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back to article Faster, more private, easier to read: My 2014 browser wishlist

The web browser ceased to be a "browser" some time ago. These days browser is really the runtime of the web. As such, web browsers and browser makers seem to spend more time these days optimizing their runtimes for developers. Every time you turn around there's a new JavaScript compiler, support for a still-not-actually-a- …

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"Universal sync tools"

I'd just be happy if Opera would give me back the sync tools they used to have in the good old times.

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Re: "Universal sync tools"

Chrome seems to do sync, between my android and desktop at least. On phone it's under bookmarks, uppydowny arrows, and it has a list of the tabs open on Chrome on my desktop.

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Unhappy

Re: "Universal sync tools"

To tell you the truth, I absolutely hate browsers on different devices automatically syncing up. I have different browsing habits at work than I do at home, and can't stand it when my tablet or phone decides it wants to open the dozen or so tabs that I last used at work, especially when some of them are behind login pages, and thus will fail to load.

I mean, I would actually like to go back to the days when I opened the browser, it actually went to my home page, and stayed there until I went somewhere else. Anything I'm interested in, I'll bookmark, and open when I want.

One thing that worries me is that syncing across browsers also means that something is linking the different devices up without my involvement. Mozilla/Firefox must be doing some serious profiling to work out that my Linux desktop at work is somehow linked to my personal phone, but it does.

It's scary when I look up a route in Google Maps, and then have Navigation on my phone pick it up. Convenient, maybe, but I would prefer to have the control over that level of integration myself.

I know that if I dig through the settings enough, and regularly clear the cookies, I can probably get what I want, but the defaults currently do not suite me. Maybe there should be some privacy profile that gets filled in the first time you use a particular browser.

It's probably a generational thing. I don't want my life plastered across the Internet, because I grew up expecting a degree of anonymity in life, whereas more recent generations appear to not value that at all, and often court the whole world to know where they are and what they are doing.

Ugh!

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Re: "Universal sync tools"

Well, apart from the Opera sync which is a small percent of the market, Xmarks (free) already syncs bookmarks and open tabs across FF, IE, Chrome/Iron, Safari:

http://download.xmarks.com/download/all

Also includes possibility for different profiles with standard ones for Home, Work and mobile.

(For mobile, it works with the FF mobile browser, but not Android browser).

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Re: "Universal sync tools"

Opera isn't a browser company anymore, they are an advertising company, that for various reasons produces a browser.

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Re: "Universal sync tools"

'Also includes possibility for different profiles with standard ones for Home, Work and mobile'.

This is such an obvious one, that Google in particular don't seem to get. Not that Firefox, Windows/IE or Apple are any better.

Google try and force one profile for Gmail, Google+ and Chrome, presumably to target one person with adverts. Even though Google+ has 'circles' they don't seem to be integrated into anything else.

In actual fact, at home/Home profile, I am going to be more interesting in gaming and stories like the one on the Sinclair QL. Might watch a Youtube video or something 'NSFW'. At work, I view a lot of internal web servers not reachable externally; no point having those links in my home profile, nor cache the history.

Same thing goes for things like Google+; I don't think Google knows what they want from hit, but while Google Hangouts actually works pretty well for online meetings, the integration as a business tool is pretty awful. Logging into a daily meeting on Hangouts, and get stopped by a Google+ prompt asking me if I want to spam all my old school friends? If I am inviting some random colleagues into a one -off remote hangout meeting, really don't want to add them and all their details into G+.. and so it goes

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Re: "Universal sync tools"

Agreed. Personally I have no interest in shared tabs. Or even saving tabs across sessions, except the 4 I have permanently pinned.

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WTF?

See icon

You are not honestly saying Firefox's privacy controls are the same as Chrome's, that Firefox's URL bar which defaults to a history/bookmark search is the same as Chrome's URL bar which defaults to a Google search, or that Firefox does anything similar to Chrome in terms of badgering you to sign in to Google and then uploading whatever local browsing data can get its hands on and joining it to your Google account.

Secondly Firefox Sync does sync tabs. It also syncs bookmarks but in its current version I'd rather not sync bookmarks with Android devices as it can get a little too confused.

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JDX
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Block by default

Blocking outgoing data by default could be argued. Blocking all scripts on a website by default couldn't. Modern websites are not static HTML+CSS with a bit of JS thrown in for sparkle. JS is an integral part of a modern website!

If you make your browser safe than JS can't hurt it.

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Re: Block by default

JS is an integral part of a modern website!

