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    1. 113

      Google gets its way with anything related to the Web as a platform because it has 66% marketshare. Stop using Chrome if you don’t like its unilateral decision making.

      1. 61

        I think regulation is the necessary step here. The GDPR has had real effect, this new surveillance method is in part a way for them to try to work around GDPR. Time for updated regulation.

        1. 22

          I’m in agreement. “Just switch” is not particularly reasonable. At best, in many years, that approach could start to reduce Google’s power. But it’s unlikely.

          If we want change we have to force change through regulation.

          1. 31

            Not regulation. Google must be split up.

            It’s advertising business must be kept separate from the browser AND the search.

            1. 26

              I mean, I think there should be both, plus also speaking as an ex-Google advertising privacy person, Google’s advertising businesses are, like, at LEAST four or five distinct business models which should each be separate companies. more realistically, at least a dozen.

              the current situation with Google in adtech is as if a stock exchange could also be a broker, and a company listed on the exchange, and a high-frequency trading firm, and a hedge fund, and a bank, and … well, you get the idea

              I often find it cathartic to read through legal proceedings involving my former employer. the currently-ongoing one in NY state has filings which go into some detail on legal theories that broadly agree with me about this (there’s a definition in the law of what constitutes a distinct market), so that’s nice to see. maybe someday there’ll be some real action on it.

              1. 22

                I’d also love to see an antitrust regulator look at the secondary effects from Chrome’s dominance. Google supports Chrome on a small handful of platforms and refuses to accept patches upstream that support others (operating systems and architectures). This is bad enough in making other operating systems have less browser choice (getting timely security updates is hard when you have to maintain a large downstream patch set, for example) but has serious knock-on effects because Chrome is the basis for Electron. The Electron team supports all platforms that Chrome support upstream, but they don’t support anything else (they are happy to take patches but they can’t make guarantees if their upstream won’t). This means that projects that choose Electron for portable desktop apps are locked out.

                Google did take the Fuchsia patches into upstream Chromium. A new client OS from Google doesn’t have these problems but a new client OS from anyone else will. That seems like a pretty clear example of using dominance in one market to prevent new players in another (where, via Android, they are also one of the largest players) from emerging. But I am not a lawyer.

                1. 3

                  Yes. Also, don’t forget web attestation, which may very well lock out anyone running their own OS on their own hardware.

                  1. 3

                    don’t forget web attestation

                    I was trying really hard to!

                2. 1

                  very much agreed.

            2. 13

              Wouldn’t that imply regulation, as in defining criteria about when and how to split it up (assuming that would not be a voluntary step by Google)?

              1. 6

                Splitting up Google is definitely a form of regulation. My feeling is that splitting it up is one of the forms of regulation least likely to have accidental negative consequences.

                We see the negative effects of Google being together all the time: AMP was a very ugly attempt to use the search monopoly to force a change to preserve their ad monopoly on mobile where it was being eaten away by Facebook at the price of breaking the web. More recently, the forced transition from Google Analytics Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 was something only a monopoly would do. No company that actually expected its analytics to actually make money directly would just break every API so gratuitously.

                That said, even break ups can have unexpected consequences. The AT&T break up of the 80s did lead to a telecom renaissance in the 90s, but it also fatally crippled the Unix team and led to the end of Bell Labs as a research powerhouse.

                1. 3

                  The AT&T break up of the 80s did lead to a telecom renaissance in the 90s, but it also fatally crippled the Unix team and led to the end of Bell Labs as a research powerhouse.

                  Did it? The division into RBOCs had dubious benefits for consumers, because it replaced a well-regulated national monopoly with several less regulated local monopolies. The original plan of splitting out Western Electric would have made a lot more sense (WE was getting creamed by Nortel in the switching market, breaking up the phone system messes up the balance sheet elsewhere), but AT&T execs thought computer revenue from commercializing Unix was too good.

                2. 2

                  I am not sure if breaking up ATT did any good to me as a consumer, since the only internet choices I have is ATT and Comcast! US feels like an undeveloped country with the crawling internet speeds here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

                  1. 2

                    The current “AT&T” is really Southwestern Bell, which somehow was allowed to eat all its neighbors. It is silly to let the telcos merge into a megablob a short decade after breaking them up in the first place.

