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Clash of the Browsers

All's fair in love and war . . . and browsers

I love a good vendor war, especially when it's in a region that's been relatively peaceful for some time. The Internet browser skirmishes with the all-conquering Internet Explorer (IE) have developed into a full-scale battle now that Google has entered the conflict with its new Chrome browser.

I see direct parallels with Roman history. Now, as then, the Imperial Empire (IE) dominated after obliterating the formerly unbeatable Gallic Netscapers. I note, with regret, that the Netscape tribe was officially declared extinct in March, when AOL withdrew its support. IE never gained much of a foothold on the Dark Continent -- Apple -- where its inhabitants insist on Safaris. Over the past few years, increasing raids on IE have been made by Open Source Barbarians like Opera and more prominently the Mozilla Guerrillas riding their Firefoxes. Now, an assault from a new challenger, Goth Google, has arisen -- with a shiny chrome surface.

Chrome is fast -- so fast that it came out before its launch date, thanks to an accidentally premature media release. This was in the form of a comic book, which may be designed to indicate the Google guys are wacky and fun. However, with 38 pages of technical explanations like memory allocation and multi-thread processing, it indicates the Google Guys are wordy and nerdy. The comic reminded me of Fred Bassett -- I didn't laugh once.

I'm a bit worried about the name Google has chosen for its browser. If teenagers tell me they're going Chroming, I'm on the lookout for PVC and glue, not PCs and Google. Then again, I thought Firefox was named after the Clint Eastwood movie where he had to pilot a plane by thinking in Russian, which I thought was analogous to having to change our whole way of thinking to use the Firefox browser. Mozilla says it's named after the Red Panda, which makes even less sense -- although I can now make out an animal in that orange Dali-esque swirl on its logo.

Like Firefox and Opera, Chrome is open source, meaning other developers can contribute code, as opposed to Microsoft's IE which is "our source", meaning developers can contribute complaints.

Of course, all browsers want desperately to be my favourite, constantly pleading "Can I check I'm the default?" like a nagging five year old. With so many choices available to me now, I'd like to apply Google Search's "I'm Feeling Lucky" to my browser so it's always a surprise which one I get.

Today's browsers are no longer passive panels. They are lifestyle portals demanding customisation so I can present my true character and identity, or at least the identity I've fabricated for Facebook.

As an IT professional, customisations are crucial to give the impression of serious business activities right there on the home page. Using iGoogle Interest topics, I can select news, technology, business and politics to add a corporate look to my office home page. Caution is recommended as iGoogle adds, by default, YouTube's Most Viewed list and "Book of the Day". My boss walked by just as my newly customised page happened to include a YouTube clip called "My Love Secrets", which prominently featured a lady with prominent features, and a Recommended Book of Love and Romance. The Boss has been avoiding me since then.

Mozilla has further specialised with Flock, a Web browser for social networking, and Flock Gloss for the fashion industry. These promise to "keep you in touch with all your friends" and, more impressively, let you be the "first to see changes in your universe". (Has Mozilla linked to a webcam on the Voyager deep space probe?)

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