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    I beg all my fellow crustaceans to please, please use Firefox. Not because you think it’s better, but because it needs our support. Technology only gets better with investment, and if we don’t invest in Firefox, we will lose the web to chrome.

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      Not because you think it’s better

      But that certainly helps too. It is a great browser.

      • privacy stuff — the cookie container API for things like Facebook Container, built-in tracker blocker, various anti-fingerprinting things they’re backporting from the Tor Browser
      • honestly just the UI and the visual design! I strongly dislike the latest Chrome redesign >_<
      • nice devtools things — e.g. the CSS Grid inspector
      • more WebExtension APIs (nice example: only on Firefox can Signed Pages actually prevent the page from even loading when the signature check fails)
      • the fastest (IIRC) WASM engine (+ now in Nightly behind a pref: even better codegen backend based on Cranelift)
      • ongoing but already usable Wayland implementation (directly in the official tree now, not as a fork)
      • WebRender!!!
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        On the other hand, WebSocket debugging (mostly frame inspection) is impossible in Firefox without an extension. I try not to install any extensions that I don’t absolutely need and Chrome has been treating me just fine in this regard[1].

        Whether or not I agree with Google’s direction is now a moot point. I need Chrome to do what I do with extensions.

        As soon as Firefox supports WebSocket debugging natively, I will be perfectly happy to switch.

        [1] I mostly oppose extensions because of questionable maintenance cycles. I allow uBlock and aXe because they have large communities backing them.

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          Axe (https://www.deque.com/axe/) seems amazing. I know it wasn’t the focus of your post – but I somehow missed this when debugging an accessibility issue just recently, I wish I had stumbled onto it. Thanks!

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            You’re welcome!

            At $work, we used aXe and NVDA to make our webcomponents AA compliant with WCAG. aXe was invaluable for things like contrast and missing role attributes.

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            WebSocket debugging (mostly frame inspection) is impossible in Firefox without an extension

            Is it possible with an extension? I can’t seem to find one.

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              I have never needed to debug WebSockets and see no reason for that functionality to bloat the basic browser for everybody. Too many extensions might not be a good thing but if you need specific functionality, there’s no reason to hold back. If it really bothers you, run separate profiles for web development and browsing. I have somewhat more than two extensions and haven’t had any problems.

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                I do understand your sentiment, but the only extension that I see these days is marked “Experimental”.

                On the other hand, I don’t see how it would “bloat” a browser very much. (Disclaimer: I have never written a browser or contributed to any. I am open to being proved wrong.) I have written a WebSockets library myself, and it’s not a complex protocol. It can’t be too expensive to update a UI element on every (websocket) frame.

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              Yes! I don’t know about you, but I love the fact that Firefox uses so much less ram than chrome.

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                This was one of the major reasons I stuck with FF for a long time. It is still a pronounced difference.

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                honestly just the UI and the visual design! I strongly dislike the latest Chrome redesign >_<

                Yeah, what’s the deal with the latest version of Chrome? All those bubbly menus feel very mid-2000’s. Everything old is new again.

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                  I found a way to go back to the old ui from https://www.c0ffee.net/blog/openbsd-on-a-laptop/ (it was posted here a few weeks ago):

                  Also, set the following in chrome://flags:

                  • Smooth Scrolling: (personal preference)
                  • UI Layout for the browser’s top chrome: set to “Normal” to get the classic Chromium look back
                  • Identity consistency between browser and cookie jar: set to “Disabled” to keep Google from hijacking any Google > - login to sign you into Chrome
                  • SafeSearch URLs reporting: disabled

                  (emphasis mine)

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                    Aaaaaaaand they took out that option.

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                  The Wayland implementation is not usable quite yet, though, but it is close. I tried it under Sway, but it was crashy.

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                      It’s just another product made by a for-profit corporation.

                      They (Mozilla) are actually a non-profit.

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                        There is also Mozilla corporation.

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                          …which is 100% owned by the Mozilla Foundation, and:

                          The Mozilla Corporation reinvests all of its profits back into the Mozilla projects.

                          Forming for-profit corporations is not uncommon for NGOs, because NGOs in many countries are severely legally limited in the amount of commercial activities they’re able to do.

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                            Adding to that, funding FOSS software development is not considered 501(c)3-eligible in the US.

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                        I had the same impression with that over-complication of JS into ES6. CSS is also looking more like a programming language. HTTP/2 is now a binary protocol. So to have a modern web platform, you need to support all of these, and none are trivial anymore. On the other hand, I find it amazing to be able to do netwroking, audio, video, 3d and highly customizable user interfaces with (relatively) few efforts at a pretty good speed. As a platform for creativity and experimentation, it is without equivalent.

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                          without equivalent.

                          Java applets - done right?

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                            Or Flash/Shockwave done openly and right?

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                              Both Java applets and Flash were actually more like trojan horses. See how Flash ( very good scenegraph at the time) became Air (ie. a tentative to take over the Web like Java) and thankfully died because Apple killed it with the iPhone. The intention was to run programs within a walled garden, not to interoperate with the Web at large. At least that’s how I read it.

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                                Good point on long-term risk. Do note I said Flash/Shockwave the tech. That was made by Macromedia, not Adobe. Macromedia was a company whose pricey tech was kick-ass but no attempt to be open or interoperate past maybe Dreamweaver. Catchy name many lay people could spell, too.

                                I think Adobe acquiring them made me drop some F-bombs, sigh a bit, eye rolls, and so on. I knew there would be short-term improvements before the large company FUBARed its value over time. Apple’s position sealed its fate.

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                                  Indeed, Macromedia had a much better stewardship than Adobe in this respect. What I find really ironic is that before the acquisition, Adobe was pushing SVG and SVG animations as an alternative to Flash, embracing and pushing the web standards. After the acquisition, everything stalled and it’s only with Apple creating the Canvas API and standardizing it through the newly created WHATWG that we started to catch up and be able to do so fast interactive graphics on the Web. What we lost, though, is one of the best tool to create vector animations with programmatic behaviour. One step ahead, two steps back some might say.

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                                I think the difference is that aplets and flash were supposed to extend the web experience, new technologies are replacing it. It’s convenient but dangerous as it promotes monoculture. I don’t know if there is a safe middle ground.

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                                  There is a lot being lost with the death of Flash. It was amazingly lightweight when it started out. You can take that Homestar Runner e-mail and the original Flash, resize it to 4k, and it will still render correctly and sharply. You can’t do that when you export animation to YouTube at a set resolution. Not to mention all the games that were made in Flash that we’ll loose soon.

                                  Adobe really butchered all the Macromedia stuff when they acquired that company. It’s pretty sad.

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                            What does “removes RSS support” mean? Was it possible to use it as a feed reader before?

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                              Yeah, it was called “Live Bookmarks” and basically made your RSS feed subs show up in your bookmarks bar (or accessible from a page). It actually looked really neat, but I only found about it when/because they removed it.

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                                “Live Bookmarks” still exist, in Firefox 63.0.3 released on Nov 15th, 2018. I use them. Go to any RSS feed in FF and they will pop up. I use them for multiple Discourse forums.

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                                    Ah, sad times, thanks for the link!

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                                Sure, using live bookmarks and integrated reader. But RSS collided with the their new commercial and closed product namely Pocket.

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                                  That’s not completely fair. I’m not sure if anything has happened yet, but Mozilla does have plans to open-source Pocket:

                                  As a result of this strategic acquisition, Pocket will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Mozilla Corporation and will become part of the Mozilla open source project.

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                            I switched to Firefox last year, and I have to say I don’t miss Chrome in the slightest.

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                              And those with a little financial liberty, consider donating to Mozilla. They do a lot of important work free a free and open web.

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                                I recently came back to Firefox from Vivaldi. That’s another Chromium/Webkit based browser and it’s closed source to boot.

                                Firefox has improved greatly in speed as of late and I feel like we’re back in the era of the mid-2000s, asking people to chose Firefox over Chrome this time instead of IE.

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                                  I’d love to switch from Vivaldi, but it’s simply not an option given the current (terrible) state of vertical tab support in Firefox.

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                                    How is it terrible? The hiding of the regular tab bar is not an API yet and you have to use CSS for that, sure, but there are some very good tree style tab webextensions.

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                                      The extensions are all terrible – but what’s more important is that I lost the belief that any kind of vertical tab functionality has any chance of long-term survival. Even if support was added now, it would be a constant battle to keep it and I’m frankly not interested in such fights anymore.

                                      Mozilla is chasing their idealized “average user” and is determined to push everyone into their one-size-fits-all idea of user interface design – anyone not happy with that can screw off, if it was for Mozilla.

                                      It’s 2018 – I don’t see why I even have to argue for vertical tabs and mouse gestures anymore. I just pick a browser vendor which hasn’t been asleep on the wheel for the last 5 years and ships with these features out of the box.

                                      And if the web in the future ends up as some proprietary API defined by whatever Google Chrome implements, because Firefox went down, Mozilla has only itself to blame.

