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Could NetSurf 2.0 support JavaScript?

Published: 3rd Apr 2007, 01:25:16 | Permalink | Printable

Developers to discuss browser future

A photo of John-MarkA NetSurf coder has sparked debate over the future of the web browser by suggesting ways in which JavaScript support and other features can be developed. In tentative plans sketched out by John-Mark Bell, which are to be discussed with fellow programmers, he suggested that version 2.0 of NetSurf could feature JavaScript.

John-Mark, pictured, said: "JavaScript is the key feature missing from NetSurf and, for some, is the barrier to it becoming their first-choice browser. NetSurf's current engine is coming close to the end of its design life."

The open source browser will require a new engine under the bonnet to process HTML, CSS and web page designs in a more flexible manner before it can support JavaScript, he proposed.

In his memo to fellow NetSurf coders, John-Mark said: "It must be stressed that the views contained within this document are those of the author alone - nothing is set in stone. This document aims to stimulate the debate surrounding the goals for future NetSurf releases. Criticism and new ideas are welcome."

As well as highlighting the strengths of NetSurf, John-Mark also pointed out that the browser was "particularly picky" about badly written web pages, could be made to run faster, and does not fully support CSS 2. He also suggested better handling of XHTML, amongst other improvements for the software, as well as touching on Flash, plugins and broken printing support on RISC OS 5.

John-Mark's PDF memo was circulated ahead of the first official release of the freely available web browser. It is hoped that after five years of development, a stable 'version 1.0' of NetSurf can be released in time for this year's Wakefield show. Recently, users have offered to donate cash to the project to fund development of JavaScript support.


NetSurf website

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Fine ideas.

 is a RISC OS UserAW on 3/4/07 2:51AM
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Sounds promising and something I would like to see since I use NetSurf a lot. I'd be happy, for now, if some of the non page altering JavaScript methods could be implemented in V1.00. eg. window.open(), window.close() etc. This would allow me to use those sites that pop up extra detail windows. How feasible would that be?

 is a RISC OS UserFootie on 3/4/07 3:55AM
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Footie: No chance whatsoever; NetSurf is currently in feature freeze so the only changes between now and a release will be bug fixes.

 is a RISC OS Userjmb on 3/4/07 8:39AM
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Yes, this is absolutely the right way to go IMO. At the moment Netsurf is my third choice browser, after Oregano and Firefox, but could become first choice if it had Javascript. Even with its broken Javascript and frequent crashes, Oregano 2 can access more sites than Netsurf. Firefox works with nearly everything, but is slow. Netsurf is fast and pleasant to use and more reliable than Oregano, so add the ability to work with Javascript and we will at last have a competent browser that can compete with those on other platforms.

 is a RISC OS Usermrtd on 3/4/07 9:06AM
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Whilst it will be extremely good news if NetSurf gains javascript in a future release, its lack in 1.0 is not the show stopper many feel it is.

Over the past year a number of banking and commerce sites I use which used to only be accessible with a javascript browser now work under NetSurf, rendered better than Firefox and enourmously faster. I'ved used NetSurf as my primary browser for years now, and I find myself needing the javascript equipped Oregano or Firefox less and less now, which is surprising.

The reason for this change is the number of security vulnerabilities in other browsers (specifically Microsoft Internet Explorer) Jjavascript handling, which has meant many corporations have mandated it is disabled on all their employees machines. Banks and shopping sites then received complains from large numbers of people trying to use them, and did something about it.

That's not to say there aren't still a proportion of sites which don't work, lacking some navigation ability or even rendering a completely blank page without javascript. But if you haven't tried NetSurf on the sites you use for a while, download the upcoming 1.0 release and give it a spin, you'll be pleasantly surprised.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 3/4/07 9:20AM
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Very interesting document - hope this does lead to continued development. I'd be happy to contribute financially, especially for Javascript work, if that would help. Perhaps a scheme like Martin Wuerthner's for Gutenprint would be worth considering?

I'd also be interested to know if the GTK port has led to more coders working on the outstanding issues. I assume that the GUI and rendering elements are largely separate, so that changes made for the Linux versions could be taken advantage of by the RISC OS one.

Anyway, this is more good news from NetSurf, and thanks to all for the hard work on 1.0 :)

 is a RISC OS Userlym on 3/4/07 9:55AM
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I love Netsurf, it just works so quickly and generally I use it as my number 1 browser with O2 second because of two particular sites which need JS for the instant chatting. But Netsurf works with my bank site and even for my flights to San Francisco. So if JS did appear then I would use it even more. I would love Netsurf to print on my Iyonix as I have to use other methods of exporting the page etc to DRAW but it would even better just to be able to click on print ! I too would offer some cash for development along the the lines of GutenPrint. I loved so much I gave a second contribution ! HA HA Thanks for all the work, guys.

 is a RISC OS UserHairy on 3/4/07 10:56AM
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Immaculate, I'd say: [link]

 is a RISC OS Userguestx on 3/4/07 11:39AM
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And as an encore: [link]

 is a RISC OS Userguestx on 3/4/07 12:03PM
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I like the speed and simplicity of Netsurf, and I don't miss Java-script support.

