Technology

The business and culture of our digital lives,
from the L.A. Times

Category: Browsers

Google's Chrome browser overtakes Internet Explorer 8

Google's Chrome browser entered the market in 2008.Did Google's Chrome browser just become the globe's most popular?

That's what StatCounter is reporting.

It says Chrome topped Internet Explorer 8 in the last week of November, when Chrome took 23.6% of the global market and IE8 took 23.5%.

Of course, if you combine all of the versions of Internet Explorer, it's still the browser champ. And in the United States, Internet Explorer is still on top, with 27% of the market.

So what's driving the growth? Aodhan Cullen, chief executive of StatCounter, says businesses as well as consumers are adopting Chrome.

Microsoft, which includes Internet Explorer with its Windows operating system, used to have a lock on the browser market. Google didn't even enter the market until 2008.

But Chrome recently surpassed Mozilla Foundation's Firefox browser, which it used to support. Firefox launched in 2004 and drove innovation in the market, which was dominated by Internet Explorer since IE overtook Netscape's browser in the late 1990s.

Google CEO Larry Page was always a proponent of Google's getting into the browser market. Google began to build a browser in 2006, concerned that existing browsers were not good enough to support its online services or might lead users away from its search engine. (Microsoft uses Internet Explorer to send users to its own Bing search engine.)

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-- Jessica Guynn 

Photo: The logo for the Google Chrome Web browser is shown during a news conference at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., in September 2008. Photo credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press. 

Black Friday? How about ‘update your parents' browser day’?

Dell from 1999, suring the World Wide Web

The Thanksgiving holiday, for many, is about digging into a turkey and sides with friends and family, celebrating and honoring what we have in this world we each have to be thankful for.

The day after, Black Friday, for another subset of us, is all about shopping (unless you're like me and you avoid the craziness at retail stores for the weekend).

But Alexis Madrigal, an editor and writer at The Atlantic magazine, has a fantastic idea that is catching on with the blogosphere -- "Update your parents' browser day."

Madrigal, in an article on The Atlantic's website, describes Thanksgiving as a "time when families gather together to share food, extend gratitude, and marvel at how Dad still uses Internet Explorer 6. No, seriously, Dad, how can you be using a browser developed during the Clinton administration? That was like 10 presidents ago."

To alleviate this problem and get the folks up to date with the latest in Web browsing technology, Madrigal suggests updating browsers in top secret, covert-ops style.

"If a parent catches you, don't tell them that you're changing their Web browser," he suggests. "Say instead that you're checking for viruses or installing new drivers or that you're 'freeing up space on their hard drive,' which parents always seem to worry about. (And though you're lying, if they do have viruses or are running out of hard drive space or need new drivers for some reason, be a good boy and do that stuff too.)"

While I'm wholly behind the world leaving outdated Web browsers behind, I'm going to have to advocate for being on the up-and-up about the move. Let your parents, or your grand pappy, your tio and tia, your girlfriend or whoever is behind the times know what you're doing and why -- security, speed, better websites, graphics, video and all that.

The website LifeHacker took Madrigal's idea and suggested even more shady activity, namely, if your parents use Microsoft's Internet Explorer, that you should replace it with Mozilla's Firefox or Google's Chrome (Opera is a good option too). The site even suggested going as far as changing the icon on the desktop to look like IE and downloading themes that will make other browsers look like the Microsoft app.

Of course, Microsoft doesn't advocate abandoning Internet Explorer. In fact, the tech giant suggested (unsurprisingly) to update your family to the latest version of IE -- in two separate company blog posts.

Regardless of your browser preference, many blogs and tech websites (such as Gizmodo, ReadWriteWeb, ArsTechnica, Computerworld, Neowin and TechCrunch) seem to agree that "Update your parents' browser day" is an idea we can all get behind.

"No more excuses," Madrigal wrote. "These browsers must be upgraded. Do it for the Web developers. Do it for the designers. Do it for your parents. On Friday, Nov. 25, every old Web browser must go."

Join Madrigal's call to action, won't you? I might even update the browsers of a co-worker or two Friday if I can.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: A Dell computer from 1999, surfing the Web. Credit: Dell/Reuters

Adobe gives up on mobile Flash Player, but RIM hasn't yet

Mike Lazaridis, co-CEO of Research in Motion

Adobe is dumping its efforts to build Flash Player plug-ins for Web browsers on tablets and smartphones and instead is focusing more on HTML5, but Research in Motion isn't ready to give up on mobile Flash just yet.

Dan Dodge, the president and chief executive of RIM-owned QNX (the company that built the QNX operating system, which is the basis for the upcoming BBX operating system for BlackBerry phones and tablets), said in a company blog post that RIM will go out on its own to make sure BlackBerry devices maintain Flash as a feature for its browsers.