              2. 2

                In the broadest sense yes, but I feel that the term has come to mean setting up rules of conduct for the regulated businesses and possibly some form of oversight. Somehow it doesn’t pop into my mind that when the large companies call for regulation, they might be actually asking to be split up. I hope I make sense.

            3. [Comment removed by author]

          2. 3

            It’s not as if the choices are mutually exclusive.

            I abandoned Chrome as a daily driver a few years back, but I’d do it today in a heartbeat based on this news. I rather enjoy the Firefox user experience, and switching was not a huge cost. I suppose YMMV and if switching does pose a large cost for someone, that’s their calculus, it’s just hard for me to imagine.

            I’m also pushing for regulation how I can (leaving messages for my congresscritters, for what that’s worth). For me, I can’t imagine doing that but continuing to use Chrome.

        2. 10

          Advertisement would help too. This announcement is buried for a reason. Google may have just handed Mozilla a huge cannon to use to get people off Chrome and onto Firefox, but Mozilla has to actually take advantage of it.

        3. 7

          It’s not clear to me that this does bypass the GDPR. The GDPR requires informed consent to tracking. It sounds like this uses intentionally misleading text so will not constitute informed consent. It’s then a question of whether it counts as tracking. Google is potentially opening up some huge liability here because the GDPR makes you liable for collecting PII in anonymised form if it is later combined with another data set to deanonymise it.

        4. 4

          I’d agree with that if it worked for Microsoft, Apple, Samsung, Sony (and Google). We need more than regulation; we need a cultural shift away from things like Google Chrome being the “defacto” for the Web. We have to get people understand that they have choice.

          1. 4

            I would say regulation absolutely worked on Microsoft. A key part of why Google was able to succeed in the early 2000s was Microsoft was being very careful after losing a major anti-trust action. I was at Google at the time and I was definitely worried that Microsoft would use its browser or desktop dominance to crush the company. It never did but I’m confident it would have without the anti-trust concern.

        5. 3

          All regulations end up the same way. Simply walking around it. Paying consultants to figure out the legal way. The biggest players will find the way, and the poorest and smallers players will die out. And that’s one of the ways how you can create a monopoly.

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            I just arrived in another EU country, and thanks to the derided regulation I can call and use mobile internet at the same pricing as at home. This means it’s easier for me to search for transport, lodging etc. to the benefit of both me and the providers of these services. The ones losing out are the telecom operators, who have to try to compete on services instead of inflated fees for roaming.

            I can’t see any monopolies forming. Do you?

            1. 2

              I’m not “deriding” regulations. I simply question the motives that are used when creating them. Maybe it’s because of the legacy of “central-planned economy” I was subjected to.

              Also I think you’ve just given an example of a company in a sector that requires an explicit permission from the government to be able to even start the business.

              1. 5

                It’s not true that large companies always find a way to bypass legislation or that regulation is always anti-competitive in any interesting sense.

                Large companies can often work around regulations, but sometimes they clearly lose and regulation is passed and enforced that hurts their interests. E.g. GDPR, pro-union laws, minimum wages, etc.

                Yes, richer and more powerful players are usually more likely to survive a financial hit. That’s not a feature of regulation. That’s a feature of capitalism: power and money have exponential returns (up to a point).

                It has to be fixed with redistributive policies, not regulation.

                Also, mobile telecoms consume a finite public good (EM spectrum noisiness in an area). They’re a natural target for public regulation. I don’t think that’s really a problem, tho I would prefer if public control was not state control.

                1. 1

                  It’s not true that large companies always find a way to bypass legislation or that regulation is always anti-competitive in any interesting sense.

                  I disagree. Companies will always try, they may not succeed. In particular, if the cost of complying with regulations is lower than the cost of finding work arounds, then they will comply. This is part of the reason that the GDPR sets a limit on fines that is astronomical: the cost of trying and failing to work around the GDPR is far lower than the cost of complying.

                  1. 1

                    I’m a bit confused. I didn’t say anything about companies trying or not. I agree with all of your post except the bit about the GDPR fine limit, which I think is probably high enough (4% of global turnover) to exceed the benefits of non-compliance in most cases.

                    1. 1

                      Sorry, I misread your post. And then I wrote ‘lower’ when I meant ‘higher’, so I clearly can’t be trusted with thinking today.

                      1. 1

                        No worries!

                2. 1

                  I don’t want to get into the Keynes vs. von Hayek (although if redistribution is involved then maybe we should include Marx) dispute regarding whether regulations are good or bad, because the moderator removes threads related to politics, and I don’t want him to remove this one.

