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pogo, the new 3D browser!

July 1st, 2008 by Andrea Matesi 1181 Views

I'm adding a new category on my site: reviews. Like all new things, my first review is more a "preview" than a review, and its subject is a closed beta 3D browser: the pogo browser.

Today's browsers became so popular that we may distinguish between "core"-browsers and "value-added" ones.

"Core"-browsers are more specialized on interpreting web pages and rendering them as faster as they can, their functionalities may be considered somewhat basic and somewhat current (althoug they can be extended with plugins). Examples of core browsers are Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari and Opera (and minor others).

"Value-added" browsers are built on top of core browser's engines, modified with custom stuff, redesigned UI and other hacks (when applicable). Generally you can find some ready made niche-oriented features, or simply some hacks that "core"-browsers can't offer out of the box (like Maxthon, a value-added browser built on top of the IE engine that used to offer tabs at the times of IE5). Examples of value-added browsers are Flock, Midori, or this new AT&T, Gecko-based (gecko is Firefox's engine), "valued added" pogo browser.

The main pogo browser's value added features are:

  • an exciting 3D interface for some common functions.
  • a cute lower bar, meant to represent thumbnails of open web sites.

Uhm...pogo they say? Hell, yeah!...that freaky way of jumping at gigs under your favourite bands, playin'it loud!

Imagine you were the playing band: the open browser's tabs may be considered your fans, pushing, jumping and freaking around under your cursor. That seems the driving pogo philosophy. Cool, isn't it?

So, after reading some news, I was driven at the AT&T's pogo Browser home page; after signing up with my email, the day after, I received an invitation code, to try their closed beta (thank you man behind the scenes!).

I proceeded with the Sign up process (becoming this way a registered member of their forum), and was invited to download and try their 1.1 Beta (...so as to when they open it up to public they exit with the trendy 2.0 :).

The download, for us westerners, maybe heavy: 56.4Mb (well..compared to latest Firefox, it does feel kinda heavy, but for the Japanese powered networks it could be just a matter of seconds), but consider:

  1. This is beta software.
  2. Is a value-added browser.

As soon as the download have finished, I launched the install process: the Installshield is one of the latest, so cool installer: click, click and done (user? can you hear me?).

Upon first launch, you're greeted by a wizard, it allows you to set some very basics, like importing your favorites from IE, Opera or delicious (no Firefox nor Google Bookmarks yet - weird: since it is based on Firefox, the unability to import my Bookmarks from there make me have some suspects). On a personal experience note, I keep my bookmarks on Google, so I first exported my bookmarks from Google to an HTML file, then I imported this file under IE, and then I was finally able to try and import my bookmarks inside pogo, but unfortunately this hasn't worked. I repeated the same steps switching IE with Opera 9.50 (very good browser indeed), but the results were the same: no updated bookmarks under pogo for me. Although this may sound so wrong, I must say I can''t expect everything to work: it is still a closed beta, to support this, I must say that the menu still has no function to import bookmarks, so I suppose this is still WIP (I accessed this function only from the [initial] Setup Wizard, by closing and re-opening the program).

The browsing experience is fun: the first eye candy is the bar on the lower side, where you have grouped all your open tabs. Accessing tabs this way seem efficient and straightforward, but the preview is still too much blurry: it's usefulness actually may work only on known layouts, if you were browsing a previously unknown site, you'll hardly recognize it. Switching through tabs is fine (for us all keybindings junkies, CTRL+T & CTRL+TAB works out of the box), but the close button is really annoying: I ended up killing tabs I never meant to. My search for the option to disable it, was useless, on the contrary I discovered the mouse middle button would do what you'd expect to. Another concern I had was the representation of tabs on the lower side: I wish I could move this bar on the upper side, but unfortunately no option yet.

The other eye candy feature is the vista-like representation of the Collections [of bookmarks] and the History.

The Collections is a categorized representation of Bookmarks: you are presented a stream of 3D tables, each grouping a category of your bookmarks. The concept is similar to files and folders. Take this example: the folder is "IT NEWS" and its files are "anandtech.com", "xbitlabs.com"..etc. With the scroll wheel you select your collection, after clicking on it, you are presented with a board made of your sites thumbnails. Even if this function is soooo slow, seems to be the most complete one. The only suggestion I feel I'd need, is having more than just a collection open at the same time (consider who does have a big lcd and a powerful gpu - even if it seems this is not the targeted users).

The History representation is the more crippled feature of this closed beta: it aims at representing a nice and intuitive cronological order of previously browsed pages. Here, essentially, the scroll wheel doesn't work well: the miniatures get resized up and down and their representational order respond randomly, if you fast scroll forward or backward. If you are patient and scroll slowly, you can go correctly back and forth, although the unexplainable resizing remains.

Overall, my conclusion with this browser is positive: accepting the project roughness, and the need to polish it, after some time, I think this browser may gain some consensus, especially on the younger side. It is clearly not targeted at the super-effficient power-Firefox 3.x, it seems targeted for the bored and frustrated IE user, in search of a funnier, casual, browsing experience. And don't expect to keep 60+ tabs open simultaneously, save session and reopen it up: 5 tabs are enough to cripple the computer's performance heavily.

On the OS compatibility there seems there is still a lot of work to be done. On the Windows side, I see no 64 bit version (for who cares of course); on the MAC and Linux side, if the devs choose to stick with DirectX, I see a performance hiccup on the alternatives (call it VM or wine, at least it won't be native).

If I receive the authorization to invite people to try this software, I'm gonna post it here.

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