Upstart web browser renaissance

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If you search for the term “browser renaissance”, you find a lot of articles from 2007 or 2009 but nothing “new” – something from 2009 written about technology may as well have been written in 1909. I wanted to see if anyone had written much about the birth of several new web browsers in recent months and had commented on the why behind these developments. Many times in the past (when I worked in the browser industry) we heard a lot of talk about the browser space being dead, or that one browser had won the war over the others, or that the browser would, if not go the way of the dinosaur, at least seem irrelevant with the proliferation of apps and connected devices.

Of late, though, we’ve seen big splashes (at least within the tech media) made by the new Vivaldi browser (brought to life by former Opera Software stalwarts), a Yandex browser and a promised Microsoft launch of a new browser (to replace the REAL dinosaur in the browser landscape, Internet Explorer).

What is driving this? Why now? Sitting awake sleeplessly on a Saturday night/Sunday morning, broad ideas spring to mind. Much like late May delivers almost no darkness in Sweden, some technology is as cyclical as seasons changing. Light disappears in Swedish autumn and winter, and reappears every year. Browsers are declared DOA, and like clockwork, are revived in new forms. This is an overly simplistic interpretation, borne of insomnia and an unwillingness to give it much more thought than that in this state.

As Opera has moved away from its former focus on browser features, Vivaldi has grabbed the baton and run with it, catering to what it calls “power users” (and tech fans of features).

Yandex has, particularly with its recent beta launch, focused squarely on privacy (outside its home markets).

And Microsoft… well, do we need to explain why Microsoft would need to murder IE rather than just let it go extinct? No. It needed to start from scratch. I suspect if I need to explain it, you would not have landed on this page in the first place.

So far I have only tried out Vivaldi and Yandex – I can’t say I am in love with anything. I am like most people in that I use different browsers for different, specific purposes, and I suspect my use of these new browsers will follow the same pattern.

Decayed Decade of Random Gum (2004-2014) + Part Past Part Fiction 2015

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Forty songs for my forty years of life (in June). And ten years of the Random Gum mix (2004-2014).

To celebrate the tenth anniversary of Random Gum, I have selected songs from the mixes of the last ten years to include on this year-end mix as well as a couple of discoveries to usher in 2015. Everything is as random and impossible to plan as ever.

The whole playlist in Spotify (minus those songs not available on Spotify)…

1. The The – “Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)”
A driving, prescient song with a message truer now than when it originally came out in the late 80s. Valid during the hubbub after the Danish cartoon incident several years ago and valid anew after the Charlie Hebdo tragedy in Paris

2. Dolly Parton – “Love and Learn”…each new love I find/turns out to be the wrong kind…
Not sure when I will ever learn – this song has been lingering in my head since 2nd grade (Dolly obsession era)

3. Kishi Bashi – “Manchester” …My favorite part’s when I die, in your arms like a movie…
The beauty of recommending music to people that they fall in love with. Here’s to Dr Ross

4. The Dø – “Stay (Just a Little Bit More)”
Perfect anthem for all the wasted years dealing with the Married Idiot. “He was a bore, a true chore, and I still wonder why I ever wanted to see him more…”

5. Melody Gardot – “Pretend I Don’t Exist
For Alex, someone from long ago but who was there when most desperately needed

6. The Aislers Set – “Jaime’s Song
Always true: “You get who you play for, not who you wait for”

7. Wilco – “How to Fight Loneliness”
The ultimate pretending. For S: “And the first thing that you want will be the last thing you ever need”

8. Lindstrøm & Christabelle – “Lovesick”

9. The Fall – “Cheetham Hill”
Nothing is complete without the indestructible sound of The Fall – it will make you drive more aggressively

10. The Jack Rubies – “Be With You”
One of those songs that remains a favorite (since 1989?) even if it’s rather silly

11. Circuit Object – “Voices Fill My Head”
Reminiscent of boundless but unfulfilled talent

12. Serge Gainsbourg – “Je Suis Venu Te Dire Que Je M’En Vais”
Memory of driving Hwy 18 with my old friend, Mike. It’s like we were in another life; I was another person