                  (also I’m not sure we can convince each other to our point of view)

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                    I don’t really know what your position is or what you might have disagreed with me about, but I am totally fine leaving this convo here.

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        I did stop using Chrome, a long time ago. But, if my frontend colleagues are any indication, a deep hostility toward non-Chrome browsers is rampant among the people who are responsible for supporting them. And more and more teams just don’t bother. I would prefer not to have Chrome installed at all, but I have to because many websites that I don’t have a choice about using (e.g., to administer my 401(k), to access government services, to dispute a charge on my credit card) just flat-out don’t work in anything else.

        1. 9

          You might have some luck reporting such issues to the responsible government agencies. They don’t usually write the sites themselves but contract the work out. The clerk will usually just forward your complaint to the supplier who will gladly bill the additional work.

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            The problem is systemic - if they don’t test it except with Chrome, they might fix the “one time issue” only for it to break the next time around they make some larger change.

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              Oh sure it is. But if you pester the clerk a couple of times, the Firefox support requirement might just make it to the next tender spec.

              1. 1

                Depending on the jurisdiction, supporting a single vendor’s product with public money may be illegal. It’s a direct subsidy on Google. Whether a particular state / national government can subsidise Google without violating laws / treaties varies, but even in places where they can they typically have to do some extra process. If you raise the issue as a query about state subsidy of a corporation then you may find it gets escalated very quickly. If it was approved by an elected person then they may be very keen to avoid ‘candidate X approved using taxpayer money to subsidise Google, a corporation that pays no tax in this state’ on PSAs in the next election.

                1. 1

                  I doubt any regulator would perceive “failed to test a web application in minority browsers” as a subsidy. Maybe if they specifically developed an application that targeted that specific proprietary vendor’s stack.

                  But I imagine a public organization such as a library building a virtual environment to be used specifically in VR Chat to target young audiences as a part of promotional strategy would be perceived as completely mostly fine.

                  In Czechia, government purchased several (pretty important, duty declarations for example) information systems that were only usable with Microsoft Silverlight. They are still running, by the way. As far as I know, the agencies were not even fined for negligence.

                  Most people out of IT treat large tech companies like a force of nature, not vendors.

      3. 14

        I read a very apt quote[1] on HN a month ago, about how much Google values Chrome users thoughts, which directly relates to people complaining, but then continuing to use it:

        Chrome user opinion to them is important to their business in about the same way meatpackers care about what cattle think of the design of the feeding stations. As long as they keep coming to eat, it’s just mooing.

        1: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=37035733

      4. 4

        Stop using Chrome if you don’t like its unilateral decision making.

        More like make sure you convert everyone around you as well. If you have any say in your company policy, just migrate your office staff to Firefox. Make sure to explain to your family and convert them as well. uBlock on mobile Firefox should help to ease some conversion there as well.

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      Good to know. However, I’ve got a feeling the majority of chrome users wouldn’t care, even if they read this. Otherwise they wouldn’t be using chrome in the first place anyway

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        I think the majority of Chrome users are Chrome users because someone told them it’s better than their OS default browser or that they have to use it. They care first about what other people recommend/support or how they’ll be viewed for doing something different (that too is about personal security but not so abstract). The people to reach with this article are those who influence them—workplace IT decision makers, family nerds.

        1. 3

          because someone told them it’s better than their OS default browser

          Which unfortunately seems pretty much always true in just about everything except privacy matters. (and even there, there’s often less a question of if someone’s fingers are in your pie than just whose.)

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            Battery life is a big one; coming back to Safari is great for that.

            1. 4

              Chrome on OS X was always awful when I tried it because it came with its own versions of everything. Passwords were not stored in the keychain, for example. It felt like a Windows app with a grudging port to Mac.

            2. 3

              What is the current best/most optimal means of blocking ads in Safari? I don’t currently use Safari, but I might be interested in switching.

            3. 1

              Last time I bought apple hw it still had a ppc… so will have to take your word for that, I don’t see any such benefits if I can only run it in a hackintoshed vm.

      2. 2

        I care, and I really want to use Firefox but the truth is its UI is inferior to Chrome’s. Is this a result of smaller development budget or not a problem recognized by Mozilla at all, I don’t know. On mobile OTOH, it’s the opposite, Firefox is good enough to be the primary browser.