"As an Adobe source code licensee, we will continue to work on and release our own implementations, and are looking forward to including Flash 11.1 for the BlackBerry PlayBook," Dodge said in his blog post.

Adobe isn't giving up on Flash altogether. The San Jose company said Wednesday that it will continue to to build Flash plug-ins for desktop browsers and maintain the technology as a tool to build apps that can be converted into native apps on mobile platforms using Adobe Air.

Dodge said that Adobe's decision to give up on its mobile Flash Player is actually a plus for RIM's products and that the move "further validates RIM's decision to launch the BlackBerry PlayBook with a full-powered and uncompromised desktop class browser supporting both Flash and HTML5."

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Mike Lazaridis, co-Chief Executive of Research in Motion, speaks at the BlackBerry DevCon Americas conference in San Francisco on Oct. 18. Credit: Eric Risberg / Associated Press

Google dumping its BlackBerry Gmail app

Gmail on a BlackBerry web browser

Google is ending support for its Gmail app on Blackberry smartphones as of Nov. 22.

"Over this past year, we've focused efforts on building a great Gmail experience in the mobile browser and will continue investing in this area," Google said in a blog post. "Users may continue to use the app, if installed, however it will not be supported by Google" or be available for download as of Nov. 22.

Last week, Google released a native Gmail app to Apple's App Store for iOS devices -- such as the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad -- but the app was filled with problems.

Google quickly pulled the app from the App Store, apologized for shipping an incomplete product and said a fix was on the way. So far no new iOS Gmail app has been delivered.

The company also produces a native Gmail app for Android but does not make one for Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 software.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Gmail.com on a BlackBerry smartphone's mobile browser. Credit: Nathan Olivarez-Giles/Los Angeles Times

Adobe ending mobile Flash Player, cutting 750 jobs

Adobe Flash Player in the Android Market

Your smartphone's and tablet's web browser will likely be Flash-free in the future, if it isn't already.

Adobe Systems Inc. said Wednesday that it is ending its development of the Flash Player plug-in for mobile devices and will instead shift its resources and third-party partners to its Adobe AIR software and HTML5 technologies for interactive websites, apps and video playback.

Word of the shift away from Flash on mobile devices was first reported by the website ZDNet and later confirmed in a company blog post by Danny Winokur, Adobe's vice president of interactive development.

"Over the past two years, we've delivered Flash Player for mobile browsers and brought the full expressiveness of the web to many mobile devices," Winokur said. "However, HTML5 is now universally supported on major mobile devices, in some cases exclusively. This makes HTML5 the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across mobile platforms.

"We are excited about this, and will continue our work with key players in the HTML community, including Google, Apple, Microsoft and RIM, to drive HTML5 innovation they can use to advance their mobile browsers."

Adobe will shift its resources toward giving Flash developers the tools to turn their Flash files into native apps for mobile operating systems with Adobe AIR.

"We will no longer continue to develop Flash Player in the browser to work with new mobile device configurations (chipset, browser, OS version, etc.) following the upcoming release of Flash Player 11.1 for Android and BlackBerry PlayBook," Winokur said. "We will of course continue to provide critical bug fixes and security updates for existing device configurations. We will also allow our source code licensees to continue working on and release their own implementations."

The changes will allow the San Jose-based company to increase its investment in HTML5 "and innovate with Flash where it can have most impact for the industry," he said.

The news of the Flash strategy change followed a Tuesday announcement in which Adobe said that it will cut 750 jobs as part of a company restructuring.

"In order to better align resources around Digital Media and Digital Marketing, Adobe is restructuring its business," the company said in a statement. "This will result in the elimination of approximately 750 full-time positions primarily in North America and Europe."

The layoffs and other changes, such as "the consolidation of leased facilities" and severance payouts, will cost Adobe somewhere between $87 million and $94 million in pretax restructuring charges, the statement said.

"We expect to record approximately $73 million to $78 million of these charges in the fiscal quarter ending Dec. 2, 2011," Adobe said, also adding that it has dropped its expected earnings per share down to a range of 30 cents to 38 cents in the quarter from a previous projection of 41 cents to 50 cents.

Despite all the changes, Adobe said it is forecasting that its revenue will be unaffected and come in between $1.08 billion to $1.13 billion.

Adobe's move to discontinue Flash for mobile web browsers will (and has already) be seen as proof that late Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs' stance that Flash doesn't belong on phones and tablets has won out.

Adobe and Apple have at time been business partners, but with the release of Apple's iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad all without any Flash capabilities, the two companies were also in a public disagreement over Flash's role in an increasingly mobile computing future.

