I Use Chromium but Support Firefox

Combination of Firefox and Chrome Logo.  Firefox and Chrome own their respective logos.
Combination of Firefox and Chrome Logo. Firefox and Chrome own their respective logos.

I never seem to be content with a web browser for long.  Perhaps it is part of the techie nature to try new things; even when we have products and services we love to use, we’re always looking out to the next great thing.   But nevertheless since I started trying different web browsers many moons ago, I’ve always tried going for underdogs or different experiences.  However, I have found myself settling upon Chromium as my browser of choice because of its speed, support for numerous web standards, its availability on almost every platform, having some good built-in developer tools, and the best cross-platform syncing built into any browser (especially tabs).

Note, however, that I said Chromium and not Chrome.  This seems like a minor issue of linguistics.  They’re both the same browser right?  Not quite.  Chrome is based off Chromium, so they both run the same engine, and Google technically controls the direction of both browsers.  Google essentially releases Chromium as the open source product, then takes it and adds Flash Player, a PDF viewer, the auto updater, and RLZ tracking (see Wikipedia).  

It’s that last item that gets me.  I like the other features, but the tracking and privacy stuff gets me.  I’m not so ignorant to think no one is tracking me.  I’m on the web, I know that I’m essentially in a public domain.  Even if I do everything to turn off tracking in a browser, there’s somebody who’s still getting some information about me.  My issue is why Google needs more of my info.  Why does my browser have to send information about what I’m doing all the time to the maker?

So the initial reaction by many is to use a different browser, like Firefox for example.  And I like what Firefox stands for.  The freedom of the web for everyone, both for users and developers.  Firefox helped kick off the browser revolution (mainly alternative browsers) as well as other ideas like extensions and tabs to make the browser more of a platform than just another program (and yes, Firefox wasn’t the only one doing this or always the first, just the most mainstream).  Firefox also has the largest extension repository and is the most open of the major browsers.  So why do I hesitate to use it?

The sad truth of the matter is that Firefox itself has feature problems for me.  Yeah it’s open and has gotten a lot faster, but it is still pretty sluggish.  Both it and Chrome are resource hogs, but I feel it with Firefox after a few tabs, while Chrome takes a lot more tabs before I notice the sluggishness.  Firefox has syncing too and with it more security features that I like, but I don’t like always having to enter a recovery key or code (besides the account password) to set up Firefox on a new device.  And as for mobile, I can’t really say I like using Firefox on Android (though the design is slick) and Firefox is not existent on iOS, save one or two third-party apps that don’t really get the job done.

But I cheer for Firefox because what they stand for has never changed and they’re always pushing for the betterment of the entire web and universal standards, rather than one company’s agenda or standard (ok, may that is their agenda, but the point remains).  Furthermore, I like the idea of having another browser engine to work with and use.  As a developer, that may make my job just a little more difficult, and I think WebKit is a fine engine, but competition is good to keep progress moving forward.  I was even a touch sad when Opera announced it was switching over to Chrome’s engine and abandoning its own Presto engine.   It could get kind of boring only having WebKit browsers like Safari, Chrome, and Opera on the scene, and further lead to these companies implementing standards that they have direct control over and can wield over developers, users, and other browsers.

Chrome has the features sets, but the privacy concerns bother me.  Furthermore, it has done little to improve its memory hogging performance and still seems mainly there to push Google’s agenda.  Google has every right to make a browser (competition again), and they’ve made a dang good one, so I use it.  But I keep looking at Firefox and watching the improvements.  One day, if they improve their mobile offerings, and make a better syncing tool, I may just go back to it.  I’ll stand with one foot on the features, and the other on the principles.


Could Apple Upend Streaming Media by Competing with Spotify and Netflix?

For awhile now, there has been talk of Apple creating a Pandora or Spotify competitor.  Pandora is the online radio service that allows users to create automated music stations based on particular artists, songs, or styles of music.  Spotify is another similar service that not only allows you to make automatically generated stations, but also create custom playlists of particular songs you like.  Google recently announced at their developers’ conference, Google I/O, that they were bringing such a service called “Google Play Music All Access“.  For $9.99 a month users will be able to stream music from the entire Google Music library, as well as their own songs, in genre specific station formats, as well as adding specific songs they like to their own stations.

Speculation has been rampant that Apple will do something similar with iTunes.  Not long ago they introduced iTunes Match as a competitor to Google Music and Amazon Cloud Player.  Both Amazon’s and Google’s solutions allow you to upload your audio library to their servers with your account and listen to it anywhere you want through the web for free, before hitting the song limit that is.  Apple solution, however, costs $25 a year, and will instead scan your iTunes library and add high quality versions of the songs in your library from their servers, and only upload those files which it does not recognize or which iTunes does not have in its store.  However, these are not the same as they use music you have already purchased, rather than the entire library of the iTunes, Amazon, or Google Play Music stores.

If Apple is planning on offering a streaming subscription service, they are most likely negotiating royalty fees and licensing rights with the record companies.  And if they do announce this at their upcoming WWDC (World Wide Developer Conference), then iTunesFlixsome might call this a “me-too” move, even if speculation has gone on longer with Apple than Google on this move.

Admittedly this move makes sense, as Apple has probably the largest digital media library of all the online stores.  And we know that people are more than happy to stream music and pay for it, as indicated by Spotify’s 6 million paying subscribers out of the 24 million active users (in other words, 1 out of every 4 Spotify users pay for the service).  But what if Apple decided to do something more?  What if they not only offered a streaming music service, but also a Netflix competitor.

As mentioned before, Apple’s media library is by far the largest and most valued of the digital media stores, generating $4.1 billion in revenue for the company.  If Apple were to offer customers a streaming music and video service for $9.99 or so, then Apple could potentially 1-up Google and now compete more directly with Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu.  Not only would they have the brand recognition of iTunes, but they would already have a potentially large user base and network already in place.  Anyone who has a copy of iTunes, which already runs on every Mac and iOS device, as well as on Windows, could already have access to the iTunes Streaming network, which one could call iTunes Now or iTunes Streaming.

Big media, meaning the TV, movie, and music industries, could also benefit from this.  Apple proved that if you give people access to buy digital media at a fair price, piracy could be reduced.  Netflix has also shown this to be true as places with Netflix have decreased rates of online piracy.  Furthermore, they would be more likely to already have licensing deals ready with the movie and TV industry, as well as the music industry, and potentially be more friendly than competing services like Netflix.  Finally, there is the potential for continued consumption of the same series.  Apple could immediately offer the viewer not only the option to stream another episode or view content of similar type, as other online streaming services do, but could also to offer the user the ability to directly buy the content or a season of content straight from iTunes.  This means the content companies would not only get a royalty fee from viewing, but from direct purchasing of the content as well.

Realistically, Apple would not likely be able to stream all of it the content because some companies would want to maintain control of certain programs.  Case in point, HBO’s “Game of Thrones,”  which is only streamable through HBO’s own HBO Go, but on no other competing services.  People can only purchase and download episodes from iTunes.  Certainly HBO would not be the only service limiting this kind of access.  This brings up the point that Apple already has its renting service, but has been limited to movies since 2011, usually about $4.99 for an HD movie and $3.99 for a standard definition movie.  Apple stated previously that people preffered purchasing shows through iTunes rather than rent individual episodes for 99 cents.  This only helps the point though that it will be successful by offering a flat monthly or yearly rate for streaming movies, shows, and music from the iTunes Store directly.

So far, there has not been much indication to this idea, besides the streaming music option.  But it does not mean that it cannot happen.  Apple has pulled surprises before; this could just be another one.

(Posted on my other site easyosx.net)