The Browser is Dead

Michael Arrington on TechCrunch writes:

For most early adopters (and all Mac users), the browser is increasingly the only operating system that matters anyway. Windows isn’t really that relevant any more just because of the increasing utility of online applications like Google Docs, which competes with Microsoft Office. – Gartner Says Vista Will Collapse. And That’s Why The Yahoo Deal Must Happen

With the increasing popularity of widgets over the last few years, I honestly believed that the browser was at and end, it had hit a wall. There are even Firefox plug-ins that allow the browser to NOT act like a browser.

The problem is in the general thinking of the OS, as a platform for apps to run. By definition this is true. That’s all it is.

Why the browser is so popular is that it is a tangible interface to the internet. People got the “pamphlet” pitch back when the internet first entered the publics’ conscience.

It is going to take a young mind, someone who sees the OS as something completely different, to bring its next iteration. Not simply as a serving tray for apps.

I think it’s less “the OS is dead” and more that the OS needs to be re-thought. (Windows is ‘collapsing,’ Gartner analysts warn)

5 comments on “The Browser is Dead

  1. -

    You raise some valid points. The ubiquity of constant internet connections and web browsers definitely is re-shaping the purpose of operating systems. But, don’t you see that in your argument, the browser is becoming a replacement for the operating system? OSes run application; browsers run applications. The beauty of browsers, though, is that as the Web evolves, the interface stays the same. Remember when browsers were just HTTP viewers? Now browsers can run applications and display dynamic content.

    I think hypervisors will have an impact on the future of OSes. What will happen when hypervisors become a commodity and eventually built into processors? They might evolve into an “operating system” whereby they host applications themselves.

    As for re-thinking what an OS is, I think the software will change as the hardware changes. PCs haven’t fundamentally changed in a long time. We still use a keyboard, mouse and 2-D display. But as the input devices and display technologies change, the software will change to support them.

  2. - Post author

    “The beauty of browsers, though, is that as the Web evolves, the interface stays the same. Remember when browsers were just HTTP viewers? Now browsers can run applications and display dynamic content.”

    Great point, and this is what is fantastic about the browser. It has been adapted, tweaked, based on needs. But I do not see it as a replacement for the OS, an aspect that I find boring. Maybe I am not envisioning things correctly.

    Your example of hypervisors possibly “evolving into an ‘operating system'” is perfect. Do we even need an Operating System? Our computers are becoming simply an interface to our information as we all upload our conscience.

    My original statement, and title of this post, was not a stance, but more of a question of what may come. The browser is a revolution that we cannot live without. I’ve cycled through at least ten different email clients in the past ten years, GMail being my favorite. It is what come after the browser acting as OS that really interests me.

  3. -

    That’s an interesting question–what’s next for browsers? Browsers have become a commodity so I don’t think competition between browsers really will drive new features/functionality. We might continue to see new protocols, but these will lead to mostly incremental advancements in browser technolgoy.

    I think one step might be re-defining how we view content; in other words, maybe we move away from the idea of a web “page.” But this requires examining how we organize and view content in general, not just on the web…

  4. -

    I was having a look at the Nokia N96 – with its 16gb of space, 5mpx camera, video, wireless keyboard, integration with Outlook, high speed internet, plug into LCD screens … the list goes on, are we looking at the wrong direction?

    Perhaps the OS and future of computing is already here? Nokia is expected to sell 400 million phones this year. That’s an awful lot of OSes and CPUs.


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