“Recommended browser for the new WordPress”? AVANT

Open letter to Che Anderson at Avant Force, makers of Avant and Orca browsers:

You have a serious image problem! I operate my own self-built website, and every time I make any change I bench-test the site on the most popular browsers:

Avant is the only one, and I mean the ONLY one, that captures every detail of every single page perfectly, identically to Internet Explorer. The difference is, Avant is light-years faster (OK, hyperbole but I’m using it to make a point) and easier to use. Avant by default auto-opens new tabs at all the right times while you’re searching so you’re not endlessly hunting back to your starting point or wrestling with a balloon arch of multiple windows as you may with other browsers. Its Save Screen/Page/Region as Picture feature makes it simple and instantaneous to save a picture file of anything on any page, so much so that when I have a page save where quality is critical, I let Avant’s JPG-making functionality fight it out with Acrobat Professional and may the best program win. (It’s a fairly even competition at this point in the season.)  As someone who does focused backups (all working files and critical application ingredients), not full-machine backups, I appreciate things like two-click backup of bookmarks: File > Export bookmarks. This thing offers “too many features to list” and just about all of it, including tab-opening and other basics of life, is customizable.

How do the rest stack up? Of course there’s IE, the standby shipped on virtually every PC for at least the past decade and, to its credit, the only other one that hits the mark on page accuracy every time. Yet the best of the rest is Safari. Apple claims it is “lightning fast,” but after hearing that claim by others (particularly about several versions of Firefox) and being sorely disappointed, I didn’t know what to expect. WOW. Safari is scary fast, so fast that the sensation I’ve had when going back and forth between Safari and other browsers borders on the first time I tried high speed Internet and then had to drop back to dialup at a location that didn’t have a high speed link. It is that dramatic.

So far there is only one thing I don’t like about Safari, and I absolutely hate this: It won’t sort your bookmarks, which is something I badly wanted to do right after importing them from Avant. “If you want to move a bookmark, drag it to its new location,” says the helpful text, but fooling Safari into letting you drag folders, for example, to their rightful alpha locations is a nightmare and I had to craft a strategy to work around this. Which, given Safari’s extraordinary performance in every other way, is beyond ridiculous. Maybe “stupendously stupid” covers it. The other reason: Much like American Express, Safari isn’t accepted everywhere you go. For example, I tried to use Safari to make some changes to my site in GoDaddy and a popup told me Safari is not compatible with GoDaddy. Tried Safari here on WordPress and the machine went into a molasses-like slowdown. Of course, there’s nothing to stop you on most open web searches and it’s probably fine for most sites, so I recommend Safari for most of what you need to do on the web.

My testing consistently shows Chrome to be the next most accurate, then Firefox and finally Opera, but each plays its own little tricks with some pages, “misrepresenting” graphical images and layouts. After working perfectly since earlier in 2008, sometime in November, Chrome–alone among those we test–suddenly needed refused to load the Flash  plugin it suddenly needed to play the nine Flash videos that grace our site. I couldn’t believe it, sent a note to our pals at Google, got no response, and admittedly not in the interest of science, quit testing Chrome. I guess the holiday spirit hit me in early December, I decided to give Chrome one last shot in 2008…and miraculously it loaded the Flash plugin. Chrome is back!

Many sing the praises of Opera, and the usual refrain is about how fast it is. It is fairly fast, to the point that we’ve found diehard/hardcore Firefox users posting helpful hints on user communities that read, “Here’s how to make Firefox as fast as Opera” and recommending some creative workarounds to pull this off. Fascinating to me, because I’ve basically relaunched our website over the past two months, we test all browsers every time (except for my spat with Chrome), which means I’ve tested our site in Opera maybe 50 times in that span…and I learned exactly what makes Opera so fast: It uses the last/old cache for pages instead of reloading. When we bench-test each browser, Opera and Opera alone requires a refresh to actually see our current changes. In our tests Safari is faster than every other browser including Opera, and it “comes by its speed honestly”: No refresh to show current changes. Which makes me wonder: If I use Opera, for how many pages out there am I seeing up-to-the-minute content? Am I seeing older content, like when we on Earth “see stars” we are actually seeing “old starlight” that left those stars light-years ago?

The Orca browser is an interesting story. As I mentioned earlier, Avant Force crafted Orca on the Firefox codebase, which is why it naturally bears a striking resemblance to its predecessor with small differences, such as where Firefox inserts yellow into the fill-in fields on forms–a great feature that, although I have no data on this yet, must boost response–while Orca and most other browsers do not.

All of which is why I am constantly amazed, no, at this point angry, to see all the “technorati” and “intelligentsia” blogging and in the news recommending other browsers, particularly Firefox and now Chrome, and never once mentioning Avant. I see well-meaning tech articles analyzing/comparing browsers that pretty consistently compare IE-Firefox-Opera, now Chrome and sometimes Safari. Or user feedback forms with checkboxes for the other four-to-five, not Avant and no “write-in blank” on the ballot.

In a way it reminds me of the music industry, where too many critics seem to have a broad five-note range of favorites consisting of the Stones, Led Zep, Prince, Britney Spears and Madonna. As George Burns used to famously say: “It’s been done.” These are the kind of critics for whom incredibly gifted acts like Chevelle, Disturbed, Dark New Day, Anastacia and a thousand others effectively do not exist. The kind who think a multi-party democracy is just great as long as you only and ever vote for one party and within that party, a shortlist of overexposed stars.

What do we do about this, Che? You’re clearly being shut out by forces of ignorance, finance, groupthink or all three. Maybe we should begin a sincere, bona fide effort to build the Avant brand worldwide. I predict that within 18 months you could be holding the reins to the world’s #1 browser and be able to build on that for any moneymaking ventures you like including global recognition of Avant Search.

Call me. Or link to me. The world owes itself the ultimate browsing experience. Let’s give it to them.

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