Today's web browsers seem to be still mired in the Internet of five years ago. Back then, the browser wars were in full swing, and different browsers tried to lock you into their view of the Internet universe. Today's web is a multifaceted content multiverse. Yet despite common features like tabbed browsing, today's browsers still try to lock you in. Some sites are only viewable in Internet Explorer. Firefox locks you in with the vast array of cool plugins. Google Chrome grabs you with its integration into the Googleverse, particularly Google Apps. Apple's Safari appeals to Mac and iPhone owners. It's a ridiculous, fragmented state of affairs.
As I write this, I have two different browsers open: Firefox 3.5 and the beta of Google Chrome 3.0. Occasionally, I even fire up Internet Explorer 8.0, whose user interface is arguably clunkier than either Firefox or Chrome. I’m thinking about installing Apple’s Safari as well.
One reason is that I need to have different instances of browsers for different purposes. For example, I have one set of tabs for normal, daily stuff. Those tabs include personal email, Facebook, the Quartertothree.com. I open up a second instance that has tools needed for my blog at improbableinsights.com. That includes WordPress admin dashboard, Google Analytics, WordPress help and more.
This is irritating on so many levels.
Let’s take Firefox 3.5.2 first. I like the user interface of Firefox the best. Plus, if it lacks some key feature I want, I can find a plugin that performs whatever task isn’t built into the standard Firefox build. For example, I think the Firefox downloader is pretty clunky, so I use Download Statusbar, a very cool plugin. Another useful plugin is Firebug, which allows me to easily edit or debug HTML and CSS code while remaining in the browser.
If it were up to me, I’d just use Firefox all the time. Alas, that’s not possible.
There are two reasons for this. First, I keep my WordPress admin and author accounts separate. If I opened two Firefox instances or tabs of the WordPress dashboard, the browser gets confused as to which login is the current one. I’ve written posts as admin, and been annoyed when I couldn’t approve comments as an author.
So I open up a set of tabs as author in Chrome. There’s no confusion between browsers, plus the title bars look different enough that it’s easy to pick the correct one. You see where this is going. There's more though...