13. Rodriguez – “Crucify Your Mind”
RIP Malik Bendjelloul

14. Glasvegas – “Fuck You, It’s Over”
Again, those Scottish vowels. For a while I got to hear those vowels every day, as I used to dream of…

15. The Chills – “Part Past Part Fiction”
“You cannot drive and stare rear view.” Good advice

16. Foxygen – “San Francisco”
“My brother is a soldier now…”. A song for Annette; a song for Kyle

17. Diana Ross & the Supremes – “Remove This Doubt”
All those times when doubt is all there is

18. Simple Minds – “Don’t You Forget About Me”
Timeless classic – recently watched The Breakfast Club again (hard to hear this and not connect the two)

19. Tori Amos – “Strange”
“Woke up to a world that I am not a part except when I can play its stranger…”. The pain still rings true

20. Bertrand Belin – “La perdue”

21. Tatsuya Ogino and the Bunnies – “My Sweet and Bitter Days”
The Friday song – the good old days at Opera. Happened to hear on the Friday when I finally put this all together. Love to Janne, Lauren, Annette, Jennifer and everyone from the good old days

22. Sam Phillips – “Love Changes Everything” …I’m not sorry we loved, but I hope I didn’t keep you too long…
When things crashed before finally changing the trajectory of everything: “We can’t fix what’s broken, so let’s leave it here, and walk on – I’ll be right behind you”

23. John Grant – “Queen of Denmark” …I hope you know that all I want from you is sex, to be with someone who looks smashing in athletic wear, and if you’re haircut isn’t right you’ll be dismissed…
More reflection on wasted time with Married Idiot

24. Portishead – “The Rip” … and the tenderness I feel will send the dark underneath/will I follow?…
Feels like the painful but transformative spring of 2008

25. Crowded House – “Don’t Dream It’s Over” …there is freedom within, there is freedom without – try to catch the deluge in a paper cup…
This one never gets old.

26. Martha Wainwright – “Far Away”
Heartbreaking sentiment: “I have no children/I have no husband/I have no reason to be alive/oh, give me one”

27. Lia Ices – “Little Marriage” …I started minding not having it all/one little marriage or big love…
For Jane, for Lóa and everyone who has been enveloped by the lush, layered sounds of Lia Ices

28. Joan Armatrading – “Save Me” … immune or evasive – throw me a lifeline – save me…

29. Low – “Closer”
Being enveloped in something that makes you feel more remote and distant than ever and needing escape

30. The Magnetic Fields – “My Sentimental Melody” …cool and unfazed, you’re always amazed when someone gets hurt…
Used to love this song but now it seems whiny self-victimization now that there’s some backstory.

31. Arik Einstein – “Ro’eh Atzuv
Seltjarnarnes early 2000s, Israeli MTV commercials, marshmallow couches and taking years to identify Arik Einstein, who recently died. Love to Sarah and the old days in Iceland

32. Kristin Hersh – “Quick”
Cancer song; the recurring feeling like nothing will ever be solid or trustworthy again

33. Amalia Rodrigues – “Povo Que Lavas No Rio”
Ache. Somehow now makes me think of Kristie – who supplied me with Halloween goodies!

34. O + S – “The Fox”
The formidable, tricky fox is always making an appearance

35. Kazim Koyuncu – “Ben Seni Sevdugumi”
For Roxane, for all my Turkish friends, for Jill

36. Hector Zazou feat Björk – “Visur vatnsenda rosu”
Iceland, of course, and all my beloved friends there.

37. Pulp – “Roadkill”
The early and unfortunate Berlin visits and always painful trips to and from airports and little reminders that trigger memories

38. Roberta Flack – “To Love Somebody”

39. Cowboy Junkies – “200 More Miles”
The first feeling of real heartbreak, 1989

40. Blondie – “The Hunter Gets Captured By the Game”

2015 – Part Past Part Fiction

41. Charlotte Gainsbourg – “Trick Pony”
For Martina – more dog and pony shows, one trick ponies and all the rest.

42. Tomten – “You Won’t Be On My Mind”
Hometown Seattle music. Always lovely. How I wish I’d have my 40th birthday in Seattle this year featuring both Tomten and Tom Skerritt reading a poem! And here’s to all my beloved Seattle friends and acquaintances!

43. Lia Ices – “Magick
For Jane; layered bliss

44. Guns N’ Roses – “Welcome to the Jungle”
For long lost Terra, and our secret love for GNR. Duff! Duff! Duff!

45. The Association – “Never My Love”
I just like the sound

46. Poison – “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”
For S and spontaneous, passionate renditions of this ridiculous song

47. Bryan Ferry – “This is Tomorrow” … Suddenly a voice I’m hearing/Sweet to my ear/This is tomorrow callin’/Wishin’ you were here…
For S, if only it could be yesterday or tomorrow and not a return to the darkest days

48. The Primitives – “Way Behind Me” …all those lies inside your head/took my hand and led me blindly…
For who I was in the 1980s – and all the people I knew then, and the continued need to know when to walk away. “I’m gonna try my best move/I’m gonna leave you way behind me”

49. Cameo – “Word Up”
For Tomislav; for S and his dancing career/codpiece uniform (ha!)

50. Teenage Fanclub – “Alcoholiday”… Went to bed but I’m not ready/Baby I’ve been fucked already/Falling into line but I’m doing nothing/We’ve got nothing worth discussing./Went to go but it’s all hazy/People say I’m going crazy…
S – the brief time between dark days turned out to be just an “alcoholiday” – never a more fitting song for almost anything. Never knowing what you’ve got til you’ve fucked it up for good. And now it remains to be seen whether the end is Leaving Las Vegas or Edgar Allan Poe

51. Mega Bog – “Aurora/99”
More Seattle gems. For Kyle, Naomi: “Goddammit, don’t take 99!”

52. Cate Le Bon – “I Think I Knew”
Thanks to Aurélien for the lovely recommendation, as always

53. St. Vincent – “Birth in Reverse”
Hard decisions that may close the door forever- a kind of birth in reverse. Love for Annette.

54. Sister Sledge – “Lost in Music” …responsibility to me is a tragedy/I’ll get a job some other time…
Get a job, you fucking disco cokeheads! For S

55. Laura Veirs – “Sun Song”
An Aurélien recommendation – thinking fondly of Malin (because of course I’m the sunshine of her work day!)

56. Jeff Beck – “Morning Dew”
Just has a cool sound

57. The Beatles – “Real Love”

58. The Preatures – “It Gets Better” … And all the times I had you near, through my fingers disappear/I see all that it could be, and it’s better than it ever could be…
S: “Only lonely in your arms again/I know you’re see-through but can we just pretend”

59. Tiny Ruins – “Night Owl”

60. The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger – “Xanadu” …she’s a lipstick anarchist…

61. Melody’s Echo Chamber – “Shirim”

62. St. Vincent – “Digital Witness” …digital witnesses/what’s the point of even sleeping?/if I can’t show it, you can’t see me/what’s the point of doing anything?…
For Martina and Jennie – the word “digital” is forever tainted for me.