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                                        The extensions are all terrible – but what’s more important is that I lost the belief that any kind of vertical tab functionality has any chance of long-term survival. Even if support was added now, it would be a constant battle to keep it and I’m frankly not interested in such fights anymore. The whole point of moving to WebExtensions was long term support. They couldn’t make significant changes without breaking a lot of the old extensions. The whole point was to unhook extensions from the internals so they can refactor around them and keep supporting them.

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                                          That’s like a car manufacturer removing all electronics from a car – sure it makes the car easier to support … but now the car doesn’t even turn on anymore!

                                          Considering that cars are usually used for transportation, not for having them sit in the garage, you shouldn’t be surprised that customers buy other cars in the future.

                                          (And no, blaming “car enthusiasts” for having unrealistic expectations, like it happens in the case of browser users, doesn’t cut it.)

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                                            So you’d rather they didn’t improve it at all? Or would you rather they broke most extensions every release?

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                                              I’m not @soc, but I wish Firefox had delayed their disabling of old-style extensions in Firefox 57 until they had replicated more of the old functionality with the WebExtensions API – mainly functionality related to interface customization, tabs, and sessions.

                                              Yes, during the time of that delay, old-style extensions would continue to break with each release, but the maintainers of Tree Style Tabs and other powerful extensions had already been keeping up with each release by releasing fixed versions. They probably could have continued updating their extensions until WebExtensions supported their required functionality. And some users might prefer to run slightly-buggy older extensions for a bit instead of switching to the feature-lacking new extensions straight away – they should have that choice.

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                                                What’s the improvement? The new API was so bad that they literally had to pull the plug on the existing API to force extension authors to migrate. That just doesn’t happen in cases where the API is “good”, developers are usually eager to adopt them and migrate their code.

                                                Let’s not accuse people you disagree with that they are “against improvements” – it’s just that the improvements have to actually exist, and in this case the API clearly wasn’t ready. This whole fiasco feels like another instance of CADT-driven development and the failure of management to reign in on it.

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                                                  The old extension API provided direct access to the JavaScript context of both the chrome and the tab within a single thread, so installing an XUL extension was disabling multiprocess mode. Multiprocess mode seems like an improvement; in old Firefox, a misbehaving piece of JavaScript would lock up the browser for about a second before eventually popping up a dialog offering to kill it, whereas in a multiprocess browser, it should be possible to switch and close tabs no matter what the web page inside does. The fact that nobody notices when it works correctly seems to make it the opposite of Attention-Deficient-Driven-Design; it’s the “focus on quality of implementation, even at the expense of features” design that we should be encouraging.

                                                  The logical alternative to “WebExtension For The Future(tm)” would’ve been to just expose all of the relevant threads of execution directly to the XUL extensions. run-this-in-the-chome.xul and run-this-in-every-tab.xul and message pass between them. But at that point, we’re talking about having three different extension APIs in Firefox.

                                                  Which isn’t to say that I think you’re against improvement. I am saying that you’re thinking too much like a developer, and not enough like the poor sod who has to do QA and Support triage.

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                                                    Improving the actual core of Firefox. They’re basically ripping out and replacing large components every other release. This would break large amount of plugins constantly. Hell, plugins wouldn’t even work in Nightly. I do agree with @roryokane that they should have tried to improve it before cutting support. The new API is definitely missing many things but it was the right decision to make for the long term stability of Firefox.

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                                                      They could have made the decision to ax the old API after extension authors adopted it. That adoption failed so hard that they had to force developers to use the new API speaks for itself.

                                                      I’d rather have extension that I have to fix from time to time, than no working extensions at all.

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                                              Why should Mozilla care that much about your niche use case? They already have a ton of stuff to deal with and barely enough funding.

                                              It’s open source, make your own VerticalTabFox fork :)

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                                                Eh … WAT? Mozilla went the extra mile with their recent extension API changes to make things – that worked before – impossible to implement with a recent Firefox version. The current state of tab extensions is this terrible, because Mozilla explicitly made it this way.

                                                I used Firefox for more than 15 years – the only thing I wanted was to be left alone.

                                                It’s open source, make your own VerticalTabFox fork :)

                                                Feel free to read my comment above to understand why that doesn’t cut it.

                                                Also, Stuff that works >> open source. Sincerely, a happy Vivaldi user.

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                                                  It’s one of the laws of the internet at this point: Every thread about Firefox is always bound to attract someone complaining about WebExtensions not supporting their pet feature that was possible with the awful and insecure old extension system.

                                                  If you’re care about “non terrible” (whatever that means — Tree Style Tab looks perfect to me) vertical tabs more than anything — sure, use a browser that has them.

                                                  But you seem really convinced that Firefox could “go down” because of not supporting these relatively obscure power user features well?? The “average user” they’re “chasing” is not “idealized”. The actual vast majority of people do not choose browsers based on vertical tabs and mouse gestures. 50% of Firefox users do not have a single extension installed, according to telemetry. The majority of the other 50% probably only have an ad blocker.

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                                                    If you’re care about “non terrible” (whatever that means — Tree Style Tab looks perfect to me) vertical tabs more than anything — sure, use a browser that has them.

                                                    If you compare the current state of the art of vertical tabs extensions, even Mozilla thinks they suck – just compare them to their own Tab Center experiment: https://testpilot.firefox.com/static/images/experiments/tab-center/details/tab-center-1.1957e169.jpg

                                                    Picking just one example: Having the navigation bar at a higher level of the visual hierarchy is just wrong – the tab panel isn’t owned by the navigation bar, the navigation bar belongs to a specific tab! Needless to say, all of the vertical tab extensions are forced to be wrong, because they lack the API do implement the UI correctly.

                                                    This is how my browser currently looks like, for comparison: https://i.imgur.com/5dTX8Do.png

                                                    But you seem really convinced that Firefox could “go down” because of not supporting these relatively obscure power user features well?? The “average user” they’re “chasing” is not “idealized”. The actual vast majority of people do not choose browsers based on vertical tabs and mouse gestures. 50% of Firefox users do not have a single extension installed, according to telemetry. The majority of the other 50% probably only have an ad blocker.

                                                    You can only go so far alienating the most loyal users that use Firefox for specific purposes until the stop installing/recommending it to their less technically-inclined friends and relatives.

                                                    Mozilla is so busy chasing after Chrome that it doesn’t even realize that most Chrome users will never switch. They use Chrome because “the internet” (www.google.com) told them so. As long as Mozilla can’t make Google recommend Firefox on their frontpage, this will not change.

                                                    Discarding their most loyal users while trying to get people to adopt Firefox who simply aren’t interested – this is a recipe for disaster.

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                                                  and barely enough funding

                                                  Last I checked they pulled in half a billion in revenue (2016). Do you believe this is barely enough?

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                                                    For hundreds of millions users?

                                                    Yeah.

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                                                At least with multi-row tabs in CSS you can’t dragndrop tabs. That’s about as bad as it gets.

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                                                Are vertical tabs so essential?

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                                                  Considering the change in screen ratios over the past ten years (displays get shorter and wider), yes, it absolutely is.

                                                  With vertical tabs I can get almost 30 full-width tabs on screen, with horizontal tabs I can start fishing for the right tab after about 15, as the tab width gets increasingly smaller.

                                                  Additionally, vertical tabs reduce the way of travel substantially when selecting a different tab.

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                                                    I still miss them, didn’t cripple me, but really hurt. The other thing about Tree (not just vertical) tabs that FF used to have was that the subtree was contextual to the parent tree. So, when you opened a link in a background tab, it was opened in a new tab that was a child of your current tab. For doing like documentation hunting / research it was amazing and I still haven’t found its peer.

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                                                  It’s at least partially open source. They provide tarballs.

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                                                    https://help.vivaldi.com/article/is-vivaldi-open-source/

                                                    The chromium part is legally required to be open, the rest of their code is like readable source, don’t get me wrong that’s way better than unreadable source but it’s also very wut.

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                                                      Very wut. It’s a weird uneasy mix.

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                                                        that’s way better than unreadable source but it’s also very wut.

                                                        I wouldn’t be sure of that. It makes it auditable, but has legal ramifications should you want to build something like vivaldi, but free.

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                                                    firefox does not get better with investment, it gets worse.

                                                    the real solution is to use netsurf or dillo or mothra, so that webmasters have to come to us and write websites that work with browsers that are simple enough to be independently maintained.

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                                                      Good luck getting more than 1‰ adoption 😉

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                                                        good luck achieving independence from Google by using a browser funded by Google

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                                                          I can achieve independence from Google without using netsurf, dillo, or mothra; to be quite honest, those will never catch on.

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                                                            can you achieve independence from google in a way that will catch on?

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                                                              I don’t think we’ll ever get the majority of browser share back into the hands of a (relatively) sane organization like Mozilla—but we can at least get enough people to make supporting alternative browsers a priority. On the other hand, the chances that web devs will ever feel pressured to support the browsers you mentioned, is close to nil. (No pun intended.)

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                                                                what is the value of having an alternative, if that alternative is funded by google and sends data to google by default?

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                                                                  what is the value of having an alternative

                                                                  What would you like me to say, that Firefox’s existence is worthless? This is an absurd thing to insinuate.

