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    Wow. Microsoft engineer complains about “some seemingly anti-competitive practices done by Google’s Chrome team”. Now that is some piquant irony.

    Also, the page’s YouTube video appears to be blocked. Icing on the cake?

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      …one of the reasons we decided to end EdgeHTML was because Google kept making changes to its sites that broke other browsers, and we couldn’t keep up…

      I can appreciate the shadenfreude of Microsoft’s new position, but this is a pretty legitimate concern. Especially if Google is/was doing that intentionally. What we need is a good incentive for Google to care about web standards and performance in non-Chrome browsers, but this move by Microsoft only drives things in the opposite direction.

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        I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but I am almost never able to complete reCaptchas in Firefox, it just keeps popping up ridiculous ones, like traffic lights that are on the border of three squares, and it keeps popping the same unsolvable ones for 2-3 minutes until I get tired/locked out of it and just use Chrome to log in, where somehow I always get sane ones and it lets me in first try. Anyone had the same?

        This video sums it up very well, although not Firefox specific: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGW7TRtcDeQ

        (Btw I don’t use Tor, or public VPNs or any of the like.)

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          This is known to happen: Blocking via an unsolvable CAPTCHA.

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            Ha! Thanks for this, I won’t keep trying anymore :)

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          Especially if Google is/was doing that intentionally.

          I disagree that intention has anything to do with it. We have to judge these kinds of situations by the effect they have on the web, not on good feelings.

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            Spot on. Intent only matters when it is ill. Even if not intended, the outcome is what matters materially.

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              One reason intention matters: if the intention is to handicap edge, then it’s probably not serving some other purpose that’s good for all of us. If handicapping edge is a side-effect of some real benefit, that’s just a fact about the complexity of the web (it might still be a bad decision, but there are trade-offs involved).

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              OK, let’s put aside the schadenfreude as best we can and examine the consequences. I think it’s fair to assume, for the sake of argument, that Alphabet Inc absolutely will do everything in its power, dirty tricks included, to derive business value from it’s pseudo-monopolist position. If Microsoft were to dig in their heels and ship a default browser for their desktop OS that didn’t play YouTube videos as well as Chrome does, would that harm Alphabet, or just Microsoft at this point?

              I don’t really understand your talk of “a good incentive”. Think of it this way: what incentive did Google, an advertising company, ever have to build and support a web browser in the first place? How did this browser come to its current position of dominance?

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                Google built a web browser because Microsoft won the browser wars and did nothing with IE for 10 years.

                Their entire suite of products were web based and their ability to innovate with those products was severely hampered by an inadequate platform.


                Chrome was revolutionary when it was released and many of the web technologies we take for granted today could never have happened without it.

                I’m not entirely thrilled with everything it led too but whatever their motives now, Google had good reasons to build Chrome in the first place.

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                  I’m sure whichever visionaries were at Google at that point had great reasons to build Chrome. But Google isn’t the same company anymore, and Chrome doesn’t mean what it once meant.

                  “You could not step twice into the same river.” —Heraclitus

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                    That’s certainly ONE factor. The other is that Chrome by default makes “address bar” and “search bar” the same thing, and sends everything you type into the search bar to Google.

                    Same as Google Maps, or Android as a whole. I often navigate with Google Maps while driving. The implication is that Google knows where I live, where I work, where I go for vacation, where I eat, where I shop. This information has a monetary value.

                    If there is something Google does that is not designed to collect information on it’s users that can be turned into ad revenue, that something will eventually be shut down.

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                      “This information has a monetary value.”

                      Exactly. They are trying to build accurate profiles of every aspect of people and businesses’ existences. Their revenue per user can go up as they collect more information for their profiles. That gives them an incentive to build new products that collect more data, always by default. Facebook does same thing. Revenue per user climbed for them year after year, too. I’m not sure where the numbers are currently at for these companies, though.

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                      Google built a web browser because Microsoft won the browser wars and did nothing with IE for 10 years.

                      No, that was Mozilla. They together with Opera were fighting IE’s stagnation and by 2008 achieved ~30% share which arguably made Microsoft notice. Chrome was entering the world which already was multi-browser at that point.

                      Also, business-wise Google needed Chrome as a distribution engine, it has nothing to do with fighting browser wars purely for the sake of users.

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                        I’m not entirely sure what you mean by a distribution engine. For ads? Or for software?

                        I think business motives are extremely hard to discern from actions. I think you could make the argument that Google has been trying for years to diversify their business, mostly unsuccessfully, and around 2008 maybe they envisioned office software (spreadsheets, document processing, etc) as the next big thing. GMail was a surprise hit, and maybe they thought they could overthrow Microsoft’s dominance in the field. But they weren’t about to start building desktop software, so they needed a better browser to do it.

