Jeb Molony

     One of the issues we have recently dealt with when building websites is how the sites appear inside different browsers. An internet user accesses sites through computers, tablets, and phones each with a different operating system, different browser, and different settings. The recent push by major IT companies to capture internet users was demonstrated by Facebook’s $1 billion purchase of Instagram announced last week. Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Apple, and other companies are currently in a race to capture internet users’ traffic, and the application which acts as the user’s portal is their internet browser.

     Google Chrome, Apple’s Safari, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, and Firefox are the 4 most popular browsers currently on the market. Many internet users do not realize they can actually save their settings in a file and load their settings into a new device in order to maintain their settings and favorites. One of the major components of any browser is the toolbar the user has uploaded or customized. Today most toolbars have default search boxes for Google, Bing, or Yahoo. These toolbars can be customized and are often downloaded through the internet as add-ons to unrelated applications. If you ever have a toolbar you did not mean to upload you can uninstall the toolbar by uninstalling its application file. The reason toolbars are trying to make their way into your browser is so that you use their application to search the internet, and this internet traffic is worth money.

     The arms race which has placed the emphasis on capturing users centers on driving the internet user to a specific search engine or placing ads based upon the individual user. Over the next 18-24 months internet users will continue to be bombarded with browser updates and setting controls which will ultimately customize the browser to the individual. Everything from favorites to stored passwords and settings will be used to place ads in front of the internet browser based upon their lives. We are often asked how the browser could possibly know who the user is or how the browser would know what ads to place.

     Much was made in March about the changes Google made to its privacy policy. One of the effects the change in the privacy policy caused was to allow Google to crawl and catalog all of the content of emails inside any Gmail account. Google uses the content of your emails to place ads which the search engine believes you will find relevant. The Chrome browser will also know who the user is based upon the login information used for the Google account. If you are curious to see the difference run a search in Google and Bing as you would normally then open a new tab and in chrome go “incognito” or in explorer choose tools “In Private Browsing” then run the same search and see if the results differ. The first results are customized to you while the incognito or private browser results are generic. The driving force behind this current change is the advertising revenue associated with the individual users. Internet users should be aware that nothing is free. Almost every free application is created in order to capture internet traffic and user data which can be used to sell advertisements or sold for soliciting purposes.

     Internet users should be aware of the changes in progress and work to maintain updates and learn about browser customization in order to maximize their internet experience. Anyone who is considering building a website should be aware of the changes in browsers, the differences, and the effect these have upon the site. When testing a site look at the site on as many devices and browsers as possible in order to best reach your targets markets, and know that the browsers and views will continue to shift in the coming years.

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