                                                                  funded by google

                                                                  No. I’m not sure whether you’re speaking in hyperbole, misunderstood what I was saying, and/or altogether skipped reading what I wrote. But this is just not correct. If Google really had Mozilla by the balls as you suggest, they would coerce them to stop adding privacy features to their browser that, e.g., block Google Analytics on all sites.

                                                                  sends data to google by default

                                                                  Yes, though it seems they’ve been as careful as one could be about this. Also to be fair, if you’re browsing with DNT off, you’re likely to get tracked by Google at some point anyway. But the fact that extensions can’t block this does have me worried.

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                                                                    i’m sorry if i misread something you wrote. i’m just curious what benefit you expect to gain if more people start using firefox. if everyone switched to firefox, google could simply tighten their control over mozilla (continuing the trend of the past 10 years), and they would still have control over how people access the web.

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                                                                      It seems you’re using “control” in a very abstract sense, and I’m having trouble following. Maybe I’m just missing some context, but what concrete actions have Google taken over the past decade to control the whole of Mozilla?

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                                                                        Google has pushed through complex standards such as HTTP/2 and new rendering behaviors, which Mozilla implements in order to not “fall behind.” They are able implement and maintain such complexity due to funding they receive from Google, including their deal to make Google the default search engine in Firefox (as I said earlier, I couldn’t find any breakdown of what % of Mozilla’s funding comes from Google).

                                                                        For evidence of the influence this funding has, compare the existence of Mozilla’s Facebook Container to the non-existence of a Google Container.

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                                                                          what % of Mozilla’s funding comes from Google

                                                                          No word on the exact breakdown. Visit their 2017 report and scroll all the way to the bottom, and you’ll get a couple of helpful links. One of them is to a wiki page that describes exactly what each search engine gets in return for their investment.

                                                                          I would also like to know the exact breakdown, but I’d expect all those companies would get a little testy if the exact amount were disclosed. And anyway, we know what the lump sum is (around half a billion), and we can assume that most of it comes from Google.

                                                                          the non-existence of a Google Container

                                                                          They certainly haven’t made one themselves, but there’s nothing stopping others from forking one off! And anyway, I think it’s more so fear on Mozilla’s part than any concrete warning from Google against doing so.

                                                                          Perhaps this is naïveté on my part, but I really do think Google just want their search engine to be the default for Firefox. In any case, if they really wanted to exert their dominance over the browser field, they could always just… you know… stop funding Mozilla. Remember: Google is in the “web market” first & the “software market” second. Having browser dominance is just one of many means to the same end. I believe their continued funding of Mozilla attests to that.

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                                                                            It doesn’t have to be a direct threat from Google to make a difference. Direct threats are a very narrow way in which power operates and there’s no reason that should be the only type of control we care about.

                                                                            Yes Google’s goal of dominating the browser market is secondary to their goal of dominating the web. Then we agree that Google’s funding of Firefox is in keeping with their long-term goal of web dominance.

                                                                            if they really wanted to exert their dominance over the browser field, they could always just… you know… stop funding Mozilla.

                                                                            Likewise, if Firefox was a threat to their primary goal of web dominance, they could stop funding Mozilla. So doesn’t it stand to reason that using Firefox is not an effective way to resist Google’s web dominance? At least Google doesn’t think so.

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                                                                              Likewise, if Firefox was a threat to their primary goal of web dominance, they could stop funding Mozilla. So doesn’t it stand to reason that using Firefox is not an effective way to resist Google’s web dominance?

                                                                              You make some good points, but you’re ultimately using the language of a “black or white” argument here. In my view, if Google were to stop funding Mozilla they would still have other sponsors. And that’s not to mention the huge wave this would make in the press—even if most people don’t use Firefox, they’re at least aware of it. In a strange sense, Google cannot afford to stop funding Mozilla. If they do, they lose their influence over the Firefox project and get huge backlash.

                                                                              I think this is something the Mozilla organization were well aware of when they made the decision to accept search engines as a funding source. They made themselves the center of attention, something to be competed over. And in so doing, they ensured their longevity, even as Google’s influence continued to grow.

                                                                              Of course this has negative side effects, such as companies like Google having influence over them. But in this day & age, the game is no longer to be free of influence from Google; that’s Round 2. Round 1 is to achieve enough usage to exert influence on what technologies are actually adopted. In that sense, Mozilla is at the discussion table, while netsurf, dillo, and mothra (as much as I’d love to love them) are not and likely never will be.

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                                                          Just switch to Gopher.

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                                                            Just switch to Gopher

                                                            I know you were joking, but I do feel like there is something to be said for the simplicity of systems like gopher. The web is so complicated nowadays that building a fully functional web browser requires software engineering on a grand scale.

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                                                              yeah. i miss when the web was simpler.

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                                                                I was partially joking. I know there are new ActivityPub tools like Pleroma that support Gopher and I’ve though about adding support to generate/server gopher content for my own blog. I realize it’s still kinda a joke within the community, but you’re right about there being something simple about just having content without all the noise.

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                                                            Unless more than (rounded) 0% of people use it for Facebook, it won’t make a large enough blip for people to care. Also this is how IE was dominant, because so much only worked for them.

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                                                              yes, it would require masses of people. and yes it won’t happen, which is why the web is lost.

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                                                            I’ve relatively recently switched to FF, but still use Chrome for web dev. The dev tools still seem quite more advanced and the browser is much less likely to lock up completely if I have a JS issue that’s chewing CPU.

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                                                              I tried to use Firefox on my desktop. It was okay, not any better or worse than Chrome for casual browsing apart from private browsing Not Working The Way It Should relative to Chrome (certain cookies didn’t work across tabs in the same Firefox private window). I’d actually want to use Firefox if this was my entire Firefox experience.

                                                              I tried to use Firefox on my laptop. Site icons from bookmarks don’t sync for whatever reason (I looked up the ticket and it seems to be a policy problem where the perfect is the enemy of the kinda good enough), but it’s just a minor annoyance. The laptop is also pretty old and for that or whatever reason has hardware accelerated video decoding blacklisted in Firefox with no way to turn it back on (it used to work a few years ago with Firefox until it didn’t), so I can’t even play 720p YouTube videos at an acceptable framerate and noise level.

                                                              I tried to use Firefox on my Android phone. Bookmarks were completely useless with no way to organize them. I couldn’t even organize on a desktop Firefox and sync them over to the phone since they just came out in some random order with no way to sort them alphabetically. There was also something buggy with the history where clearing history didn’t quite clear history (pages didn’t show up in history, but links remained colored as visited if I opened the page again) unless I also exited the app, but I don’t remember the details exactly. At least I could use UBO.

                                                              This was all within the last month. I used to use Firefox before I used Chrome, but Chrome just works right now.

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                                                                I definitely understand that Chrome works better for many users and you gave some good examples of where firefox fails. My point was that people need to use and support firefox despite it being worse than chrome in many ways. I’m asking people to make sacrifices by taking a principled position. I also recognize most users might not do that, but certainly, tech people might!? But maybe I’m wrong here, maybe the new kids don’t care about an open internet.

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                                                              This is the collateral damage of making browsers so complex. If megacorps can’t justify the costs required for maintenance and improvement, we essentially cede the platform to those with the deepest pockets.

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                                                                Yeah, I think you are making a super important point so I’ll try to reiterate it:

                                                                • Open standards succeed when many people/organizations can easily implement the standard due to its simplicity and obviousness.
                                                                • Open standards fail when too few people/organizations can make a complete implementation; they “collapse” under their own weight.

                                                                This is not backed up by data, rather it’s my opinion or a synthesis from bits of anecdotal evidence. In this case, the laundry list of features now required to make a web browser is pretty intractable. As others have said, it’s reaching the level of complexity of an OS.

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                                                                  This is the collateral damage of making browsers so complex.

                                                                  In this case, the laundry list of features now required to make a web browser is pretty intractable. As others have said, it’s reaching the level of complexity of an OS.

                                                                  Yup and yup.

                                                                  I understand the emergency on the danger of having one megacorp controling a set of standards, but this is a monstrous set of standards that, imo, needs to die. Something simpler and lighter must replace it, and I’m not much into putting effort, by “doing my part,” to saving the current one. I refuse to believe that something simpler isn’t possible.

                                                                  1. 8

                                                                    I’m starting to share this position. The web is dead, long live the Internet.

                                                                    1. 3

                                                                      There’s always gopher. It’s not that hard to write a gopher client.

                                                                      1. 2

                                                                        Another solution might be to more clearly define essential parts of the standard and extra parts, with sane graceful degradation. The goal being to encourage web developers and companies to be less apt to require every flashy new (extra) feature, because not all browsers would to choose to implement all the extras.

                                                                        1. 1

                                                                          This wouldn’t stop Google from implementing Google features that require everyone to use Chrome, and then everyone would just use Chrome. I don’t think this would be any different than the status quo.

                                                                        2. 2

                                                                          Something simpler and lighter must replace it, and I’m not much into putting effort, by “doing my part,” to saving the current one.

                                                                          Just be careful that that “simpler and lighter” thing isn’t something like AMP that causes even more lock-in than we have now.

