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Google to fund another round of NetSurf development

By Michael Drake. Published: 22nd Mar 2009, 22:49:15 | Permalink | Printable

Development work on the open source NetSurf web browser project will once again be funded by Google as part of the internet giant's Summer of Code scheme. NetSurf has been accepted into this year's GSoC, which pays students to develop open source software during their holiday, under the guidance of a mentor. Last year the NetSurf project mentored four students in the development of various improvements including a new HTML parser and PDF export functionality. This year it's hoped budding engineers, who must first successfully apply for a place to work on the browser, will work on keyboard shortcut support, improvements to the way the software displays web pages, a Windows and Apple port and more.

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Discussion

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I think it is absolutely brilliant that Google run the Summer of Code Scheme and very more brilliant that Netsurf gets to benefit.

 is a RISC OS Userstevek on 23/3/09 5:29AM
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I very much hope that someone will apply to work on the "Improved RISC OS front end" category. Although the RISC OS frontend is still the most complete, there's some catching up to do with new features. For instance, it would be fabulous to have the **option** to use Tabs for browsing like some of the other versions of Netsurf.

Well done to the Netsurf team!

 is a RISC OS UserStewy on 23/3/09 1:54PM
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Stewy: The problem there is that students with an interest in RISC OS are exceedingly rare.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 23/3/09 3:01PM
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Well done again guys. I've said in the past, and will say it again. I think the Netsurf project is brilliant.

I quite like the idea of a 'doze port to muck about with on my laptop... I look forward to that. I may volunteer as a tester, it would be nice to contribute in some way.

 is a RISC OS UserBecky on 23/3/09 5:10PM
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Doesn't platform independent come into the equation anywhere and hence each port cross-fertilise so to speak?

 is a RISC OS UserAW on 23/3/09 7:30PM
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Only if changes are made to the cross-platform core.

 is a RISC OS Userjmb on 24/3/09 6:18PM
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Apart from a few fixed magnification sizes (which it used to have) and the ability to save customization in choices I am very happy with the interface. Any change here risks breaking something that is very much not broke. But JS - now that would be something else.

 is a RISC OS UserJohnR on 23/3/09 10:36PM
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JohnR: I agree with you entirely - the interface is fine. Javascript OTOH (and I am aware that its implementation would involve a great deal of work) would transform an excellent, compact and speedy browser into a genuine alternative to the heavyweights such as Firefox, especially on less-powerful platforms like RISC OS or PDAs/smartphones. Might the availability of summer coders enable the additional work to be done?

 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 24/3/09 10:33AM
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bucksboy: One of the ideas listed for this summer is for LibDOM to be worked on and brought into the main project. A robust DOM implementation is quite an important part of a javascript implementation. Also, the improvements to the page layout engine may contribute, or at least wouldn't hurt the chances of getting javascript in the future.

Mind you, it's worth noting that these two tasks are two of the three hardest tasks suggested, as estimated by the netsurf developers. On top of that, implementing the handling of the script element and creating a javascript parser and runner is a whole other chunk of work.

It's also worth pointing out that one of the reasons Netsurf on Risc OS is fast, even compared to Firefox on a beefy Windows machine, is that it doesn't spend any time loading the numerous included javascript scripts.

 is a RISC OS Userninja on 24/3/09 4:00PM
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Ninja: point taken re JS implementation. It had already occurred to me that NOT having to deal with Javascript was one of the reasons for NetSurf's speed, which is one of its most appealing features. OTOH, a significant part of the functionality of many of the sites I use seems to require JS; for example, go to [link] click in the 'All Reviews Alphabetically' field and you'll get a nice list of cameras ... which you can't select! Many 'choice' fields on different sites seem to work this way. The only option then is to start up Firefox, or switch to the PC, and the resulting delay mitigates some of the convenience & speed of NetSurf.

 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 24/3/09 5:36PM
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I read somewhere that many websites are being recoded to remove their dependence on Javascript because the iPhone does not support it. Furthermore, Apple don't seem to see adding JS to the iPhone as a priority. I guess how this goes will depend upon how iPhone sales. I also read somewhere else that a lot of the preparatory work to get Javascript running within Netsurf has been done - perhaps someone else could comment on if what's left to do could be a summer's worth of work for a student.... I noticed that WebWonder is going down the route of adding JavaScript to achieve various effects such as a "slideshow" feature. Of course, such things can be done fairly easily without JavaScript as I showed in: [link] but I guess that the main RISC OS browser ought to be able to display what one of the main RISC OS website authoring packages is producing.

 is a RISC OS Usermartin on 24/3/09 5:45PM
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No. It is significantly more than a summer's work for one person.

 is a RISC OS Userjmb on 24/3/09 6:22PM
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Javascript has become absolutely essential for a full Web experience today and increasingly so in the (near) future. In fact, all major browser developers have begun substantially improving their Javascript implementations to cater for heavier reliance on it. Google's Chrome browser is a prime example of this effort and so is the recently released Safari 4 beta. I believe Mozilla will deliver a highly enhanced JavaScript engine (TraceMonkey) in the upcoming Firefox 3.5.

This will likely close the 'speed gap' between NetSurf's JS-less rendering and the major browsers.

@martin:

The Safari browser in the iPhone (and iPod touch) certainly supports JavaScript. It is based on the same core as the desktop version of Safari on the Mac and Windows, so basically it renders webpages the same. I guess you actually mean the Adobe Flash plug-in, which is not available for the iPhone OS. There is a lot of speculation going on as to why Apple seems to refuse a Flash plug-in for their mobile platform, while Adobe has repeatedly stated their willingness to develop it. I guess Apple doesn't want to give Adobe the chance to let its proprietary Flash 'standard' dominate the Mobile Web in the same way as in the desktop space, seeing the iPhone and iPod touch account for the majority of Mobile Web access.

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 24/3/09 9:23PM
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hEgelia, Ah yes - you are right, of course..... (The iPhone supports Javascript and not flash) Regards, Martin.

 is a RISC OS Usermartin on 27/3/09 9:26PM
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I suspect the answer might be that running flash would just slow things down too much and take a lot of RAM - since it already does to a noticable effect on PC browsers.

The speed of javascript implementations is becoming an issue because of the rise of AJAX allowing web pages to act like applications, talking to a remote server without requiring the user to click on a 'submit' button every few seconds. I don't know whether they're focusing on the speed of startup which, along with the time taken to resolve the address and connect, seems to be what my PC spends most of the time loading a page doing when I use a javascript enabled browser.

 is a RISC OS Userninja on 25/3/09 2:53PM
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Netsurf is not alone. There is I believe, a new browser war taking place, on which browser has the fastest implementation of Javascript. One of Opera's recent releases took pride in it's speedy implementation of Javascript.

Also, this article ([link]) features the emergence of server side Javascript. A couple of frameworks are mentioned in the article.

The rise of client side frameworks such as jQuery and Scriptaculous have resulted in major changes to the way websites are developed, and provide the graceful degradation that was so sorely needed in the past. That is, as long as developers use them 'properly'

Netsurf may benefit from all this, in the sense that creating the parser, could be a less painful experience than that of the other browsers.

In any case, it's great that Google recognise that Netsurf is worth funding :-)

 is a RISC OS Usersascott on 27/3/09 9:31AM
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