AFFAREi's Blog

A Better Explorer


Microsoft Windows is the most used operating system in the world, by a lot.  In January of 2013, Windows 7 was being used by 44.48% of all desktop users, followed by 39.51% of users running the older Windows XP operating system.  Combined they accounted for nearly 84% of desktop users.  To say that Microsoft had the biggest slice of the pie would be an understatement.  Yet, it is hard to believe that the largest shareholder also came with the least compliant internet browser.  That is until late February 2013, with the release of Internet Explorer 10 for Windows 7.

Before this release, IE10 was limited to Windows 8 users, leaving older Windows user stuck with IE9, and in some cases IE8.  With IE9 not being up to internet compatibility standards, Windows 7 owners were forced to install third party browsers, like Google Chrome or Mozilla’s Firefox, to experience the internet at its fullest.  Eventually, this lead to the rapid decline of IE users, which has shrunk to about 14% from 46% in late 2008, when Microsoft last had the majority.  Microsoft is now trying to regain some of those losses with IE10 for Windows 7.

Competitors like Google and Apple have each established web browsers that run on the most modern browser engine, Webkit.  Opera has also announced that future versions of their browser will be using the Webkit engine.  These feature rich browsers make IE9 feel more like bloatware rather than a necessity.  Microsoft released IE10 for Windows 7 to ensure that Microsoft stayed relevant in the competitive search browser space, by being comparable to other browsers.

“Why should I care?” You ask.  Well if you are in front of a computer in an office right now, chances are your reading this with Internet Explorer.  Why not use the fastest, smartest, most up-to-date version?

Included in the update are new features like a new Javascript engine, which improves performance and speed.  In fact, Microsoft says that the new version will be 20% faster than IE9 on Windows 7.  Also included is the Touch API that allows users to surf the web using gestures on touch screen devices.  IE10 is also 60% more compliant with web compatibility standards.  Now web developers can create pure CSS transitions and animations, and utilize HTML5 forms for Internet Explorer along with many other elements, which could not be done in the older versions.

With these features, Microsoft can finally compete with the other modern browsers.  However, it is still yet to be seen how much of the market Microsoft can reclaim.  Although they have made recent strides to push the industry forward with Windows 8, IE10, and web based Outlook email, I am glad they have not forgotten the Windows 7 users of the world.  IE10 will be a silent background update to all IE9 users in the next few week but if you would like to try it now you can download the update here and explore the internet as it was meant to be.

Posted in Browser, Download, Web Design, Windows | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

As The Flash Fades

HTML5 vs Flash in Web Design,

As a web designer my job is to present content on the internet that is both appealing and effective.  Over the past few years the latter has been a two horse race, Flash by Adobe and the open source HTML5.  Both have their benefits and drawbacks but much like the battle of Blu Ray versus HD DVD the outcome looks to be decided not by the consumers but by the providers.

With the smart phone market on the rise internet analysts, like Mary Meeker of Morgan Stanly, predict that mobile web consumption will overtake desktop users in the next year.  Leading the pack of mobile market is the Flash-friendly Google Android with 43.7 percent and Apple’s anti-Flash iPhone with 27.3 percent.  Though Google shadows Apple in the smart phone department, Apple eclipses them in the tablet division.  Apples iPad users reach nearly 75 percent of the market in 2011.  What does that mean for Adobe’s Flash?  Well if you’re going to an Apple party, Flash isn’t invited.

So why not just ditch Flash?  It’s likeAmericaswitching to the metric system, it makes sense but it’s not going to happen.  According to Adobe statistics, Flash has reached 98 percent of operating systems.  The primary use being video playback.  Flash has the ability to measure in sub-pixel increments, something HTML5 cannot do, resulting in crisper looking websites.   It also supports digital rights management functionality (DRM) which is used for protection against piracy.  Another thing Flash can do that HTML cannot is work with USB devices like thumb drives, webcams and microphones.  However, these features do not come without a price.  HD video playback causes relatively high CPU usage due to the fact that the Flash plug-in does not use the GPU to render the video.  Adobe has tried to solve this with newer versions of Flash that use Actionscript 3.0 to improve code execution speeds but websites that still use the older Actionscript 2.0 can not benefit from this.

Then there is HTML5, which on its own is not much, but partnered with CSS3 and Javascript can be a powerful tool.  One of the new additions to HTML5 is the “canvas” element which allows the website to animate charts and graphs much like Flash.  Used with Javascript, HTML5 can create extensive user interfaces with superior stability because it is run directly in the browser and not a plug-in.  With that being said, HTML5’s features rely solely on the browser.  Latest versions of Firefox, Chrome, and Safari have integrated the HTML5 language but a large fraction of internet users, like in corporate offices, still use older versions of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer which cannot translate HTML5.

The key factor in all this is usability.  Why make something if only half of your audience can see.  Apple’s decision to block Flash on their devices could be the final drop to tip the scales in HTML5’s favor.  So why did the late Apple founder Steve Jobs restrict Flash from his iOS?  Simple, Flash was designed to be used with a mouse.  Rollovers and drop down menus are activated when a cursor is “hovered” over them, something a touch screen and fingers cannot emulate.

Now where does that leave us, the users?  In a rapidly evolving technological world information is shared instantly, movies fit in our pocket, and your phone is your wallet.  Gone are the days of waiting for a fax or even a one computer home.  Children learn the alphabet on a tablet and are texting by grade school.  We like to surf while we walk, and we grew to hate the word “buffering”.  So in the web foot race HTML5 seems to take the win by a nose, but Flash is not forgotten.  It will still have a purpose in multimedia, games and also as a learning tool for the educational and corporate worlds.  If you spend enough time on the web chances are you’ll run into some Flash, that is if you’re not using an iPad.

Posted in Mobile Web Design, Web Design | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment