To upgrade or not to upgrade ?

It’s official. The Browser version 2 final is out. I mean Firefox, of course – it should be quite obvious what is “the browser” these days. Yes, I know – IE still holds majority of the browser share and yes, Safari is really really nice, fast and good looking application – but let’s face it: browser is not just another application – it is a *platform* these days. Platform means extensibility and extensibility means being a good foundation for add-ons, extensions and plugins. And from the platform perspective, the Firefox is the king.

The negative side of being a platform is that you *really* need to think twice before you upgrade. It is not only the browser itself – the real value of Firefox is in its extensibility and in huge selection of available plugins. These plugins tends to check the browser version on initialization and chances are, some of them will stop working after the upgrade. Exactly this happened to me after I upgraded from one-something to one-five of Firefox while ago. It took about 3-4 months before I had all my “plugins-I-cannot-live-without” back working again. For the list – see the next blog entry.

Even without the “will my plugins work” issue, upgrade is a big deal. The more we do rely on the Web 2 apps, the bigger impact can a broken (or changed) feature in browser have. It is not any more “you cannot visit some WWW page” issue – more like “you cannot run this application” problem. I do not know about you, but I would certainly miss Google Docs (former Writely and Google Spreadsheet), Remember The Milk, Delicious, Gmail and few others.

Internet Explorer got major new release as well. After long long wait, the IE 6 was replaced by IE 7. It brings new amazing and newer-heard of innovations such as – tab browsing ! But seriously – it is good that IE got an upgrade and  that the gap between Firefox and IE go smaller. Some features are very promising – like the RSS – and now IE is much easier extensible with add-ons. The selection of add-ons is no match to Firefox Extensions, but at least it is possible now.

You should be careful before you get you new blue e – not because many plugins would stop working – but because the switching back from IE7 to IE6 can be very hard – some people say it is close to impossible.

To keep on the safe side – try the installation in the virtual machine first. There are many these days: Virtual Server, VMWare. My personal favorite is Parallels – not (only) because it works on all OS-es I really care about – Windows, Mac and Linux and it just feels right. It is neither free (as beer) like Virtual Server 2005 or some products from VMWare nor free (as speech) like Xen – but it has one very important Mac-ish feature: it just works 🙂

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