The Death of Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer

Like video killed the radio star, Web evolution killed Internet Explorer. Microsoft Marketing Chief Chris Capossela announced that the popular software company would be putting its original web browser to out to pasture.

The 20-year-old browser pioneered many innovations, including AJAX and JavaScript, which has made the Internet what it is today. However, the nostalgia of being one of the first browsers has proven more negative than positive in recent years. In a world of technology, faster and newer are usually always better, and the evolution of IE just wasn’t fast enough and the changes weren’t drastic enough to keep users interested. Currently with 22% browser market share, IE’s lack of evolution is what made way for browsers like Firefox and Chrome to take over.

Microsoft has developed a new, unnamed browser that is currently being referred to as Project Spartan, to take the spot of the default Web browser on the future releases of Windows software. IE will still exist in some versions of Windows 10, but will not be the designated browser the way it has been on previous versions of Windows. It will mainly be available for users who require legacy browser support.

Though this may not be the end of IE, this sure is the beginning of one. Many people think this has been a long time coming and we agree. Robmark Web is looking forward to what Project Spartan has in store for Web users and we are waiting to see if this will be the one-two punch that chomps into Google’s browser market share.

Using CSS to Generate Icons Instantaneously

Page load speed is becoming an increasingly important aspect of website functionality, responsiveness, and SEO. Google even sets the high standard that a website should load within one second, and while this is understandable for the sake of user experience in an increasingly mobile, 3G world, it’s a tall order for a website with any number of images.

So what if there were a way to render images on a website without having to load them?

With some relatively new features in CSS, namely the :before and :after selectors, it is possible to generate images using solely CSS code. Starting with a single <div> element in HTML, programmers can generate visual graphics from small icons to complex works of art using solely CSS.

For example, the PAC-MAN and ghost below are generated 100% with CSS (from One-Div.com):

Images on websites, no matter how small, require a server request in order to transfer from the host server to your browser, which takes up precious load time. A small social media icon image often takes more time to load than the entirety of even a large website’s CSS file. (Test your website’s page load speed at tools.pingdom.com.) CSS can instruct the browser on how to generate those icons instantaneously with just a few lines of CSS code. The social media icons below (which link to Robertson & Markowitz’s accounts) are generated instantaneously with the power of CSS (again from One-Div.com):

So if page load speed is critical for your website down to the millisecond, CSS icons are a neat trick to explore.

Further reading:

http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2012/05/15/zocial-button-set-72-css3-buttons/

http://a.singlediv.com/

http://codepen.io/jaysalvat/pen/HaqBf/

http://one-div.com/

Yahoo-Firefox Synergy Part 3: Cross-Promotion

The new Firefox-Yahoo partnership rollout keeps getting more interesting and industry-changing. Yahoo, the fourth most popular website in the world, now includes the message “Upgrade to the new Firefox” in its top-right corner next to the precious real estate of its email button. Of course, “the new Firefox” is key because only in the new Firefox 34 does the Yahoo integration appear.

Firefox on Yahoo.com

This further highlights that the Yahoo-Firefox contract is proving beneficial to both parties. News has already broken that Yahoo’s search market share has skyrocketed from 10% to 29%. And reciprocally, Firefox now gains, in addition to whatever monetary sum Yahoo has agreed to, a plug on the fourth most popular website in the world.

From this point forward, the more folks who use Firefox, the more web traffic and ad revenue Yahoo will acquire. And the stronger Yahoo becomes as an Internet powerhouse thanks in part to Firefox’s referrals, the more users Firefox will potentially gain from the publicity on Yahoo.com. We should expect both Yahoo and Firefox to expand their Internet presence in the coming months and years far beyond their “also-ran” statuses of yesteryear.

As a final note, this cross-promotion is, of course, giving Google a dose of its own medicine. Google’s Chrome browser undoubtedly acquired its 60% browser market share in large part from its longstanding promotion on Google’s homepage (the #1 website in the world). Microsoft’s Bing search engine and Internet Explorer likewise prop one another up. The blossoming partnership between the counterpart-less entities Firefox and Yahoo, to us, makes perfect sense.

Further reading:

http://venturebeat.com/2014/12/12/yahoo-sites-start-telling-chrome-ie-users-to-upgrade-to-firefox/

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/12/12/yahoo_suggests_firefox_upgrade/

http://www.alexa.com/topsites

Apple brings in DuckDuckGo

As revealed among Apple’s new products earlier this month, iOS 8 for the iPhone 6 and OS X 10 (Yosemite) for desktop will be adding some additional privacy features to their Safari web browser. In a preview page for Yosemite, Apple includes a blurb that reads: “Safari now gives you more control over your privacy on the web… You can also now search the web using DuckDuckGo, a search engine that doesn’t track you.” You may be asking, what in the world is DuckDuckGo? And you would not be alone.

DuckDuckGo is a new search engine that famously touts itself as “the search engine that doesn’t track you.” It goes against the grain of Google and Bing that track their users’ activity to target advertising and to acquire data for their search algorithms. While few Internet users today have heard of it or used it, DuckDuckGo’s numbers are growing and will continue to do so thanks to this publicity from Apple.

Some bloggers are speculating about how DuckDuckGo got its way into Safari’s settings. Becoming integrated into a browser’s settings is a lucrative position. Google currently has a contract to be the default browser on Apple devices through 2015, probably to the tune of $1 billion per year, and surely rakes in a fortune from ads on Apple devices.

