Tag Archives: Browser

The ByteCode Alliance wants to bring binary apps into your browser

Back in 2015, a consortium including Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, and the WebKit project announced WebAssembly. This week, Mozilla, Intel, Red hat, and Fastly announced a new consortium called the Bytecode Alliance, which aims to foster WebAssembly and other “new software foundations” that will allow secure-by-default ways to run untrusted code, either inside or outside the Web browser environment.

For many, this raises an obvious question: what is WebAssembly? WebAssembly (wasm) was and is a potentially exciting project, offering a way to run native bytecode inside the browser for potentially very large increases in performance over the Javascript engines in use both then and today.

[Source: Ars Technica]

Mozilla partners with Intel, Red Hat and Fastly to take WebAssembly beyond the browser

Mozilla, Intel, Red Hat and Fastly today announced the launch of the Bytecode Alliance, a new open-source group that focuses on “creating new software foundations, building on standards such as WebAssembly and WebAssembly System Interface (WASI).”

Mozilla has long championed WebAssembly, the open standard that allows browsers to execute compiled programs in the browser. This allows developers to write their applications in languages like C, C++ and Rust and have those programs execute at native speed, all without having to rely on JavaScript, which would take much longer to parse and execute, especially on mobile devices.

[Source: TechCrunch]

Microsoft’s Chromium-Based Edge Browser Available as Release Candidate | Software

By Jack M. Germain

Nov 5, 2019 12:10 PM PT

Along with unveiling its new Edge browser logo, Microsoft on Monday announced the official launch date of its nearly finished Chromium-based Edge browser and made its Release Candidate
available for download immediately.

The latest beta edition of the browser is stable enough for anyone to use, Microsoft said, and it will help IT admins prepare for the Jan. 15 rollout.

Microsoft last year announced its intention to rely on the Chromium open source project in developing Microsoft Edge for the desktop to create better Web compatibility and to reduce fragmentation for all Web developers. The upcoming rollout will make the new Edge browser available for Windows 10, Windows 7, Windows 8 and macOS.

So far, Microsoft has not announced plans for an Edge browser version that runs on the Linux operating system.

The launch of Microsoft Edge will have a dramatic impact on the Web ecosystem. Originally, the Web was dominated by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser. That set the stage for many years of stagnation in Web development because Web applications needed to be tied to old versions of IE, according to Thomas Hatch, CTO of

“The dominance of IE slowed the market and hurt innovation in some regards. However, it did make it easy for companies to know that they could create stable content that would run on old browsers,” he told LinuxInsider.

New Browser Dominance

The release of Microsoft’s Chromium-based Edge browser could create a problem due to the new dominance of the Chromium engine. This change will make Chromium the browser foundation for close to 90 percent of Web users, with Firefox as runner-up, noted Hatch.

The potential exists for the stagnation of new innovations for Web browsers from the loss of browser competition, he pointed out. Plus, there is the risk of Google’s control being used to damage competitors’ ability to deliver Web products.

The technology change for Microsoft, however, could be a boost for new collaborative efforts between Microsoft and Google, whose proprietary version of the Chrome browser is based on the open source Chromium browser. That mix could foster collaboration and accelerate the development of the Web — not the other way around, Hatch suggested.

Web Standardization vs. Browser Domination

Microsoft’s new browser release is more apt to standardize the Web platform on a single core codebase. It means the Web standards most likely should reach consumers and enterprises faster, because they will not be hung up in three or four implementations, sort of teasing out what works and does not work in parallel, observed Chris Love, a progressive Web apps developer at

“The primary browser vendors — Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, Samsung — already collaborate a lot to define the Web platform standards and specifications. The real problem is they more or less agree to a specification, then go develop in different codebases,” he told LinuxInsider.

Microsoft, Google, Samsung, and a few other vendors more or less work together now, reducing the amount of duplicate work. As a Web developer, Love just needs a specification that he can trust and not have to worry about quirks with different browsers, he explained.

