related MS blog post: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18619774
Disappointing that all big players want to contribute to Chromium code base but not Gecko, which is left solely in the hands of Mozilla and presumably is going to find it tougher and tougher to simply keep up with Chromium/Skia/Blink etc.
While market share may be lower, they will always have millions and millions of users who will continue to love it.
to be fair, and as much as I like FF, the Chromium codebase seems much cleaner and much more amenable to external contributions (thanks to its KHTML roots, no doubt :-) ). The FF codebase really feels like something that badly transitioned from C to C++ (and now to Rust !), while the chromium had a mostly coherent C++ design from the very beginning.
On the plus side, Rust is a really, really nice language :)
This allows them to bring Edge to parity with Chrome, and by building their own features and proposals on top of that they regain the ability to drive standards.
But they can also errode Apple's moat by supporting web standards and deep device/native integration better than Safari, which lags chromium in standards support.
IMHO this is not rational on the part of web developers. If they've forgotten the lessons of IE-6 they need to have a refresher and stick to standards. If that means sticking to a subset of the standards that are supported by all browsers then so be it - stop thinking about yourself and your immediate desire (it's not a need after all) and think about the future and your users.
Realistically, that's a worst case scenario, and I think it would be a long time before firefox/Chrome diverged to that level, if at all.
But the horror, oh the horror....
It's quite rational.
> If they've forgotten the lessons of IE-6 they need to have a refresher and stick to standards.
I think you have an unreasonable view of what “the lessons of IE-6” for web developers are.
I agree with the OP. Perhaps you can elaborate on why you think we both have unreasonable views.
- Open source is important.
- Web standards are important, especially living standards.
- Continuous updates are extremely important.
- Bundling browser updates with OS updates is an awful idea.
- Plugins are a bad idea, let's not do those anymore.
Am I missing any? I know people are afraid of a "browser monopoly" developing around Chrome and I think the fear is very legitimate, but I don't believe this is one of IE6's lessons. There has always been either a monopoly or a duopoly in browsers ever since… well, ever since web browsers were a thing. The web got as far as it did because there was very little fragmentation. In fact, the times where fragmentation was the highest (= when IE versions were legitimate separate browsers and auto-updating wasn't the norm) were the times with the least meaningful progress.
That is exactly the wrong thinking that got people in trouble. The lesson is not to go that route. Every product that has ever existed had an end of life. To tailor your site to the browser of the day at the expense of standards compatibility is short sighted.
People like to go for fancy new things and are willing to ignore standards and 2nd place browsers when they don't really have to. Your job is to make a usable site/app, not to show off how you managed to pull of some nifty thing enabled by using fancy proprietary feature X. Stick you your job and check your ego at the door please. You'll be better of down the road.
A web site is not a product, it's a way to help sell your product. Unless you're a dot-com company and you're really trying to sell your web site to investors, in which case I don't really care do what you want.
> - Open source is important.
I think if MS continued with IE's development, open source wouldn't be such an important issue. It became one because MS became a bad steward. But, I agree that being open source makes it unlikely that Chromium will stagnate in the same way.
> - Continuous updates are extremely important.
> - Bundling browser updates with OS updates is an awful idea.
MS had a living standard. It was widely regarded as part of "embrace, extend, extinguish." Continuous updates & breaking away from the OS are important for security. They're bad for standards.
> - Web standards are important, especially living standards.
If you need a browser that's at most 6 weeks old to run a new site, what good is a standard? The Web was supposed to gracefully degrade, but that's not what's happening. Instead, devs are building sites & apps that only work in Chromium-based browsers and popping up splash screens that inform you you need to switch to use this site. This is something that in a post IE6 world we said we wouldn't do again, and yet here we are.
I think the only real difference between what Google & MS did in terms of snubbing the W3C is that Google embraced the WHATWG.
> - Plugins are a bad idea, let's not do those anymore.