*****

Only because so many browsers allow JS by default, start turning off JS by default in browsers and you'll see more and more websites return to the good old days where content was provided as simply as possible and not requiring local resources to transform that content into something usable because if they didn't then they would lose page viewers.

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Re: Block by default

> JS is an integral part of a modern website!

Sounds like a statement from spokesman for the idiots creating sites that just render as a blank page without JS. And of course if JS is enabled it just renders a page that could be easily done in plain HTML...

Yes, JS is useful. But IMO many sites would become more pleasant to use with less JS, not more. And for some, such as Google Search, disabling JS is actually the only way how to use them sanely...

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Re: Block by default

It's not how the page looks that Javascript is really good for, although it can make awesome stuff, it's that it can make a website feel (and be) very responsive.

To see the difference, log into Outlook Web Access with and without Javascript enabled; two different sites: one terrible, one very responsive. Well, still terrible, but you know what I mean.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Block by default

Don't get me wrong, all these parallax-ey, hipster offerings that take forever to load should go and die in a fire. Replacing your flash site with a monolithic js object is retarded, but javascript at it's base is incredibly important.

When I'm on a comparison site, I don't want to apply a filter and wait for the page to reload - clicking on a button and having the excluded objects go into hiding is much faster and friendlier from a UX position. It's why they were developed.

I was involved in a company that provided competitive data bundled up with sales, reporting and graphing tools. People fell over themselves when the graphing tools with javascript sliders (and the rest) appeared in their portals. Saved them hours compiling competitive intelligence reports for the high-ups. Whether they did anything useful with that saved time or just played Solitaire I have no idea. But it has it's place, even if it's just a couple of bits in a site that is otherwise built using nice, semantic HTML.

The fact people misuse a tool doesn't mean you should go blocking it entirely. People misuse email for spam. That doesn't mean we all uninstall our email clients and do without (though sometimes I think we should!).

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Gimp

Re: Block by default

Some JS is desirable, however the extreme cruft of a typical "modern" website is just excess and bloat.

Wouldn't it be nice to block certain types of pointless add-in JS such as UI style fiddlers (I know what a <select> looks like, I don't need you to style it and certainly not in 100KB), horrid scrolling galleries which suck CPU (and battery), and pointless animations.

It's astounding to think that the move to 5MB home pages is considered OK by some idiot designers. Oh, and before you add the "it's not that big when cached", you still have to download the bloat in order to cache it.

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Re: Block by default

>>If you make your browser safe than JS can't hurt it.

>>

But surely people shouldn't have to worrying about making their browsers safe??? Surely the damn things should be safe out of the box?

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Re: Block by default

Some versions of Internet Explorer will by default every web site including http://www.microsoft.com/, until it is explicitly enabled, which improves security.

My wish list:

- the browser should be 100 % guaranteed bug-free

- the browser should be fast and use little memory

- no caching - a proxy server does that

- no plug-ins, no Java, no Active X, no skins, no sound, no moving images, no tabs, no scripting, no cookies

- the ability to print, as well as view, HTML pages

Nice to have:

- an advertising blocker

- an FTP client and/or WebDAV client that supports uploads

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Re: Block by default

"Only because so many browsers allow JS by default"

I remember complimenting Amazon years and years ago for providing a web site which wasn't riddled with javascript.

Didn't last.

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Re: Block by default

Very few sites do anything which cannot be done in a reasonable fashion without client-side scripting. Even "rich UI" and highly asynchronous sites could, in most cases, provide nearly all of their functionality with straight synchronous HTTP requests and static HTML.

Graceful degradation ought to be a mandatory design requirement for nearly all web development teams. I'm teaching it to my students in my web-authoring course. It's not difficult. Requiring scripting is nearly always due to laziness and a weakness for useless adornment.

It also makes it easier to provide an accessible version of the site to disabled users. But hey, who cares about them when we can have parallax scrolling effects, eh?

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Different needs

Instead of lightning speed, I would very much prefer more first party features, kinda (exactly) like Opera 11 (and 12 to lesser degree) did it.

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Well then, good news!

A new project has started up aimed at preserving the good stuff about opera: http://otter-browser.org -- if you know any code you can contribute to it as well!

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Re: Well then, good news!

Why, this is excellent news, thank you for sharing. Although I'm useless for coding and I'm not sure so few people could succeed without some real community involvement and influx of future users.

Modern technology trends have taught me that nice things generally don't turn out well :(

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Unhappy

Re: Different needs

Remember when we could read an article on browser features and just add "you should try Opera" to the comments?

Such a shame that our contribution has been reduced to "remember when Opera was still good?".