Jobs famously penned a blunt letter posted on Apple's website called "Thoughts on Flash" in April 2010, criticizing Flash and Adobe's dedication to dump the technology.

The Apple co-founder wrote that "Flash was created during the PC era -- for PCs and mice. Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards -- all areas where Flash falls short."

Adobe has since introduced products that allow developers to take what they've created in Flash and convert those files into i-device-compatible formats, such as Adobe Edge and Adobe Wallaby, which can be used to convert files into HTML5.

Apple isn't the only company that has made moves that stem the adoption of Flash on the Web. Microsoft said in a developer blog post from September that its Internet Explorer 10 browser in WIndows 8, launching next year on tablets and PCs, will support Web plug-ins on PCs, but not tablets.

While Microsoft didn't call out Flash by name the way that Jobs did more than a year earlier, the message was clear -- Microsoft, too, believes that Flash and other plug-ins were on their way out.

"For the Web to move forward and for consumers to get the most out of touch-first browsing, the Metro style browser in Windows 8 is as HTML5-only as possible, and plug-in free," Microsoft said in the post. "The experience that plug-ins provide today is not a good match with Metro style browsing and the modern HTML5 web."

[Updated 10:27 A.M.: Cynthia Fetty, a spokeswoman for Adobe and working for the Edelman PR agency, said in an email that Adobe isn't ending all Flash mobile development, as indicated by an earlier headline on this post that read "Adobe ending mobile Flash development, cutting 750 jobs."

Rather, Fetty clarified, Adobe is ending development of the Flash Player plug-ins for mobile browsers.

"Adobe will only discontinue the development of Flash for mobile browsers," she said. "Future work around Flash for mobile devices will focus on enabling developers to deliver apps via AIR and innovating with Flash where it can have the most impact including 3D gaming and premium video."]

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screen shot of Adobe Flash Player in the Android Market. Credit: Google

Mozilla releases Firefox 8 with built-in Twitter search

Mozilla Firefox 8 download page

Mozilla released Firefox 8, the latest version of its Web browser, with one feature that is sure to get notice by social media fans -- built-in Twitter search.

"Twitter is now included as a search option in Firefox for Windows, Mac and Linux," Mozilla said in a blog post Tuesday detailing updates found in Firefox 8, many of which are under the hood.

Firefox 8 users can search topics, hashtags and user names on Twitter from within the browser's search box (located just to the right of the URL box). The Twitter search feature is available in English, Japanese, Portuguese and Slovenian, and Mozilla is promising more languages to be added in the future.

With the update, Twitter joins Google, Yahoo, Bing, Amazon.com, eBay and Wikipedia as search options built-into Firefox.

Aside from Twitter search, Mozilla promises that Firefox 8 will be faster than previous versions with improved support for HTML5 and WebGL, "a new Web standard that allows websites and Web apps to display hardware-accelerated 3D graphics without third-party software."

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screen shot of Mozilla's Firefox 8 download page. Credit: Mozilla

Mozilla and Microsoft launch 'Firefox with Bing' browser

Firefox with Bing

Mozilla has teamed with Microsoft to bring more Bing to Firefox.

On Wednesday the Mozilla Foundation, the nonprofit group that builds the Firefox Web browser, released Firefox with Bing, a customized version of the browser that makes Bing.com the default homepage and sets Bing as the default search engine.

Of course, any user of Firefox can go into the browser's settings and make those changes themselves if they want, and there is even a "Bing Search for Firefox" add-on that will do the same. But many users don't mess with their settings too much, which is why Google (the usual default for Firefox) is the most widely used search engine among Firefox users.

Google competes with Bing on the search side and Google's Chrome browser competes with Firefox. Microsoft, of course, makes a Firefox rival in Internet Explorer.

Mozilla, in a blog post, said that "nearly 20 customized versions of Firefox" are available from its partners, including Bing, Yahoo (which now uses Bing to power its search as well), Twitter and Yandex.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

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Image: A screen shot of Firefox with Bing's download website. Credit: Microsoft and Mozilla

Apple 'Celebrating Steve' event video now streaming online

Apple - Celebrating SteveApple Inc. celebrated Steve Jobs' life in a companywide but private event Wednesday, and now video of the tribute is streaming online on Apple's website.

The video, which runs about 80 minutes in length, starts off with Apple CEO Tim Cook speaking of Steve Jobs' life and introducing Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve Jobs' wife, to a crowd of thousands of Apple employees in an outdoor ceremony at Apple's headquarters in Cupertino.

Huge banners hung from Apple's buildings featuring photos of Jobs throughout his life.

