Customizing Firefox 4 to fit Mac OS X a little more

Up til now Safari is still one of the best looking web browsers for Mac OS X. Before Firefox 3, or Opera 10, other browsers simply looked different.

Mostly this is because of the cross platform nature of other browsers. Even today none of the them are perfect. Opera 10 improved a lot in their latest theme update, Firefox 3 before that already fitted the gray-ish Mac OS X theme, while Chrome has lots of UI oddities in it.

Firefox 4 should be showing up in a final form at the end of the year (or somewhere near it), and adds tabs on top support. This is a feature we've already seen in Chrome, but also Safari 4, where Apple unfortunately removed it. But with the help of some CSS we can fix some UI oddities in Firefox, well fix depending on your own opinion of course.

First lets find (or create) the userChrome.css file, which is located at:

Users\[Your name]\Library\Application Support\Firefox\Profiles\[Gibberish.default]\chrome

If there is no userChrome.css file yet (default installations only have two example files in this folder), create one. Open your favorite editor (TextEdit, Dashcode, ...).

To remove favicons from the bookmarks bar add:

#personal-bookmarks .toolbarbutton-icon { display:none!important; }

To remove the Firefox sync button from the status bar add:

#sync-status-button { display: none !important; }

#sync-notifications-button { display: none !important; }

Save the file and restart Firefox 4 to see the differences. The only thing I need to figure out at the moment is how to swap the close button and favicon (on Mac a close button resides on the left of the screen). It's at least a small demo of the power of Firefox XUL interface, which you can manipulate with some simple CSS.

Get ready to use the Chrome Web Store

For a while now Google has made their plans public for an upcoming Chrome Web Store. Not only will this be one of the main features for their upcoming netbook (and tablet) OS, named Chrome OS, but it's also targeted at their (much larger) group of browser users.

Concepts like application stores were made popular by the likes of Apple's App Store, but also Android Market, Steam, Impulse and many others. The current trend is to make the web more part of the user experience. It's not a medium anymore like a magazine published online with video and hyperlinks. The web is now growing into application hubs, you have Google Mail, Calendar, Docs. But also Windows Live Hotmail, Messenger, Office. Socially there you have the new Twitter (which looks surprisingly like the iPad app) as well as Facebook, which can host entire games. As you can see, most web apps are hosted at their developer and there is no central place for a user to find fitting web apps (unless somebody tells them to go there). That's where Google comes in with their Chrome Web Store, a central hub for web apps.

Although most web apps are free, there are also payed ones and this is where Google sees the money. Imagine if Adobe continues to expand their Photoshop sibling on the web for consumers, what if they want to make a Pro-version and want a subscription or purchase price. Well Google just added their own check-out functionality to help just there. See it as the App Store on your iOS device or Android Market. Forget about being hosted online, you're buying an (online) application. Yeah, it sounds even scarier than Steam, where at least the app is downloaded on your hard disk, but think again, without for instance Steam, you have nothing, and on the bright side, they'll update the web app for you, so no need for installations, updates and other complex routines.

Other features of Chrome Web Store include advertising, reviews and ratings. By using features in Chrome, like geo-location, notifications, start menu shortcuts, relying on the multi-process architecture, and of course the web standards (but also Flash and Google Native Client), there is more and more freedom to create truly separate and interactive web applications.

Chrome Web Store was first announced at Google I/O 2010 and is scheduled for an October release. This may be the impulse the web needs to truly and orderly launch the web apps frontier.

Opera Software's Up North Web?

Haavard pointed out to a page at the official Opera web site that points to something indicated as Up North Web.

Previously Opera Software also triggered speculation with the unveiling of Dragonfly, a set of tools to help develop (standard compliant) code in HTML, CSS and JS for the web. However this one is particularly vague.

Prepare for an avalanche

The red-hot world of technology gets a breath of fresh, cool air in Oslo on October 14th, 2010

So... what do you think it is? Go speculate, what kind of new trick Opera Software have on their sleeves?

Episode II: Who will bleed, who will win?

Time and again, we're back where we've started, or not. With more contenders, there does seem to be a repetition in history.

The second browser war is well underway, if anything can be said, it's this: we all benefit. With competition on stability, security, speed and standards compliance, there is no better war where the user benefits.

On the desktop the war raging on, but it seems some players are wounded. With Microsoft beaten up but well awake, they seem able to have a new star out in the fields that will surely satisfy its existing users as well as web developers. They're serious and they're showing. On the feature side it will be hard. IE has seen and implemented the non-modal dialogs, developer tools found in other browsers. A new download manager and a clean look (like Chrome) should give normal end users the "new" feeling, but is it enough? By becoming a Windows Update and part of upcoming Windows releases, IE is most likely staying with a large market share. People know the name, and those who haven't dwelled off, will remain using it, as it actually has dealt with the biggest complaints.

