Fall 2009 Web Browser Outlook

The names are familiar: Firefox, Google Chrome and Safari. These relatively new browsers have been shaking the foundations of Internet Explorers complete victory over Netscape. These new browser are implementing fresh ideas and breaking out of the crusty browsers of the early 21st century. With the second browser wars in full swing, lets see where things stand and what’s coming.

Mozilla Firefox 3.6

The Firefox team is focusing on startup performance, JavaScript performance, lightweight themes, and a few new features for developers. Firefox 3.6 is expected to arrive Nov 2009.

After that, Firefox 3.7 will boast a revamped user interface, a WebGL implementation and ongoing speed and responsiveness improvements.

Safari 5?

Safari 4 was just released, and we have not heard any official statement from Apple what features Safari 5 will include, but looking at WebKit we can see what core browser technologies are being developed. WebKit has added geolocation support, HTML 5 draggable, and HTML 5 forms patterns and required attributes. What directly user visible changes will Apple make? We will have to wait and see.

Internet Explorer 9?

The next version of IE is still quite a ways out (3 years if you look at the release time-frame of IE 7 and 8 ) but it’s expected to boast many new HTML 5 features including native video and audio playback. Internet Explorer 9 should be quite a feature packed release with HTML 5 goodness, better performance, and improved standards support.

Opera 10.10

Opera 10 was just released this month but the team is working on Opera 10.10 with Unite. So far we’re waiting to hear more from the Opera team about what they are working on.

Google Chrome 4

With Google Chrome 3 being released, the Chrome team and external developers are hard at work making the browser cross platform with support for OS X and Linux. User end features include bookmark synchronization, extensions and surly will include more JavaScript performance enhancements.

Metatunnel by FRequency - WebGL Demo
Metatunnel by FRequency - WebGL Demo

Overall the competition looks quite healthy and browsers are being enhanced to be the Operating System of the future.

Upcoming Web Browser: Google Chrome 3

The beta version of Chrome has been available for a few months now with a faster Javascript engine, a better new tab look, and the Omnibox (an improved location bar).Google Chrome 3.0.195.10

What key enhancements has Google added for developers? Well Chrome adds support for new features in WebKit:

For users, Chrome add support for custom themes, similar to Firefox’s personas but is more complete by changing the look of the toolbar and the browser pages (new tab page, etc.). See the Google Chrome blog for more info.

Download Google Chrome beta.

Estimated Release Date: 2009?

Upcoming Web Browser: Safari 5?

What does Apple have on the horizon for Safari as version 4 was just released 2 months ago (June, 2009)? So far we have not heard anything and that isn’t a huge surprise, Apple is a very secrative company. The good news is that Safari is based on the open source WebKit rendering engine, so we can check out the list of feature enhancements added to WebKit since Safari 4 released with AppleWebKit/531.9.

New WebKit features:

On top of expected HTML, CSS, and JavaScript improvements, Apple will surly tweak the web browser again to build the most usable web browser. It could be a long time before we see Safari 5, or they may release an incremental Safari 4.1. Further details will come as now we can only speculate.

Estimated Release Date: June 2011

Update: Apple has indeed released Safari 5 with a tun of new HTML5 features and performance improvements, and a year ahead of my estimate; check it out at the Safari What’s New page.

Upcoming Web Browser: Opera 10

Opera 10 is set to be released in a few days with many CSS and JavaScript improvements, a massively updated presto rendering engine and a new visual look by well-known designer Jon Hicks. The client also now automatically updates itself, like Google Chrome.

Customizable Speed Dial in Opera 10
Customizable Speed Dial in Opera 10

The vastly improved web standards in the Presto 2.2 rendering engine include:

  • CSS3 web fonts with the @font-face attribute. Demo
  • Transparency with RGBA and HSLA:  hsla(240, 100%, 50%, 0.5);
  • The Query Selectors API that is standard in Firefox, IE, and Safari: document.querySelectorAll(".alert");
  • Web fonts in SVG
  • Fully passing the ACID 3 test with 100/100
  • Inline spell checker (very handy)
  • Many other features

It looks like this release is absolutely packed with new features and improvements and in many ways is catching up to the major players and surpassing them in other ways.

Estimated Release Date: September 2009

Download Opera 10 rc

Upcoming Web Browser: Internet Explorer 9?

Internet Explorer 9 is coming. The number 9 is a guess, but Microsoft is not getting left behind in the web browser scene again. With Internet Explorer 8 being released 5 months ago in March 2009, we have little information so far as to what is going to be included in the next release. We knew two things Microsoft is doing, they are asking customers for feedback, and they are investigating HTML 5 features.

In May 2009 Microsoft asked users for feedback about what features they want in the next IE, but so far has not announced any definite plans. To recommend a feature, go to Microsoft Connect.

The second thing we know is that Microsoft has been reading the HTML 5 spec and recently posted feedback on the public W3 mailing list. This indicates they are interested in building HTML 5 features into their next web browser; although, at this point its anybodies guess as to what they would implement. We await more information.

Estimated Release Date: 2012?