                        Or maybe they built it so that Google would be the default search engine for everyone so they could serve more ads?

                        Or maybe some engineers at Google really were interested in improving performance and security, built a demo of it, and managed to convince enough people to actually see it through?

                        I realize the last suggestion may sound helplessly naive, but having worked as an engineer in a company where I had a lot of say in what got worked on, my motives were often pretty far afield of any pure business motive. I got my paycheck regardless, and sometimes I fixed a bug or made something faster because it annoyed me. I imagine there are thousands of employees at Google doing the same thing every day.

                        Regardless, the fact remains that the technology they built for Chrome has significantly improved the user experience. The reason Chrome is now so dominant is because it was better. Much better when compared to something like IE6.

                        And even ChromeOS is better than the low-price computing it competes with. Do you remember eMachines? They were riddled with junk software and viruses rendering them almost completely useless. A 100$ Chromebook is such a breath of fresh air compared to that experience.

                        I realize there’s a cost to this, and I get why there’s a lot of bad press about Google, but I don’t think we need to rewrite history about it. I think we’re all better off with Google having created Chrome (even if I don’t agree with many of the things they’re doing now).

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                          The reason Chrome is now so dominant is because it was better.

                          There are two reasons why Chrome became so dominant:

                          • Google makes deals with OEMs to ship Chrome by default on the new desktops and laptops. Microsoft cannot stop them because of historical antitrust regulations.

                          • Google advertised Chrome on their search page (which happens to be the most popular web page in the world) whenever someone using another browser visited it. It looks like they’ve stopped, though, since I just tried searching with Google from Firefox and didn’t get a pop-up.

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                      The incentive to play fair would come from Google not wanting to lose the potential ad revenue from users of non-Chrome browsers due to them deliberately sabotaging their own products in those browsers. Not trying to imply that EdgeHTML was the solution to that problem or that it would somehow be in Microsoft’s best interest to stick with it, just that its loss is further cementing Google’s grip on the web and that’s a bad thing.

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                        All the user knows is “browser A doesn’t seem to play videos as good as browser B”. In general they can’t even distinguish server from client technologies. All they can do about it, individually, is switch browsers.

                        Now that Alphabet has cornered the market, their strategy should be obvious. It’s the same as Microsoft’s was during the Browser Wars. The difference is, Alphabet made it to the end-game.

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                          The end game being anti-trust action? I’m not following your line of argument. Are you examining that particular consequence?

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                            The antitrust case against Microsoft ended up with not much happening, and that was 18 years ago. Do you have much confidence that there is likely to be an effective antitrust action against Google?

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                              I’m not the one making a case here.

                              Your interpretation[1][2] of how a single historical case went doesn’t change the fact that antitrust action is bad for a company’s long-term prospects and short-term stock price. The latter should directly matter to current leadership. Companies spend a reasonable amount of time trying to not appear anti-competitive. @minimax is utterly ignoring that consequence of “dirty tricks”.

                              [1] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/18/opinion/microsoft-antitrust-case.html illustrates the opposite perception. [2] https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2010/09/the-eternal-antitrust-case-microsoft-versus-the-world is more balanced, and points out the effect of the lawsuit on Microsoft PR, leadership focus and product quality.

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                            What makes Chrome’s position more of an end-game than what IE had in the early 2000s?

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                              You’re looking at it wrong. The question you really need to consider is:

                              What makes Google’s position more of an end-game than what Microsoft had in the early 2000s?

                              Microsoft was the dominant OS player, but the Internet itself was undergoing incredible growth. What’s more, no one existed solely within what’s Microsoft provided.

                              Today, the Internet is essentially the OS for many (most?). People exist in a fully vertically integrated world built by Google - operating system, data stored in their cloud, documents written on their editor and emails sent through their plumbing… all of it run by the worlds most profitable advertising company, who just built themselves mountains of data to mine for better advertisements.

                              Microsoft in the 00’s could only dream of having that.

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                                Your assessment of Google today strikes me as not completely unreasonable, although it does neglect the fact that only a small fraction of Internet users live so completely in Google’s stack; I suspect far more people just use Android and Chrome and YouTube on a daily basis but don’t really use Gmail or GSuite (Docs, etc.) very frequently, instead relying on WhatsApp and Instagram a lot more.

                                And back in the 2000s there were definitely a large group of people who just used Windows, IE, Outlook, Hotmail, MSN & MS Office to do the vast majority of their computing. SO it’s not as different as you seem to believe. Except now there are viable competitors to Google in the form of Facebook & Apple in a way that nobody competed with MS back then.

