Thursday, 16 April 2009

Browser Battles

We have all experienced that occasional bugbear, the slow computer. Recently I found my computer grinding slower and slower, flummoxed as to the cause.

FREE RAM XP Pro helps me monitor and manage memory consumption, and I could see the memory leaking away frustratingly at 1Mb per second. Restoring memory is also a time hungry business, and I was operating at one third normal speed or worse. 

Despite the urgency of other claims on my time, something had to be done.

Using Google Search, I first tried to locate the reasons for slow computer performance, and then found that slow browser performance might be the cause.

This was a surprise, as I had moved to FireFox from Internet Explorer for just those reasons. But yes, there was a lot of comment out there about FireFox consuming or losing ever more memory, described as a "memory leak".

Of course I know my browsing habits may well make things worse, often having multiple windows and multiple tabs open for cross-referencing. I'm trying to remedy that by using bookmarks more rigorously, but getting called away from the computer and interrupted regularly means the phenomena won't go away totally.

I was aware of Safari, so tried it  to see if performance was better. It was significantly better, although I struggled to see the dark font on the dark background. What tabs did I have open ? I tried to see if I could configure it, or find any downloadable skins to alleviate the issue, but no joy.

So currently I am testing Chrome, and may also look at Opera. Plenty of skins for Chrome, but then I came across a heated discussion about the extent to which Google was "invading" our computers and whether Chrome was sufficiently secure.

This all made me think about what I value in a browser, and I would like to offer readers the following summary:

1. Rapid Performance
When we ask for a web page, we don't want to have to get a cup of coffee every time !
(Safari, Chrome)

2. Page Visibility & Retention
We should be able to see pages which are open, and keep those pages open so as to cross refer contents between pages. This should not lead to a memory drain and a drop in performance.
(IE7, FireFox, Chrome)

3. Predictive Page Search
Either the computer should offer a real-time history of pages I have visited, or predict which pages I am most likely to be interested in. If the former is too memory hungry, then surely the latter is a must have.
(FireFox, Chrome)

4. Being Offered Relevant Goods & Services
Actually, yes I do want this. I suggest to any reader that we may soon accept that being open about our needs, and getting information about things which are close to our heart may soon be a positive step we all take voluntarily.

We all do this when we ask for help in user forums, so why not be clear about what it is we are looking for, as this will help us all move forwards that much faster.

In the Enterprise 2.0 world, being open about our needs is the fastest way to move forward, and keeping issues a secret becomes much harder, and doesn't work when others have been through those same issues themselves before.

If our browsers keep a record of our key word searches and use that to select ads to display when we visit other websites, isn't that a good thing ?

And aren't all cookie enabled browsers likely to do this anyway ?
(IE7, FireFox, Safari, Chrome)

5. Secure Pages Must Keep Our Data Safe
Yes of course this is essential. How can we trust in any online financial transaction if we are not sure our money is safe ?

Many of those concerned about this have hinted darkly that Chrome security breaches are many and wide-ranging, and some have uninstalled the software. If that is so, I hope Google move to address this issue or its perception with all due speed.
(IE7, FireFox, Safari, Chrome ?)

In short, Chrome appears to answer most of my needs, and if I can put the security question to bed, then it will answer all of them. Until then it may be a mixed-browser world I inhabit !