The PhoneBoy Blog


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Can a Web Browser Be Just A Web Browser?

While anyone who knows me knows that I like phones that do a lot of different things, I do not feel the same way when it comes to applications. So when I read how the folks at Abbeynet have integrated VoIP into Firefox and Thunderbird, I was not impressed.

The first reason I was not impressed: it didn’t work on my Mac. Nor did it work on my Linux box. Does it mention on the page anywhere that only Windows is supported? Not that I can see. First rule of making software available: list platform requirements for said software.

The second reason I am not impressed is the very reason I use Firefox over, say, Mozilla Seamonkey or the old Netscape suite: I like my web browser to be a web browser and nothing else. When my web browser crashes, which isn’t frequent, but it has been known to happen, I don’t want to take all my apps with it. This is one reason I really don’t like Windows: a crash in one application can sometimes require rebooting the whole system to recover. This almost never happens to me on the Mac or Linux.

That being said, I like the idea of being able to use a web browser to access anything. I love using GMail for my email from anywhere. But email is asynchrnous. If my web browser crashes, it’s not the end of the world. Unless, of course, I was working on an email. Google is smart enough to save things in draft mode, though, so all is not lost. Instant Messaging is a different matter. It’s useful to get around a corporate firewall, but I prefer Adium for the Mac or Gaim for Windows/Linux.

And let’s be blunt. While installing a Firefox extension isn’t terribly difficult, it’s still “installing something.” It’s marginally easier than installing a Windows application, but only marginally. If I’m going to install something for VoIP, why not install a proper VoIP application like Skype or Gizmo? And what do I get for installing this plugin in my browser that I don’t get by using a separate client? Can someone clue me in?

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