Under the Hood

Microsoft’s browser logo redesign clearly suggests a new Edge. It is the only visible sign, besides the Bing search interface and the unplugged Google ecosystem, that the new Edge browser is not another retread of IE.

Otherwise, the user interface nearly identical to the look and feel of the Chrome browser. Its UI is very familiar.

The Microsoft Edge logo has a fluent design style that ties in with Microsoft’s new Office icons. The Edge “E” resembles a wave.

Microsoft is pitching Edge Chromium directly at enterprise users. The company is describing Edge as “the browser for business” with “core security architecture” that IT professionals already are using.

Other Edge features:

  • New Microsoft Search capabilities in Bing to save time searching for information inside your company;
  • Three ecosystem partners — Accenture, BA Insight and Raytion — provide a Microsoft Graph connectors preview. It expands the reach of search for Microsoft 365 customers, with the addition of more than 100 connectors, including Salesforce.com, ServiceNow, Box and more;
  • The ability to access Microsoft Search in Bing on mobile phones;
  • New tracking prevention by default;
  • SmartScreen and Tracking prevention to help protect users from phishing schemes, malicious software and cryptojacking malware; and
  • InPrivate mode across so online searches and browsing are not attributed to the user.

Built-In Edge Advantages

Microsoft did a decent job of building and maintaining its own browser engine, according to Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, but it never was a match for Google Chrome.

“Adopting the Chromium engine should result in faster and more secure performance, along with greater levels of website compatibility,” he told LinuxInsider.

Usability over the previous IE and earlier Edge versions are a big advantage, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

After using Edge versions for the last few months, he can rely on this browser, he told LinuxInsider, whereas previously he had to switch between IE, Edge and Chrome, and often Firefox, to get some things done.

“I’m largely back to living in one browser again, thanks to this offering,” Enderle told LinuxInsider. “It is the best of both worlds, compatible with IT policy and massively compatible with the Web. It is an impressive blend of technologies.”

The Edge browser is a rarity in that it is unusual to see a major vendor do something like this where they put the customer in front of their own “not-invented-here” mentality he observed.

Path Less Traveled

Microsoft’s decision to grab Chromium code as a base for its IE/Edge browser replacement may be a good strategy. Still, it is a bit odd to see a company with a long history of claiming technological superiority — even when there was scant supporting evidence — take a back seat to a competitor, suggested Pund-IT’s King.

“That is even more pronounced given the focus here on browser technologies, where Microsoft was once the undisputed market leader. Some might claim that the move denigrates Microsoft’s brand, but I’d argue that it also demonstrates a level of maturity that speaks well of the company and its leadership.” he said.

Putting the customer first is always a superior strategy, but using a competitor’s technology to do so is rarely done, even though that path often would be better for the user, Enderle noted.

“Typically, competitive concerns and image concerns keep companies from doing this — but times are changing, and the concept of open source has firms thinking differently. I think this is a showcase of that different thinking,” he said.

Ulterior Motives Possible

Microsoft’s use of the Chromium code base is not really about the browser benefits at all. If it were, Microsoft would have gotten out of the game long ago, suggested Arle Lommel, senior analyst at
CSA Research.

“Instead, it is about a strategic bid for enterprise customers to cement them into the Office 365 ecosystem,” he told LinuxInsider.

Browsers are an essential tool for consumers and businesses alike, but they are not a direct moneymaker for their developers. Instead, they are a driver for other services, such as search and ad revenue for Google with Chrome, Lommel explained.

Microsoft has fallen behind and has no realistic prospects to get people to switch back to a proprietary browser base. Earlier incarnations of Edge suffered from performance issues compared to Chromium, and were regarded as a warmed-over version of Internet Explorer, he added.

“So Microsoft has nothing to lose by jumping on a common platform that improves compatibility for its customers,” Lommel said.

It only takes a few cases of not being able to access a critical site before people stop using Edge and move to Chrome because it “just works,” he noted. If Google’s offering is seen as better, it is just another step to its enterprise offerings.

“Microsoft’s play is to use the platform to bring enterprise customers into using its additional services,” Lommel reasoned.

