Thursday, September 4, 2008

YAB - Yet Another Browser

For years I've been trying to negotiate a settlement in the Mac vs. PC war. In my day job as software developer, I was working largely on Windows platforms because ... well, you can sell more software 'cause there's more of 'em out there. Outside the office, though, in my own illustration and design and, more importantly, in hosting various discussion forums for illustrators, cartoonists, etc., the Mac was king!

And during much of this time, the holy grail of desktop software was a toolkit that would allow the same application to run on both Macs and Windows, and to look like it belonged there! It wasn't enough that the software could run lamely in some misbegotten compatibility mode. It had to look and feel like a native application on both platforms.

But after many years in the desert, we finally saw the promised land of Web applications! Now it didn't matter whether you were running on a Mac or Windows or even some flavor of Linux, because all your applications would run in your browser. The added benefit was that your data lived on a server, so you could get at it from anywhere. (In my experience, we cycle between putting all the smarts on a server and putting all the smarts in your desktop/laptop/pocket about every 5 years.)

But this promised land was an illusion. Even for those applications that could be Web-hosted, the stunning variety of browsers, each with version and platform incompatibilities, turned the Mac/Windows problem into a million smaller problems requiring special case coding.

And now Google, the most notable pioneer of this Web-as-computer approach, introduced yet another browser, Chrome. The name is intended to suggest something bright and shiny, but let's get real here. The fact that Chrome is only available for Windows initially should set off warning bells. It also doesn't support Java currently, and seems to have problems with a fair number of Flash applications.

Back to the desert.

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