The most popular and most used web browser on planet earth is Google’s Chrome, which dominates on Android devices and Windows PCs. On the Mac, it comes in a strong second, eclipsing with ease all other browsers in usage.
Mac users have Safari as the most used browser, but really, aren’t most browsers decent these days? They’re fast, render webpages about the same, and some have exotic features like the extensions on Firefox, others have security and built-in ad blocking, while others have email, and anything else to separate the odd browser from those most used.
What do you really want in a browser? What I want is not likely what I will get. Why not? Apple and Mozilla get tens to a few hundred million dollars in revenue from Google’s search engine results, so they don’t have an interest in what I want. Fewer distractions.
That’s the norm these days and it’s getting worse, not better. I want something different. I want built-in controls to control the clutter. I want options that identify and notify what that looks like an article but really is an advertisement trying to sell something in the guise of ‘deals’ (MacObserver, I’m looking at you).
While we’re at it, and even better, why can’t browser makers determine what’s fake news and what’s real news? Seriously. Is it that difficult? The answer is, “No, it’s not.” Even Google can do it. The search engine giant has identified and dismissed hundreds of millions of bad ads and hundreds of fake news sites that spread disinformation. Google might be setting itself up as the world’s information monitor (but hasn’t it been just that for a long time already), but one needs to ask, “Who monitors the monitor?” because Google, like Facebook, makes metric tons of money off scurrilous ads and articles.
The latest version of Firefox provides a visual cue whenever a user tries to log into an unsecured (non-HTTPS) website. But that comes in Firefox version 51. Why wasn’t it used back in version 10? And even the warning in anemic. A gray lock icon with a red strike-through isn’t exactly an in-your-face warning, is it?
I don’t mind a little notification pop-up window whenever I visit a commercial website without HTTPS security. I don’t mind a little notification pop-up warning window whenever I browse and visit a site with faux content (or, even when I click a link to such a site; which happens thanks to link bait).
The problem here isn’t the technology. The problem is motivation. Google provides Apple, Mozilla, and other browser makes with hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue to maintain the status quo. For Google, the status quo is search engine results and advertising. Do major browser makers really care about fake news? Does Facebook really care about fake news? Let’s face the facts. There’s no difference in the color of green money whether a website is full of useful, worthwhile information, or whether it’s a purveyor of the dark side of faux facts. Green is green and they all love green.
What I want from my browser is better security and more built-in tools to help me navigate those websites that live on the dark side but pass themselves off as angels of light.