since I do believe that HTML based applications will be crucial for years to come. With the new IE8 betas we can finally see Acid2 compliance across the board. Also, most modern browsers also pass or score extremely high on the Acid3 tests. The latest addition being the daily builds of Google Chrome, or Chromium as it’s called, pushing a near perfect score. Once the latest wave of browser releases mature from their beta stage, we will probably see Acid3 compliance across the board -- with the unfortunate exception of IE8. Let us hope IE9 will catch up ;)

All in all, a mix of rants and hope – at least something is happening.