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OmniWeb 5.9.2 (free)

Who cares? Seriously: who cares?

OmniWeb was designed to provide you with the best user experience you'll find in a web browser. More than just a pretty face, OmniWeb comes packed with cool features that make your time on the web more efficient and more fun.

Omni Group
Rating: (eight severely burnt toasts - double dose)


There's something inherently strange - and scary - about a bunch of programmers who rush head first into projects and let things get way out of hand until they're up to their necks in alligators and can't find the plug to pull to drain the swamp.

Omni are such a group. Their browser used to be part of the pride and joy of NeXT and Lighthouse Design. OmniWeb was the de facto browser on NeXTSTEP.

Something happened. Unless users of old were OK with constant crashes. And that's unlikely.

Seven years ago their colleagues in other software houses were still buying licenses but readily admitted they couldn't use the software because it crashed all over the place.

Going for Gopher?

Then Hyatt came from Chimera to Cupertino and surprised everyone by choosing Konqi over Gecko. And when he was ready to donate the Safari team's work on Konqi back to the public domain Omni showed up. Omni were to dump their own crash-prone rendering engine and (for free natch) use the engine Apple had worked on so hard for so long. And charge money (natch).

But the second thing people thought was 'at least they'll finally have a browser that doesn't crash all the time'. Because, after all, Safari didn't crash all the time and Omni were going to use the same engine.

But Omni fooled them all. The Rixstep lab never got the thing off the ground. Already while tweaking preferences before surfing to the first site the sorry thing went tits up.

And now Omni are up to version 5.9.2 and because of a nonexistent consumer response release the product as freeware. But freeware that still crashes all over the place is still of no value.

Can adding support for Gopher compensate for lack of usability? The Omni hype wants you to think so.

'Gopher support is something we've been working on for a long time', said Omni Group CEO Ken Case. 'Now OmniWeb users have the rare opportunity to retrieve data from other servers on the Internet without the complications of using an FTP program.'

Rare indeed: Gopher hasn't been in serious use for over 15 years. As for FTP being complicated - that's left as an exercise for the reader. Wikipedia says the following about Gopher.

As of 2008 there are approximately 125 gopher servers indexed by Veronica-2, a slow growth from 2007 when there were fewer than 100. Many of them are owned by universities in various parts of the world. Most of them are neglected and rarely updated except for the ones run by enthusiasts of the protocol. A handful of new servers are set up every year by hobbyists. 30 have been set up and added to Floodgap's list since 1999 and possibly some more that haven't been added. Due to the simplicity of the Gopher protocol, setting up new servers or adding Gopher support to browsers is often done in a tongue in cheek way, principally on April Fools' Day.

QED. So how about crashes? Does the addition of a protocol no one uses and no one wants - except as a joke - make the product any less crash-prone?

Perhaps the ultimate insult is that clicking the blue button doesn't actually send a message - it opens your mail client so you can click to send it again. Omni can't even use SMTP and the Apple message API.

Save yourself the time, trouble, and misery.

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