The browser war is over; guess who won?

There is no more browser war. We’ve already traded our data and privacy which yields us unable to fight in the war. Like our music, movies and photos, our browsing has fallen, the powerful internet corporation’s have quietly taken another scalp.

Tomorrow, 14th November 2017, Firefox releases their new browser version, Quantum.  Among other great additions, it has a huge reduction in memory usage compared to its old rival Chrome.  A great achievement for sure, but who cares?

The browser race has all but gone.  Fizzled out.  They all do basically the same thing.  No one browser has any huge must-have feature that would entice us to switch.   From the feature point of view, the incentives to change is becoming increasingly harder to justify.

That isn’t the reason though why the browser race has lost interest.

User lock-in is the reason.

Our online lives are viewed through our browser.  URL’s are steadily becoming the telephone numbers of the modern era – no one bothers remembering them, but instead we are increasingly reliant on our bookmarks to keep the link.  I think I would be completely off-the-grid if my contacts was ever lost; my bookmarks are starting to get to that state too.  What of the passwords to access the sites behind the bookmarks?  Yup most of us rely on the browser to manage and store those for us too.

In addition to our bookmarks, we have our collection of extensions that we’ve added to our browser toolbar.  From notification apps (GMail, LinkedIn, Innoreader) to can’t live with out apps (password managers) this rich ecosystem enhances the browsing experience.

Then we have to throw in multiple devices there.  I don’t want to have manually sync bookmarks/apps/history across my desktop, tablet, phone and Chromebook.  I expect them all to just work together in a beautiful symphony of digital harmony.

And this is why the browser war is now null’n’void – profiles.

Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Safari, and Edge all have their version of the profile.  Login from multiple devices to sync up your world.   Just sit down at anyone’s browser, login and your world comes with you.   This is the dream Internet sold to us.

Chrome does this particularly well, bringing everything with it and then allowing me to remove it as quickly.  I can sit down at any Chrome browser or Chromebook, login, have my world come up (and then when I am done, delete it again if I am on a shared or friends device).    Firefox does this pretty well as well, but not as good in my opinion as Google.

When new versions of other browsers drop, I don’t care anymore.   My life is invested too much in Google to be bothered to migrate on the off-chance I may like the new browser.   Most users will be in the same boat, with their loyalty laying with the browser ecosystem they have invested the most in.

It is the same reason we can’t move away from most of the services we invest in.  Whether it is music (Amazon, Google, iTunes etc.), photos (Google, Amazon, Flickr etc.) movies or documents it is increasingly harder to migrate our data.   Particularly data that has only been licensed to us; you can’t export your iTunes movies to .mp4 and use them how you see fit for example.

The browsers are now in the same place.   Google/Apple/Microsoft/Firefox have us by the short and cURLies.   We can’t interchange our browser profiles.  We’re locked in.

We’ve once again traded ownership for convenience.


We’re each living our own online version of the classic Peter Cook and Dudley Moore  movie, Bedazzled.  Except we’re not trading our souls to the devil, but our privacy and personal data and the devil here is the corporations that yield more power than Governments.

Maybe it is not all progress eh?

‘Save’ has all but been eliminated on the web; when will it die on the desktop?

We live in a ‘save’ less world online, but the humble desktop has yet to catch up with this, forcing me to think of when to save my process.

I have been spending most of my online life with my Chromebook, which puts me firmly inside the world of the browser with my two primary apps the humble email client (from FastMail) and Google Docs.    Neither of which have an explicit ‘Save’ button.  Instead they detect when a change has occurred and save either to the server or if the network is not available to local storage.   All wonderfully seamless.   This is particularly handy, as I have become accustom to simply closing my Chromebook lid, in mid operation, and have it pop back up instantly when I reopen it later.


This is computing usage how it looks in the movies!  (because we all know when we see the scene of a our protagonist slamming the lid shut in a coffee shop/kitchen and running, that they have just gone and lost a whole mornings worth of work – a little bit of me dies)

As I look around at the various other apps I find myself interacting with on the web, I have to do quite a bit of searching to find an explicit ‘Save’ operation.  The magic just happens.   That said, WordPress here, does have a ‘Save’ link in the top left hand corner; I suspect is more of a placebo for the older generation to make them feel in control as it auto-saves anyway.

All good – so “what is the problem?” Alan I hear you ask.

Well, this memo of removing the ‘Save’ action doesn’t seem to have reached those developing desktop applications – and I am particularly looking at the development community, where IDE’s are still explicitly demanding some hit CTRL-S every so often.  Classics such as the Microsoft Office suite still promote the save icon (which in of itself is a representation of a piece of hardware most people born after 1995 have never actually seen – the floppy disk!).

Now, we are starting to evolve away, for example Visual Studio has an ‘Auto Save’ option but it is not enabled by default.  We still have to consciously tell the desktop app that we are giving up our saving responsibilities.


Graphic editors are particularly guilty of demanding I save my work.  Why?  I get why I wouldn’t want to overwrite my cherished beach body photo in mid-edit, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create a working copy and use that instead.