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Coat

My personal gripe

Is related to the rendering of pages in time. Web site designers, eye candy is not the reason I visit your site. Please stop it now. Yes, it is kew-ul to have little bits of image floating about all over the page, and I understand that you are trying to make it eye catching by having constant movement, but when I visit a site and I want to click on something, I find it really frustrating that the thing I want to click on is rendered first (rightly) but then I waste another 2 seconds of my life chasing the sodding thing round the screen with the mouse trying to click on it as the rest of the overbloated page renders and shimmies to allow other, (and to me) sometimes artistic, but mainly irrelevant seasick-making bloody carousels to load. It is equally irritating trying to read an article while the page is still adjusting itself and the text is moving about.

So I'd like the browser to make an effort to do some pre rendering analysis and try and get things roughly in position before displaying anything to me. Personally, I'd rather a second delay then a page that stays as it is initially rendered, rather than having things shoved on screen as they arrive and jiggled about to make room. (yes, I know how it works, this is a comment just on the user experience)

Also agree 100% with the article re using a tiny bit of screen estate for the thing of interest and huge tracts of empty space either side. (the huge tracts of land should of course always be centre stage and maximised! :-) )

I know, mine is the one with grumpy old sod on the back!

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Re: My personal gripe

I hate that bouncy, bouncy site-loading thing so much. It's even worse on a tablet than on a desktop. And of course even worse worse on a phone...

Site writers need to re-establish some sanity as well. I know that we all have super-fast fibre to the house 100Mb/s broadband nowadays, but some of these sites are getting bloody enormous! Oh no, hang on a minute, it's the other thing isn't it. We don't all have super-mega-fast-broadband.

Also, many more people are now online from mobile connections. Oh, but that's OK. We've all got 4G now, at 20Mb/s and doubling in speed every year! Erm, oh, hang on a minute... Is that right? What's that GPRS sign nexto to my one bar of signal mean again?

At least on a desktop tabbed browsing means that I can open pages in a tab, and carry on doing what I was looking at on the original page. Then pop over to the tab once it's stopped bouncing around like a psychadelic jelly on a trampoline. But sadly this doesn't work on the lower resources of mobilei devices, where you usually have to click on the tab before it will render the page.

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Re: My personal gripe

Yes! What he said:

... I find it really frustrating that the thing I want to click on is rendered first (rightly) but then I waste another 2 seconds of my life chasing the sodding thing round the screen with the mouse trying to click on it ...

I find it SO frustrating -- especially on my phone -- that I tap the bookmark for the home page of some site I want to visit and while the page is still loading I see a link I want to tap ... I poke at it with my finger and IT MOVES AWAY and I end up inadvertently clicking the wrong link entirely, so I have to hit 'Back' and start all over again.

Head beating wall icon required.

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Re: My personal gripe

What you're complaining about here is caused by bad practice. Missing height and width attributes from image tags has been considered bad practise since images were first introduced to the browser. Browsers resize unsized image tags the moment the first packet of an image arrives. While this causes multiple redraws, imagine waiting for all images to download before any were rendered. It would be an even less friendly experience.

There is an answer coming. HTTP 2.0 will enable the transfer of multiple files at once. If image downloads are multiplexed, the header for a series of images will arrive at once, cutting the number of full document reflows required. But no benefits will be had until both browser and server support it. It would be far better for everyone if height and width attributes were always used. Even with HTTP 2.0, using height and width attributes will cut out at least one full reflow.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: My personal gripe

"imagine waiting for all images to download before any were rendered"

Or imagine if the images were all small enough to download quickly so you didn't have to wait an excessive time for them to load. Pages used to be simple with small enough images to be a bit clunky but basically usable over dial up. As speeds have improved, rather than losing the clunkiness, so developers have managed to use higher quality and more and more images and other assets, maintaining and in some cases increasing the clunkiness no matter how fast the connection gets. Nice going. Still, the sites are "awesome" eh?

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Re: My personal gripe

I agree, many sites are over dependant on graphics. But that is a different subject.

My point was that the complaints above are the result of poor HTML and there is nothing beyond implementing HTTP 2.0 that browser vendors can do about it. The blame for this sort of problem rests entirely with web developers who fail to adhere to a widely known and long understood best practice. A practise that not only provides better experiences when images are slow to download, but also when a request simply times out. And that is something that can happen no matter how small the image is.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: My personal gripe

I take your point about the bad practice. I wonder though if action still couldn't be taken at the browser, after fair warning, to assume a certain default size for images where the developr has been too lazy to specify it, which can't subsequently be overridden, so the image iss caled to fit in the default size. If sites started rendering crappily, it would focus people's attention into specifying image sizes correctly. Or are there instances when you cannot legitimately specify a size? It would obviosuly need to be universally adopted and we all know how that would work out!