Will Users Flock to Edge?

Edge’s allure for users is the crux of Microsoft’s new browser strategy. It has the potential for putting a new spin on the “browser wars revisited” scenario.

The traditional Microsoft Edge user will stay, and more Windows users will switch to the new Edge browser from Chrome, predicted SaltStack’s Hatch.

“This is a potential win for everyone. Google still gets to control the Web; Microsoft saves money and gets a better seat at the table to move the Web forward; and the sheer size of the new gorilla in the room will push people to Firefox — giving the Mozilla Foundation a new lease on life,” said Hatch.

Consumer Needs Differ From IT

Some computer users might be inclined to adopt the new Chromium-based Microsoft browser. More likely, others will stay with their current choice or move to a different option.

Consumers rarely change the default option when they get a new computer, but browser selection seems to be one of the few decisions that inspires a slightly higher effort, according to Love2Dev’s Love.

For Windows users who get new devices, it will be interesting to see if they bother changing browsers with the new Edge as the default on a new computer. For users of other platforms, Love does not foresee any tangible user base gains.

“Mac and Linux users are pretty well entrenched with Chrome and FireFox, which means they made the deliberate effort to install their choice and Edge was never an option,” he said.

It all might come down to who the users are, said Enderle.

Corporate users who want Chrome compatibility with Edge compliance will be motivated to switch. Consumers may be happy where they are, and happy users tend to be hard to move, he said.

“Microsoft cannot disparage Chrome because it is at the core of its solution,” Enderle pointed out. “So their process has to focus on making users see the advantages of the blended offering, and the strongest advantage is likely security, which, given the threat level, could be enough to drive a change.”

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.

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Microsoft Wants To Port Its Web Browser to Linux

In December 2018, Microsoft announced its intention to abandon EdgeHTML as the browser’s rendering engine in favor of Chromium, the same rendering engine Google Chrome uses. In the months since the announcement, Microsoft has worked on versions of Edge for Windows 7, 8 and 10, as well as Xbox One, macOS, iOS and Android. Now, Microsoft has teased the possibility of Edge making its way to Linux as well. Sean Larkin, a member of the Edge development team, took to Twitter to solicit feedback from Linux developers:


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Swapnil Bhartiya has decades of experience covering emerging technologies and enterprise open source. His stories have appeared in a multitude of leading publications including CIO, InfoWorld, Network World, The New Stack, Linux Pro Magazine, ADMIN Magazine, HPE Insights, Raspberry Pi Geek Magazine, SweetCode, Linux For You, Electronics For You and more. He is also a science fiction writer and founder of TFiR.io.

How to Distro Hop With a Web Browser | Software

By Jack M. Germain

Aug 14, 2019 11:54 AM PT

Getting familiar with Linux up close and personal is easy to do with a free service provided by
DistroTest.net, a website that allows testing without ISO downloads or local installations.

Are you a wandering Linux distro hopper looking for a way to streamline the selection process? Are you a Windows or macOS user who wants to try Linux?

Linux has countless distributions and dozens of desktop environments. How can you choose?

Now you can find the perfect combination of distro and desktop without leaving the Web browser running on your current operating system. Just point that browser to DistroTest.net.

The DistroTest website is a relatively new online Linux distro-vetting system. It even includes some BSD offerings if you have a hankering to venture into an operating system that is similar to Linux.

Unique Testing Approach

DistroTest is the first online operating system tester that uses a live system similar to running a Linux bootable DVD or USB drive to bypass your installed OS. It has nearly the same look and feel as testing a Linux distro in live session without fully installing it in a sandboxed virtual environment like VirtualBox.

The experience can be easier and better. It runs directly within your Web browser. You do not have to leave your current computing activities behind to reboot the computer and take your chances with an unfamiliar process.

Nor do you have to download ISO files and burn them to a DVD or USB device. You also do not have to fiddle with arcane VirtualBox settings to get the live session to run or fully install properly.

