Camen Design

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Browser Vendors, You Have Failed Us

Browser vendors have unilaterally lost sight of real problems that plague real users.
I am so angry right now. The thing that causes me so much anger is not that Google are shutting down their RSS reader product, it’s that the browser vendors sat back and allowed all the power over content to go into the hands of Facebook and now Google.

I wrote two years ago that browser vendors were failing to focus on the real problem that: users don’t want, and find it slow and painful, to trudge around their daily round of websites and that the web browser should be exposing an automatic, intelligent and ultimately useful interface to RSS.

Why can I not do something about this? Becuase creating another RSS web service to ‘replace’ Google Reader does not solve the underlying problem, that is:—personal aggregation of content should not be dependnt on a business model.

Google never offered a pay option. Reader had to supliment other strategies. RSS does not benefit Google+, whose aim is to centralise all the content including the ability to process and access it.

RSS is a browser feature, a browser’s responsibility. It is a personalised view upon the web, just as bookmarks and add-ons are. It makes managing daily content much easier, just as bookmarks and add-ons do. The browser—as the personal portal on to the web—is best positioned to aggregate the web for the user. It knows the user’s browsing habits better than even the most evil of evil advertisers. The browser vendors could make the web faster, easier, less cluttered and junky than any web sevice ever could. And it could do all of that with the barest minimum of privacy-intrusion, without a single ad and without a conflicting business model.

Because browser vendors failed to see personalised aggregation as a benefit to regular users, these regular users have taken to Facebook as their personalised aggregation service, taking the power over content away from the browser vendors.

Facebook will one day soon be a major technology player rivalling Google, Amazon and even Apple. Facebook are already big, yes, but for now they’re ‘just a website’. When they control the technology landscape because they control access to the content then things turn very bad for users. Mozilla, prepare to be side-lined by a ‘website’.

That brings me to the second big thing browser vendors have failed users with: e-mail.

It is 2013 and there is still no way to set Firefox as the default e-mail client in Windows. There is no way to make it so that when a user right-clicks a file and goes Send To > Mail Recipient that Firefox will launch with the user’s preferred web-mail.

This is no end of headaches for my customers. They are constantly slipping up because they do not discern the difference between actions that invoke the native mail client and the fact they are using web-mail. Functions they expect to work simply don’t, such as using the e-mail toolbar button in Windows Explorer. Most of my customers have unsent e-mails in the outbox of Outlook Express or Windows Mail because the native client was launched instead of their web-mail. Attaching files is an unbelievable pain because of this. Customers have to be carefully taught that no, you don’t go to the picture first, you write the e-mail first, then click attach and then have to understand the concept of a different view upon the file-system and that the Pictures folder in there, is actually the same as the Pictures folder their muscle-memory is programmed to use from the Start Menu.

E-mail sucks because browser vendors don’t care about real problems that plague real users every day.

If I were Mozilla I would integrate e-mail back into Firefox. The browser already knows the user’s web-mail user names and passwords. It could automatically configure everything. The user could have a clean interface to their e-mail without having to go through painful web-mail clients. Attachments would be easier. E-mail links in web pages would actually work. Native OS e-mail actions would actually do the right thing for once. Users would actually benefit more from this than redesigning the f*cking shape of the tabs or removing the RSS button from the toolbar.

Two years have passed. The boat has been missed. Facebook and Google control the content, how it is accessed, how it is processed. There is no way back. You have failed us, browser vendors.