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How Internet Browser Roles Are Changing


As more people around the world get online using an increasing variety of devices, like smart phones and tablets, the browser wars are back and hotter than ever.

Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Google Chrome are battling to be the world's most popular browser. No matter what browser one may use, it's still the primary way through which many people still enter the Internet.

So, to browse the latest in browsers, we're joined by Rich Jaroslovsky. He's a technology columnist with Bloomberg News.

Good morning.


MONTAGNE: So, of course, we've all used browsers, but let's start by talking about the fact that that is changing.

JAROSLOVSKY: Oh, definitely. Originally, the browser was a vehicle to get to some place on the Web. But increasingly, the browser has become a destination itself. You execute programs now in the browser, you can create documents in the browser, so its very role is changing.

MONTAGNE: Give us an example of what you're talking about.

JAROSLOVSKY: Well, for example Google Docs, which is the suite of productivity software that Google has created so that you can create a word processing document or a spreadsheet, you can do all that directly through the browser on Google servers rather than installing say, Microsoft Office on your PC. And you can do it from any device that has a browser, so that if you've got an iPad, for example, you can edit or tweak a document because it exists online rather than on your local machine.

MONTAGNE: So in a way, browsers have become, say, little operating systems within themselves.

JAROSLOVSKY: Exactly. In fact, Google even has created software for computers that doesn't use Microsoft Windows at all, in which essentially, its Chrome browser is the operating system.

MONTAGNE: So take us through some of what's out there. This fall, Microsoft has some big software releases - including a new version of Windows and Microsoft Office. How does Microsoft's browser, Internet Explorer, fit into all of this?

JAROSLOVSKY: Well, IE10 is going to be, you know, absolutely critical to the success or failure of the new versions of Windows and Office, because in a lot of ways Office is being rewritten to being much more Internet-centric, much more cloud based - to use the buzz word - and IE10 is going to be the vehicle through which a lot of people access their Microsoft Office documents.

A second very important aspect of it is that IE10 will have some new approaches to privacy. As the Internet's become more and more pervasive, there's a more and more pervasive sense of unease among a lot of consumers about just how much information is being collected about them as they go from website to website and where that information is going and how it's being used. So with the release of IE10, and in addition with the features that have been built in to Mozilla and Chrome and Safari, the other major competing browsers, what you're seeing now is another feature, another aspect called do not track, which essentially sends a message to websites when you visit them that says, please don't follow me where I'm going.

MONTAGNE: Well, getting on to the comparison between the two big ones, Google Chrome and Microsoft's IE or Internet Explorer, is there any real difference?

JAROSLOVSKY: In a lot of ways it's really up to the individual user. The importance in all this is that each company - particularly Microsoft and Google - what they really want to do is to basically cement your loyalty to their broader range of services and products. So what they really want is for you to adopt their browser and then adopt all the services that, sort of, go behind it.

MONTAGNE: Rich, thanks very much.


MONTAGNE: Rich Jaroslovsky is a technology columnist for Bloomberg News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.