                                                                        3. 1

                                                                          While I agree with your analysis, we do have several FOSS operating systems. Admittedly, much Linux development is funded by corporations. Nonetheless, there are multiple existence proofs that free software communities can deliver software with complexity on the order of operating systems. I’m not aware of any browsers produced that way, though. I suppose Firefox would be the nearest thing.

                                                                      2. 34

                                                                        This is exactly what I thought when I heard the rumour. A lot of people were keen to tell me that “Google already dominates web standard committees”, and while this is true, it is just another symptom of the same illness.

                                                                        I understand that for a company, building a browser engine is expensive and might not be worth it, but Microsoft giving up the browser engine game means we only have one alternative to Blink/WebKit left, Mozilla Firefox. And while I am a loyal Firefox user, I can’t help but notice that year after year, our numbers get fewer.

                                                                        The web is an open platform only because we have multiple implementations of the standards. If we move to a single engine, the standard doesn’t even matter anymore, only the implementation does.

                                                                        And how long before other vendors have only a token handful of developers working on integrating Blink into their branded shells? How long before Google decides that in fact, they are altering the deal (much like they did with Android) and are moving the new parts into proprietary extensions that can only be used with Google’s approval? How long before they make it impractical to use any Blink based engine without phone home circuitry or without logging in to an account linked to their wider ecosystem? Having a single entity control both the user agent and the major services puts the user in a much weaker position to resist such pressures.

                                                                        Google has already shown they are changing from the “do no evil” company they at least pretended to be a decade ago. They have also shown they will not shy away from requiring their browser for certain features of their services (for a while, you could not make calls in Hangouts without Chrome).

                                                                        But regardless of whether you believe Google will betray the public interest, do we really want to put all our eggs in the same basket, no matter who owns the basket?

                                                                        1. 19

                                                                          The web standards are baroque, the process byzantine, and the implementations often dumb.

                                                                          This is the future we deserve, given the choices we failed to contest and the horses we decided to trade.

                                                                          1. 3

                                                                            When Google said it’s time to kill IE6 (2010), I was still using a browser without javascript support for my daily browsing. The web was quite usable. That started to change pretty soon after, and the experience got miserable due to the number of sites that would just not work any longer. When I complained, people just told me to fuck off.

                                                                            I don’t think I ever had a real chance to contest.

                                                                            1. 2

                                                                              Similar experiences here, and the state of noscript web is not much to celebrate. Most of my spare time is spent getting rid of as much ‘web’ (!= internet) as possible from the everyday of my life; admittedly thwarted by an increased forced dependence on e-gov here for basic infrastructure.

                                                                              The current browser/javascript management setup I have settled on is basically a set of “volatile” nodes on AlpineLinux (config system fits this purpose well) that pre-boots into a ‘one-time use’ / PXE chrome instance. “spawning a tab” means remoting into one of the nodes and when the connection is severed, the node reboots. Suspicious crashes gets collected for later study.

                                                                            2. 2

                                                                              Google is going to forge ahead with technologies that improve their products with or without standards. The result of more stringent standards would be a browser that supports cool new features that no other browser does, resulting in a monoculture anyway.

                                                                              1. 5

                                                                                Time, then, to disband the w3c, since its job is apparently to describe Chrome’s features.

                                                                                1. 4

                                                                                  To be brutally honest, the W3C has always seemed a little silly as a standards body.

                                                                                  They started out chasing the browsers, and they’re still chasing the browsers. There was that little period with HTML5/XForms/XHTML where it looked like they were going to create their own thing, but the browsers ignored them, so they went back to standardizing the existing behavior.

                                                                            3. 12

                                                                              we only have one alternative to Blink/WebKit left

                                                                              It doesn’t make any sense to me to lump together Blink and WebKit like this. One may be a fork of the other, but they’re controlled by separate companies that have, at best, wary attitudes toward each other. The fact that they share code is irrelevant when we’re talking about the danger of a web-engine monoculture.

                                                                              How long before Google decides that in fact, they are altering the deal (much like they did with Android) and are moving the new parts into proprietary extensions that can only be used with Google’s approval?

                                                                              I agree that this is a danger, although it seems like it would be way easier to resist bad Blink changes via the “lazy dev’s fork” of simply continuing to use the older version. If worse came to worst the community could create an actual fork; the code is still a mixture of LGPL- and BSD-licensed, after all. The tricky part is that I don’t know if there is currently a “the community” of people who rely on Blink/Chromium, and it seems like it would be difficult to coalesce one absent some widely-condemned action by Google. I’m not sure what the solution to this is, although as I mentioned elsewhere in the thread, perhaps Mozilla should be looking closely at the “embedding Chromium in other things” market and coming up with a Servo-based alternative.

                                                                              1. 6

                                                                                “It doesn’t make any sense to me to lump together Blink and WebKit like this.”

                                                                                Im with you on that. Didnt make sense. I’ll add they’re not only wary: they’re very opinionated with their own OS’s, new languages, and so on. Despite shared code, that should maintain some diversity in the engines.

                                                                                1. 3

                                                                                  However, they still share enough code that what works in one is more likely to work the same way in the other than, say, Gecko.

                                                                              2. 19

                                                                                I really wish Microsoft would at least open source EdgeHTML if they go this route. All the old NSCA code has got to be gone by now, and it would at least give developers out there another engine to try to write minimalistic browsers in. Remember Firefox was the trimmed down version of Mozilla. Maybe if they open source the Edge/Titan engine, we could see something similar. Maybe people could even get it to compile and build a UI on it for Linux/Mac and others.

                                                                                1. 2

                                                                                  From what I gather EdgeHTML is largely Trident - the IE renderer - with a bunch of legacy cruft removed and some new bits bolted on. This would make it quite possible for some of the original Spyglass/NCSA code to remain buried somewhere and as such it would be hard to certify the code to be ‘clean’.

                                                                                2. 13

                                                                                  I think it’s disingenuous to equate “browsers in the Chrome/WebKit family” with “browsers that are subject to Google’s whims.” (I’m looking specifically at the bar chart where you’ve highlighted the Chrome/WebKit browsers in red.) Blink is a fork of WebKit; Google can do whatever they please with their version but that doesn’t mean that Apple has to (or necessarily can) integrate any of Google’s changes into upstream WebKit. It’s fine to point out that X% of user agents in use today share some part of their rendering-engine code, but that doesn’t imply that Google pulls the strings for all X% of those users.

                                                                                  And while I am mostly an Apple fan, I definitely don’t want to be in the position where we’re relying on Apple, of all people, to keep the open web afloat. But what is the solution? Like you say, it’s a lot of work to write a browser engine, and to some extent I think it’s a waste of effort for many companies to create their own. Is it possible to build on top of the existing FOSS engines in a way that consolidates effort as much as possible while still retaining the possibility of meaningful differences between the variants? Maybe a model a bit like the Linux kernel, where (1) people maintain very-long-running forks/branches that they keep up to date with upstream, and from which they occasionally contribute fixes, and (2) lots of people build on top of it to create distributions which tend to be broadly compatible with each other.

                                                                                  1. 7

                                                                                    I was going to make a similar comment. WebKit forked into WebKit and Blink. So we will still have three main competitors, Gecko, WebKit, and Blink.

                                                                                    I think, because all three of those are open source, and could be forked, that we will be doing just fine, even without proprietary, closed source Edge.

                                                                                    1. 2

                                                                                      I agree both with you and @Teckla below. I am not equating Apple WebKit with being under Google whims, still, WebKit as implemented by Apple is being used less and less outside or Apple own silo, most vendors, both large and tiny, preferring to go with a chromium + branded shell. Thats why in the chart, I mention Blink/WebKit family, I was just trying to highlight that those are all branches of the same tree even though different entities are controlling each branch, technically they are still somewhat closer to one another.

                                                                                      1. 3

                                                                                        Is it much easier to embed Chromium than WebKit or Servo? Maybe this should be an area of focus for Mozilla, if they’re interested in increasing their share of “browser engines embedded in things.” (I’m assuming that Apple has no interest in doing such a thing for WebKit.)

                                                                                        1. 4

                                                                                          WebKit: I don’t think it provides an embedding unified across platforms, but e.g. WebKitGTK is very nicely embeddable in GTK applications.

                                                                                          Servo: built to be embeddable, there are very good experiments already, but Servo itself is an experiment, not a production grade ready to use engine.

                                                                                          Gecko: completely abandoned the embeddability a long time ago (R.I.P. Camino), was too expensive to maintain & little benefit to Firefox. Now they’re re-doing some sort of embedding on Android though!

                                                                                          1. 3

                                                                                            I think Mozilla should do something like Electron and Chromebook. Do it better, too, in a way that wins bzck some market share.

                                                                                            1. 4

                                                                                              To be brutally honest, I wouldn’t have high expectations for a Mozilla version of Electron. The biggest knock against Electron is that it’s difficult or impossible to make native-feeling apps with it, but the 16-year-old Firefox evinces the same kinds of problems—its text entry fields on Macs are non-native in ways that still make me trip over my keys multiple times a week. (On the other hand, if Mozilla is moving away from XUL then maybe an Electron replacement would be a good testbed for the new thing.)

