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Adobe Updates BrowserLab

All the different modern browsers available to Web users make for sizable challenges for Web developers, with different browsers rendering sites in different ways. That's one reason why site testing is more now critical than ever before. And to help Web site developers in their browser-testing efforts, Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE) is expanding its BrowserLab service.

Adobe BrowserLab is an online service that enables developers to test sites in multiple browsers to ensure cross-browser layout compatibility. BrowserLab debuted in June 2009, with initial participation limited to only 5,000 users and support for Firefox 2 and 3, Internet Explorer 6 and 7, and Safari 3.

BrowserLab is now being expanded to do cross browser testing on IE 8, Chrome 3, Safari 4 and Firefox 3.5. In addition, the number of users has gone up exponentially, with over 66,000 developers now using the service, according to Adobe.

"As the browser landscape grows, cross-browser designs do indeed get more difficult for designers to implement, which is why a solution like BrowserLab is relevant to keep Web designers current and informed," Scott Fegette, product manager in Adobe's Creative Solutions business unit, told InternetNews.com. "BrowserLab alleviates much of the complexity by providing fast, accurate screenshots across popular browsers."

The update is but the latest for the BrowserLab platform, which, as an online service, does not get specific versions numbers. "We've been able to release new features for BrowserLab with much more speed and agility than what has traditionally been possible with desktop applications, so that blurs the lines of a traditional release a bit," Fegette said.

Screenshots arrive, fees ahead

In addition to the expanded browser support, BrowserLab also now has added the ability for developers to take a screenshot of their site running in a particular browser and save it locally.

"Saving screenshots locally is a new feature that users have been asking for," Fegette said. "In particular, users have needed ways to share the proofs they're working on in BrowserLab with clients, peers or colleagues, and this lets them get right to the raw screenshots for further processing or sharing. We'd love to explore doing more in this respect in the future, too."

Adding the new browser support also created additional behind-the-scenes complexity for BrowserLab. Fegette said that Adobe does a lot to intelligently manage the demand on the back end. He added that Adobe also will continue to add new browser support in the future.

Those new features will ultimately come with a price tag for Web developers, however. For the last six months, BrowserLab has been available as a free service, but that is expected to change moving forward -- but not for at least a year, Adobe said.

"BrowserLab will continue to be available as a limited free preview until early 2011, at which time we do plan to turn BrowserLab into a commercial/paid service," Fegette said. "While pricing has not yet been determined, the service as a subscription is expected to be approximately $10 to $20 per month, with no limit to the number of Web pages a user could test."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.