Mozilla's Firefox seems a bit in danger, is it becoming the new sinking ship like Netscape? Or will they keep the boat floating, while remaining competitive on their most problematic grounds: speed and features. Up till now they've been in the back when looking at JavaScript performance, while V8 was introduced by Google, Apple threw in Nitro, which was at least near in terms of speed. Not long after Opera was working on Carakan, which is now in their stable releases. And even the slowest of the pack, Microsoft, has written a new and faster engine. But that's not all, Chrome is seriously halting Firefox' growth. Not just by Google's sheer size as a marketing machine, but also simply because Chrome does. Chrome does stuff better, like a simpler interface, lightweight on machines, extensions that don't need restarted and better performance. In all areas Firefox is trying to keep up, Firefox 4 shows these influences. If there is something they must do, it's keep being in the spot light of the end user, by what ever means.

Chrome seems to be the really jock of the pack. With a good marketing campaign from Google, and simply a solid product that has very few weaknesses they really hold the best cards. Chrome is Google's gateway to their apps, like Mail, Docs, and of course their search engine. It is important that this gateway is present and Google's OEM efforts seem to confirm this. With Android being successful on smart phones, they can focus on the upcoming tablet market as well as fending off Microsoft's Internet Explorer which will probably show more and more Bing integration along the way.

Safari, dear Safari, with no foothold on Windows it will remain the nice default browser for Mac OS X and iOS. Feature wise they're ok, but they aren't a match for any of the competitors. People who like simple basic stuff and some lightweight extensions will feel just fine, but due to its rather exclusivity to platforms, Safari is in no way able to take on a significant portion of the market.

Opera probably will remain where it is, dwelling between 1-2%, without any revolutionary moves like a browser only, extensions support and big marketing campaigns. Opera's focus is and should be in keeping the mobile market as a valuable market. They should not end up being non of the default browsers on any of the three upcoming platforms (iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7). Focus on features, and making deals with the likes of HTC, might give them prominent places where others have trouble (Mozilla Fennec) landing on their feet.

Of course everything here is just speculation, what are your ideas on the outcome?

Episode I: Introduction to the browser wars

If you like browsers, life couldn't be better. We're in the second browser war and the stakes have never been this high before, ever.

The battlefield has changed since the last war, which was mostly between Microsoft and the now late Netscape. It was fought by means of operating system integration, push-technology, ActiveX, VRML and the likes. But today the battlefield is much more about standards support, like HTML5, CSS3, and WebGL. But where OS integration was important, performance is now the main goal, who has the fastest JavaScript engine, who offers hardware acceleration? Of course there's another factor, customizability, who has the best extension system, but also stability and security, especially security have been given much thought.

The contestants of this war are new and old, Microsoft is still here (to stay), Mozilla is the spiritual successor of Netscape, Opera silently lurks, while new contenders are offsprings of WebKit from Apple and Google. Of course this war is not limited to desktop PCs or Macs anymore, smart phones, tablets, are also key elements in conquering the web.

Microsoft
When this web site started Microsoft dominated the web, Internet Explorer had 95+% share and the only real players left were the immature Mozilla code base (what is now SeaMonkey) and Opera. The story is well known, Internet Explorer 6 kept the web hostage, and more or less still does. It's far from standard compliant, has limited extensibility and performance is poor. With the popularity of Firefox, Microsoft was forced to recreate the IE team and has been working on IE7 and IE8 to fix the mistakes made in the past. But making up for it is hard, as IE6 bites with its disability to comply with standards. IE7 and 8 tried to fix mostly the CSS parts, but support was lacking for more recent standards and performance didn't improve that much, let alone security.

The recently released IE9 shows that Microsoft is very serious. It supports much more of the latest standards, such as HTML5 and CSS3, and finally scores well on the different ACID tests. JavaScript performance has also improved a lot, hardware acceleration was even pioneered in their first test releases, and above all they actually took time to refresh the looks to fit modern times.

In the mobile sector Microsoft has its soon to be launched Windows Phone 7, which of course comes with a browser using some iteration of the IE-engine. If Microsoft's plan succeeds, Windows Phone 7 will compete with Android and iOS for the smart phone market.

Mozilla
From the burning ashes of Netscape, Mozilla was working and working on Mozilla's code base. Offsprings were the latest Netscape releases 6 and 7, before AOL spinned off the organization behind the development. With a funding in their pocket and a shift of refocus of delivering software to end users, and not a product to base something on, they worked on an experiment that started with the name Phoenix, became Firebird, and was even better named Firefox.

Firefox was a successful choice, not only by name and logo, but also by its approach. It was timed just at the right time when Windows XP and Internet Explorer were under a lot of pressure due to their famous insecurity. Firefox offered a safer browser, but also a simpler interface with tabs and the now ever popular extensions.