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Re: My personal gripe

Any default size for unsized images would break a significant chunk of older content. That is a line that browser vendors refuse to cross. Also, if the problem is with some other type of content it would be ignored. Say the problem is that a JavaScript script forces a reflow by inserting a large chunk of content into the page after the user has had a chance to start reading. That would be an alternative example of the same kind of bad practice.

I have never come across a scenario that prevented the sizes being given. I'm sure if I said it never happens, someone would point out otherwise.

Ultimately, it boils down to this: If the clues to the final document layout are given, the browser will do a better job. If they aren't, browsers already do the best they can unless you think they should wait (maybe minutes on a slow connection) for everything to download before rendering.

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People in glass houses

Referencing CNN as a site which displays it's content in a tiny strip down the screen is a bit cheeky, when the Reg does exactly the same.

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Re: People in glass houses

If you want readable a reg site, use m.reg.co.uk instead. Only ads are at the top. Text reflows properly. Bliss.

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Re: People in glass houses

Sorry but Google on my machine doesn't know whre to find m.reg.co.uk, suggesting I might be looking for Marks and Spencers, sod it I might as well buy some socks.

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Re: People in glass houses

Yes fair enough, I got the address wrong. http://m.theregister.co.uk/

Just replace the 'www' with 'm'

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More tools for blocking junk

As an end user I find an ever increasing need to remove stuff web developers are putting in. Endless tweaking of Adblock, Ghostery et al. to remove ads, social media slide in bars, EU cookie directive acknowledgements, newsletter sign-up popups, endless share/like widgets.

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Re: More tools for blocking junk

Better tools, no!?

For example, being able to call up an over-lay for a given page which facilitates discovery of the origins of elements visible on the page (whether already loaded or blocked by the likes of NoScript, Ghostery, or RequestPolicy), would open the door to much-more-rapid white-listing and black-listing with these, and similar, installed and active.

Further along, a means to analyse a specific page (incorporating cached information about various ad-slinging domains, CDNs, beacons, trackers, etc.) to display, in an adjacent tab or a pop-up, a reasonably accurate, commented, concise-and-clinical 'country profile'--one showing the relationships between the various sources of objects on the page. The purpose of all of that would be to help expose the web of (typically commercial) interests at play on the page, informing white-listing and black-listing by users.

Anything that gives the user more information and--importantly--facilitates their control over what displays, or even what is fetched, would be a good thing.

For giggles, I'd like an extension that groans longer and/or louder during page loads the heavier is the current page and/or the further afield it is from 'well-written'.

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Site Selective Image (and Video) Blocking

Especially for mobile devices but useful for desktop too, I'd like to see site selective image loading. That way I can block all sites from downloading images (and video) by default, then enable such on a site-by-site basis (a bit like NoScript's way of working with JavaScript).

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Re: Site Selective Image (and Video) Blocking

You can do that in Chrome. Unfortunately these site limits sync across all devices you are using.

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Safari

Syncs across iCloud, I can load tabs from my phone, desktop and laptop onto my iPad here in the freezing garden.

What I'd like to see: built in jquery style functionality so we're not loading the same libraries for every bloody site, and some sort of universal roadmap for javascript, someone steering that boat.

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Unhappy

What a load of developer old tosh

To hear you lot talk one would think that the Internet is only ever surfed by developers and the like. From and end user point of view the whole raft of browsers appear as a huge bag a shit software and developer wank juice which is getting bigger and more drippy and stinky every day, with many of my regular users saying, "fuck this, the interface has changed again ! If it happens one more time, I am out of here and off to get a real life".

Think I am joking ? Just shows how out of touch technophiles are with the common people. It used to be that the user experience was the most important thing. However, it now appears that developers new toys are attempting to push the levels of human capabilities to the point where we are all expected to be none thinking robots with access to the fucking source code when we open a browser.

Can't remember who it was exactly that did these experiments, but I once read that in some behavioural and pyschological condidtioning tests carried out on rats, the experimenters finally succeeded in sending the all of rats completely barmy, through changing the rats operating environment and the conditioning signals for rewards and punishment that the rats received.

WAKE UP !

End users are more like rats than browser developers, honest ! Their brains aren't that interested in playing with new widgets and discovering what that new icon is for and where the old ones have got to.