The irony is that the desktop has far more resources available to it than a web browser app.  A desktop app does not have the network to worry about, it usually has more disk space than it knows what to do with and the CPU horsepower to monitor for the smallest of changes.   Some have tried with temporary files, but it is still a clunky affair, with the user not really knowing if it is really saving or not.

Why for example can’t apps steal/borrow from email clients and have a ‘Draft’ folder, that is automatically created as changes are detected.    I can then navigate that folder knowing these are files have not yet completed their destiny.

I will call out a notable exception – NotePad++.   I absolutely adore this text editing application.  It doesn’t even need you to name a file, it will always save the state of all newly created tabs and you can shut down the whole app at anytime, and everything is restored.  Perfect.

Yet, very few seem to replicate the seamless save-less world of the in-browser experience.   There is no excuse for this in 2017.

I dare not close my lid on my Windows laptop – hoping that Windows 10 will sleep gracefully that will in-turn keep my apps in the state I last left them.  A whole world of hurt lies down that road.

I am getting old.  I have too much to remember as it is without keeping an internal timer running in my head when the last time I reached instinctively for CTRL-S.

We need to rid ourselves of this outdated and quaint responsibility.

Thank you.

Do you still buy e-books as much as you did?

With e-book sales dropping as much as 26% year-on-year, has the shine gone off the kindle?

This is a rather interesting statistic, showing that the sales of e-books are dropping quite dramatically.   I find this timely, as recently I have switched from buying electronic books to good old fashioned paperbacks.

According to Nielsen, e-book sales fell 16% in 2016 compared to the year previously. In young adult fiction alone, e-book sales dropped by more than 25%.

I have switched largely because there are a number of books that I wanted to share with others.   I also find that the second hand market for paperbacks is far more buoyant.   Kindle books I have found not to be as cost effective as you would first believe.

A Kindle book is extremely restrictive – you can’t lend them to someone else, nor can you gift them, and more importantly you can’t resell them.   Kindle books also don’t fill up a bookshelf – there is no satisfaction of seeing your collective reading (aka learning) over the years on a shelf.   The only real benefit of a Kindle book is its ease of transportation.

2017-06-19_14h35_48The last 2 books I actually purchased second hand from eBay, at a fraction of the cost of what was on offer from Amazon (who also offered it second hand too).  I also have the option of reselling which again, I have discovered eBay far quicker at moving items than Amazon.

I am glad the book industry isn’t going out of fashion anytime soon, especially now that I have rediscovered the joy of the printed word.

via What falling e-book sales tell us about technology in 2017

Amazon will change Whole Foods – but to what?

Could Whole Foods morph into an Amazon’s version of CVS/Walgreens like store?   Everything you need under one roof.

There is a very strong possibility that Amazon will completely change Whole Foods.  They do of course have the option of doing very little with it, and basically, just let it run as is – Amazon can leave properties alone to do their own thing, Zappos being a good example.

Amazon are looking to get into the grocery business and do it in the big new innovative way.   Amazon Go, their self-serve no-checkout, supermarket innovation could get a huge shot in the arm if Whole Foods 456 properties were to be morphed into this.   This would mean a lot of job losses, which is most likely on the cards anyway.

Whole Foods is an expensive high-end retailer.  There is talk that Amazon will look to bring down the cost and make Whole Foods more accessible to those that don’t want to spend their complete pay packet on the weekly shop!  Maybe turn the store into a Prime membership only store, like Sams Club/Costo.

chrome_2016-09-24_05-16-50With Amazon’s expertise in warehousing and distribution, I can see Whole Foods properties becoming self-pickup destinations for orders online.   Amazon Prime no doubt has a very large delivery and packaging cost – that could be reduced dramatically if they were to basically extend the Amazon Locker to all the locations.   They also have the ability to further upsell other products and services by having clients visiting the store.

Could Whole Foods morph into an Amazon’s version of CVS/Walgreens like store?   Everything you need under one roof.

Let us not forget about their vision for delivering goods via drones – these drones need a good launching off place as their range is only a few miles.   Again, the Whole Foods properties can serve as a wonderful network for drones to deliver your fresh fruit and veg!

Seeking Alpha Editor Brandy Betz noted another interesting side benefit of the purchase of Whole Foods – Amazon can take away a major Microsoft customer and move them over to Amazon Web Services.   Not a short term thing as this sort of migration is not a trivial matter, but it does serve to highlight just the sort of extra benefits Amazon brings to the party when they purchase a big property.

There is a lot of possibilities where Amazon can take this deal and there is no doubt a lot of retailers will be watching closely.  One thing is for sure, they will not hang around.  We will know what they are up very quickly.

FaunaDB – Pay-as-you-Store/Query database

FaunaDB, from the technical team that led the Twitter database team, have come out and announced their offering of a new style of database aimed at the serverless model.  

FaunaDB, from the technical team that led the Twitter database team, have come out and announced their offering of a new style of database aimed at the serverless model.

Aside – Serverless isn’t really serverless – that is one of its misconceptions.

What it means is that you as the consumer no longer think in terms of a physical (or virtual) servers – you instead think of just executing a function or small piece of code.

The service providing you with the environment to execute that function will worry about which server to run it on provisioning as many servers as required to cope with scale.   You are only charged for the execution of the function.

