Article: Interview with Camino Lead Mike Pinkerton

by on August 31, 2005

Last week, I had the opportunity to discuss the Camino web browser with its lead, Mike Pinkerton. He spoke about the current state of Camino, its competitors, and its future…

CaminoEric Schwarz: Briefly, what is Camino for those who are unfamiliar with it?

Mike Pinkerton: Camino is web browser for Mac OS X based on the Mozilla Gecko HTML rendering engine, which we share with Firefox. What sets us apart from Firefox is that Camino is written from the ground up to integrate with Mac OS X, in both style and functionality. We support Spotlight,
Bonjour, Keychain, Address Book, and a variety of other Mac OS X
technologies.

Eric: How did Safari’s release affect you guys?

Mike: Of course it was a big blow to morale. Anything that ships as part of the OS, especially with an Apple logo, is a formidable opponent.
However, it primarily served to justify our existence. In a world of
kitchen-sink browsers, people were clamoring for one that was simple,
fast, lean, and easy to use. Both Safari and Camino follow the design
ideal that “less is more” and users are responding very positively.

Eric: Many people are sticking with the version of Safari that came with
Tiger, merely because of its RSS features – has the thought of some
sort of RSS addition to Camino be kicked around?

Mike: Yes, it’s been kicked around a lot. What we need to do is figure out the “right way” to integrate the functionality with a web browser. Do they
belong together or are they separate? Apple is gambling that they belong
together. I’m not so certain. While providing access to the feed from
within the browser would be useful in aiding user discovery, whether or
not the reader UI should be present in the browser, or in an external
app dedicated to that purpose, is an open question. In keeping with the
“keep it simple” mindset, an external application seems a better choice
to me.

With limited development resources, we have to prioritize else we run
the risk of “death by a thousand paper cuts”. I get a lot of feedback
for RSS inclusion, which is why it’s on our radar at all. However, we
have to be very careful not to act simply because our competition has a
flashy new feature.

Eric: With the introduction of FireFox, what kind of “sibling rivalry” has there been, especially with FireFox getting lots of press?

Mike: There’s been a lot of “feature borrowing” between the two apps, as would be expected since I spend a lot of time talking with the Firefox
architects. Firefox is certainly the Mozilla Foundation’s focus for
press and marketing, and that causes some friction from time to time,
but nothing we can’t handle. The Foundation has been very supportive
overall.

Eric: As FireFox has the Thunderbird email client as a companion, has
there ever been the thought of adding a companion email program for
Camino?

Mike: Nope. We want to spend all of our time improving Camino and leave the email space to another group of enterprising open source developers.

Eric: What’s expected for future versions, especially the fast-approaching 1.0 release?

Mike: We’re accelerating the timetable on 1.0 because we realized, egos aside, it really is ready. Developers see every blemish, every bug, everything
that’s not quite perfect. We have this very distorted perception of our
own software. The end user, however, generally doesn’t see 99% of the
things we worry about. It’s time for us to finally step up and plant the
1.0 flag. Camino has been ready for a while, but now we’re finally ready
to admit it to ourselves.

If you’ve used the 0.9alpha builds, you’ve already seen most of what
will be in 1.0: improved bookmarks and history, improved speed and
reliability, faster back/forward performance, a totally new tab widget
for tabbed browsing, global history in the menubar, ad blocking,
additional prefs for things like keeping the tab bar open and
auto-hiding the download window, Spotlight integration, pause/resume of
downloads, and the list goes on (and on, and on…). We really took
everyone’s feedback to heart and smoothed out a lot of the rough edges.

Eric: Many comparisons have been drawn between Camino and Adium, as their toolbar icons were done by the same person, they have similar-looking
tabs, and are competing against built-in applications on OS X – how
do you feel about trying to keep up and even outdo Apple?

Mike: It’s certainly a challenge, but I think we’re up for it. Primarily, I see our role (both Camino’s and Adium’s) as keeping Apple honest. Our existence and continued success forces them to continue to innovate.
Even if Apple outshines us on the feature front, Mac users as a whole
benefit from these innovations. In turn, this draws more users to the
Mac OS platform. As a Mac user of 20 years, I don’t care if they use my
app or someone else’s just as long as Apple stays around to keep making
great hardware and software.

A big thanks goes out to Mike Pinkerton for taking the time out of his busy schedule to share his thoughts with us. You can find out more about the Camino browser at caminobrowser.org.

This post has been filed in Articles and Interviews