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Refreshing the Web Browser

Luke Larsen argues that even though the web and how we use it has changed, web browsers are still stuck in the past.

How many tabs do you have open in your web browser right now? Be honest. A dozen? Two dozen? It’s okay, I’m no better. If you’re like me, you blame yourself for your horrible habit of leaving tabs open forever.

But what if the problem isn’t really our habits? Perhaps the problem is the tool we use — the web browser. It hasn’t changed much over the years, and yet it’s the application we rely on most when using a computer.

Imagine if your browser encouraged good habits instead of bad ones. Either we can all agree to try harder, or it’s time we rethought how a web browser works.

Larsen looks at two browser concepts: Opera Neon and Refresh, both of which take very different approaches to browsing the web. For example, Opera Neon “acts like its own small, self-contained operating system” while Refresh seems to go one step further and completely alters how web pages look à la Safari’s “reading mode.”

In the same way that reading mode might make an article look like an ebook, Refresh could make a Soundcloud account look like an album in iTunes. Or consider online forms, which are often quite a mess to navigate through on mobile. In Refresh, they are presented in a standardized visual template. These were the only media types Refresh has addressed so far, but it’s not hard to see how smarter, more contextual browsers would result in a fuller, more unified experience of the web.

While the developer in me balks at the idea of a web browser undoing all of the hard work that I’ve put into designing and programming a website, the user in me definitely sees the benefits of presenting, say, forms in a more consistent manner.

Note: Opera Neon can be downloaded and installed now, though it’s still under development. On the other hand, Refresh was a design thesis project, and not a real app (yet).

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