                                                                                              It’s worth keeping in mind, too, that one of the reasons Chromebooks have been so successful is that the hardware/OS vendor also has a best-in-class web-based office suite. Would the users of a Mozilla Chromebook also end up using Google Docs, thus defeating the purpose of making a non-Google thing? Or is there a compelling alternative I’m forgetting?

                                                                                              (Sorry this comment ended up being so pessimistic! I support Mozilla’s mission, and I use Firefox as my daily driver, but sometimes I’m not a big fan of how they allocate their time.)

                                                                                              1. 3

                                                                                                I appreciate the honesty. Yeah, that situation sucks in a lot of ways. Great point about Google Office. Didnt think about it. That woud still be fine if FireBooks took off given Mozilla’s revenue is mostly search-based.

                                                                                                1. 3

                                                                                                  I feel like no one outside of education uses Chromebooks (from my view as a student in the United States). The reason they’re used is because…

                                                                                                  • Google provides business accounts with unlimited storage/fast access speeds to all Primary/Secondary schools for free.
                                                                                                  • Chromebooks are cheap.
                                                                                                  • Chromebooks have good battery life (last whole school day).
                                                                                                  • Many Chromebooks are sturdy and can take abuse.
                                                                                                  • Google’s tools for locking down, monitoring, etc. Chromebooks are powerful.
                                                                                                  • They update automatically and near-instantly, so for normal users they “just work”. (Compared to Windows or MacOS where updates take forever, and you might need to reimage occasionally for whatever reason.)

                                                                                                  Also, now that everyone is used to Google, there is a very close to 0% chance that they will ever want to switch away even if a “more user-friendly” or “better” version is to surface.

                                                                                                  1. 2

                                                                                                    Is native look still a thing? None of the websites are “native” when it comes to the user interface yet the usage of webapps explode in popularity. On Windows platform I’m not even sure what “native” means anymore, since MS itself uses at least two different UI toolkits (Visual Studio, Office and Win10 Control Panel all look completely different, like it’s done by different companies). Also huge apps like Photoshop use their own UI concepts.

                                                                                                    1. 1

                                                                                                      It’s true that you can skin form controls with CSS now, but I would still expect a text box to behave like a native Mac text box when I’m using a Mac. (System-wide UI consistency has always been more of a priority for Apple and Mac developers than for Microsoft and Windows developers, I think.)

                                                                                                2. 1

                                                                                                  Chromium has CEF (Chromium Embedded Framework) and is pretty much the best (only?) option to embed a fully functional browser engine to an app. It’s typically behind Chromium as far as versions go, but it contains everyhing from the V8 engine, to blink, etc. Pretty solid IMO.

                                                                                                  1. 1

                                                                                                    I totally agree with you here.

                                                                                              2. 10

                                                                                                So it was true – Edge will move to Chromium and the web will have yet another major browsers that have WebKit origins – a sad day for the web.

                                                                                                Now only Gecko/Servo remains as alternatives of other origins.

                                                                                                Things I haven’t yet understood:

                                                                                                Will Microsoft also use V8 rather than Chakra? And if so, will they as a consequence also drop official development on Chakra and on the Chakra-based Node.js?

                                                                                                1. 5

                                                                                                  There’s now one less closed source browser, I’m not sure how that’s a sad day for the web? If anything the web is more open since all major browser engines (Blink, WebKit, and Gecko) are open source projects and take outside contributions.

                                                                                                  1. 12

                                                                                                    Plurality is losing, open implementations are gaining. The open web standards are hurt by a lack of plurality, so even if it’s a win from an implementation perspective, it’s a loss from a standards perspective - and I would say that the loss in the standards perspective outweigh the win of the implementation perspective in this case, in an open web regard.

                                                                                                    1. 5

                                                                                                      If you wanted to write your own browser, you might try implementing various standards. However, your success depends on whether other people follow those standards as well. If there are many implementations, even proprietary, then people will make web pages that aim towards the center. If there is only one, then standards won’t matter.

                                                                                                      1. 1

                                                                                                        To be fair though, the amount of effort required to write a useful browser from scratch in 2018 is so insanely high than even a corporate behemoth like Microsoft with $$$ oozing out of its ears can’t stomach it. Is that really a use-case worth addressing? Would we really be worse off if there was just a single open source engine that everybody used? Kinda like Linux has become the universal kernel for running native binaries in the cloud…

                                                                                                        1. 4

                                                                                                          This problem only worsens when the corporate behemoths consolidate. What are the chances that MS pushes back on a new feature that’s too complex now that they don’t have to implement either?

                                                                                                          1. 1

                                                                                                            Complex for browser developers or web developers?

                                                                                                        2. 1

                                                                                                          The new “living standards” make this much, much harder. It is like building on quicksand: you can’t target a stable version of these standards. There’s also no sane changelog to speak of, as far as I know. The RFC standards we used to have were quite sane, but all formalisms are slowly being removed, which makes interoperability unnecessarily hard.

                                                                                                      2. 2

                                                                                                        I feel like the Node.js on ChakraCore effort was dead-on-arrival. The Node.js/JavaScript ecosystem already has a hard enough time with native interop that trying to abstract it away was premature. It’s still possible that the ABI Stable Node API work takes off but, sitting here speculating, it doesn’t seem to have enough of a benefit to developers to warrant packages switching.

                                                                                                      3. 10

                                                                                                        Part of the problem that I don’t see many people talking about is that maintaining a web browser and the concordant renderer, javascript core etc is becoming totally intractable due to the ballooning complexity and size of the platform.

                                                                                                        I wonder if anyone is giving any thought to how to counter that particular problem.

                                                                                                        1. 2

                                                                                                          I always thought they shouldve tried charging for it. Some version enterprises pay for with some benefits that would attract them.

                                                                                                        2. 8

                                                                                                          Nitpick: loose != lose

                                                                                                          1. 4

                                                                                                            oh, thanks. English is not my first language, I make lots of little mistakes like that. I’ve fixed it on the text and title here. I just didn’t fix it in the URL because it has already been shared and I don’t want to break that.

                                                                                                            1. 3

                                                                                                              No worries, I figured that was the case. This is a nice writeup about another looming problem for the future of the web.

                                                                                                              1. 1

                                                                                                                Don’t feel too bad, I once got in an argument with my middle school teacher about this and she didn’t even believe me when I showed her the dictionary. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

                                                                                                            2. 7

                                                                                                              I really have no idea what problem this would fix.

                                                                                                              1. 15

                                                                                                                First, it’d unify what Edge even means: “Edge” on Android and iOS is Blink and WebKit, respectively, while it’s Trident on Windows. It’d now be a WebKit-based everywhere. (And mean that they could do Edge for macOS or Linux with a straight face, too.)

                                                                                                                Second, as freddyb points out, it drastically cuts resource use. I disagree that Chrome is more secure, and definitely that it’s less resource-heavy, but it almost certainly takes fewer engineers to improve Chrome than build an entirely separate browser.

                                                                                                                Third, Microsoft is already using Chromium, via their Electron apps, especially dev tooling (Visual Studio Code and various Azure components). This would allow more devs to focus on just one engine, and perhaps pave the way for better Windows integration there.

                                                                                                                Fourth, it ironically gets Microsoft out of compatibility hell. Many sites are incompatible with Edge because they’re so tightly bound to Chrome. This sidesteps that.

                                                                                                                And finally, having Edge just isn’t a competitive advantage anymore. Even if, for sake of argument, Edge is lighter and more secure than Chrome, no one is buying Windows over it. That makes it a lousy thing to emphasize as much as they are, dev-resource-wise.

                                                                                                                1. 1

                                                                                                                  “Edge” on Android and iOS is Blink and WebKit, respectively, while it’s Trident on Windows.

                                                                                                                  All browsers on iOS are WebKit, even Firefox. Nobody has a choice there. But I don’t see Edge on Android switching away from Blink either, where they could if they wanted to. The three codebases for all three platform have essentially nothing to do with each other either.

                                                                                                                2. 6

                                                                                                                  Market share. Revenue. Ressource allocation. Security. Lots, really.

                                                                                                                  1. 2
                                                                                                                    1. 2

                                                                                                                      That certainly seems plausible. Thanks.

                                                                                                                  2. 10

                                                                                                                    We compete with Google not because it’s a good business opportunity.

                                                                                                                    Bear in mind that a lot of Mozilla’s Firefox revenue comes from Google. Mozilla competes with Google because Google lets them. I would speculate that’s to keep the semblance of an open “The Web”, the same way Microsoft paid to prop up Apple in the 1990s.

                                                                                                                    1. 3

                                                                                                                      There can be other revenue sources, Mozilla has had other partners in the previous years. If Google or Mozilla decides that that agreement is no longer interesting, there are other partners to work with. For example, some years ago it was Yahoo! who was paying.

                                                                                                                      Personally, I’d like to see Mozilla going towards a more pulverized way of funding by people voluntarily contributing money to keep it afloat but I don’t think that with the current mindset of the web users this is viable.

                                                                                                                      1. 4

                                                                                                                        Personally, I’d like to see Mozilla going towards a more pulverized way of funding by people voluntarily contributing money

                                                                                                                        That’s more or less the 2019 plan. If you want to support us, there will be a way to “subscribe”. I hope more people realize how important this is, but I also understand your skepticism.

