Netscape Is Dead (Again)

Netscape is dead, yes again. Yes it’s still AOL.

For quite some time it’s been nothing more than a few extensions and a new skin on Firefox (you can find them here).

Security updates will only be provided until February 1, 2008. So to stay secure, best bet is to plan a migration away from Netscape by then.

Edit [12/28/2007 @ 6:46 PM EST]: TechCrunch has more coverage of the news.

Tab Impact On Total Time Spent

As everyone in the industry knows, Nielsen/NetRatings no longer relies on page views instead preferring total time spent. This makes sense since ajax applications can have 1 page view, but keep a user for an hour. Not to mention other things like video or Flash. The use of time spent is likely much more accurate. In my mind “time spent” is time actually spent on the site (I’m a literal guy).

This of course raises an interesting question. How do tabs influence this metric? Take the following situation as an example. A user visits a home page, and opens a link in a new tab. Then finds another link and opens it in a new [background] tab. That’s 3 tabs in 1 visit (assume visit to be 30 minutes).

Before tabs, most browser sessions would look like this:
Linear Pathing

There’s now an increasing number that will look like this (gray is a tab not in view):
Tabbed Pathing

If we assume total time on the site is time between the first and last page, we potentially undercount the total time on sites that list information (for example Digg). The total time to make those clicks could be < 10 seconds, but the time spent reading those two page alone might be > 10 minutes. Many tab power-users from what I’ve read around the web over the years essentially use them as a way to bookmark their “to read” list (including myself). It also undercounts sites like Gmail which are ajax based (1 page) but can be used for several minutes.

If we use javascript to “ping” (call back by placing a tracker gif) the analytics service every x seconds to see if the page is still open, we potentially double count since a user can’t be in 3 tabs at once. The clock would be counting 3 seconds for every 1 second the user is actually looking at the page.

This raises the question: are sites that are heavily used by Firefox, Safari, Opera and IE7 site underestimated or overestimated because of the way users browse the site? How do you accurately tell how long a view is when a user can have multiple tabs?

Another example is someone who keeps their webmail open in a tab all afternoon for easy access. They may only check it 1x measuring no more than 1 minute in actual attention. But it’s open for 5 hrs. What is the real time on the page? You can measure my interaction (opening/closing mail). But what if I’m reading an email for an hour (it’s a really complicated one)? How does that compare to just leaving it open in the background?

This is really no different than using new windows, the difference being that most people seem to have found windows to be annoyance, while tabs are a “feature”. The increase in usage and popularity in a time where visit length matters raises an interesting question. How do you measure it?

One assumption is that it’s just a small percentage of the population, which is likely true. The problem with this assumption is that it’s one subject to change as the browserscape matures and users learn about new features. Another assumption is to just account for all time a page is open, even if it’s not visible. The downside I see here is that it’s pretty inaccurate. As a content producer I’d like to know if my content is used, or just loaded on a users computer. If I were an advertiser I’d care even more.

I’m not sure how analytics firms approach this. In a sense it’s similar to the “hotel problem“. Perhaps just something you need to decide upon and live with.

When Shipping Costs More Than The Product

Shipping is more than the costSo I needed a longer USB cable. Newegg.com to the rescue. Found a nice generic brand cable with good reviews (they tend to be every bit as good as the 24K gold, diamond encrusted name brand cables you can buy at certain electronics stores). The irony of it all is that the shipping is just a few cents shy of being more than the cable. Still cheaper than going to the store, but silly it costs so much.

Is this a complaint? No not really, shipping isn’t free, I know that. And it’s not the sony screw incident, but it’s still odd.

Apple’s Report Card

Gizmodo has a really great Year-End Report Card for Apple which I think is pretty much spot on. For the lazy, the final grade was an ‘A’. In particular I thought this quote was a gem:

Somewhere between 2006 and today, I stopped considering Apple an underdog. And I’m not just talking about their iPod numbers nor am I talking about their nowhere-close-to-Windows marketshare. I mean, screw marketshare, really: Does Porsche outsell Honda?

Paul Anka Smells Like Teen Spirit

Paul Anka Sings Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit

This might be the worst thing I’ve seen since the Kathy Bates incident. Both are things that will haunt me for years to come. Click and watch if you dare. Trust me, it’s haunting. Kurt Cobain must be spinning in his grave.

Paul Anka Kurt Cobain

Try sleeping after seeing that image. Good night.

[Hat Tip: Fake Steve Jobs]

Operation Firefox: Mission Successful

Awesome work by everyone on Operation Firefox. Both organizers and of course participants. It appears the winner, Agent R.W. from Georgia Tech University was taken at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The scoreboard says “GA Tech” vs “UNC”. Looking at the statistics I see this entry which I presume is the event in discussion:

*Nov 17, 2007 NORTH CAROLINA W 27-25 45490

That’s 45,490 in attendance. One of the photos suggests it was done pre-game. Anyone know how long it was up for? Was it up during the game? Well done agent. You clearly have no fear of heights.

Benchmarking And Testing Browsers

When people talk about open source they often talk about the products, not the process. That’s not really a bad thing (it is after all about the product), but it overlooks some really interesting things sometimes. For example open source tools used in open development.

A few months ago Jesse Ruderman introduced jsfunfuzz, which is a tool for fuzz testing the js engine in Firefox. It turned up 280 bugs (many already fixed). Because the tool itself is not horded behind a firewall it’s also helped identify several Safari and Opera bugs. It’s a pretty cool way to find some bugs.

The WebKit team has now released SunSpider a javascript benchmarking tool. Something tells me this will lead to some performance improvements in everyone’s engine. How much will be done for Firefox 3.0 is a little questionable considering beta 2 is nearing release, though you never know. There’s been some nice work on removing allocations recently. So just because it’s beta, you can’t always assume fixes will be minor in scope.

Another test that many are familiar with is Acid 2 which essentially is checking CSS support among browsers. Ironically this one too was released when Gecko is somewhat late in the development cycle.

Efforts like this really help web development by allowing browser developers to have a baseline to compare their strengths and weaknesses. Having a little healthy competition as motivation can be pretty helpful too 😉 .