Tuesday, August 23, 2011

[Did You Know?] N9 FAQ N°5 ! (Closer look at the Web Browser, Must read !)

Posted on 2:21 PM by SlipKoRnSaad

To continue our N9 FAQ series here's some additional informations about the beast from WebKit reviewer ariya who has taken a closer look on the the WebKit2 powered Web Browser on the N950 (N9), here are some of his takes :

This Harmattan browser is based on WebKit2, a wrapper for WebKit code to have it in a split process model (this multiprocess approach was popularized by Google Chrome). There is a lot of confusion about WebKit2 in general, usually because people mistakenly think of it as a version number. To make it perfectly clear, WebKit2 is not the next-generation of WebKit. Its presence merely extends the possible use of WebKit outside the single-process containment. WebKit2 does not make any of the existing WebKit code obsolete any time soon.

So far, this Harmattan flavor of MeeGo 1.2 can claim itself as the first mobile platform to use this multiprocess WebKit. One of the obvious benefit is the fluid and smooth user experience when using the browser. As I explained in his backing store blog entry, decoupling the rendering process and the user interface process is the key to this success. Spend few hours playing with N950 browser and you’ll probably notice how fast it is!

- Performance is one thing, faithful rendering is another thing. Beside being fast, the browser does not show any problem rendering many popular web sites out there.

- Scrolling is easy, flicking is smooth, pinching works as expected. Even mobile Google Mail works reasonably well.

- Looking at the DOM access performance, a recent investigation with Dromaeo test suite (see the full chart) shows how close it is to the performance of iPhone 4.

- For the browser freak out there, the browser’s user agent is (this may or may not change for the final version, though):
Mozilla/5.0 (MeeGo; NokiaN950-00/00) AppleWebKit/534.13 (KHTML, like Gecko) NokiaBrowser/8.5.0 Mobile Safari/534.13
- User agent itself is pretty useless and does not tell much about the browser capabilities (see the post on the theory behind WebKit ports). If we use HTML5 Test to check various features of the browser engine, it shows that the browser is getting the score of 283 + 14 bonus points. This is better than other smartphones in the market: iPhone 4 (217 + 7), Android-based Nexus S (184 + 1), and BlackBerry Torch (266 + 3). Of course by the time iOS 5 and/or next Android smartphone OS are out, the numbers may look entirely different.

- Turning to Modernizr feature detection suite, we will get the report like this :

--> It is quite comprehensive, the browser can handle pretty much the common variants of modern web technologies (lacking only WebGL, IndexedDB, and some variants of input types). CSS3, SVG, and Canvas are well supported. Even CSS 3-D transform works well. Aria's favorite is blur shadow, something He has implemented ages ago. HTML5 media is also there

- About GPU acceleration, the use of hardware acceleration falls into three categories: primitive drawing, backing store, and layer compositing. It is safe to say that Harmattan browser does all of these three, beautifully even. the browser uses the new texture-mapping strategy to composite the layers. We can witness how the browser has no problem handling various CSS3 animations.

There are of course rough edges here and there. Since there is still some time until the software stack is finalized for the ultimate release (of Nokia N9), hopefully by then those annoyances will be fixed. With so much technology burst coming to this slab of magic device, it is a shame that N9(50) will be the last MeeGo phone from Nokia.

You can read other details or ask your questions on the original post ! Thanks Ariya !


On a second take, this time from the great well respected Michal from My-Meego he stated :

I must say that I hate the built-in browser. Not because it's THAT bad, but because it is worse than N900's browser which I got very much used to and which I still consider the best web browser on any mobile device I've ever used.

First of all, it's WebKit based, and I really don't like how the webkit engine renders pages. It looks like the Symbian browser. The Mozilla-based microB browser on the N900 renders pages MUCH better and they look EXACTLY like on a desktop. The N9/N950 browser's output feels kind of "mobile". I'm not sure if I can properly explain it, but that's just how it feels. Somehow "cheaper".

Secondly, I miss Flash support very much. I do appreciate PHP5 support a lot, but not necessarily at the expense of no Flash... There is also something wrong with Javascript as even Google AdSense ads don't show up.

Thirdly, you are absolutely right, it is very spartan. Available options are limited to "Open new window" (thank you Nokia! Symbian WebKit browser lacks even that!), "Share this page", "Add to apps" and "Subscribe to feed". Hmmm, not too much, isn't it?

The "Add to Apps" function is very nice (it adds a bookmark to the apps list, the icon is a thumbnail of the page, name can be modified), but for me it should be an ADDITION to a traditional bookmark list, not a replacement. I like the idea of having the most important / most frequently visited web sites available directly from the apps list (i.e. what they now call home screen), but surely NOT ALL. I want to have a lot of bookmarks, including sites which I check very rarely, and I just can't imagine having all of them on the home screen, or having to manually type the URL if I don't want to store the bookmark on the apps list.

And there are no configurable options of any kind, literally not a single one. Or at least I can't find them. Oh, except for Settings / Applications / Web where one can choose the default search engine, allow/disallow popups and clear private data. Or maybe it's just a temporary state and some further options will be added before the N9 starts shipping.... the Web settings screen is now in 80% empty with the existing options placed at the bottom, so maybe it's a placeholder for some further settings being worked on as I write this...

Other than that, the browser is very fast and..... that's it.

Fortunately, Opera Mobile 11 is already available for Harmattan (unofficial build extracted from N900 MeeGo DE release, but fully working) and that's what I use for now...

there's something about WebKit browsers that I do not like. It's hard for me to actually say what it is, but when I look at a page rendered by the N900 microB browser and the same page on the N9/N950, the N900 wins hands down. It's just my personal opinion and other people's impressions may be completely different... As I said, there's nothing really wrong with it, it's fast, stable and (at least when it comes to page rendering quality) not worse than Android browser. Maybe I just got used to the N900 too much... It'll take a long time before I stop missing stylus support.

Don't hesitate to post your questions on the original topic

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