Following what might appear to be a trend for names associated with mysterious sea creatures, Microsoft’s Live Labs today announced the availability of a technology preview for its DeepFish project. Incidentally, Microsoft’s On10.net technology-enthusiast site who hyped up this announcement two days prior took a good beating.
When you try to understand what exactly is DeepFish, the first thing that springs to mind is the Apple iPhone, which also has an intuitive web-browser built around the zoom functionality. But credit where credit is due, Microsoft has actually been developing DeepFish for a while, surfacing December last year before quickly diving into the void unknown again. It’s not so much as who thought of the idea first as who has a functional product first in the market, and that winner is Microsoft.
Although when I say functional, I literally mean the bare essentials. Don’t be fooled by the number of dots. It’s kind of weird to see “URL address bar navigation” and “links navigation” in a features list for a web-browser, but I’m also glad they had time to build in a viewport to view the web page for this beta release, as a web browser without a viewport could have been disastrous.
For anyone who’s used a browser in a screen resolution smaller than most website logos, you know how frustrating it can be and how much of a godsend this is. Let me say this even though I don’t own a Windows Mobile, this is the holy grail of internet browsing on a mobile. Regardless of whether or not Microsoft is the first to do this, this technology should be in every small-screen device no matter what brand it is.
The technology that makes DeepFish tick is interesting. It first renders a image of the webpage you request, scales it down to fit the resolution of your device, then sends it down to you. If you want to read or interact with certain parts of the webpage, you’ll have to zoom-in to render the real page. What this means is that between you and any web server, lies Microsoft. Opera has a similar service for its Opera Mini browser where it resizes and optimizes images when you access any webpage through their browser. Both of these techniques carry significant performance enhancements, but also legal and ethical issues.
Granted no one will or should be looking at these processes, but you can never trust the government. One day, the NSA might suspect you of conducting terrorism activities from your Treo – like every good techno-terrorist do, sends a court order to Microsoft, and they starts tracking your every move. Even if you’re not a PDA-phobic terrorist, you might just be bankrupt, but you’re checking out the 6 figures in your Swiss bank account. In that sense, it’s like someone’s always peeking over your shoulder, but you don’t know that they’re even there, so you can’t cover it up with Disney.com.
Until that day, this is the coolest thing to ever come to internet on mobile phones!