So did DuckDuckGo pony up? I doubt it. The way I see it, Apple has other vested interests at play: 1) to situate itself as a privacy-conscious brand, and 2) to eventually promote an alternative to Google, its chief competitor.

Internet privacy is a hot topic in today’s culture, and, largely, a discussion for another time. But it would suffice to say that there is a demand in the American marketplace for tech companies to take a stand for Internet privacy. Neither Apple nor Google nor Microsoft has a stellar reputation in that regard, yet. So among the tech giants, there is still an opportunity to carve out some market share by becoming a champion of Internet privacy. Apple is showing that privacy is a key component of its new operating systems, and lending a hand to DuckDuckGo transfers some of that “privacy capital” from DuckDuckGo to Apple.

And it should be self-evident that Apple has been wanting for some time to stop sending referrals to its primary competitor, Google, as recently evidenced by Apple’s removal of YouTube and Google Maps from iOS. Ever since Google acquired Android back in 2005, Google has virtually been Apple’s sole competition in the smartphone market, and it must pain Apple to send so much business towards Google through Safari’s search queries. Even though Safari users are at liberty to change their settings to another search engine, the only options today are Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Being the only one of today’s three operating system giants to not also offer its own search engine service, Apple is stuck between a rock and a hard place and has to refer its users to a competitor’s search engine, either Google’s or Microsoft’s (Yahoo is intertwined with Microsoft’s Bing).

But things may change now that Apple has taken notice of DuckDuckGo and has added it into Safari’s search engine settings mix. By simply offering DuckDuckGo as a fourth search option, Apple both gives a nod to Internet privacy supporters and opens the door for Safari users to conduct their Web searches without filling the coffers of Google or Microsoft.

When Apple’s contract with Google runs out, could we see Apple set Safari’s default search engine to DuckDuckGo? Would Apple even give DuckDuckGo the coveted “default” status for free, if it would take away some of Google’s competitive edge and give even more credence towards their Internet privacy strategy? I would not be surprised if they decide to do so.

UPDATE: DuckDuckGo has now been blocked in China, presumably over DuckDuckGo’s unwillingness to comply with filtering regulations and/or track the activity of its users. Could this be China’s preparation for the Chinese release of the iPhone 6 coming in early 2015?

Further reading:

http://searchengineland.com/big-win-duckduckgo-apple-adding-safari-private-search-option-193081

http://marketingland.com/ddg-apple-safari-86025

http://www.cultofmac.com/296542/ios-8-security-measures-keep-data-private-ever/

http://www.apple.com/osx/preview/apps/

http://www.hargray.net/news/read/category/Technology/article/bgr-yahoo_offers_to_help_apple_purge_google_from_the_i-newscred

https://www.eff.org/who-has-your-back-2014

http://searchengineland.com/china-blocks-duckduckgo-privacy-search-engine-203855

http://www.cnet.com/news/search-engine-duckduckgo-now-blocked-in-china/

Takeaways from Google’s Transparency Report

Google has been in the news recently for having publicly released a Transparency Report that analyzes how many emails sent to/from Gmail accounts are protected with encryption. In Google’s terms, an unencrypted email is as “open to snoopers as a postcard in the mail,” meaning that anyone from an identity thief to the NSA can simply read unencrypted emails without difficulty as they pass across the Internet. This issue concerns anyone who sends private information via email, which today includes just about everyone.

As part of their Transparency Report, Google released a chart showing the percentage of emails that were encrypted when sent between Gmail.com and list of high-traffic email domains. Domains, in this sense, equate to companies that either send or receive emails to/from everyday Gmail users, from social media networks to ecommerce websites to personal email services. The chart can be found at the link below. While reading this chart, it is important to consider which domains send/receive emails that contain sensitive, private information and which domains mainly send newsletters containing public announcements. For example, some domains such as Groupon.com and ConstantContact.com encrypt very few of their emails sent to Gmail users, but these companies’ emails are generally newsletters sent in bulk to hundreds or thousands of people, for which privacy matters little.

On Google’s report, many high-traffic domains that send private information do, to their credit, encrypt the vast majority of their inbound and outbound emails: Amazon.com, Facebook.com, Linkedin.com, Twitter.com, AOL.com, MSN.com, and Yahoo.com.

The red flag that many readers may overlook is that two notable high-traffic email domains, Comcast.net and Roadrunner.com (Time Warner Cable’s ISP/email service), encrypt less than 1% of their emails sent to Gmail accounts.

According to Google, email encryption via Transport Layer Security, or TLS, can greatly deter snoopers and is as easy for companies to enable as flipping on a switch. Even so, Google announced that they will be stepping in and releasing a new plugin for their Chrome browser that will encrypt emails end-to-end. Google even plans to make this plugin’s encrypted emails so secure that not even Gmail itself can read the contents. At first glance, this may seem strange for Google, a company that relies on selling advertisements targeted towards users based on the contents of their emails. But perhaps Google sees the long-term value of fostering consumer trust and loyalty by getting ahead of the hot topic that is online privacy.

Google’s Transparency Report:
http://www.google.com/transparencyreport/saferemail/

Further reading:
http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2014/06/03/google-email-security-gmail-snowden/9920473/