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The web-browser.

I use FireFox

All purpose document reader / scripting platform / web navigator / editor etc.

There are some interesting NewBrowsers

Contrast :

Bookmarked at 2021-07-28T13:06:54.170400

Quora Answer : What are the key design concepts/key inovations that web browsers underwent over the last 30 years?

Feb 26, 2015

The key innovation in web-browsers in the last 30 years was getting invented. :-)

Beyond that, in order of decreasing importance :

  • forms and the ability to submit data back to the server (what allowed there to be server-side applications, not mere libraries of documents)
  • including Javascript as a scripting language (before javascript, pages were static things that were entirely constructed on the server)

Those are the biggest innovations in the web. Everything else is just a footnote.

Continuing in order of importance.

  • Ajax (the ability to submit requests and receive data back at a sub-page level, allowing you to hide the basic request-to-server from the user and making web-apps look and act more like ordinary programs.
  • long polling / comet / servers that could handle lots of multiple asynchronous connections. This isn't in the browser, it's more at the server-side, but it's what allows all those continuously updated feeds that make the modern internet experiences like Facebook / Twitter / Quora etc. so compelling through pushing new updates at us.
  • the mobile. Once again, not exactly a browser-design feature but a phenomenon which transformed everything about the web. Once mobiles became powerful enough to have real browsers, and the data-network became cheap enough for them to be always on, everything changed. Small screens and no keyboard required a complete UI rethink : navigation by clicking on links from one page to another was replaced by swiping and scrolling. (15 years ago designers worried about how to get everything important into the top of a page ("above the cut"), because users didn't scroll. Now designers expect users to scroll but assume that users rarely click links which are too small and fiddly.) Mobile has made web-designers think of applications as basically the outlets of dynamic feeds or streams of data / notification events etc. which users do very little genuine "interaction" with ... instead users effectively "channel surf", navigating between these different streams. Today designers try to figure out how to squash whatever activity the app. does into that paradigm with the main interaction from users being buying and installing the app, choosing when to run it or when to switch back to it, and giving minimalist feedback (the Facebook "like" or other similar Skinner-boxian reinforcements)

Final comment : plugins are an odd one. Things that today we take for granted and consider important innovations in web were ALL pioneered in plugins like Java, Flash, VRML etc. But the experience was ultimately unfulfilling and these plugins are seen as deservedly deprecated. Nevertheless, people had ajaxlike in-browser apps using Java. They had rich vector graphics using Flash. And they even had hardware accelerated 3D graphics in VRML over 10 years before webgl. So you could say that plugins were important. Or you can think of them as unimportant as they were evolutionary dead-ends.