                                                                                                                        1. 1

                                                                                                                          I already support with yearly donations and I am also a Mozilla TechSpeaker and Rep. ;-) doing what I can for the web ecosystem.

                                                                                                                          1. 1

                                                                                                                            Could you go into that some more (if you’re able)?

                                                                                                                            1. 2
                                                                                                                              1. if you’re interested in purchasing a VPN, you can start buying it through Mozilla and send a few dollars in the right direction. See https://blog.mozilla.org/futurereleases/2018/10/22/testing-new-ways-to-keep-you-safe-online/
                                                                                                                              2. follow our blogs or get a Firefox account and I’m sure you’ll get mail about this :)
                                                                                                                        2. 1

                                                                                                                          With all the criticism that I and others have with Mozilla, I found that their strategy around funding has been very clever in the recent years. They have played their position as a neutral player very well. Google funds them to keep other from funding them, not as a smoke screen.

                                                                                                                        3. 6

                                                                                                                          I agree strongly with the author about diversity of browser layout-engines, but have held an even more extreme viewpoint about internet infrastructure (hard and soft) for a rather long while:

                                                                                                                          • I think internet access (ISPs, wireless carriers) should be classified as utilities, complete with strong regulations and oversight.
                                                                                                                          • I think internet search & retrieval (Google, Bing) should be classified as utilities, same as above, with perhaps some help to encourage the existence multiple providers.
                                                                                                                          • I think email should be provided by the us postal service, with private carriers for those who want it.

                                                                                                                          None of these things make sense anymore as products of private-only, consumer-hostile, for-profit and increasingly monopolizing companies.

                                                                                                                          1. 2

                                                                                                                            I like one and two, but I don’t see how three would change much. There are already alternative email providers, but people use Gmail because it’s a) better and b) has shit loads of marketshare. I think that perhaps doing the same you suggested for the internet and search engines to email would be more effective.

                                                                                                                            Unfortunately, I’m quite skeptical that any of this is ever happening =/

                                                                                                                            1. 1

                                                                                                                              Those are all things I’m very in favor of, but they seem like completely unachievable dreams with the way things go in the U.S.

                                                                                                                              1. 0

                                                                                                                                All of these would kill the internet. Except 3, 3 makes some sense as an option.

                                                                                                                              2. 5

                                                                                                                                Please - the word you wanted is “lose” and not “loose”. “loose” is the opposite of “tight”, not of “gain”. (I realise you’re probably not a native English speaker and I wouldn’t complain, but it’s right there in the title and it reads wrong - because the words are pronounced differently).

                                                                                                                                I too am concerned about the web browser monoculture. I personally continue to use Firefox, although some of the practices of Mozilla occasionally irk me, I still find it preferable (and far easier to build) than Chrome. The question is, though, what can we actually do about it? Chrome is very successful and has a lot of resources behind it. But web renderers are far from trivial; it’s not like it’s an easy to produce a quality feature-complete competitor. That’s why webkit is doing so well - it’s packaged as a component, not a full browser. (Just as Firefox has Gecko, or whatever its current incarnation is called, in theory).

                                                                                                                                So: what do we do? How do we avoid blinking?

                                                                                                                                1. 12

                                                                                                                                  I think we lost when we allowed web standards to get so complex that they can’t be independently implemented without a billion dollar company funding a large team. I don’t think that this is solvable. The existing players are so far ahead that there’s really no catching up.

                                                                                                                                  1. 3

                                                                                                                                    Servo is not a billion dollar project.

                                                                                                                                    1. 6

                                                                                                                                      Mozilla’s annual revenue is half a billion dollars. Since it’s a non-profit, there’s no real valuation that I’m aware of, but just going off of typical P/E ratios, that would make them a multi-billion dollar company.

                                                                                                                                      1. 1

                                                                                                                                        Mozilla Corporation is a for-profit corporation owned by Mozilla Foundation, a nonprofit. That means the private part does have a value. They usually do profit times 10 in straight-forward sales of businesses. Using their 2016 financial, here’s the numbers to look at:

                                                                                                                                        Revenue: $520 mil

                                                                                                                                        Development cost: $225 mil

                                                                                                                                        Marketing: $47 mil

                                                                                                                                        Administrative: $59.9 mil

                                                                                                                                        Net gains: $102 mil (if I’m reading it right cuz it’s different than ones I did in college)

                                                                                                                                        They’re worth somewhere between $1-5 billion if looking at operating profit or revenues with no consideration for up/down swings in the future. Also, there’s two numbers there that look inflated: development cost; administrative. For the former, they use a lot of developers in high-wage areas. They could move a good chunk of development to places where good talent, esp their real estate, is cheaper to free up money for more developers and/or acquisitions. For administrative, that’s a big number that’s above their marketing spending. I think that should be other way around. More money into marketing might equal larger share of users.

                                                                                                                                  2. 6

                                                                                                                                    So: what do we do? How do we avoid blinking?

                                                                                                                                    It seems that Mozilla’s answer to that question is the Servo project. I guess we could start contributing.

                                                                                                                                    1. 6

                                                                                                                                      While I like rust and servo as a research project - mozilla does not hold a good track record when it comes to providing a browser as an reusable component. It has been a long time since Gecko could be easily embedded in other browsers, and this does not seem to be a priority for servo either.

                                                                                                                                      FWIW I think the main competitor to Blink is actually Webkit in the sense that it is the easiest open source browser for someone to modify. I would prefer to see people put their effort there.

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                                                                                                                                        GeckoView is an upcoming embedding API. It’s supposed to fix that and already used in some Firefox products, most notably Focus.

                                                                                                                                        1. 2

                                                                                                                                          This needs to be on desktop platforms, too, though, not just Android. But I’m happy to see the progress.

                                                                                                                                          1. 2

                                                                                                                                            I haven’t seen any code using GeckoView on the Desktop, is it Android only or can it be used to build Desktop browsers?

                                                                                                                                            1. 6

                                                                                                                                              It runs a where Gecko runs. Which is Linux/Windows/OSX on Intel, ARM, ARM64 etc.

                                                                                                                                              First iterations happened to be in mobile because we need to cash in on the Quantum improvements on mobile. That’s not due to technical constraints.

                                                                                                                                              1. 3

                                                                                                                                                oh that is awesome news. I was looking at the repo but could only find examples for Android and it being mentioned as an Android component. I wish there was a sample for the Desktop, something like QtGeckoView would make it quite popular.

                                                                                                                                                1. 1

                                                                                                                                                  Is it Java, though? Because, if so - ick. It would be much better to have a C, C++ or Rust API - something that doesn’t automatically add a large runtime overhead. I don’t foresee many desktop browsers being built on top of a Java API no matter how powerful/easy-to-use it is.

                                                                                                                                                  (Not that I think Java doesn’t have its place, I just don’t think it fits this niche particularly well, except for the obvious case of Android).

                                                                                                                                                  1. 1

                                                                                                                                                    No. On Android, we use embed GeckoView within a Java projects (obviously). This is mostly based on our Android Components.

                                                                                                                                              2. 1

                                                                                                                                                That also looks incredibly easy to use. That’s cool.

                                                                                                                                          2. 1

                                                                                                                                            Thanks for the feedback. I’ve realized the mistake about that typo too late and unfortunately the URL is tied to it. Fixing it makes a new URL and I can’t edit the URL here. :-(

                                                                                                                                            I agree with you, building an engine as a component that is easy to embed and build upon is the reason why WebKit became the dominant force here. I wish Mozilla paid more attention for the embedability of Gecko (which I’ve heard is a mess to build your product on top of). There is no easy way out of the current mess we’re in, people who are concerned about that can basically throw some effort and action towards Mozilla strengthening the remaining engine before it is too late.

                                                                                                                                            1. 1

                                                                                                                                              Fixing it makes a new URL and I can’t edit the URL here.

                                                                                                                                              Can you add a redirect?

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                                                                                                                                                I will look into crafting a redirect tomorrow as I don’t want to disrupt the little server today. This is not a jekyll blog. I think that adding a redirect using .htaccess should work but as the server is being accessed a lot right now, I am a bit afraid of breaking the post and potential readers reaching a broken URL.

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                                                                                                                                            I would argue the point that since Blink Edge was a closed-source blob supported on a small subset of users’ platform, the negative impact of losing it is much much less than say Servo. Could it be possible moving over to Chromium’s engine will make it easier for Microsoft to influence the web since it can push its changes upstream to the most widely used engine and being open-source, they are much easier to be picked up and reproduced by other engine as well?

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                                                                                                                                              I think you mean Edge, not Blink :-)

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                                                                                                                                                That’s right! Need more coffee.

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                                                                                                                                              On the bright side, at least Google isn’t a company known for overengineering and abandoning products.

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                                                                                                                                                I would be less sad if Microsoft had chosen Gecko/Servo here but I’m not too sad all the same. I don’t (yet) understand what rendering engine/JavaScript VM diversity really gave web developers. I can get behind browser diversity but it seems like what’s beneath the surface doesn’t matter anymore. I’d point to iOS as an example of this—Safari vs. Chrome is a worthwhile debate but it’s all WKWebView under the hood, and because of that iOS users can all benefit from the performance/battery life and site compatibility.