Perhaps the best benefit from using DistroTest.net is the ability to check out Linux without disturbing a single thing about your current computer configuration. It is not a perfect solution — but it beats the alternatives.

Cloud-Like Service for Free

Using DistroTest is much like logging onto a cloud service with your home computer. You select the distros you want to try, and run them as if they were on your local hard drive.

The Linux and BSD distros available on DistroTest are fully functional. You can run all of the installed applications within each distro you test. You can change the default settings. When you close the live session and reload it, everything resorts to the default settings.

You pay nothing to test any number of distros. You can run them whenever you want. No restrictions are imposed.

I have become sort of a DistroTest nerd. I open several browser windows to the DistroTest website and run a variety of distros. I switch among browser tabs to compare features in a variety of distros running different desktops.

The goal behind DistroTest.net is to help you find the most suitable operating system for your purposes. This process lets you answer three critical questions about adopting and using the Linux (or BSD) operating systems:

  • Which distribution is the best one for me?
  • Which graphical interface do I want to use?
  • Which configuration options do I have with a particular distro choice?

Founder Andy Klemann and his administrative partner, Tobias Forster, want to help you answer those and a few other questions with their website. They built the website and the free distro testing tool to give server administrators, programmers and computing end-users a convenient way to find the best operating system for their specific needs.

DistroTest Overview

When you go to the DistroTest.net website, you see a black and gray page with an alphabetical listing of installed Linux and BSD distributions. The banner heading at the top of the landing page includes a motto that explains it all: “Test it before you hate it…”

alphabetical listing of every installed Linux and BSD distro available for testing on DistroTest.net.

The Home screen shows an alphabetical listing of every installed Linux and BSD distro available for testing on DistroTest.net. Click on a distro’s name to go to its detail page to start loading the distro.

– click image to enlarge –

You do not have to register. You do not have to provide your email address. You do not have to log onto the system. All you have to do is pick your distro and start testing it.

DistroTest currently hosts 743 versions of 233 operating systems. Those numbers increase regularly.

Navigating the website is fairly simple. On the top left of the page is the Main Menu. Under it are several links.

The Home link brings you to the landing page where the plain text alphabetical listing of all distros resides. Under that is the System link which takes you to a page with a more detailed alphabetical listing of installed distros. This list includes a small screenshot of the desktop and basic distro information.

Another link takes you to the New Systems page. It shows the latest additions to the installed testing inventory. It displays the same types of screenshots and basic details as the System link pages.

DistroTest.net, distro details page

The details page for each distroshows basic requirements, a thumbnail view of the desktop and a button to click to launch the selected distro.

– click image to enlarge –

How It Works

From any of the lists, click the name of the distro and look for a button that says “START.” Click it to load the desired operating system. The distro loads into a new window that opens on top of the Web browser window. You can resize it by dragging the corners.

The distro runs in a
QEMU-hosted window. QEMU is a generic open source machine emulator and virtualizer.

DistroTest.net, VNC-powered display window that overlays the Web browser

The distro selected for testing loads into a separate VNC-powered display window that overlays the Web browser. You can drag the window edges to resize the running distro.

– click image to enlarge –

In other words, within your browser, it enables a new connection to a hosted virtual machine (VM) that emulates a physical computer’s processor. This process enables the virtual machine to run a variety of guest operating systems using your Web browser as the display monitor.

The VM display is provided by a direct virtual network computing (VNC) connection. VNC is a graphical desktop-sharing system using the remote frame buffer protocol (RFB) to allow remote control of another computer. Multiple users may connect to the VNC server at the same time.

A button sits in the center of the left window edge of the running distro. Click it to slide out a menu with several options for controlling the VNC display window.

DistroTest.net display settings and other controls for the virtual environment.

A hidden panel slides out from the left edge of the VNC window to provide display settings and a few other controls for the virtual environment.

– click image to enlarge –

Developer Discussion

Andy Klemann had the idea of building a website to let anyone test other operating systems. He finally broached the topic with Tobias Forster, a fellow worker.