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                                  SO it’s not as different as you seem to believe.

                                  It’s incredibly different.

                                  When I used IE5 Microsoft’s tactic was to bundle it with Windows and use Microsoft-specific APIs to boost its performance, killing Netscape. If I used Chrome today, I’d find dark UI patterns are used to ensure my data is captured.

                                  Similarly, Office/Outlook/Windows in 2000 didn’t mine the files I was working on to enrich an advertising profile that would follow me across the internet. If memory serves, while Hotmail did serve advertisements, they were based on banner advertisements / newsletters generated by Microsoft, and not contextually targeted.

                                  The real risk here, I believe, is in both the scope and ease of understanding what’s happening today versus what Microsoft did. Microsoft’s approach was to make money by being the only software you run, and they’d use any trick they could to achieve that - patently anticompetitive behavior included.

                                  Google, on the other hand… at this point I wonder if they’d care if 90% of the world ran Firefox as long as the default search engine was Google. I think their actions are far more dangerous than those of Microsoft because they are much wider reaching and far more difficult for regulators to dig into.

                                  I suspect far more people just use Android and Chrome and YouTube on a daily basis but don’t really use Gmail or GSuite (Docs, etc.) very frequently, instead relying on WhatsApp and Instagram a lot more.

                                  Even if we take that as a given, this means most people are sending:

                                  • their location
                                  • the videos and pictures from their phone’s camera
                                  • their search history
                                  • a list of content they watched

                                  up to Google.

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                                    Your assessment that Chrome is only a means to an end, the end being to have people continue using Google’s web search, seems dead on. But then you follow that up with a claim that doesn’t seem to logically follow at all.

                                    The reach of Google now relative to Microsoft 15 years ago is lower as a fraction of total users; it only seems higher because the absolute number of total users has grown so much.

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                                      Doesn’t this depend on how you define a “user”, though? Google has a grip on search that would be the envy of IBM back in the day. Android is by far the most popular operating system for mobile phones, if not for computing devices writ large. They pay for Mozilla because they can harvest your data through Firefox almost as easily as via Chrome, and they prop up a competitor, in case the US DOJ ever gets their head out of their ass and starts to examine the state of the various markets they play in.

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                                        Depends on how narrowly you define “search” too; Do you include all the searches people conduct directly on Amazon or Facebook or Siri?

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                                        The reach of Google now relative to Microsoft 15 years ago is lower as a fraction of total users; it only seems higher because the absolute number of total users has grown so much.

                                        Android’s global smartphone penetration is at 86% in 2017[1]. And while the “relative reach” might be lower, the absolute impact of the data being Hoovered up is significant. In 2000, annual PC sales hit 130 million per the best figures I could find[2] … that’s less than a tenth of smartphone sales in 2017 alone.

                                        What does it matter that Google’s relative reach is lower when they control nearly 9/10 smartphones globally and proudly boast over two billion monthly active devices?

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                                          The level of control isn’t directly comparable. Microsoft sold Windows licenses for giant piles of money while Google licenses only the Play Store and other apps that run on Android. Android in China is a great example of the difference, although I guess Microsoft probably lost revenue (but not control over the UX) there via piracy.

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                            Think of it this way: what incentive did Google, an advertising company, ever have to build and support a web browser in the first place?

                            Is this a real question asked in good faith? Maybe it’s just been a long day but I really can’t tell.

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                              I was going for Socratic. You’re quite welcome to assume anything you like about the goodness of my faith.

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                                Got it - always happy to play along with Mr. Socrates ;) I mostly wanted to be sure I wasn’t just biting on an obvious troll.

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                          That’s just a picture of a blocked YouTube video to emphasis their point.

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                          So, sounds like we’re well into the third E of EEE. :-(

                          We took Microsoft to court for this. Ah, the world was young then.

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                            Yes, and we didn’t manage to break the pattern, only the actor changed. What to do?

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                            Google is out-Microsofting* Microsoft.

                            *Microsoft 20 years ago, at least.

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                              If Google threatens Purism over the Librem5 using their Motorola patents, that’ll be the true Microsoft

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                              For example, they recently added a hidden empty div over YouTube videos that causes our hardware acceleration fast-path to bail

                              I’ve seen things like this over images across the web. I thought it was being done to prevent/impede right click and save. What I’d love to know is how people are supposed to develop accessibility tools around web pages that are intentionally trying to deceive web renderers; I’m guessing a lot of these sites know they’re not accessible, but business considerations take priority. Of course, that also means they can’t openly admit it.

