Although readers appreciate the thought, they don't think they need browsers that are integrated directly into the desktop, such as Microsoft's latest Internet Explorer 4.0.
Since yesterday, 59 percent of the respondents to CNET's NEWS.COM poll question, "Should the browser be the common interface for the Web and the PC?" said "no," with 41 percent in favor of having one interface to view Web pages and local files.
The new version of IE allows access to both local and global information through the browser. The new browser also can change the standard double-click interface to single-click functionality. These features are a source of convenience to some and an annoyance to others.
Many who objected to the integration were wary about depending on browsers for the majority of their computing needs. Some readers raised concerns about general browser instability, as well as the time it takes to pull up a local file on "Internet speed" instead of "processor speed."
Readers also resented that they may be forced to use Internet Explorer on their Windows-compatible computers.
"I just wanted a browser! What does wanting to look at Web pages with the latest tech have to do with changing my (somewhat) perfectly working Windows? I like my apartment just fine, thank you. I don't care if my stereo thinks it'd be more convenient if my toilet flushed automatically," wrote reader Leslie Michael Orchard.
Readers in favor of the so-called seamless interface felt that total integration between all applications is inevitable as computing becomes more about retrieving information, both from PC hard drives and Internet servers.
"The personal computer is a tool to allow us to store, process, and retrieve information. Why complicate access to information with different tools for different types of information? By integrating a Web browser into the operating system, it makes the fundamental process of accessing information consistent regardless of the type of information being retrieved," responded reader Paul Jones.
Others, like Ryan Tomayko, simply trust that the software giant knows what's best for users: "I have faith that Microsoft knows what it's doing. I'm sure they've thought long and hard about how the shell could be improved for speed, interface, and overall performance."
Tomayko was one of the exceptions, however. A majority of readers feared the browser-OS integration in IE 4.0 means Microsoft wants to limit their choices with each succession of updates. As one nervous respondent wrote: "Please do not use my name. I live too close to Microsoft."
Below are more responses submitted in NEWS.COM's latest poll:
Readers feel a little insecure
"When Microsoft removes the seams between your desktop and the Internet, it greatly increases the chances that people will inadvertently transfer what is meant to be a private, secure document on a non-private, insecure network."
"What is to keep your local data safe if local and external data are encompassed by the same interface? It is already hard enough for some users to tell what window they are in while doing simple file maintenance tasks, and right now, the worst they can really do is delete files."
"It boils down to one word: control. I know how my system works, I can fix it when it gives me problems, including editing the registry. All of this integration will probably complicate things in the registry, making my already fragile Windows 95 even more so. My CD-ROM is on the way, but if I install IE 4.0, it will be the minimum-install only. Even then, I'm going to be wondering, 'What's happening in the background without my permission?'"
Is software looking a little bloated?
"Bloated OSes masquerading as browsers sounds like a recipe for disaster and budget blowout."
"These browsers eat up too much memory, I don't want to use such a bloated piece of software to look at C:\MyDocs. It's a little bit of overkill."
"Replacing the desktop interface, which has evolved almost entirely for the better since Xerox PARC invented it with a wretched, bloated, slow, bug-ridden interface that has been designed largely to sneak advertising into my desktop wherever possible is not what I would consider an improvement."
--L. Blunt Jackson
What about the rest of the world?
"I think it will be incredibly confusing to the millions of people that really have never learned to navigate or use the Windows 95 interface to try to cope with a complete erasure of interface barriers between 'local' and 'Web' resources."
"I know users who get confused by the Documents menu options on the Win95 Start menu, and switching to a single-click will make them even more inefficient than they currently are."
What is Gates up to?
"I'm afraid I'm a bit skeptical. I think about the Bill Gates who is championing the standalone PC against the network computer. What does he do with the next release of the operating system? Focus the primary interface through the Web browser. Hmmm."
"I don't see a good reason why the browser should be the one application that takes over the interface. There are better, less intrusive ways of integrating the Internet into an interface."
Bandwidth plays an interface role
"I am in favor of viewing both local and remote files through IE 4.0. To those with 28.8-kbps or 56-kbps modems, this difference between local and remote files is obvious. However, those with higher bandwidth experience less of a gap...If access to the Internet was the same speed as that of your own computer, I believe that people would want one interface, not two, to manage their files."
"[Browser-OS integration] is a great way to educate the consumer, not because it is necessarily a better way to compute...[Browsers] may always be customizable, but nonetheless they will be there and they are well designed to make information less about location and more about the share and spread of knowledge."
"Should an Internet browser be the 'common' interface for a PC? Yes, as long as it is not the 'only' interface available freely."
"Eventually, any Java-type OS will have to have an Internet interface, such as today's browsers. Either the OS, the browser, or both need access to the local and global file systems."
"A good user interface should be designed around the data that it's accessing and not depend on where that data resides. A common Web/local interface achieves exactly that."
"Although it can be awkward the first time, once you see integrated browsing and file management demonstrated it makes immediate sense. Why minimize the browser to check space on the C: drive before downloading when you can type C:\ in the address bar, check for free space, and hit the back button, all in your browser?"
--John C. Brandy
"One interface provides a unified view of the world, which makes things simpler."