“People in the industry foresee a time in which for many people, the only thing they’ll need on a computer is a browser,” said Mitch Kapor, the software pioneer who now sits on the board of the Mozilla Foundation and has created a start-up, FoxMarks, that is developing a tool to synchronize bookmarks between computers. “The browser is just extraordinarily strategic.”
That notion has helped to rekindle the browser wars and has resulted in the latest wave of innovation. Firefox 3.0, for example, runs more than twice as fast as the previous version while using less memory, Mozilla says.
The browser is also smarter and maintains three months of a user’s browsing history to try to predict what site he or she may want to visit. Typing the word “football” into the browser, for example, quickly generates a list of all the sites visited with “football” in the name or description.
Firefox has named this new tool the “awesome bar” and says it could replace the need for people to maintain long and messy lists of bookmarks. It will also personalize the browser an individual user.
Internet Explorer 8, from Microsoft, promises its own set of tricks. One new tool, Web slices, allows a user to bookmark a dynamic piece of a Web site, like an online auction or a sports score, and save it in the margin of the browser, where the user can watch as it changes.
Another new feature, called activities, allows users to highlight text on a page, click on it, then instantly send it to another site, like a mapping, e-mail or blogging service.
His group (Firefox) will have one other company besides Mozilla to keep its eye on: Apple’s Safari Web browser has a little over 5 percent of the market, according to Net Applications, and subsists mostly on the loyalty of devoted Mac and iPhone owners.
Shawn Hardin, chief executive of Flock, which is developing a browser that helps users
share photos, videos and blog entries more easily, said consumers would ultimately benefit from the new browser battle.
“We are seeing choice in the browser market really emerge as a significant force for the first time in a while,” Mr. Hardin said.
Excerpts from: Browsers Are a Battleground Once Again
By BRAD STONE
Published: May 26, 2008
New York Times