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                                I think the whole idea of adding a div over it is that it impacts neither appearance nor accessibility, but only the render chain. Am I wrong on this—does adding a div in front of a page impair screen readers & the like?

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                                  does adding a div in front of a page impair screen readers & the like?

                                  Absolutely not.

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                                As a former YouTuber (with no current insight, nor past insight on the frontend engineering), I would be extremely surprised if it were intentional. It’s simply not how Google and especially YouTube works: although Google’s emergent behavior may sometimes work for evil, the individual engineers are mostly idealistic, and want what’s best for everyone. YouTube in particular views itself as a fairly separate entity, with much more impetus to making their product work well for their users than misguided loyalty to the Chrome team.

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                                  I thought the conspiracy theory folks were wrong. It’s looking like they were right. Google is indeed doing some shady stuff but I still think the outrage is overblown. It’s a browser engine and Microsoft engineers have the skill set to fork it at any point down the line. In the short term the average user gets better compatibility which seems like a win overall even if the diversity proponents are a little upset.

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                                    I thought the conspiracy theory folks were wrong. It’s looking like they were right. Google is indeed doing some shady stuff

                                    If it’s an organization, you should always look at their incentives to know whether they have a high likelihood of going bad. Google was a for-profit companies aiming for IPO. Their model was collecting info on people (aka surveillance company). These are all incentives for them to do shady stuff. Even if they want Don’t Be Evil, the owners typically loose a lot of control over whether they do that after they IPO. That’s because boards and shareholders that want numbers to go up are in control. After IPO’s, decent companies start becoming more evil most of the time since evil is required to always make specific numbers go up or down. Bad incentives.

                                    It’s why I push public-benefit companies, non-profits, foundations, and coops here as the best structures to use for morally-focused businesses. There’s bad things that can still happen in these models. They just naturally push organizations’ actions in less-evil directions than publicly-traded, for-profit companies or VC companies trying to become them. I strongly advise against paying for or contributing to products of the latter unless protections are built-in for the users with regards to lock-in and their data. An example would be core product open-sourced with a patent grant.

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                                      Capitalism (or if you prefer, economics) isn’t a “conspiracy theory”. Neither is rudimentary business strategy. It’s amusing to me how many smart, competent, highly educated technical people fail so completely to understand these things, and come up with all kinds of fanciful stories to bridge the gap. Stories about the role and purpose of the W3C, for instance.

                                      Having read all these hand-wringy threads about implementation diversity in the wake of this EdgeHTML move, I wonder how many would complain about, say, the lack of a competitor to the Linux kernel? There’s only one kernel, it’s financially supported by numerous mutually distrustful big businesses and used by nearly everybody, its arbitrary decisions about its API are de-facto hard standards… and yet I don’t hear much wailing and gnashing, even from the BSD folks. How is the linux kernel different than Chromium?

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                                        While I actually am concerned about a lack of diversity in server-side infrastructure, the Linux kernel benefits, as it were, from fragmentation.

                                        There’s only one kernel

                                        This simply isn’t true. There’s only one development effort to contribute to the kernel. There is, on the other hand, many branches of the kernel tuned to different needs. As somebody who spent his entire day at work today mixing and matching different kernel variants and kernel modules to finally get something to work, I’m painfully aware of the fragmentation.

                                        There’s another big difference, though, and that’s in leadership. Chromium is run by Google. It’s open source, sure, but if you want your commits into Chromium, it’s gonna go through Google. The documentation for how to contribute is littered with Google-specific terminology, down to including the special internal “go” links that only Google employees can use.

                                        Linux is run by a non-profit. Sure, they take money from big companies. And yes, money can certainly be a corrupting influence. But because Linux is developed in public, a great deal of that corruption can be called out before it escalates. There have been more than a few developer holy wars over perceived corruption in the Linux kernel, down to allowing it to be “tainted” with closed source drivers. The GPL and the underlying philosophy of free software helps prevent and manage those kinds of attacks against the organization. Also, Linux takes money from multiple companies, many of which are in competition with each other. It is in Linux’s best interest to not provide competitive leverage to any singular entity, and instead focus on being the best OS it can be.

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                                          Performance tuning is qualitatively different than ABI compatibility. Otherwise, I think you make some great points. Thanks!

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                                          If there is an internal memo at Google along the lines of “try to break the other web browsers’ perf as much as possible” that is not “rudimentary business strategy”, it’s “ground for anti-trust action”.

