If you’re reading this on a PC, it’s probably on Google Chrome or Firefox — the two most popular browsers on Windows that Mashable readers use. It’s a telling example about how most tech-savvy Windows users don’t use the default browser on their machines, Internet Explorer. But how’s that going to change when Windows 8 launches later this year?
Windows 8, as you may know, has two modes: the familiar desktop, and the all-new Metro interface (for a primer on Windows 8, check out this link). Metro differs from traditional Windows in many ways, but one of the ways that’s not often talked about is that Microsoft will have final say over what apps run on it, since Windows 8 users will only be able to download Metro apps from the Windows Store.
With such ironclad control over the new operating system, would Microsoft even allow other web browsers to run in Metro? The answer is yes, and Mozilla is already hard at work developing the Metro version of Firefox, one of the company’s developers revealed on his personal blog. He also revealed a little tidbit: Browser apps will work somewhat differently than other Metro apps.
Mozilla engineer Brian R. Bondy says there are three types of Windows 8 apps: those that run solely in the classic desktop, Metro apps, and Metro-enabled browsers for the desktop. It’s the last one that Metro versions of Firefox (and presumably Google Chrome) will be.
Bondy references a Microsoft white paper that says Metro-style browsers aren’t completely confined to the Metro environment. That means, as Bondy describes, that the browser can be just as powerful as its desktop equivalent, with the ability to multitask, download files in the background and render web-based HTML5 apps in their entirety.
That’s because, if Internet Explorer 10 is any indication, that the browser is essentially the same animal whether it’s running in the desktop or Metro — it’s only the user interface that’s different. Still, that involves quite a bit of coding, and Bondy says it’s a “very large project.”
There’s a catch, though: For a browser to run in Metro, the user must pick it as the default browser. That likely won’t be an issue for most fans of Firefox and Chrome, but it does mean you won’t be able to have multiple browsers open in Metro.
BONUS: A Tour of Windows 8
Here’s what greets you every time you log into your Windows 8 machine. Yes, the tiles are customizable, though it’s a little unwieldy in practice.
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