I work for a charity which provides access to PCs, the internet and training in the use of software for disadvantaged people (which currently makes up about 10% of the population), so people can apply for jobs, housing benefit, send eMails, surf the web and the like. Training people has become much harder, mainly because the interface the person saw last week is not the same one they are faced with today. Hell on earth, it is hard enough getting volunteers in the first place, but now I have volunteers talking of resigning because they cannot keep up with this pace of change and are constantly frustrated by these seemingly senseless changes to their operating environment.

At the end of the day, many of the folks that I know personally and others that I work with are actually really pissed off and getting totally fed up with this browser developers little lark. They are not on their own. I myself have many more reasons today for going back to a paper based life that doesn't know and doesn't want to know anything about the fucking Internet and all the crap that it brings into daily life.

My BSc in Information Systems appears ever more to have been a complete waste of money and time as the precepts that I read about, with computers and the internet making life more inclusive for disadvantaged folks has been completely swept away in favour of making them into more like a sea of expensive novelties for the thick rich twats to play with.

Am I on my own here ? I refer to this browser interface malarky as "the shifting sands of Iwo Jima" and wonder who will be left standing when the browser wars finally come to an end.

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Re: What a load of old tosh I am about to type

FTFY

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Re: What a load of developer old tosh

Totally agree here. I'm supporting my mother, who has only recently started using a PC. She acknowledged that you cannot go without one any more, so we try to support her as best as we can. This really changes the way you look at this. Whereas we, as experienced users, can relatively easily find our way, there's a lot of stuff which is simply illogical, or even stupid, and trying to look at it from an inexperienced person's point of view is something more people should do.

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Re: What a load of developer old tosh

Yup; as I was reading down through the posts I was continually thinking.. "Keep the interface simple, small and consistent then start playing with the latest acronym'd extra feature"

I don't want lots of toolbars (definite euphimism alert) and the ability to place toolbars horizontally or at least add a shortcut icon to the menu line popping up the appropriate tool bar

I do want simple navigation, back button always available by default.

I do want the maximum proportion of screen real estate to be devoted to what I'm reading especially on mobile devices.

Oh and It would be really nice to tile pages in a browser just like any other multidocument editor\reader.

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Re: What a load of developer old tosh

Yeah, It's kinda sad when IE is the only browser you can rely on not to change the interface every 5 minutes.

Although I'd rather have a highly customisable interface with a sane default for those who aren't interested in customising.

And while the UI devs have recognised that most users won't customise the UI, they cant decide what a sane default is and won't provide any level of customisability any more.

Or they decide to copy Chrome, IMHO one of the worst UI's I've encountered.

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Re: What a load of developer old tosh

Agreed

Working with RNIB on computer use amoingst the partially sighted - all these fripperies are nothing but a barrier.

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Re: What a load of developer old tosh

Fully agree on the parental support issue. As an aside and not maybe directly at the browser makers but the site makers...

Adverts SUCK! OK, so I know we live in a world of advertising and they pay to keep the website free. But as an industry you need to make it clearer and cleaner which elements are part of your important site content and which bits are advertising (and trust me, as a relatively intelligent IT literate person it isn't always obvious, so what chance of the general population got).

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Happy

Re: What a load of old tosh I am about to type

Trust an anonymous coward to perpetuate the bleeding confusion by using an anagram with a double meaning ! LOL :-)~

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Re: What a load of developer old tosh

Best IT laugh I've had for ages. Kinda makes IT all worth while some how :-}

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Pint

Re: What a load of developer old tosh

>OK, so I know we live in a world of advertising and they pay to keep the website free.

Dubious assertion—unfortunately the basis for widely-held belief. Anyone with an income stream that depends on eyeballs and, thereafter, traffic of any kind is bound by common sense to have a web presence. That's just a necessary cost of doing business in a competitive environment. A website is a business expense, in other words, and that fact has to be set against the wider picture of running the business or running it into the ground by not taking cognizance of the environment. Any revenue from advertisements on such pages may serve to defray the costs, real and inferred, of creating and maintaining the site, but the site isn't up because advertising steps in and makes it possible (the site would have to be up in any case); the advertising-a separate business, you should note-justifies itself by slipping a little something to the website owner to keep the intellectual legerdemain invisible.

AdBlock: it's almost illegal.

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Re: What a load of developer old tosh

The Register wouln't be here without advertising. They might do the odd sponsored story or competition, but basically they're advertising funded. As is much of the press.

Google now make a bit of cash on the side from Android and their online office stuff, but they're still 90% advertsiing funded. That's search, maps, mail etc.

Many websites have adverts as extra gravy, this is true. But many others have no other income stream (or nearly none).

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