                                          It’s as good of a strategy as helping the Malaysian PM launder money and getting a 10% cut (which… hey might still pay off)

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                                            Main difference is that there are many interoperable implementations of *nix/SUS/POSIX libc/syscall parts and glibc+Linux is only one. A very popular one, but certainly not the only. Software that runs on all (or most) *nix variants is incredibly common, and when something is gratuitously incompatible (by being glibc+Linux or MacOS only) you do hear the others complain.

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                                              Software that runs on all (or most) *nix variants is incredibly common

                                              If by “runs on” you mean “can be ported to and recompiled without major effort”, then I agree, and you’re absolutely right to point out the other parts of the POSIX and libc ecosystem that makes this possible. But I can’t think of any software that’s binary compatible between different POSIX-ish OSs. I doubt that’s even possible.

                                              On the other side of the analogy, in fairness, complex commerical web apps have long supported various incompatible quirks of multiple vendor’s browsers.

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                                                Multiple OSs, including Windows, can run unmodified Linux binaries.

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                                              How is the linux kernel different than Chromium?

                                              As you just said it,

                                              financially supported by numerous mutually distrustful big businesses

                                              There’s no one company making decisions about the kernel. That’s the difference.

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                                                There’s no one company making decisions about the kernel. That’s the difference.

                                                Here comes fuchsia and Google’s money :/

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                                                I am disgusted with the Linux monoculture (and the Linux kernel in general), even more so than with the Chrome monoculture. But that fight was fought a couple decades ago, it’s kinda late to be complaining about it. These complaints won’t be heard, and even if they are heard, nobody cares. The few who care are hardly enough to make a difference. Yes we have the BSDs (and I use one) and they’re in a minority position, kinda like Firefox…

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                                                  How much of a monoculture is Linux, really? Every distro tweaks the kernel at least to some extent, there are a lot of patch sets for it in the open, and if you install a distro you get to choose your tools from the window manager onwards.

                                                  The corporatization of Linux is IMO problematic. Linus hasn’t sent that many angry emails percentually, but they make the headlines every time, so my conspiracy theory is that the corporations that paid big bucks for board seats on the Foundation bullied him to take his break.

                                                  We know that some kernel decisions have been made in the interest of corporations that employ maintainers, so this could be the tip of an iceberg.

                                                  Like the old Finnish saying “you sing his songs whose bread you eat”.

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                                                It’s a browser engine and Microsoft engineers have the skill set to fork it at any point down the line.

                                                I think this is true. If Google screws us over with Chrome, we can switch to Firefox, Vivaldi, Opera, Brave etc and still have an acceptable computing experience.

                                                The real concerns for technological freedom today are Google’s web application dominance and hardware dominance from Intel. It would be very difficult to get a usable phone or personal server or navigation software etc without the blessing of Google and Intel. This is where we need more alternatives and more open systems.

                                                Right now if Google or Intel wants to, they can make your life really hard.

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                                                  Do note that all but Firefox are somewhat controlled by Google.

                                                  Chrome would probably have been easier to subvert if it wasn’t open source; now it’s a kind of cancer in most “alternative” browsers.

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                                                    I don’t know. MIPS is open sourcing their hardware and there’s also RISC-V. I think the issue is that as programmers and engineers we don’t collectively have the willpower to make these big organizations behave because defecting is advantageous. Join the union and have moral superiority or be a mercenary and get showered with cash. Right now everyone chooses cash and as long as this is the case large corporations will continue to press their advantage.

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                                                      “Join the union and have moral superiority or be a mercenary and get showered with cash. Right now everyone chooses cash and as long as this is the case large corporations will continue to press their advantage.”

                                                      Boom. You nailed it! I’ve been calling it out in threads on politics and business practices. Most of the time, people that say they’re about specific things will ignore them for money or try to rationalize how supporting it is good due to other benefits they can achieve within the corruption. Human nature. You’re also bringing in organizations representing developers to get better pay, benefits, and so on. Developers are ignoring doing that more than creatives in some other fields.

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                                                        Yup. I’m not saying becoming organized will solve all problems. At the end of the day all I want is ethics and professional codes of conduct that have some teeth. But I think the game is rigged against this happening.

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                                                        I don’t think RISC-V is ready for general purpose use. Some CPUs have been manufactured, but it would be difficult to buy a laptop or phone that carries one. I also think that manufacturing options are too limited. Acceptable CPUs can come from maybe Intel and TSMC and who knows what code/sub-sytems they insert into those.

                                                        This area needs to be more like LibreOffice vs Microsoft Office vs Google Docs vs others on Linux vs Windows vs MacOS vs others

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                                                        They already are screwing us over with chrome, this occurrence is evidence of that.