Firefox 1, 2 and 3 were quite the success, reaches around 25% of global shares, but as of late development is taking a bit too long due to the more intense competition, especially from and old friend. Firefox 4 is currently in beta, and even now several features had to be removed, so it can reach a stable release this year. But don't worry, some very important features are still there. Firefox 4 comes with a newer look for Windows and Mac, integrating with the new operating systems where Firefox 3 really doesn't fit. Standards support for HTML5 and CSS3 is still good, and at the time of writing the new JavaScript has finally arrived that should, after some polishing, bring it in reach of the competitors performance wise. Only slightly after Microsoft, Mozilla announced support for hardware acceleration in Firefox 4, keeping them on par with the rest, but is that enough?

Fennec, the little brother of Firefox, has been running on the Nokia N900 (using Maemo), an Android version is in the making, but unfinished at this time. Suffice to say that iOS isn't part of the plan due to Apple's restrictions. So far no mobile vendor feels like bundling Fennec yet. As long as it's beta that's fine, but it remains to be seen if Mozilla's technology, which has been known to be less lean and mean like Presto (Opera), or WebKit (Safari/Chrome), will run well on mobile hardware. Fennec tries to be different by overing sync options as well as extensions.

Google
With already their sixth version out one would believe that Google is a long time player, but they've been in the battlefield for only a couple of years. Chrome is the pinnacle of all the web browsers, as the youngest it also has the most modern basis. Its approach is different, quite different. While the base consists of WebKit, which we know from Safari, the architecture of the software was unseen at that time.

With some big names like Ben Goodger (of Firefox fame) as well as Mike Pinkerton and others (sorry, I still like you all!), Google created a team of engineers that could work on something completely new. Chrome was the first to offer a process per tab, isolated plug-in processes, extension processes and soon to be GPU processes. This whole separate process story is an easier, but perhaps better way to offer security (everything is sandboxed and separate), stability (one tab crashes, the others don't notice) and speed (hey it works well on multi-cores). V8 was Google's torch, and has started the ongoing JavaScript performance race. They're still at the top with few contenders.

Currently at version six, Chrome has been growing and growing while Firefox and IE have slowed down there growth and decline. With Google's name on it, their marketing power, and simply being the most secure and one of the fastest browsers, they've seem to have stolen the hearts of many of both the IE and Firefox camp. Chrome's only enemy is Google itself, as Google is known for its powerful search engine it also means that you feel a bit watched. Anyway, Chrome is developing at a fast pace, with 7 having hardware acceleration and 8 possible introducing a better integration of instant search.

On the mobile side Google has been working on Android, probably the star of the smart phone market and the truly sole competitor at this time (until WP7 appears) of iOS. Android doesn't come with Chrome itself, but with another WebKit browser (in fact Android developers recommended using WebKit, when talking to the Chrome developers).

Apple
When Microsoft fell asleep and no new Internet Explorer (or Netscape) coming they needed to do something. Bringing in Dave Hyatt from Mozilla, Apple silently worked on WebKit, which was based on KHTML but with some serious modifications. Safari was born and has since been a star child of standard compliance and speed. With a surprise move they've also invaded the Windows platform, but like anything from Apple, it didn't flourish that well when away from Mac OS X.

Development on Safari is going in good enough pace. Apple's silent development is rarely disrupted by announcements, but WebKit 2 was announced some time ago to introduce a multi-process architecture at the heart of the rendering engine. Besides that we've seen extensions being enabled in Safari 5, while hardware acceleration is only available in a limit way (but they do work on WebGL, so who knows). Usage of Safari has been growing very hard, Chrome, which shares the same engine, has only been available for a short period on the Mac platform, but might get some people over, as Safari's extensibility is still considered limited. Windows popularity is not in sight as far as I can see, it's just not native (enough), and simply doesn't offer anything really compelling compared with the competition (as it isn't default, nor faster).

On the mobile side, WebKit is available in other browsers on other platforms, but Safari itself is probably limited to iOS (and Mac OS X). So growth and survival is dictated by these platforms and Apple's ability to lock out others from their platform.

Opera
And last but not least is Opera from Norway. They've seen it all. They've seen Netscape perish and Firefox flourish out of the nothingness. Opera's usage did increase in absolute numbers and their efforts in the EU against Microsoft have not remain unnoticed. But still Opera has not succeeded where Firefox, Chrome and Safari have: getting a significant portion of market share.

