Bringing a new dimension to web browsing

27 03 2008

SpaceTime Logo

After BumpTop’s appearance at TED with the 3D Desktop where you can bump things around, I became skeptical of applications that attempt to turn traditionally 2D interfaces 3D with fancy animations, special effects and features at the expense of usability. When I came across SpaceTime on Mixx, I was adverse to trying it out but upon watching the YouTube videos I decided to give it a try.

What is SpaceTime?
SpaceTime is a web browser that introduces a new dimension to web browsing with the “hope” of enhancing the user experience. For starters, lets check out the interface.

The first thing I did when I started using SpaceTime was search for myself using the built-in Google search located on the top right of the screen. This generated a bunch of result “windows” arranged in a queue.

The first window which you can see in the picture is the list of results returned by Google followed by the subsequent result link pages behind. For me this was kind of cool because I didn’t have to open new tabs for each result I wanted to view and could easily switch between screens by clicking the next button located at the bottom. This “queue” you’re looking at now shows only the results for the first page (e.g: The first 10 results). If you want to view results from the next page, you click Next Set and another “queue” will be built for you to browse.

If you don’t like the panel at the bottom, there is a “portable” remote control which you can drag and drop around your screen. Refer to image below.

(Hint: Try walking around your canvas with arrow keys. Its like walking in a 3D world 😀)

A unique feature of this browser is representing different types of information in different ways from how your typical browser would. For example, if you’re a YouTube fan, you can select the YouTube search option located on the top right of the screen. A “queue” displaying ONLY the videos instead of video pages will be generated.

If you choose the Ebay search option, the results will be displayed as only images which sort of give users the impression of “window shopping”. The way YouTube and Ebay results are displayed really impressed me because it really enhanced my experience browsing on these 2 sites.

Lets get to the bad now, shall we?
So after getting over my amazement with the aesthetics, cool “Apple-like” displays and the interesting way search results are presented, I started using it on a daily basis. What I did was abandon Firefox (and IE which I rarely use) entirely and used SpaceTime for all of my web browsing needs.

TOO MANY new windows loading
At first I had quite a bit of fun experiencing all the special effects but after a while, I realized that I was doing things MUCH SLOWER than back on Firefox. I couldn’t have the window I was looking at go to a new website address. Everytime I typed in a new address, SpaceTime would zoom out and load a new screen behind the screen I was viewing. I had to literally click “Previous” to get back to the screen I was viewing before and click the “X” button to close it. In other words, if I kept entering website addresses more new windows will open.

Note: They claim to bring a new dimension to tab browsing by creating new windows in a “queue” but it is slower and rather inconvenient.

STOP eating my memory
As with most 3D web applications, SpaceTime eats your memory. How bad is it? Well lets just say when I’m running Firefox, my memory consumption is between 2% – 5%. With SpaceTime? 87%!!! That is a lot of memory. Almost equal to playing hardcore 3D games.

Nifty features diminished
With slower response and less memory, the nifty YouTube and Ebay browsing features and special effects become a burden rather than a blessing. You would wish they were non-existent. Try watching a YouTube video with 87% memory consumption and you would know what I’m talking about.

Zooming in and out
One thing smart SpaceTime did was allow users to have the conventional 2D view of their screens by maximizing their windows. This brought back the typical feel of a browser while increasing the response time. However, this only works for one window at a time. If you were to open a link or a pop-up window, SpaceTime would zoom right back out into the “3D view” mode before moving you to the new window. Again, back to the earlier problem of slow response and high memory consumption.

Conclusion…
After using it for a few days, I gave up and reverted back to Firefox and trust me, I was so relieved to be using Firefox again. There are many other little bugs within SpaceTime but the ones I listed are the major points that may have the potential to drive your blood pressure up.

Although it will take a few more versions before SpaceTime replaces current conventional 2D browsers, I have to give a thumbs up to the developers for making a USABLE 3D application. It is a good step towards showing that 3D applications with cool aesthetics can be useful (unlike Bumptop).

For a comprehensive demo review, check out this video by the guys at PCMech:

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2 responses

27 03 2008
rockjianrock

It’s like Vista on Aero. Bloating up memory and processor power. Geez, I don’t need an OS or a browser that needs an triple core CrossfireX overclocked nitrogen-cooled grafix card to run well.

27 03 2008
bitbot

Haha yea I can’t agree more. Somehow I don’t understand why most of these 3D applications consume so much memory, almost as much as games :(.

You don’t really need a super graphic card or a lot of RAM for it to run smoothly, just something slightly above the norm. But yea, once you’re running it you pretty much can’t run anything else smoothly like watching YouTube videos…ZZzzZZZzzz…

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