Web browsers have been around for a pretty long time now.
Web browsers have been broken for a pretty long time now.
Bring on the rotten tomatoes, but I still predominantly use Internet Explorer because it is still the least broken browser when it comes to one of the most important features for me:
The Back Button!
(and forward too!)
I cannot understand why, after zillions of versions and dozens of years, no browser implements forward and back correctly.
It’s like the FIRST feature web browsers even had!
What’s Broken About It?
It’s simple really… what do you expect to happen when you click back (or forward)?
You expect the web browser to immediately display what you were looking at before your last click.
What actually happens?
Sometimes you get a “cache expired” message. Sometimes you get a dialog window asking if you want to re-post to display the results again (ahem, Firefox). Sometimes you get sort of what you last saw, but it takes a second while it connects to the Internet and gets updated with new content. Sometimes everything is the same except that the big text field you had typed your blog post into is now EMPTY! And sometimes, yes sometimes, it works exactly as it should.
I kinda like Google’s new browser Chrome. It’s fast and lightweight. But, I also can’t stand it because it doesn’t seem to cache our web panel or intranet pages at all!
Believe it or not, every once in a while our panel is just a weeee bit slow.. and if I use my back or forward buttons as I navigate around, those teeeeeeeeeeensy delays can add up! All the unnecessary page loads probably aren’t doing us any favors on the server-side either!
Google’s apparently making a big push for Chrome soon, including TV ads etc… but before they push too hard, I wish they’d fix their back buttons!
And Here’s How
The craziest thing about all this is, fixing it would be incredibly simple! In fact, I’ve already worked it all out!
Let me demonstrate how the back and forward buttons should work. You can do this at home.
That should have opened in a new window (or tab) for you. And if you’re back here now, you’ve switched windows or tabs, correct?
That’s it! That’s exactly how the back/forward buttons should work! See how FAST it was to get back to this page? See how you were scrolled to EXACTLY the same place you were before? See how you didn’t even have to be on the NETWORK to continue reading this post? See how you didn’t get any pop up warnings or expired CACHE messages? See how you could switch back to that other window (like going FORWARD) just as easily?
Internally, every time you click a link, the browser should handle it exactly the same no matter if you are opening a new tab, a new window, or staying in the same window.
The only difference when you click a link “normally” is it shouldn’t add a “new tab” to the interface … it should put that “new tab” in your back history!
I’d even say the reason tabbed browsing is so popular nowadays is actually because back and forward are broken!
Internet Explorer has always done the best (though not perfect) job with this; it’s probably why they were the last to add tabs.
It’s the main reason why I still use it… honestly, I’d switch away if there were a single browser (or a browser plugin?) that handled it right.
In fact, if somebody can either fix an open source browser to behave like this (or make a working plugin), DreamHost will pay them $1000!
The first person to release a plugin for firefox or chrome that does this should post their submission in the comments.
The plugin should make it so that when you click “back” or “forward”, it behaves EXACTLY as though you just switched to an open tab/window with that content in it (though of course visually you stay in the same tab/window).
As for how many pages to keep “open” in the back/forward history, it should be as many as it can, dropping them out in order of oldest to newest as it needs to due to memory constraints.
(Oh yeah, you know what browser would benefit the most from this? Safari on the iPhone! It seemingly does NO caching, even though because of its slow connection/processor it needs it the most! You can’t even fake it with tabs because there’s no way (that I know of?) to “open link in new tab”. It supports tabs though (up to eight), so it should be able to keep at least eight back/forward history pages in memory too!)
Speaking of Prizes
Just a quick reminder that our API contest is still going strong with a due date for contest entries of May 31st!
The prizes are as follows:
Grand Prize: $5,000
1st Place: $2,500
2nd Place: $1,250
3rd Place: $500
4th Place: $750
All the entries so far are up on the wiki, and the winner of the April 30th “early-bird” contest ($2000 to the best app done by April 30th) is…
It’s a Twitter interface to the DreamHost API!
It’s simple, it works, it looks nice, and it has the whole CRAZY INSANE SUPER HYPE BANDWAGON going for it to boot!
But don’t worry everybody else, there’s a lot more prizes to be won, and it’s still not too late to enter now!