Opera is different from the others, from the beginning (until the end?) it has been a suite of applications for the internet. Although for most the web browser is the important one, it also offers complete integration of mail, IRC chat, BitTorrent, data synchronization and compressed web pages through Opera Turbo. Presto is a fine piece of work, as it is like WebKit a lightweight engine that supports many of the latest standards found in HTML5 and CSS3. While Mozilla was first struggling in finishing Gecko (their rendering engine), Opera succeeded in rewriting theirs (Presto) in a much smaller team and timeframe. This seems to repeat itself as Opera wrote a new JavaScript engine (Carakan) that was finished much faster and performance much better than what Firefox currently has to offer. Vega the new graphics library that will support hardware acceleration in the future has been the fastest software renderer yet. So on the engineering side Opera is really strong.

The current releases have made up a lot, as previously Opera was lacking behind a bit in the department of platform integration, JavaScript speed, automatic updates, and exotic new standards. The only truly missing part is support for extensions. Something a lot of people asked for, but is still ignored, as Opera is simply, different. Opera's continued development is hopeful though, the release cycle is fast and they genuinely seem to listen.

On the mobile side Opera Mini is quite successful on standard mobiles, but also on smart phones. Being the only browser allowed on iOS, in combination with a native Android app, they seem the only alternative available on two important platforms, well before Mozilla will ever set foot on it. With regards to WP7, we'll have to wait and see. If Opera continues to work on their web browsers and launch non-Mini variants as well, they might have a market, and the possibility of being bundled by mobile vendors.

Internet Explorer 9.0 Beta released

Microsoft released the first beta of Internet Explorer 9, a milestone for Microsoft, but also for the web. Internet Explorer is still today by far the most used browser on the planet.

The ambitions for this release are big. On first sight it has a new shiny user interface, that uses Aero, but is also much more simplistic in nature. The search and location bar have been unified, and share the same space as the tabs. The menus have been reduced to one, similar to Chrome, adding to simplicity. Other features include the ability to pin web sites to the task bar, allowing you to easily open really favorite web sites in a click.

But of course the major attraction points are on the technology part of the web browser. Internet Explorer doesn't just use Aero features, it actually uses DirectX for hardware acceleration, and has been a pioneer amongst web browser in providing this feature (Firefox 4 and Chrome 7 followed right after). On the web standards side of things a lot has changed. There is now broader support for HTML5, SVG, CSS3 and much more.

Windows users who are interested and running Vista or 7 can download the beta from Microsoft. Be sure to note that this is a beta and it might be unstable. So far it looks like a major release by a giant on the web who has awakened amidst the fierce competition.

Opera 10.62 released

Last, but not least in the release train is a maintenance release from Opera. Consisting of bug fixes and some small addition it also features an important security fix, and therefor recommended for everyone.

User interface

  • Selection jumps while backspacing in a rich text editor
  • Opera closing when searching on hotels.com
  • Not being able to click or select links or text
  • Opera freezing when leaving a canvas, audio, or JavaScript game
  • A missing plug-in dialog might cause Opera to close
  • Bodyless documents causing Opera to close in accessibility mode
  • Opera closing when downloading files in the link panel
  • Loading of streaming plug-ins in Opera Turbo

Display and scripting

  • More MIME file types and suffixes for compressed tar files
  • Fallback not displaying for Java types when plug-ins are disabled
  • tems disappearing from the cache

Mail, news, chat

  • FastMail domains and hotmail.co.uk to the email auto-configuration
  • Missing images in feed preview (media rss)

Security

  • Fixed an issue where malicious DLL files could be unintentionally loaded and allowed to run arbitrary code; see our advisory.

The update should appear automatically, but you can also trigger it from the Help menu. The full download is available from Opera's web site.

Safari 5.0.2 released

Apple issued a small update for their fast web browser, Safari. Currently they hold the fourth position after Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome. The update contains "improvements to compatibility and security" and is therefor recommended for everyone.

  • Fixes an issue that could prevent users from submitting web forms
  • Fixes an issue that could cause web content to display incorrectly when viewing a Google Image result with Flash 10.1 installed
  • Establishes an encrypted, authenticated connection to the Safari Extensions Gallery

You can update Safari by using the Apple Software Update application (Mac users click the Apple logo, Windows users search for it in your programs menu). A full download is also possible from Apple's web site.

Updated: Firefox 4.0 Beta 6 released

No release candidate yet, but another beta. Don't be disappointed, this is the first build where Direct2D acceleration for Windows is enabled by default, meaning hardware acceleration!

  • Firefox 4 Beta 5 is available in 39 languages.
  • Support for the new proposed Audio Data API
  • Direct2D Hardware Acceleration is now on by default for Windows 7 users
  • Firefox button has a new look for Windows Vista and Windows 7 users
  • Support for HSTS security protocol allowing sites to insist that they only be loaded over SSL
  • See the complete changelist from the previous beta

Currently there are not short term plans for hardware acceleration for other platforms, but (through OpenGL) it will appear in future (beyond Firefox 4.0?) builds. Remember, this is a beta and should not be used by normal end users.

Update: A new beta has been released to fix some crashing and UI problems found in beta 5.

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