After several years of inactivity and a quiet relaunch earlier this year, the Dillo web browser has finally released Dillo 2.0.

The open-source project started in 1999 with the goal of creating a small, fast, highly efficient graphical web browser that could run well even on low-end hardware and software. It’s a UNIX application, and runs on Linux, BSD, Solaris, etc. Things stagnated when it became clear that GTK1 was going to vanish, and GTK2 would not fit the project goals, and eventually the browser was ported to the Fast Light Toolkit (FLTK).

If you’ve used Dillo before, some of the improvements in this release are multiple character set support (the old versions were Latin-1–only), tabbed browsing, HTTP compression, anti-aliasing, improved rendering and UI, and smaller(!) memory usage.

It does have its limitations, and a few major items stand out as missing when compared to other modern browsers:

  • No CSS stylesheet support.
  • No scripting.
  • No plug-ins.
  • Limited SSL support.

That said, it’s useful to keep around on an older system, or for situations where speed is more important than rendering, or to test how a website works without styles, scripts, and plugins.

I started building RPMs of Dillo for my own use back in 2002, and became the official RPM packager for the project the following year. I’ve posted Dillo RPM packages for Fedora 9, RHEL 3, RHEL 4, and RHEL 5. Other distros will have to wait until I get my build system out of storage or figure out how to convince mock to let me build two packages together.

Alternative Browser AllianceYou may have seen my website, the Alternative Browser Alliance. I put it together in 2005, when flame wars between Opera users and Firefox users were at their height, to show that we shared a common goal: opening the web. The most popular page on the site is a list of web browsers, which is linked as a resource from a number of sites and also gets a steady stream of traffic from people searching for alternative browsers.

Of course, things have changed a lot since 2005, so I’m planning an overhaul of the whole site. Continue reading

Now that it’s live, I’ve downloaded the Google Chrome beta on my Windows box at work.  Thoughts so far:

Good:

  • Site compatibility seems to be fine so far, with a couple of minor issues (see the “Bad” section).  Mostly I’ve tested it with a couple of forum sites, LiveJournal, Slashdot, and WordPress.
  • I like the simple settings box, with “Basics,” “Minor Tweaks,” and “Under the Hood.”
  • It does feel fast.
  • Showing the URL of links in the lower left-hand corner is a perfect compromise between the spatial advantages of a permanent status bar and the extra room provided by leaving it out.
  • I like the task manager for the browser itself.  It’ll be good for developers, but it’ll also be good for users: as the comic points out, if your browser starts chewing up all available resources, you’ll be able to tell what page/plugin/program is at fault instead of just blaming the browser.

Bad:

  • Gears support doesn’t seem to work quite right.  WordPress.com doesn’t detect that it’s available.  Local WP installs with Bad Behavior can’t sync completely.  (It doesn’t send an Accept header on the request for one of the TinyMCE files, which causes Bad Bahavior to think it’s a spambot and triggers a 403.)
  • Cookie management is too simplistic.  I like to accept all cookies temporarily, but clear everything when I end my browsing session, with exceptions for sites where I want to stay logged in.  This is easy in Firefox, a little trickier in Opera, and doesn’t seem to be an option in Chrome.
  • I have seen it pause a couple of times, with as few as 5 tabs. [edit: these seem to be related to Flash content]
  • No Incomplete spell-check.
  • I keep hitting the forward-slash key to search within a page, since that’s the shortcut I’m used to in Firefox and Opera.
Debatable:
  • The UI does indeed stay out of your way.  I guess this sort of makes Chrome the Anti-Flock.
  • DNS Pre-Fetching is enabled by default.  This is different from full HTTP pre-fetching in that all it does it look up the IP addresses of the links that you might click on.  It’s not clear at what point it does this — I don’t remember seeing it mentioned in the comic, which (ironically) isn’t searchable.  I suppose it could either hit the domains of all the links on a page, or just those that would trigger HTTP pre-fetching, or even just send the query when you hover over a link (to get a split-second head start before you click). Update Sep. 17: Google has a blog post explaining pre-resolving in detail. Apparently it does check the domains for all the links on the current page.

Firefox: The new release candidate Firefox 3 RC2 is out. No date yet on the official launch, but they’re still saying June. Also, developers are starting to talk work that’s gone into what will become Firefox 3.1, such as completing CSS3 selectors support.

Opera: A new Opera 9.5 preview came out today, showcasing the browser’s new look. Also, the Opera Core team takes a look at what you can do if you put hardware acceleration on the whole browser.

Internet Explorer: IE8 beta 2 is scheduled for August. I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ve done, and figure I’ll start updating sites to accommodate changes. I held off changing too much when IE8b1 came out, because some of the differences were obviously bugs (triggering the Caio Hack, for instance; and yes, I reported it).

Flock has been moving ahead with small, rapid releases, adding integration for new services each time. They just added Digg and Pownce in Flock 1.2 a few days ago. Now they’re getting ready to start on Flock 2.0, which will merge in all the new capabilities of Firefox 3. That means it’ll get new rendering capabilities, better memory management, probably EV certs and such.

Last October I wrote about some milestones in web browser marketshare. Specifically, I was looking forward to IE7 overtaking IE6, and to Firefox overtaking IE6. Well, both of those have finally happened, at least on this site, and a little more besides. Take a look at these stats from May 2008:

Usage Browser Notes
61.2% IE (all)
35.7% IE 7
28.6% Firefox (all)
26.4% Firefox 2
25.1% IE 6
4.7% Safari
1.9% Mozilla (still not sure if this is SeaMonkey or a catch-all)
1.4% Opera
1.0% Firefox 3

Back when I wrote the original post, I had a series of 5 or 6 milestones in mind, but decided to keep it simple and only post the first two. The next one after Firefox passing IE6 was for Firefox 2+ to pass IE6. I should have been checking in more frequently, since it already has.

So what’s next? Well, I expect to see the following in the next year or two:

  • Firefox 3 replacing Firefox 2. It’s already got a strong pre-release following. (Fx2 will stick around while there are still Win98 and WinMe users, but they’re already at less than 1% here and falling.)
  • Firefox 1 fading into the sunset in favor of newer, more capable releases.
  • Netscape disappearing into history. (It’s already below 1% here.)
  • IE6 dropping below 25%, 20%, 10% (watching it go to single digits will be satisfying), and finally 1%.
  • Safari approaching 10%. It’s holding steady here, but keeps climbing globally.

Things I’d like to see, but am less confident about in the near-term:

  • IE6 disappearing from the radar. There are hold-outs, both at the user and the sysadmin level, plus a sizeable minority on Windows 2000. Plus I think Microsoft is committed to supporting IE6 through the lifetime of Windows XP, which means they’ll keep shipping security fixes until 2014. On the other hand, IE 5.0 is technically still supported as part of Windows 2000, but I see very few IE5 visitors these days.
  • IE8 replacing IE7, for most of the same reasons it’s taking so long for IE7 to replace IE6.
  • Opera breaking out of its steady marketshare and hitting a solid 5%. That would make them much harder to ignore. (10% would be better, since Safari’s still struggling for recognition at 6%.) Of course, to get there they’ll have to pull off a major publicity coup.
  • IE dropping below 50%. Could be done, but it’ll be tough. If there’s no majority browser, it’ll be very difficult to justify building a site for one browser only.

Of course, these will probably all happen faster locally than globally, since the audience seems to skew slightly toward the alternatives, but then local stats are the ones that actually matter for a specific site.