That might be due to me having a WinXP machine and a Linux machine, both of which happily run Firefox.

Even so, I'm of the opinion that site which rely on JS aren't worth using anyway. Sites that use JS to enhance the site are OK by me, as long as there's a way to use them without JS too.


 is a RISC OS Useralex on 3/4/07 12:08PM
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Netsurf is the most used browser on my RISC OS system. I think the team should be congratulated for getting this far - a really good achievement and I'm sure the continued development and interest has kept a fair few people interested in the platform. As far as JS support goes, I agree with alex a bit - having a Linux machine also means that sites which are not compatible with Netsurf I can still view, however is JS was supported then it would be slightly more convenient :)

One question that I wonder from reading the article is just how much foundation work would need to be carried out before JS support could even be started. If the browser requires a new engine then surely thats a hell of a lot of coding needed? What sort of time frame is required and if a new engine is needed then wouldnt that mean a duplication of much of the work already carried out (albeit it in a different direction)?

 is a RISC OS Userpolas on 3/4/07 12:46PM
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polas: John-Mark's document describes the dependencies involved in introducing JavaScript, and suggests a time-scale.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 3/4/07 1:08PM
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thanks rjek, thats an interesting read and answers my question. As far as the rest of the team, is there support for John-Mark's POV?

 is a RISC OS Userpolas on 3/4/07 1:14PM
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The next ROUGOL meeting on 16th April will feature jmb and other web browser developers talking about the issues involved in developing web browsers in general, and on RISC OS in particular.

Keep an eye on csa.announce or [link] for more details.

 is a RISC OS Userhelpful on 3/4/07 1:20PM
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I'm with hairy on this one :-)

Netsurf is my browser No.1 (in fact I'm using it now :-) ) - if necessary JS is encountered then a shift-drag from Netsurf's URL bar onto O2 loaded onto the iconbar can then help!

As druck says you could be surprised at how much you can access with netsurf - what I have described above is a rairity ( and of course if you get *really* stuck theres always firefox :-) )

Netsurf + JS? Yes please! :-D with of course the caveat that, as has always been said, its a *massive* amount of work so if it is too much then thats OK with me.

 is a RISC OS Userepistaxsis on 3/4/07 1:22PM
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The link (to NSWTFH.pdf) says "File does not begin with '%PDF-'".

 is a RISC OS UserLoris on 3/4/07 2:20PM
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... So I finally tried saving it and it works fine. And the hex-editor confirms that the file does indeed begin with '%PDF-'. Wierd.

 is a RISC OS UserLoris on 3/4/07 2:41PM
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Forgot to mention that my company is using netsurf in a commercial application!

Due to the reasons that druck mentioned we are using Netsurf to make sure that a corporate JS crippled client will be able to access our website properly :-)

After all given the webstandards that Netsurf adheres to it is almost like IE (or whatever) with JS switched off!

 is a RISC OS Userepistaxsis on 3/4/07 3:24PM
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While I take druck's point on board, I've just read JMB's 'note' and it makes some good points about the way forward. I believe that while the technologies referred to may be largely unnecessary (although occasionally desirable) at the moment, they are the foundation to using DHTML and Ajax web pages which are becoming increasingly important, what with google maps hacks and the likes. JMB's note looks like a very good way to deliver technologies incrementally in a view to eventually supporting full JS, but still delivering useful features at each drop along the way.

 is a RISC OS Userninja on 3/4/07 3:36PM
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I would love to see NetSurf 2. NetSurf is currently my main RiscOS browser, but I agree, the lack of JS and Flash does force me to use other browsers, and even in some cases, forces me onto the PC. But I think NetSurf is doing very well, as there are few RiscOS browsers that have as much web page support as this does. While FireFox fills in some of the blanks, it's slow pace makes it a bit of problem (especially when I have Windows (X)perimental (P)ersonallity running on the machine next to the Iyonix).

 is a RISC OS UserCrazyRisc on 3/4/07 8:01PM
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Javascript really does seem to be less prevalent on the web than a year ago -or perhaps more web coders are providing <Noscript> alternatives on their pages. It has now reached the stage where I can afford to ignore sites that do not work with NetSurf. I have just researched and booked flights, car park and hotel for a holiday using nothing but NetSurf.

The only area where the lack of JS was a problem was with maps. More and more sights are going for dynamic maps rather than static images. This gets around update and copyright problems, so I suppose will probably become more common.

 is a RISC OS UserJohnR on 4/4/07 3:37PM
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JohnR: Not so much <Noscript> so much as done another way or duplicated in another way.

I'm developing a website for a friend that uses javascript; but the javascript is only there to validate any form input. If the browser can't, or won't, use javascript that's fine because the validation is repeated in the perl scripts.

 is a RISC OS UserDS1 on 6/4/07 11:33PM
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