Tireless and timeless software commentator Dave Winer recently declared that “web browsers are done. Feature complete.” His point is that product categories stop evolving, and when they reach that point of maturity, all that's left are the occasional tweaks to maintain compatibility with the latest platforms.
I don't know if I agree.
In my experience, such maturity is more often a sign of a lack of imagination and ingenuity. In 2004, there was a general sense that web-based mapping was “done.” Mapquest and Yahoo! Maps had pretty much stopped evolving, and users seemed happy enough. And then Google Maps erupted on the scene, and demonstrated that not only was mapping not done, it really had only begun.
Winer points out that word processors and spreadsheets were finished 20 years ago. But then how do you explain Google Docs? Realtime collaboration is a significant new feature that fundamentally changes how we use those tools. Who knows how else they might evolve?
Adaptive Path was involved in thinking of a future for web browsers (working with Mozilla no less!), one that goes far beyond where things are now. In our work, as we consider a fractured, cross-platform, cross-device reality, it seems to me that while web browsers have been around a while (over 15 years!), there's still plenty of opportunity to productively evolve them. And I do not doubt that someone will.