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          I heard of a time when to “make the world a better place”, one had to hide and fight in mountains. I think that, for someone who cares, adapting to a said inferior UI isn’t that much of a trouble in comparison ;) (and I’m sure one adapts quickly) Good luck!

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            Touché! ;)

        2. 7

          How is it inferior? To me it feels superior. In general the differences between all the browsers aren’t that large but Chrome feels super ugly to me after the flat redesign, and Firefox has only gotten better and better over the years.

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            Yeah, going back to a browser that doesn’t have reader mode would feel like a huge regression to me.

    3. 8

      This change demonstrates what Google prioritizes in product decisions.

      I use Firefox because Mozilla prioritizes my privacy.

      Google prioritizes its ad revenue model over my privacy. Always.

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        Yup. And when I pointed this out on Lobsters a few months ago, I got “reported” here about a dozen times by Google fanbois.

        Didn’t make it any less true, though. Maybe this time, people will wake up and take notice.

    4. 8

      Web developers I know often evaluate Chrome as the best browser because to them it yields the fewest browser-specific layout bugs. I would love for them to get this message deeply: Bleeding edge CSS capabilities do not make a website better. Software is good when it does good. User experience is called a journey; user experience quality should be evaluated in the long term.

      Just in practical terms, we build things “mobile first” because that screen is the smallest. But then we move to desktop and immediately build/test on the most featureful browser or two, and we check a relative laggard like Safari later (previously IE). Wouldn’t mobile first imply ordering by capabilities in addition to real estate?

      1. 3

        In the days of IE, I can see why developers didn’t want to work with a browser with grid/flexbox support. It was very hard! I know I didn’t. But nowadays, the new APIs are mostly just convenience stuff like nesting or another way to do things like layers. I don’t really see the point of breaking someone with a perfectly good, five years old iPad just so I can use native CSS instead of Sass.

        OTOH, I do use subgrid in some places because no one else will notice if it doesn’t work.

    5. 5

      I checked on my phone, my Chromebook, and my partner’s machine. They were all on. I use Firefox on my desktop.

      Check and disable at chrome://settings/adPrivacy or Settings > Privacy And Secuity > Ad Privacy.

      I’m telling everyone I can to do this and to strongly consider stopping using Chrome altogether.

      1. 2

        Don’t bother finding a workaround: switch browsers right now.

        On the desktop, I use Firefox, and on my Android device I use both Firefox and Firefox Focus (for any links opened from other apps). It’s awesome!

    6. 5

      At first I thought this was about WEI. Come on, Google!

    7. 5

      Google is on a rampage!

      Sometimes I wonder what is the end game for the powers that be. I mean, they won’t live forever, their own kids will live on in the world they create. Makes no sense.

      Also, this is not for privacy (obviously), this just makes the economic moat / competitive advantage even deeper for google, making things harder for other advertising agencies to compete. The demise of third party cookies is a good thing for google!

    8. 4

      I follow the philosophy of “let’s get to the catastrophe so we can move on”. This is one of those times. I truly hope the entire world switches to Chrome, experiences the downsides, and decides to finally do something about it. And the fastest way to get there is to tell everyone to use Chrome. So I do.

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        I’m struggling to see the logic here. What makes you convinced there is going to be a breaking point? To the extent anything in technology can be said to have a history, we have a long history of convincing ourselves that everything has to be the more or less the way it is now.

        1. 1

          What makes you convinced there is going to be a breaking point?

          Everything has a breaking point. Literally everything, right up to black holes and down to particles. That’s pretty damn convincing!

      2. 3

        experiences the downsides

        I think the bigger question is whether most people would perceive any tangible downsides at all. If, as a user, I don’t view “Google uses my browsing history to do ad targeting” as a form of harm to me (and outside techie circles, it seems like a lot of people don’t) then what other downsides would cause me to want to take action?

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    9. 4

      So this move isn’t particularly new - they announced the intention as such in what, 2020? Building a more private Web: A path towards making 3rd party cookies obsolete

      I vaguely recall there being a shortish breakdown somewhere on how much an attack on 3rd party cookies in particular would hit publishers such as, I don’t know, arstechnica. Something to the tune of 50-60% of revenue going up in smokes unless they switch to other APIs. That might be worth taking into account.

