And the programmers are following users to the browser to deliver functionality in the main place users expect to find it these days. Here are 10 reasons why the browser is now king.
Browser as ultimate OS reason No. 1: The rise of vast, rich Web applications
Gmail is one example of the thousands of large programs that regularly run in our browsers. Many let us do the lion's share of tasks once left to native applications. There are integrated development environments (Codio, Cloud 9, and more), image editing packages (AIE, among others), and plenty of HTML5 games (see below). The browser is not limited to static documents and filling out forms.
A long time ago, people would point to the standard apps for reading mail or editing photos and say, "Can your browser do that?" Now the answer is yes.
Browser as ultimate OS reason No. 2: Easy extensibility via plug-ins
Browser as ultimate OS reason No. 3: Its open source foundation
There are many different meanings loaded into the phrase "open source," and the browser illustrates one of the most influential. The Web's languages have always been easy to understand -- at least compared to native binary codes -- and when the early developers included the "view source" option, they made it easy for programmers to learn from each other.
Openness encourages innovation, and this is one of the biggest reasons we've seen the browser layer swell with so many clever additions. Building software for the browser layer is easier, encouraging more work to be done there. The pace of innovation is blinding because good ideas are emulated and improved quickly. Everyone can learn from everyone else's work, then teach everyone in return. This feature alone has created so many programmers that it should be considered a national treasure by those committees in Washington who are always campaigning to create more STEM students.
Browser as ultimate OS reason No. 4: Metaprogramming
Openness doesn't just mean the source code is available for others to copy, revise, and extend -- it also applies to the data in the browser right now. Some software packages like Greasemonkey make it possible to write software that runs on top of the software running on a Web page. Greasemonkey can reach right into the Web page code and resize an element, change a variable, or rewrite the text itself. It's like open source coding in real time.