Maxthon: A history of few major releases, many big changes

historyIt all started with a small, relatively unknown browser named MyIE in 1999, that was then renamed to Maxthon (version 1) on 2003, from there, a journey of exciting features additions, dramatic features omissions and lots and lots of forum posts followed, until 14 years later, when the latest version of Maxthon – version 4- was released. Just 4 major releases? I wonder what would happen If chrome developers created Maxthon. Hmmm..

Nevermind, this isn’t interesting. You are not reading this for a history lesson full of material copied from wikipedia, are you? What’s really interesting is how the developers of Maxthon managed to survive all the widely-changing world of technology without being left in the dark corner of irrelevance. A feat achieved only by a few number of applications.

At first, Maxthon was basically an “IE Shell”, a word usually used describing Internet Explorer based browsers back in the days of IE popularity, Maxthon 1 (Maxthon Classic) is an extended version of a browser that has its open source freely available to anyone, this lead to multiple browsers looking mostly like what Maxthon classic looks like, except for minor difference. With Maxthon 2, the IE engine dependence was kept, but a completely new GUI and a start from scratch was planned. This makes sense, as IE dominance was still pretty obvious, the complete recreation was met with resistance from the community, as Maxthon 2 was bare-bones compared to classic (The whole “where are the features of the previous release” dilemma sounds familiar, right?)

The Good Old Logo for the first major release of Maxthon, the nostalgia is overbearing!

The Good Old Logo for the first major release of Maxthon, the nostalgia is  overwhelming! Quick Trivia: Maxthon Classic Included Basic Support for Gecko.

And then came Maxthon 3, promising both IE and webkit powered browsing. It’s interesting how Maxthon developers chose to use webkit. Despite the popularity of Firefox back then and the interest in the gecko engine (firefox’s rendering engine), it turned out to be a wise decision; as webkit is pretty much the most used engine nowadays for browsing the web from multiple devices. And the interest in webkit is huge, proved by how Opera is going to use webkit rather than their own in-house browser Presto on new updates.

But recently a new version surfaced, that majorly focuses on a technological buzz-word called “Cloud Computing”, Maxthon 4 didn’t just keep your bookmarks, settings and other things uploaded to Maxthon’s server as previous versions and many other browsers, it included files sync and pushing all sort of files across devices and to the…well… the cloud. Is it a gimmick? Would it work? Does a browser even need this? Questions, questions! At first, I was skeptical, who seriously needs dropbox integrated into their browser when every self-respecting cloud service allow a folder that sync with other devices and you that you can just download files into?

Notice: Feature Advertisement may not reflect the reality accurately. No monitor-heads are actually involved in files "pushing".

Notice: Feature Advertisement may not reflect the reality accurately. No monitor-heads are actually involved in files “pushing”.

Well, it turned to be more than that, as a concept, it’s nothing short of brilliant, and it fits perfectly with an internet browser. Let me explain why:

Cloud computing to me, is at its best when it’s about no-messing-around unification of data across multiple devices, whether mobile or not, Your data are safe as they are backed up and they are the same on any device whatever their location, type or connectivity method. The data should also be available both online and offline. Maxthon succeeds in tying this concept with browsing in a seamless way, a first for multi-platform browsers. Beyond continuing to browse from exactly where you left on any other device, which is available in other browsers, pushing interesting links to other devices, which is the basic idea behind the service “pocket”, almost becomes a device-dependent temporary bookmark feature that is difficult to implement in any other way without multiple steps and tools.

Also pushing files to other devices makes sense for a browser, as it’s just right there, one checkbox-tick away in the new download dialog box, no cluttered sync folders necessary, the file is right there on your mobile device with no digging to a certain folder or place. This may seem like a small, simple feature but it significantly change your workflow in a way that you won’t believe how you never relied on it before. It doesn’t get in the way, it doesn’t ask too many questions, it just there, in your built-in download manager. Just for this device if you chosen to do so, something that needs multiple different folders if done using a sync cloud service.

You may want a mute button on the next maxthon version, or a global ad hunter block list (I do too, to be honest), but you can’t help but appreciate the drastic (and sometimes controversial) changes that Maxthon developers are embracing. What would the future hold for Maxthon? Would Maxthon 5 make you breakfast or do the dishes? we have to wait and see.

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