      Relatedly, anyone tracking chromium codebase that has found where the actual transmission of history goes? It might well be worth redirecting that elsewhere or spicing it up with some more fun things as quantifiers for how this thing progress.

      I think the better summary as to the current tone of the battle theatre for the future of web funding, as well as the arrogance of certain parties is the (still lengthy) (2022, Mozilla) FIVE WALLED GARDENS: Why Browsers are Essential to the Internet and How Operating Systems are Holding Them Back, any better reference?

      1. 6

        I wish ads were sold based on the contents of the page, instead of being direct marketing aimed at the viewer. There would be no need for 3rd party cookies, ads could be chosen in advance so they don’t wreck performance. It would be so much less intrusive and wasteful.

    10. 4

      The big picture here is that Google is predicting that 3rd-party tracking cookies will either be illegal, or widely blocked in the near future. Safari is already blocking them. So they need some other way to access your browsing history instead of ads.

      The way they’re doing it is at least making token attempts to preserve privacy. Chrome collects the topics associated with each web site you visit, and then uploads the topics to Google. This preserves privacy a bit more than just uploading your complete browser history.

      Still though… Just turn it off. Or switch browsers. The ad tracking doesn’t benefit you, and it takes 2 minutes to get rid of.

      1. 7

        and then uploads the topics to Google

        As far as I understood the spec it’s not uploading the topics to Google but providing a filtered list to ads embedded on sites but only if they have previously been on a site with a matching topic.

        I don’t think this topics thing provides any more tracking ability than cookies and fingerprinting which are still available to be used.

        If all other tracking disappeared and only topics remained, I feel like we would be better off than we are currently

    11. 3

      While I’d rather this feature not exist, it’s not as dangerous as it might sound. The Topics API does not give advertisers any powers they don’t currently have with third-party cookies.

      • Normal users who don’t modify their browser settings will be tracked the same amount as before.
      • Expert users who already configured blocking of third-party cookies now have to remember to turn off one more setting in chrome://settings/adPrivacy. It’s merely an annoyance.

      You might assume that Chrome sends to advertisers topics derived from your entire browsing history, but it does not. Chrome sends only topics derived from your history on pages that used that advertiser. So if a user with default settings visits a porn website with its own ad network, then visits a blog that uses Google Ads, Chrome will (still) not tell Google Ads that that user is interested in porn.

      The biggest risk of this change is that it makes it easier for Google to later remove the Chrome setting that allows the user to not send topics. Would they really do that? Even today, Chrome supports blocking of third-party cookies both natively at chrome://settings/cookies and using browser extensions. Then again, Google is in the process of crippling Chrome extensions’ ad-blocking capabilities with Chrome Extension Manifest V3, so they have shown a desire to reduce the browser’s privacy protections when they think they can get away with it.

    12. 3

      Don’t forget about the non Google encumbered forks. Ungoogled, chromium, chromite, etc. Let you have Chrome without having the privacy busting features built in.

      1. 13

        You’d still be contributing to the dominance of the blink engine, pushing developers to develop for chrome, making things worse.

    13. 2

      Mozilla should get funded by the EU

    14. 2

      I put a big, red banner on my site to recommend against Chrome. One of the worst parts tho is browsers like Opera are mimicking every feature so you can’t sniff it positively rather than the assholes coding only for Chrome.

    15. 2

      I just checked chrome://settings/adPrivacy and it appears that everything was already off. Maybe I disabled this some time ago? Anyone else able to check their settings?

      1. 7

        They will absolutely turn these settings back on in any/all future updates. They’ve certainly done it before.

        1. 1

          They have? Source? It’s not that I don’t believe you, I’m just curious.

          1. 3

            I don’t know if this is what @grawlinson was thinking of, or even if it’s the only example, but my mind immediately went to the time Google got fined millions of dollars for tracking people’s locations even though they had turned the feature off.

      2. 3

        you also have to trust that those settings have any real meaning at runtime…

        1. 3

          In general I do trust that, yes.

          1. 1

            Don’t forget that google has a strong financial incentive to push this.

            1. 5

              I have not forgotten that. I just think that having a fake switch would be particular ly bold.

              1. 1

                It was bold to remove a public “don’t be evil” statement.

    16. [Comment removed by author]

    17. 1

      Where is the anti-trust lawsuit?

      It should be clear cut.

      1. 1

        I wasn’t allowed to post articles about it, but the lawsuit starts today.