It is like being charged on a per-call API call.  Contrast that against being charged for the cost of a server running all the time.  Functions have only a limited time to execute within and can’t generally be stateful (think global variables).

Services like Amazon Lambda and Google Functions provide such a framework.

Databases are historically one of the most difficult components within the Enterprise to properly scale.  Provisioning enough scale for a database is a fine art with a lot of trade-offs to reach some of the dizzy scales that are required.   You are either over-paying for unused resources, or conversely, have not got enough resources to cope with sudden spikes.  But what if you didn’t have to think about all that nonsense and just thought about storing and querying your data without consideration of all the logistics of servers and scale?

And this is what FaunaDB is attempting to do.

Instead of spinning up a database farm, like you would with Amazon RDS/DynamoDB, you simply call the functions to store or query your data.  You are charged on a per-usage along with a per-GB-per-hour rate.  To keep the billing simpler, FaunaDB charges using points, where different functions will use different amount of points, depending on the complexity and CPU usage.   You are then charged for the points you consume.

  1. Every 1,000 points (about 1,000 queries) costs $0.01
  2. Every gigabyte-hour of data stored costs 20 points, or $0.0002

It is not clear just how much points are used for an average call.

FaunaDB is essentially a NoSQL database, but with the ability to do joins, foreign keys and unique indexes, while managing this in a globally replicated consistent architecture.

On the surface, this looks a very solid offering, from a highly qualified and pedigreed team.   The question though is how reliable is it?   While the appeal of not having to run or manage servers, you do lose a lot of control when it comes to being able to do anything when (not if but when) FaunaDB runs into problems.   You have nothing to do but wait and hope it all comes back to normal.

In fairness, this problem is not unique to FaunaDB, the more control you yield, the more reliant you become on others providing you the service you need to run your business.   Your customers will complain to you, not Amazon or FaunaDB, and you will always look weak if you turnaround and blame another.

The question you always have to ask – what price are you willing to put on your reputation when things go wrong?  Even Amazon has had outages.

FaunaDB is an exciting entry to the world of SAAS database offerings and will be interesting to see how this evolves, and which one of the big 3 cloud providers will scoop them up.

More reading:

‘Internet Trends 2017’ Kleiner Perkins Report – my highlights

My highlights of the annual Kleiner Perkins report that looks at the Internet of 2016

Here are some of my thoughts on the recently released Kleiner Perkins Internet Trends 2017 355 page report.

  • Average daily time spent online remains constant for desktop users at 2.2 hrs, where mobile time is up a little to 3.1 hrs.   This feels a little low, considering all the office workers that are sitting in front of computer all day. [src]
  • Use of ad-blockers is way higher than I imagined it would be, given 18% of USA users and 16% of UK users block ads. [src]
  • Pinterest users really love to buy when clicking on stuff, versus Facebook users who rarely purchase. [src]
  • Google loves geo-location ads, tracking over 5 billion store visits, up 5 times from the previous year. [src]
  • Hyperlocal targeting, Nextdoor for example, really drive engagement. [src]
  • User Generated Content drives 6.9x more engagement than brands themselves.  In other words, infinitely better if you can get someone else talking about you instead of yourself. [src]
  • 20% of all mobile searches were made via voice.  Much higher than I would have thought; wonder how much of that is people repeating the same phrase to get it right!   Accuracy is reaching, for Google, near the 95% mark. [src]
  • Number of parcels being shipped rose 9%, resulting in a number of landlords now being makeshift warehouses to accommodate growth. [src]
  • Retail store closings reaches 20 year record; ironically Amazon starts opening retail stores. [src]
  • 90% of Americans live within 10 miles of a Wal-Mart; they are experiencing large eCommerce growth.  Overall, the online retail sales is up 15%. [src]
  • Amazon’s private label of basic goods is rocketing, grabbing larger market share. [src]
  • Average age of gamers is 35; 2.6B gamers worldwide; $100B market. [src]
  • Daily minutes – Games 51mins, FaceBook 50mins, Snapchat 30mins and Instagram 21mins. [src]
  • Millennials are starting to favor eSports over traditional sports. [src]
  • Music streaming represents 52% of the revenue (vs. physical / downloadable). [src]
  • Netflix has 95MM users, and to 30% market share in only 10 years. [src]


  • YouTube and Netflix are the big juggernauts of the online video world. [src]
  • Amazon is the juggernaut of cloud computing with Azure coming a distant second.   Azure experienced a huge increase in growth in the last year. [src]
  • Spam and phishing attacks are up 350%. [src]
  • China and India are experiencing a huge GDP growth. [src]
  • 25% of Americans own a wearable device (up 12% from previous year). [src]
  • Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook are the top Internet companies. [src]


A good report overall, though very little on the state of online education (healthcare was explored) and a lack of insight into the world of IoT (Internet of Things).    Not much was discussed on the impact of Artificial Intelligence or Virtual Reality (there was a little nod to augmented reality in the world of advertising), though suspect that is still relatively new and we haven’t really seen much of a change yet.

There doesn’t seem to be as many big surprises in this year as there was in last years I felt, which points to a general growth of everything.