The difference between plugins, extensions, and add-ons to an end user is non-existent. There's certainly an improvement to security. But, otherwise end users frequently choose Chrome (or Firefox) based on what extensions are available.
Is this argument in good faith, or do you genuinely not remember the IE6 days?
We were talking about IE6 support still … what… four years ago? That's almost FIFTEEN YEARS. The point isn't that you need a "six weeks old" browser, the point is that you can't let it get so bad that you are no longer able to use features less than a decade old.
I mean there's young web devs out there that wrote compatibility shims for a browser that's older than they are.
Yes, I've encountered sites & apps that require the absolute latest version of Chrome, which is on a 6 week update schedule. I've tested 10s of thousands of different sites. You really don't need to quote parts of that and then tell me it's not the point. So, let's just assume for a moment that I'm not lying, and by some miraculous sequence of events your life experiences ended up being different from mine. Given all that, my question still stands. What's the point of a standard if it's a constantly shifting target, developers target it and they lock you out if you're not running the latest version of a specific browser?
Placing IE6 in the context I clearly outlined, where it was an actively developed browser and considerably better than Netscape on SeaMonkey... how is what MS was doing any different than what Google's doing now? Both see the standards bodies as being too slow to act, so they roll out their own improvements, devs adopt them and lock out others. The only difference I can really see is MS only documented their changes, rather than creating a competing standards body à la WHATWG.
That may even be the best thing for progress. Even during IE6's active period, it's how we ended up with technologies like Ajax. But being an "open standard" is meaningless when it only runs on one constantly shifting target. That's the world we're converging on again because it's convenient for developers to do so.
You and I are obviously talking about two different classes of web devs. The ones I'm talking about, constantly adopting new technologies and locking out everyone else, gave up on IE6 long ago. Many of them don't run Windows and have never built a site that works on anything other than a Chromium-based browser.
As for the rest of it, I asked a rhetorical question that you dismissed out of hand and then went on to talk about IE6 in a timeframe about 10 years later than I was. I tried to correct your wrong frame of reference and get back to the question at hand. But, I'm happy to drop the topic as well.
There are standards, and then there are standards.
Ideally, de jure standards would rule the day but in practice de facto standards often win.
But since developers were primarily coding for IE, Firefox and Safari, each with their own quirks, it just didn't work out for them.
I remember doing web development back then and don't recall ever testing for Opera compatibility myself.
At the end of the day, you only have do much time. So although my primary browser was Opera, I knew I was in the minority despite all the standards compliance
That said, I'm super excited for 'Fenix' browser which should be out sometime next year. Hope Fenix gives Chrome and other Chromium-based browsers some robust competition and loosens their stranglehold on the browser market. 
optics is certainly subjective but I think this is especially funny. I use both Chrome and FF for testing purposes and often use different user accounts for various services which I separate by browser. I use different color schemes for both to be able to quickly determine what browser I am currently using. Yes, the tabs look different and you can always take a closer look at the menues, but honestly, they basically look the same.
(Disclosure: I work for Mozilla, but not on the browser)
My apologies. My understanding was that Firefox, regardless of platform, goes by the name 'Quantum' from v57.0 and up. Thanks for clarifying.
It has really, really improved a lot :)
I couldn't care less for the Edge UI (IMHO it is a poor clone of Chrome) but seeing MS's browser engine open-sourced would've been far more interesting --- even if it's only IE6.
I think EdgeHTML will continue to be used by Microsoft for various scenarios, just not in their Edge browser. These scenarios include usage in WinForms and WPF apps https://blogs.windows.com/msedgedev/2018/05/09/modern-webvie...
Last week: “If Microsoft really cared about open source, they’d deprecate Edge, adopt an open-source browser, and work to get improvements pushed upstream.”
Today: “If Microsoft really cared about open source, they’d release the source for Edge.”
Can you remember a time when we had better web browsers than today? For sure there's some anxiety about the future, but isn't the browser situation today better than it's ever been?