Cook, in his remarks to the crowd, shared quotes from Jobs, including one in which the leader said, "My model for business is the Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other's kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. That's how I see business. Great things in business are never done by one person, they're done by a team of people."

Cook also said of Jobs, Apple's co-founder and longtime CEO:

I personally admire Steve not most for what he did or what he said but for what he stood for.

The largest lesson I learned from Steve was that the joy in life is in the journey, and I saw him live this every day.

Steve never followed the herd. He thought deeply about almost everything and was the most unconventional thinker I have ever known. He always did what he thought was right, not what was easy. He never accepted the merely good. He would only accept great -- insanely great.

Cook, who took over as Apple's CEO when Jobs resigned in August, also noted that Jobs told him that he didn't want Apple to fall into trying to make decisions based on what he would do once he was gone. Instead, he told Cook: "Don't ask what I would do. Don't ask what I would want. Just do what's right."

Apple's lead designer Johnathan Ive spoke at the event, as did former U.S. Vice President and Apple board member Al Gore. Singer Norah Jones and the band Coldplay performed at the event.

Apple temporarily shut down its retail stores for a few hours Wednesday to allow company employees to watch live video of the service, allowing for Apple as a whole to take part in remembering its late leader.

Jobs died on Oct. 5 in his Palo Alto home at age 56 of respiratory arrest and a pancreatic tumor.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Images: A screenshot of Apple's 'Celebrating Steve' event streaming in the Safari web-browser. Credit: Apple Inc.

Microsoft security tools deleting Google Chrome from Windows PCs

Microsoft Forefront Endpoint Protection -- Win32/Zbot -- Google Chrome

Hundreds of Google Chrome users (at least) found their Internet browser of choice removed from their Windows PCs on Friday after Microsoft deleted the Web-surfing app.

And no, Microsoft didn't start pushing out Chrome because it's gaining market share and posing a threat to Internet Explorer.

Microsoft said in an emailed statement that the Chrome removals took place due to a mistake on the part of its Microsoft Security Essentials software for Windows.

The Times has found that not only Microsoft Security Essentials but also Microsoft's Forefront Endpoint Protection software can remove Google Chrome as a malware threat. This matches up with reporting from the website ZDnet, which broke news of the Chrome problems Friday morning.

The software errors wrongly spot Chrome as malware to be removed from PCs. For affected users, who have included a couple of Times staffers, simply trying to reinstall Chrome doesn't solve the problem. Instead, Microsoft's software removes the browser again.

The Windows-maker, however, said that an update to Microsoft Security Essentials' software has been pushed out to the Web and it's working on making everything well again.

Here's the explanation from Microsoft:

On September 30th, 2011, an incorrect detection for PWS:Win32/Zbot was identified and as a result, Google Chrome was inadvertently blocked and in some cases removed from customers PCs. We worked quickly to provide an updated signature (1.113.672.0) at 9:57 am PDT to fix this issue.  Affected customers should manually update Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) with the latest signatures. To do this, simply launch MSE, go to the update tab and click the Update button, and then reinstall Google Chrome. We apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused our customers.

Google, for its part, published a blog post on the matter, explaining to Chrome users in a series of steps how to reinstall the browser after Microsoft's mistake.

It's also working on releasing an update to Chrome to help protect the browser from the buggy version of Microsoft Security Essentials.

From Google's blog post:

Earlier today, we learned that the Microsoft Security Essentials tool began falsely identifying Google Chrome as a piece of malware ("PWS:Win32/Zbot") and removing it from people's computers.

If Chrome is working correctly for you, then there's no need to take any action.

We are releasing an update that will automatically repair Chrome for affected users over the course of the next 24 hours.

So were you affected? If so, did you see the problem with Microsoft Security Essentials or Microsoft Forefront Endpoint Protection? If Chrome was removed, but you're back up and running in Chrome now, are your bookmarks and other data still around or wiped out? Sound off in the comments.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screen shot of Microsoft Forefront Endpoint Protection wrongly identifying Google Chrome as malware in its "Win32/Zbot" error. Credit: Paul Olund / Los Angeles Times

9/11 anniversary: Google goes Doodle-less

Google_Doodle
Google Doodle-watching is a favorite pastime for many Internet visitors -- regardless of which browser they use. It's often a fun, pop-culture savvy adornment that Google layers over its homepage nameplate to honor things such as Freddie Mercury's birthday, the comic genius of Lucille Ball, green aliens and the Flintstones.

PHOTOS: A nation mourns the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks

But on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, America woke up to find the most appropriate Google Doodle of them all: nothing.

Google is Doodle-less for Sunday, with a simple black ribbon to commemorate the nearly 3,000 men, women and children who died 10 years ago.

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-- Rene Lynch
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Photo: Google's homepage 

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