Once each workday, Klemann told him of the idea. Klemann is a computer guy with programming skills. Forster admits to being clueless about all things related to programming and operating systems. Still, the constant reminders of his coworker’s website idea intrigued him.

Forster finally gave in many months after first hearing about the idea. He agreed to help Klemann develop the unique project.

The pair faced numerous obstacles. The most challenging was the programming. Klemann had no recourse but to resolve those obstacles himself, Forster told LinuxInsider. His role was to provide system management, as well as advertising and support operations.

“The first big step was to create a functioning website. Then my part began, to add different operating systems to our system,” he said.

When they started in February 2017, the two partners had only an online server with limited capabilities. It allowed just a few systems to start at the same time.

The monthly hosted server fees were too expensive, with inadequate financial resources from their own bankroll and limited advertising revenue. Eventually, they got their own server and continued to upgrade it to meet increasing visitor attention.

“Now 100 systems can start at the same time,” said Forster.

Limited Resources

Klemann and Forster plan to keep DistroTest.net free to use. Since starting out, the two have financed everything themselves, according to Forster.

They do have some advertising on the website, but that generates enough money to support only one server. Recurring monthly bills include energy costs, website development and Internet connection fees for their server.

That leaves little money left over to expand the website’s functionality, noted Forster, so the distro experience is limited to what it is capable of doing in the live session environment.

“If a user would like to save some settings or personal files, then we have to add a login area for users. That would need a lot of space to save all the settings and personal files from every single user,” explained Forster. “We don’t have enough resources for that.”

For testing purposes, however, configuration settings and personal files remain enabled as long as the OS being tested is active. The data is deleted only after a system shutdown.

A Work in Progress

Using DistroTest is a fairly fluid experience that produces good results for its intended purpose of testing and comparing various operating systems. Much like trying out a distro running in live session from a DVD on your own hardware, you do not get an accurate feel for the speed of the distro’s performance if it actually were installed on your hard drive.

I have a very fast Internet connection speed through a hardwired network connection from my Internet Service Provider. Still, a slight latency exists with the VNC delivery through the Web browser.

The response delay is most noticeable when moving the mouse and clicking on an object within the virtual display. The result is a sluggishness while the mouse pointer takes a few fractions of seconds to catch up with the position the mouse already reached with my hand movement. Obviously, that hesitation does not exist elsewhere in the Web browser or with installed applications on my computer.

Another feature disconnect is the ability to add or remove applications in the distro being tested. DistroTest’s description makes it seem that you can install applications or remove already-installed programs within the virtual environment. That ability does not exist. No doubt, the limited virtual hard drive size of the QEMU session prevents that functionality.

When operating systems are fully installed in a VM setting, you can add/remove applications the same as you do with a bare-metal installation. However, that feature typically is missing when you run a live session of a distro from a DVD.

I tried that process with several distro choices on DistroTest.net with the same unsuccessful results. One possible reason for that failure is the lack of an Internet connection to the distros running in the VNC connection.

When I run live sessions from a DVD or from an ISO file directly loaded into a VirtualBox session, Internet connections are not an issue. Still, those live sessions do not support installing new software. Some of the same distros running through DistroTest’s VNC connection did establish an Internet connection when I tested them on my own hardware.

DistroTest.net VNC restart screen

Sometimes the connection to the VNC window or some other glitch prevents the distro from loading. Usually, closing the VNC window and restarting the loading process solves the problem.

– click image to enlarge –

Final Thoughts

Those minor issues aside, DistroTest.net is a very handy way to get a feel for different Linux and BSD offerings. It is convenient with few hassles.

The biggest advantage is being able to run any of the available operating systems within a browser session on your existing computer set up. Distro testing occurs in a browser-driven delivery. So it does not matter if your computer is running Microsoft Windows, macOS, another installed Linux OS or even a BSD distro.

DistroTest.net is a clever approach to making other operating system choices easily accessible to potential new users. Check it out.

Please share your Linux-testing experiences. Leave feedback in the Reader Comments section below.

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.

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