RB Pain Point #4: Web Browser Control

First, let’s point out that RS never said that the HTMLviewer control was meant to be a web browser control.  It is, however, what a lot of us want to use it as.

On Windows, the HTMLview uses Internet Explorer, on the Mac it uses webkit and on Linux it uses LibGTKHTML.  While this makes a certain amount of sense for their respective platforms it doesn’t for cross-platform use because the differences are exasperating and difficult (if not impossible) to work around.  What works great on Mac OS X causes OLE exceptions on Windows.  What draws properly on Windows does not on the Mac and there seems to be some serious issues on Linux with handling modern HTML properly.  I had to rewrite an application in Visual Basic 6 last fall because of constant crashes in the htmlviewer.

So is there a solution?  Obviously RS has heard the complaints.  Stability has improved but the cross-platform oddities continue.  Perhaps the best way to solve the cross-platform problem is to use a cross-platform solution.  Webkit (Safari and iTunes) and Gecko (Firefox) are both cross-platform and is being used by many developers.

It is my opinion that a true web browser control is a necessary (perhaps even critical) component in todays web-enabled world.  The current htmlviewer isn’t good enough for most users and thus is an impediment rather than an asset to REALbasic.

How easy is this to add into REALbasic?  I have no idea, but when I queried a few people that would know the answer they said it was possible to do so.  It would, however, potentially add an additional 14 to 20 megabytes to a built application.  That seems like a lot but for some developers having a stable web browser would be worth the additional size.  For some it would not and I don’t know what to do to help those developers.

In June of 2008 I asked this same question in a post and even posed the possibility of helping fund the development of a true web browser plugin.  No one took me up on it then.

If RS cannot do it, then perhaps it’s time for a 3rd party to do it.  If you feel that this is an important addition to REALbasic what would you be willing to pay for a true stable, cross-platform web browser?  Thoughts?