63. Cyndi Lauper – “I Drove All Night”
Always stuck driving all night, through all kinds of treacherous conditions

64. The Dø – “Sparks”
“If someone comes & shows up at the door/No one will be there to answer anymore/We have it all on tape now”

65. Oyama – “Old Snow”
Iceland – represent

66. Mitski – “Texas Reznikoff”
Another one that makes me think of Jane

67. First Aid Kit – “Shattered & Hollow”

68. EMA – “So Blonde”

69. Father John Misty – “Bored in the USA”
Jesus, this cynical song makes me ache. “Now I’ve got a lifetime to consider all the ways/I grow more disappointing to you as my beauty warps and fades/I suspect you feel the same/When I was young I dreamt of a passionate obligation to a roommate”

70. TOPS – “All the People Sleep”

71. Al Green – “Tired of Being Alone”
Can’t just be with someone because you’re tired of being alone. For S

72. Tom Waits – “Ruby’s Arms”
“Jesus Christ this goddamn rain, will someone put me on a train/I’ll never kiss your lips again, or break your heart/as I say goodbye I’ll say goodbye, say goodbye to Ruby’s arms”

Silicon Valley – Mean Jerk Time

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I keep saying it – and laughing about it – but Silicon Valley is a bloody hilarious show. You really must watch it if you haven’t been.

The most recent episode – the season finale – in which the guys spend hours working on equations to figure out how they could most efficiently jerk off the greatest number of guys in the Tech Disrupt audience cracked me up.

Also cool – seeing the Opera Software logo prominently displayed in the background. The good old days.

 

Bad Cover Version – Peeking in on the Underdog

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I spent a long time working at Opera Software, maker of the cross-platform Opera browser. What’s that you say? Never heard of it? Yeah, that was sort of the uphill battle of working in marketing at Opera. Where do you start with marketing and building buzz about something that no one has heard of and that is the quintessential underdog in a world of giants (Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Apple Safari). In some niche markets, Opera was kind of like a household name – and in the developing world, Opera was not necessarily the underdog – but it made a mobile browser that would work underdog phones (low-end, Java-enabled feature phones). It was kind of the “browser for the people” – for those who heard of it. Especially prone to underdog status – the desktop browser… up against insurmountable odds and an engineering culture behind it that had no belief in marketing (i.e. the old “if you have a great product people will find it”).

But Opera had its fingers in a lot of pies, so plenty of people were using different variants of the Opera browser on different devices without realizing they were using Opera (on various mobile phones and on televisions). And perhaps that is how underdogs survive and sometimes thrive. Embracing the fact that you are never going to be the market leader is the first step – and then you have to decide how you deal with that. What niche can you dominate? Where can you find loyal fans and partners? How can you mutually exploit those partnerships?

You don’t have to be a cheap knock-off just because you’re the underdog.

I have been thinking a lot about this with regard to streaming audio services. Ignoring for the moment the arguments against streaming leveled by music artists themselves, and taking into account the growth of streaming and downward slide of downloading, cross-device streaming is happening. Spotify might not have been the first such service out of the gate. But it is probably the best known globally. That said, there are plenty of other services – some geographically restricted, some not. Perhaps even more so than with the Opera experience, forming partnerships is key to making these services work. But the really important thing is to make the user experience immersive. Users turn to what they know – again and again – because it is familiar. Not necessarily because the feature set offers the most or because the service is user friendly. Not taking into the account the aforementioned geographical restrictions.

With streaming music, I instinctively turn to Spotify. But why? Is it because I think it has the biggest available music catalog (without having any evidence to support that)? Is it because I find it the most useful, engaging, immersive? User friendly? In truth, I think it is a matter of what I saw first (and what was available). When I have tried to convert people to Spotify in the past, they resisted if they had already become dedicated users of some other service. I found this was particularly true with French users of Deezer and US users of Rhapsody.

What converts users? With Opera there was a lot of repeating and reinforcing incentives – that is, looking at popular use (what sites were people visiting) and forming partnerships with mobile operators to promote use of the popular sites (free use of those pages for a month, if using the Opera browser). This could contribute to subscription sales for the operator, and they would, I assume, pay some kind of fee to Opera based on traffic.

The streaming music model is more complicated, considering the geographic and licensing limitations and restrictions. I am interested, though, in how services like WiMP can take on the giants like Spotify – find their niche rather than becoming like a bad cover version.