Tis the season to be…browsing…web browsing, to be more specific. Not only is more holiday shopping done through the web (and as naturally would follow, the web browser) than ever before, but you can make a safe assumption that we spend more time in our browser than any other software. Yet for many, web browsers have been an “open whatever you have on your desktop” experience.
But that is changing, and doing so rapidly. From customizing your browsing experience with add-ons and extensions, to what the browser of the future may look like, get ready for the browser of the future.
Customize Away – Let’s being with customizing your browser. Both Mozilla Firefox (with their add-ons) and Google Chrome (extensions) provide the user with an enormous number of ways to enhance and simplify what you do online. Two Google Chrome extensions (http://chrome.google.com/extensions) that I am really partial to are Quick Scroll and Awesome Screenshot. Quick Scroll enhances your ability to locate your search terms on the page on which you are viewing, by showing a small rectangular box at the bottom of your screen. Unobtrusive and lightning quick, this tool quickly brings me to where the search words appear throughout the site. As for Awesome Screenshot, imagine the ability to annotate and clip content from any portion of your screen, and turn it into a jpg with a few clicks. Pretty awesome you’d say? I’d agree.
Firefox add-ons can be found through the Tools à Add-ons menu, or from their site at (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/). Similar to Chrome Extensions, these extras can save time and hassle, or just add a new look to your browsing. One such cool add-on is IE Tab, which ensures that those stubborn web pages that typically only load properly in IE can be loaded through Firefox.
About a month ago, a Firefox add-on caused quite a stir. Firesheep was released to make the online community better aware of security lapses in many web services, including social media, by exposing those flaws. Firesheep allowed the user to see others online in a public network using non-secure connections (such as updating Facebook or Twitter). Needless to say, while it accomplished the goal of increased awareness, it was very uncomfortable for many, as it made these tools available to everyone.
Don’t Live Under a Rock – If you like your browser more on the social side, then you need to check out the beta of Rockmelt (http://www.rockmelt.com). This browser integrates Facebook, Twitter and any of your favorite social media and RSS feeds into the borders of the browser screen. Want to know which of your Facebook friends are online? Just look at your Rockmelt browser…you don’t even need to go to the Facebook page. Want to share an article you’re reading with your Twitter followers? Just click the Share button built into the browser. Designed on Chromium, which is the open source project driving Google Chrome, it may become the hottest tool of 2011…
The New Hottest Tool, Anyone? – Unless, of course, the browser of the future becomes the browser of today. Adaptive Path technologies have put out a few concept videos of Aurora (http://www.adaptivepath.com/aurora/), their vision of what the browser will become. Socially-based, seamlessly integrating your entire computing experience, movable from device to device, this may not be what your browser will look like in 5-10 years…but don’t be surprised if it does have a lot of this functionality. I know it’s tough to imagine it, so do check out the videos, and let me know what you think.
Nothing You See is Real – We’ve talked in this space before about Alternative Reality Browsers for your mobile device, in particular Layar (http://www.layar.com). Both Layar and Wikitude (http://www.wikitude.org) use the camera from your phone to view what is around you. The “Alternative Reality” part comes in as meta-data is layered onto what the camera sees to provide added content. Imagine a tradeshow attendee using this type of browser to view the booths in their immediate vicinity. What if certain exhibitors could place additional content over the image, providing added info for the attendee (not to mention added revenue for the show manager)? See the potential of alternative reality browsing now?
So who said browsing wasn’t exciting? It very well could be the most interesting tech development to watch in 2011. Happy holidays, everyone.