Before there was Firefox, IE, Chrome and Opera which all had their own rendering engines.
No? Opera is gone, all we have now is Firefox, Chromium and a bunch of Firefox and Chromium skins. Some of them also bundle extensions for extra features.
Opera was great because it had lots of conveniences built in to the browser as well as bleeding edge features. They often beat other browser vendors to implement features, and they had a pretty good developer tool stack.
Now it's a shell of what it once was.
think of it like this: instead of a browser vendor implementing a feature and then the rest playing catch-up, that same feature will now be available for most users, no matter who has developed it.
It would not work for back-end features, such as WebVR or WebAR, for instance, or WebPay, or WebGL, or wasm. All these features need low-level support and low-level patches that only Google may decide to accept or reject. For the moment, Google doesn't seem overly interested in WebVR/WebAR, for instance, so it doesn't seem that any of the Chromiumlings will be competing on that field.
I expect microsoft to release their rebuild of Edge, which will override all user preferences for chrome, advertise itself on the lock screen, and come bolted on with a ton of features and extensions no one asked for because Redmond couldnt help themselves.
2008. “Fuck you, Microsoft, for not bundling Firefox or Chrome. Your browser is destroying the web!”
2018. “Fuck you, Microsoft, for bundling Firefox or Chrome. Stopping work on your browser will destroy the web!”
Give it a rest.
If Microsoft implemented POSIX support, people would grab their torches and pitchforks because MS was actively working to encourage monoculture because it hates customers.
Doing this would be far more safe in terms of having at least some method for controlling what the engine will look like other than "hope Google don't, hope Google do..."
The only way that I can feel a bit safe when a browser engine dominates ~90% of browser base.
When IE6 initially came out it was the best browser around, with excellent standards support for its time.
It only became the horror it's remembered as today because then Microsoft just didn't update it, so a once first-in-class browser became a backwards compatibility nightmare everyone had to support.
I don't see how the same situation could repeat itself. If Google or Microsoft ever decides to just drop Chromium for whatever reason the code this time around is open, so someone else can just pick it up, and users can migrate to that.
The main problem with IE6 was that users couldn't do that, there was a decade of legacy apps that had grown to require IE6-specific features.
Not really. Let's imagine for one second that Google switches to Mozilla's Servo or a secret in-house next-gen engine. Who could afford to suddenly hire the 200+ engineers it takes to maintain Chromium?
But that's not the real problem. The real problem is that Google will have de facto control on all web technologies. Chromium is open-source but has a closed governance, so nobody can say "no" to a Google patch, while Google can say "no" to any outside patch. This means that Google can, if they so decide, leverage this monopoly against the competition.
In theory, Google would have the technological means to kill the web presence of Facebook, Netflix or pretty much anyone with a single commit, which would automatically be propagated to Edge, Opera, Brave, Dolphin, ...
Similarly, Google would have the technological means to decide which credit card you could use to pay on the web (at least through WebPay).
I don't think that Google would do such a thing, but that's a lot of power in the hands of a single entity, exactly the problem that we witnessed at the time of IE6. Also, Google has, at times, be known to muscle in other browser's territory by using Google Search/Google Docs/Google Hangouts/..., so the temptation will certainly be there.
In that scenario one of two things will happen.
Either Chromium will only be needed in some shape for compatibility with older sites. At that point you don't need 200 people to maintain it, just a small team to fix portability issues and security problems in the sandbox, while the "real" browser is whatever the next Firefox or Safari is.
Or, Chromium is critical to the web somehow and needs to be actively devloped. I find it hard to imagine a scenario where that'll be the case but you can't come up with the salary for 200 engineers to work on it. What Google pays Firefox for the search bar alone is way more than enough to cover that, whatever the dominant browser "distribution" is could do something similar, or move to a hybrid "open core" model with a license fee.
> The real problem is that Google will have de facto control on all web technologies[...]