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                                                                                                                                                  What plurality amongst engines gives is an insurance that the web will be developed against actual standardized behavior rather than just the implemented version of the majority engine.

                                                                                                                                                  There are lots of examples of eg. optimizations that assume that all browsers work like browsers with a WebKit origin does, but such optimization may not at all help in eg. Gecko or even make it worse there.

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                                                                                                                                                    There are 2 ways to address this: having even more browsers with substantial marketshare or having just one open source rendering engine that is used by all.

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                                                                                                                                                    And all sites running anywhere on iOS as a consequence suffer from WebKit’s poor and generally laggard support for newer standards.

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                                                                                                                                                    would be amazing if ms open sourced the engine now. could be interesting to see an engine written from scratch for the current technologies.

                                                                                                                                                    but i guess this will never happen, just like opera didn’t release the presto engine :/

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                                                                                                                                                      EdgeHTML wasn’t rewritten form scratch, AFAIU that’s a myth they want people to believe. It’s still pretty close to Trident (IE rendering engine), from which they removed lots of Microsoft-legacy/proprietary and then added some features.

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                                                                                                                                                        AFAIU that’s a myth they want people to believe

                                                                                                                                                        I don’t think MS has ever promulgated this, actually; the Edge page definitely doesn’t claim it’s brand-new, and they initially launched Edge as literally just a document mode for IE—definitely not as some sort of total rewrite. I think the idea that EdgeHTML is an outright new browser got started by fans who either conflated the fact that the Edge chrome is brand-new (which it was) for the rendering engine being new (which it emphatically isn’t); who conflated EdgeHTML in general with the Chakra JavaScript engine (which was indeed new and has now been open-sourced); or who just straight-up exaggerated what Microsoft had done to Trident to make the Edge rendering engine.

                                                                                                                                                        Microsoft itself though has been quite clear in everything I’ve read that Edge is a direct descendent of IE’s rendering engine, because it’s honestly their marketing for why it’s okay to use Edge in corporations currently stuck on IE: it’s the same stuff you know and love, but now it can also scale cleanly into Chrome/Firefox territory. That messaging makes no sense if it’s a brand-new engine.

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                                                                                                                                                          ah, thanks (also gecko for the background information) for the clarification, is must have got that mixed up :)

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                                                                                                                                                        This might be a good business decision for Microsoft but it is a disastrous advancement for the Web.

                                                                                                                                                        I appreciate that there are many people who advocate for open standards with multiple implementations (I count myself among them). However there hasn’t been a “The Web” independent of the businesses that build its bits in a very long time. Far from the end of “The Web”, this is the last attendee at its wake turning the lights out.

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                                                                                                                                                          One possible benefit to the web from this move that hasn’t come up yet is that it may redress a little the lack of any constraint on Google since leaving WebKit and splitting up with Apple. At least for a while. It remains to be seen how much weight Microsoft will really have in the Chromium project… but it’s at least conceivable they’ll dampen Google’s pace for “innovating” in Blink at least a bit.

                                                                                                                                                          I don’t think this makes up for the loss in implementation plurality. But it’s at least some benefit in its own right that we might get in exchange… if we do get it.

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                                                                                                                                                            I’m not entirely sure what to think of it so let me play the devil’s advocate if only to clarify my own thinking.

                                                                                                                                                            First, let’s make it clear that the numbers look the way they do because consumers, not developers, use WebKit-based browsers. I don’t know why it’s that but I’m reasonable certain it’s not because of the engine but rather features built around it. Which leads to the following point.

                                                                                                                                                            Second, a browser vendor with declining market share can benefit from adopting WebKit because:

                                                                                                                                                            1. It’ll make Chrome-only websites (more) compatible so that it’ll be easier to convince customers to switch.
                                                                                                                                                            2. You’ll free up development resources to focus on meaningful differentiators which is a requirement for reversing the trend.

                                                                                                                                                            Third, does the complaint “It works differently in every browser?” sound familiar? If that’s a negative thing then engine monoculture would certainly help solve that issue. What’s the point of implementing several different engines that are expected to be indistinguishable from the outside?

                                                                                                                                                            Fourth, Samsung committed over 7000 times to Chromium so it’s really not that Google is the only party responsible for implementing it.

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                                                                                                                                                              it is not who contributes, it is who steers it and who they are accountable for, and who are the stakeholders. Yes, you can contribute to Chromium, but Google will lead that project in whatever direction they seem fit. Also “works different in every browser” is the web developers fault as it is very easy today to adere to standards, way easier than it was 7 or 8 years ago. Be aware that users are led into WebKit/Blink not because “it is better”, but because of the marketing forces behind it. Google is quite powerful, going to any of their properties and seeing a “use chrome” banner is powerful. Them switching their own browser to QUIC and their own properties to it, made it work better in their browser in detriment of all the other browsers who were in that time adhering to standards. Them shipping Google Hangouts only on Chrome and other stuff like that, makes for very compelling reasons to use their browser.

                                                                                                                                                              It is hard to compete when your competitor holds so much power and can not only change the client technology but also the sites people are accessing in tandem.

                                                                                                                                                              Monocultures are bad, imagine if Bill Gates hadn’t bailed out Apple in the 90s. There would be no iPod, no iPhone, no iPad, who knows where the industry would be. That innovation would be lost to a Windows monoculture. We’d probably be using some form of Windows Mobile in our phones or Symbian. We can’t know.

                                                                                                                                                              If Firefox dies, and we’re left with nothing but WebKit, we can’t innovate beyond the boundaries of that engine.

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                                                                                                                                                              Pragmatically speaking, if I enter code and run it, I want the output to be the same, no matter the engine.

                                                                                                                                                              Statements like this make me miss the HTML 1.1 web (except for the blink tag). Markdown seems like the new HTML 2.0, and I wonder if a pure-markdown web could ever work.

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                                                                                                                                                                I have just setup a monthly donation and I urge people who can please do. If anyone wants to get out of Netflix, I would suggest they pay that monthly amount to Mozilla instead.

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                                                                                                                                                                  This week I learned Microsoft is also making Android apps/games. I never thought I’d see that day. Perhaps the two are related?

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                                                                                                                                                                    Microsoft has been making Android apps for a long while. The entire Office suite, Cortana, Outlook, and others have been available for years, plural. This would be comparably new, but the thing I’d cite as the precedent wouldn’t be Android apps, but rather Electron apps (notably Visual Studio Code and the Azure data browser).

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                                                                                                                                                                      The office apps I use for work on Android (Outlook and OneNote) are polished apps.

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                                                                                                                                                                      Edge is also a not-too-bad ePub reader, right there built into Win10. I wonder if they’ll bother keeping that functionality.

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                                                                                                                                                                        Maybe Mozilla should put more effort into making it easier to use their engines.

                                                                                                                                                                        Microsoft had a choice and could have also used the Firefox engine but for reason decided to use Chrome.

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                                                                                                                                                                          The reason could be as simple as a combination of not caring and externalizing most of the financial risk to the Goog.

                                                                                                                                                                          And maybe a dash of past animosity from the Netscape days for tinfoil value.

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                                                                                                                                                                          Having devoted many years to building open source products on Mozilla technology I’m not surprised that they’re failing. They’re uninterested in contributions from anyone who doesn’t work for Mozilla Corp and hostile to any project that isn’t Firefox. After I submitted a patch that fixed a bug that was deleting Firefox users’ bookmarks and having it rejected out of hand I mostly gave up on trying to participate.

                                                                                                                                                                          Mozilla had a product akin to Electron 15 years ago but killed it because they couldn’t think beyond a single product.

                                                                                                                                                                          Just because a company espouses good values doesn’t mean they practice them. I’ll fight for everything that Mozilla stands for but I know they won’t have my back while I do it.

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                                                                                                                                                                            This. Mozilla’s engineering is largely ok, but nothing of that matters when terrible management-level decisions keep killing their promising stuff.

                                                                                                                                                                            At the moment, I just won’t use Mozilla tech, even if it’s exactly what I want, because I’m already expecting that management will sink it in the near future.

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                                                                                                                                                                              Mozilla had a product akin to Electron 15 years ago but killed it because they couldn’t think beyond a single product.

                                                                                                                                                                              I guess you are talking about XULRunner. Yeah it is unfortunate that they killed this.

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                                                                                                                                                                                After I submitted a patch that fixed a bug that was deleting Firefox users’ bookmarks and having it rejected out of hand I mostly gave up on trying to participate.

                                                                                                                                                                                I’m interested. Mind linking to the patch?

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                                                                                                                                                                                Tell Mozilla to stop removing features and adding bloaty slow garbage, and tell them to DISABLE CTRL-Q, and maybe I’ll go back to using and supporting Firefox

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                                                                                                                                                                                  i am mystified at their refusal to addres the ctrl-q bug. it’s been open for over a decade now and i could be missing even earlier bugs filed for it.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    I imagine it’s internal bureaucracy about the specifics of the implementation: I believe there was the consideration of a layer for rebinding all key combinations (completely unnecessary imo) and it got lost in boring technical discussion that eventually fizzled out

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                                                                                                                                                                                    As an aside, a useful hack is to bind ctrl-q in the window manager so that it never reaches firefox. Eg in i3:

                                                                                                                                                                                    bindsym Ctrl+q exec /bin/false

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                                                                                                                                                                                      Then I can’t use Ctrl+Q elsewhere.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      I wonder if they might entertain a patch from some contributor..

