The Browser as Operating System

I've just upgraded to Firefox 1.5 and that made me think a little about how I use my browser. Some peope have argued that one can see the browser as an operating system in itself with urls providing the file system. Recently more and more web based applications have popped up which makes it possible to start using the browser more and more as an operating system. I've been trying to move as many applications as I can to be used inside the browser lately to try out this idea. I use the browser to read mail (via gmail), read news (via google reader), write blogs (via blogger), search my hard drives (via Google Desktop) and handle my torrent downloads (via azureus' HTML WebUI plugin). And I must say that I'm pretty happy with doing things inside the browser. It gives a common framework to all the applications. I like the way tabs work and now I can even reorder them in the new Firefox 1.5.

But moving more and more applications to the browser will place higher demands on the usability of the browsers and how one can interact with them. But to me it seems that the browsers are continuously improving in this respect and adding capabilities such as SVG. It will be interesting to see how the new browser Flock is going to affect the rest of the browsers as it does a very good job of integrating and supporting web based applications.

It's funny how web based applications have created a kind of standard for how to design programs. Most web based applications come with their layout written in CSS, the client side data in HTML or XML, client side logic written in Javascript and they communicate to a server via XMLRPC. It is interesting to see how that this creates a very nice separation between the looks of the application and its data. This is something that one could wish more of from ordinary applications even though the Model-View-Control paradigm tries to realize this. It seems though that ordinary applications are learning from this. Microsoft has announced a new language for specifying interfaces which seems to me to be related to CSS.

I should also mention that I'm still using Firefox. I tried to switch to Opera a couple of weeks ago. But many of the things I use my browser for doesn't work properly in Opera and that is a showstopper for me. I use Opera for one thing though, Amazons Mechanical Turk. But we will see if Opera will improve further with their upcoming version 9. Perhaps I'll switch then.

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