Web browsers need to stop trying to be all things to everyone

Web browser close-up on the LCD screen with focus on the lock icon.

istockphoto / Getty Images

I’ve been using Firefox for decades. This does not mean that I have used it non-stop for that period. In fact, there have been a lot of cases where I have discarded the open source browser in favor of another one. Some of these cases were simply because a browser had added a feature that I wanted to take advantage of.

Case in point, Opera’s Workspaces feature was an absolute game-changer for managing an ever-increasing set of tabs that would otherwise be tedious.

Seriously, Opera’s Workspaces feature is pretty good.

but, Some features have been added to the Opera browser Not only does it match all the workspaces, but it also makes me wonder why it was there in the first place.

Same goes for other browsers that take the kitchen sink approach. Instead of a web browser being a web browser, they become Crypto walletsmedia players Email clientsonline calendar services task managersAnd the To-do listsSchedule reminders, RSS readers, alarms, translation tools, game consoles, theme generators, and more.

also: Microsoft is moving forward with Edge Workspaces browser-based collaboration

It seems like almost weekly a new feature is being added to another browser to make it more and more and more.

There is a problem with this approach. The further away a web browser is from being just a web browser, the more it suffers. The more a browser suffers from bloating, the less usable it is.

This same thing happened with Firefox, and it went south pretty quickly. Firefox has gone from a light, fast, and lightweight web browser to a complete toolkit of features, most of which, in my opinion, were completely useless. (This was a few years ago; I recommend it in its current iteration.)

There was the Experiences feature that allowed participating users to try out every new feature that the developers brought to the browser. I took part in that experience and ended up shaking my head in shock often at some of the ideas that were suggested.

Sure, some of the experiences were pretty cool, but they had no place in the browser.

Let me be clear: a web browser’s job is to make viewing websites easy, reliable, secure, and simple. Since most of us use the web browser for most of what we do on desktop and laptop computers, you should take this idea front and center, and web browser developers should pay attention.

also: There is no perfect browser. What the user should do

Fun can be fun until it isn’t

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy it when a company (or development team) releases a cool new feature for the web browser. I’d love to see what developers can do.

But again, the thing is that when you add a lot of features to this crucial tool, you run the risk of this tool becoming unusable.

Consider this: As of this writing, I have 32 tabs open in my web browser, each consuming system resources.

Now, imagine I’m using a web browser that wants everything to be for me as a user. Email client, calendar, task manager, to-do list, project manager… all the things I would probably normally do in a tab anyway.

Instead, the developers decided to bring these features into the web browser as applets that can be used. Now, I may still have 32 tabs open, but I also have a bunch of built-in apps running.

also: How to recover lost or closed tabs with Firefox History Tool

This browser is now consuming more system resources.

Sure, these features might be fun at first, but eventually my system resources can be used up to the point where my desktop becomes unresponsive. Everyone has experienced it once or twice.

This is not fun.

Overwhelming is not productive

The other problem is that many of the features can quickly become confusing. Imagine you opened a recently upgraded version of your web browser, only to discover a bunch of new features were activated. You have your own workflow, totally stunned by all these new options and tools.

This can become very fast. Considering how many people avoid change like the upcoming Grim Reaper for their souls, adding a lot of features could be a recipe for losing users.

I’m not saying that developers shouldn’t consider innovation a big part of their web browser projects. Quite the opposite. However, it may be possible for developers to allow users to enable and disable features in their browser, so they can use only what they need and hide everything else out of sight and not consume system resources.

To this end, web browser developers should focus their efforts on:

  • User Interface and User Experience
  • protection
  • efficiency
  • credibility
  • Page resolution
  • Speed
  • Tab management

If a feature does not belong to one of the above categories, it should be considered optional and disabled or hidden by users during first run.

It shouldn’t be that difficult. A web browser is used to display web pages securely and efficiently. Get it right and you’ll have a successful product. If I get it wrong, you’ve created a monster that hinders users from doing what they need to do effectively.

For those who might be curious to know which web browsers define this aspect, here is my short list:

  • fire fox (A web browser that was there and did that).
  • chrome (The only version of Chrome I will be using).
  • gnome web – aka Epiphany – (GNOME-based web browser for Linux).
  • Safari (The only browser I use on macOS).
  • pale moon (Great choice for Linux and Windows).
  • Komodo Ice Dragon (Keeps security at the top of the list).

Use any of the above browsers and you will enjoy an abstract, efficient and lightning fast experience.

Leave a Comment