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                                                                                                                                                                                      This is party Firefox’ own doing. If you are a developer of a small browser, there’s no where else to go but Blink. You can’t embed Gecko/Servo into your own browser. So when Microsoft decided that they wanted to stop developing their own engine, they had only one place to go.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        I agree with you here. Been asking about embedding gecko for some years…

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                                                                                                                                                                                        Our intent is to align the Microsoft Edge web platform simultaneously (a) with web standards and (b) with other Chromium-based browsers.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Don’t need standards when there’s only one implementation.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          From a user’s perspective the problem with edge was not with pages not rendering correctly, or being slow or being too resource hungry. I had a pretty good experience in these regards.

                                                                                                                                                                                          What I had terrible experience is the UI. Initially Edge had a very minimal UI. Address bar, back, forward, landing page with most visited pages stamps. Luckily after it gained some traction someone had a great idea: The product is not opular, because it does not have

                                                                                                                                                                                          • a bing search bar on the startpage you cannot disable
                                                                                                                                                                                          • msn “news” which is basically US targeted spam, celebrity gossip and fake news, mostly irrelevant for my market and my interests
                                                                                                                                                                                          • pervasive tracking in the name of synchronization, which (at least the sync part) does not really work

                                                                                                                                                                                          Meanwhile they marketed the outstanding support for Progressive Web Apps, which was… a bit of an overstatement. For example You can pin the PWA to start menu, but it will open in the ordinary edge window in a tab, not its separate window as if it were an app.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Overall the browser was not that bad, on my underpowered notebook it was running pretty decent. Still the agressive bing and msn bullshit eventually ed me up so i’m back to Firefox, which I abandoned after version 3.6 I think.

                                                                                                                                                                                          No regrets, Firefox is better than ever!

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                                                                                                                                                                                            Last time I tried it, it had weird unpredictable lock-ups when I would open a new tab, type in the web address I wanted to visit, and only actually start loading that web address five seconds later. Firefox had considerably better and more predictable performance.

                                                                                                                                                                                            By the way: am I the only one who thinks Firefox Quantum looks more like Edge than it looks like Chrome?

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                                                                                                                                                                                              I also encountered those problems on my workplace machine, but on my home machines with up to date (not fast lane) versions they were uncommon since 1803 update. On the other hand the UX pain arrived.

                                                                                                                                                                                              On FF is more like edge or chrome: because of the blocky tabs i tend to agree with you, but I think this is primarily your perception, and FF is on its own way.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                On FF is more like edge or chrome: because of the blocky tabs i tend to agree with you, but I think this is primarily your perception, and FF is on its own way.

                                                                                                                                                                                                That’s true, but everyone always compares it to Chrome. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone compare it to Edge (it’s not just the blocky tabs; the “Library” button in Firefox is conceptually similar to the “Hub” button on Edge, bundling the history, bookmarks, and downloads together into one drop-down panel).

                                                                                                                                                                                                As for Firefox’s future: if it becomes the browser that just bundles an ad blocker by default (and I don’t mean the neutered implementation that only kicks in for ads that play sound by default, I mean all ads), that’ll probably be the day I start telling my grandma to use it. Because, screw any other considerations, that’s exactly the kind of unfair advantage that Firefox should be exercising.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            My question here is really: Why not drop the Browser completely and use Chrome instead? In the end, it’s just branding. Which browser I use doesn’t make much of a difference anymore.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Right now I am using Brave Beta (based on Chrome) and Firefox. I don’t mind either of them.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Or, why wouldn’t this great new Open Source company Microsoft not join forces with Firefox and help them to deliver a better browser then Chrome is? Then they could have their Microsoft apps as extensions or stuff like that.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Then, they would also have a market reach on macOS and Linux where people still will have a hard time installing Edge, just because of branding reasons.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              Chrome wants to sync with your Google Account. Edge wants to sync with your Live.com Account.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              I tend to think this is a bad thing overall, assuming they’re doing it. We’ll now have one less completely independent browser engine in the world. One step closer to being back in the bad old days where there’s one dominant browser engine, and whatever it decides to do is the de-facto standard.

                                                                                                                                                                                              If we do go that way, it’s also not a very good sign for any future diversity in browser engines if even a tech giant like Microsoft can’t justify the expense of building and maintaining an independent one.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                This was my immediate reaction, you hit it spot on. At least we still have Firefox.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                Maybe I should be taking some sort of principled stand here as well. I personally use FF at home and Chrome for work/on my phone. Our userbase on firefox is so slim that they’re really irrelevant. IE still has a decent chunk, but Chrome is the most used by a landslide.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Having lived through the IE6 debacle and the lingering nonsense that followed it, I just don’t see how this is remotely the same. IE6 was a closed-source, MS-only supported browser that had a bunch of proprietary bits to it that they then sat on for years without really improving. Meanwhile, competition came around that did things better, faster.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Now we have a bunch of organizations contributing to a project that originated as an open-source engine that is still open source. Maybe there is some future where Google being the main contributor will lead to them deciding to nix standards and go off on all proprietary things. But if that happens, people are free to fork it and continue promoting standards if they want. Remember that it’s not just Google contributing to Blink, it’s also Opera, Intel, Samsung, Adobe, Nvidia, Yandex – and soon it will add Microsoft.

                                                                                                                                                                                                I’ve spent the bulk of my career coding for the web (slightly more on the client side), I would love if I only had to focus on supporting 1 browser engine. That doesn’t mean there’s only one browser surrounding it - we’ll still have Chrome, Edge, Opera, Yandex, Vivaldi, etc. They have different features for users that we want while making it easier on me to make great UIs and keeping my company from dropping hundreds of thousands supporting browsers that don’t work as well.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  Remember that it’s not just Google contributing to Blink, it’s also Opera, Intel, Samsung, Adobe, Nvidia, Yandex – and soon it will add Microsoft.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I don’t think anyone’s debating that. The main thing people don’t like is that a company that already has a functional monopoly on the web should also have the greatest hand in what browsers made for it look like. Sure, Intel is also there, as are Samsung and Nvidia, but… will any of them really be a counterbalance against Google? Or will they just make performance tweaks here & there? Which of those companies can outweigh Google’s monopolistic tendencies on Google’s own product?

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  Using the same logic, there should be many Wikipedias. Yet, having one repository of knowledge that everyone can contribute to and reference is a vastly better experience.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  We also don’t know what Microsoft’s plans are, so this is premature.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    Using the same logic, there should be many Wikipedias. Yet, having one repository of knowledge that everyone can contribute to and reference is a vastly better experience.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    This is wildly out-of-step with my experience of wikipedia. Any topic remotely approaching political is run by according to the maintainers values with conflicting edits rejected out-of-hand.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    For instance:

                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Sockpuppet accounts offering paid edits for positive coverage (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Wikipedia_controversies lists several)
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • There’s a list of Mass killings under communist regimes but a corresponding list for capitalist regimes was rejected (despite there being ample events for a list).
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Persistent claims that (eg) female mathematicians are deleted as ‘not noteworthy’ when their works are comparable to males who are included.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I, for one, am happy that there are many online encyclopedias and think there could stand to be more.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      All the rumors seem to trace back to a windowscentral.com post where the author said “I’m told that Microsoft is throwing in the towel with EdgeHTML”. Is this a reliable source? How do we know the new Anaheim browser isn’t going to be dual-engine or something other than just a boring skin on top of Blink?

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      Never miss a story from Ferdy Christant, when you sign up for Medium. Learn more

                                                                                                                                                                                                      can we block medium already

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        This is off-topic. Are you complaining that medium has a banner in the footer?

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          the thing i quoted was the most prominent text on the page that was linked to. i think the most prominent text on a page should be fair game for comments.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            No, it’s the annoying sign up messages on what is essentially a glorified pastebin.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          Mozilla’s response: Goodbye, EdgeHTML

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            Blink & Webkit are separate things now. Why are they being lumped together?

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              So, after many years, web browser from Microsoft may be available on platforms other than MS Windows.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                I wasn’t exactly holding my breath.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                We’re back to the state of affairs before the Apple / Google collaboration on WebKit fell apart. Same number of web engines under development.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  No, it’s less, right? I count WebKit (Apple/Google), Gecko (Mozilla), EdgeHTML (Microsoft) and Presto (Opera). Presto was technically switched out for WebKit before the Blink fork but really they happened at the same time - within a month or two IIRC. Close enough that Opera announced they would switch to Blink instead before almost any sort of work had been done on the switch.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Now all we’ve got is Gecko, WebKit and Blink. And it’s worse than just those numbers would imply because market share these days is more inbalanced in favor of a Blink monopoly ([citation needed]).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Same number of engines but with fewer origins - all except Gecko now share the WebKit origin and has the basis of the architecture choices made in that