BROWSERS, pieces of internet software that people probably spend more time with than they do in bed, have long been boring affairs. Save for occasional innovations such as tabs, these programs have remained fundamentally the same since the release of Mosaic, the first mainstream browser, nearly a quarter of a century ago. Just four browsers account for nearly all users: Apple’s Safari, Google’s Chrome, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Mozilla’s Firefox. It is difficult to tell them apart.

New, more interesting browsers have started cropping up. In August internet users will be able to download the first full version of Brave, the brainchild of a co-founder of Mozilla. Mozilla itself is working on a new type of browser which will give users suggestions on where to navigate next. Both are only the latest in a series of such efforts: last year Microsoft unveiled Edge, meant to replace Internet Explorer; March saw the release of Cliqz, a browser developed in Germany; a month later came Vivaldi.

If most browsers are boring and unwieldy, it is because they are expected to do more than ever before: not just surfing the web, but editing documents, streaming music and much more besides. As a result, priority is given to stability and ease of use. Too many fiddly buttons could scare away novice users. Innovation is outsourced to developers of...Continue reading