Yeah that's a problem. But this is why I'm saying the comparison to IE6 doesn't make any sense beyond the trivial statement that in the 00s this one browser was really popular, and now we have this other browser that's going to be dominating in the late 10s and early 20s.
The problem with IE6 wasn't that Microsoft was aggressively pushing their own alternate standards (although there was some of that, e.g ActiveX), rather it was that what dominated the web was effectively abandonware.
This is not at all what's happening with Chromium, quite the opposite. The fear is that Google will start moving too fast in some direction that's in their interest but not in the interest of the rest of the web.
My point is that whatever the state was back then what followed couldn't have happened if IE6 was open source. Mozilla could have simply built it as part of Firefox, shipped it as a legacy rendering mode, and nobody would have had Windows or IE6 lock-in to use some legacy website.
IMO, it was quite opposite in my experience. Website following HTML standards worked as intended on other browsers.
There's an ecosystem around browsers: web extensions (Google store), debugging tools, canary versions, sandboxes/security etc etc.
MS is trying to build that ecosystem for Edge. But it is slow going. A big advantage of changing to Chromium might be to fit into the existing ecosystem.
What exactly do people think is going to happen? If Google starts doing strange things thinking they can because "everyone uses Chromium", then downstream just won't adopt those changes, and then there will be two Chromiums. All the panic about a Google "monopoly" of the web is absurd. Google lost the ability to do anything like that the moment they open sourced the project.
All that said, I’m surprised nobody is talking about Apple in all of this as they have a huge portion of the mobile browser share.
The way to keep it thriving (because it is, 9% market share is tens to hundreds of millions of users) is to empower developers to keep it relevant and users to escape the Google ad Imperium and universal tracking.
The day Mozilla announces chromium support, there will likely be a hard fork. It will also be the day where they fire/lose most of their team. That would be after users walk away from it. It would be suicidal. It would kill Mozilla the organization but you can bet somebody will keep the browser going.
Worst case, Google pulls their funding at some point. They are under no obligation to keep on funding it. Mozilla might need to diversify their income at some point or scale down their operations.
Apple and Mozilla being around will force Google + MS to play nice. Also the latter two are frenemies so the most natural place for them to cooperate is through open source and standard bodies. MS has had a big impact on web standards historically and they are unlikely to leave all that to Google. So, it's going to continue to be a four way discussion in the standards bodies. Chrome as a reference implementation will become even more important than it is today of course.
The real question is whether Apple will continue to keep Safari alive. With shrinking sales and many mac users option for Chrome/Firefox anyway, they have a problem there. They might decide to join MS and retire webkit. Right now it's usage is inflated because Apple bans competing browsers from their app store.
I really do not get it, Edge moving to Chromium changes absolutely nothing wrt Mozilla's "peril".
Web developers perpetrated this cycle once before with IE6. It's easy to look back at how bad IE6 was because MS became complacent. In its day, however, IE6 was easily the best browser out there. And MS decided waiting on a standards body hindered the speed of progress, so they forged ahead with their own features and hoped the standards bodies would later incorporate them. If not... oh well. And since 90+% of the Web used IE6, developers developed their sites for IE6, rarely ever testing in anything else.
It's likely Chromium won't stagnate the same way that IE6 did. But in a way, that makes it even harder for Firefox to regain market share. As a Firefox user, it's a bit embarrassing how many sites & apps I encounter that are Chrome-only. Or, if I report an issue to a developer they tell me to just switch browsers.
If Firefox numbers drop below a threshold, we can only pray, Google doesn't alter the deal any further.
Not to mention Google gets carte blanche to basically control Web Standards as they see fit, since they are the only implementer (that counts).
- Don't want PNaCl? Too bad.
- Dart on the Web? You can't remove it even if you want it. Oh and you better support it, cause if your browser doesn't have feature parity with Chrome, you are doomed.
- Rust in browser? You can only dream.
- Browsers that use more GPU and SIMD? Too much of a hassle.
People keep repeating this, but it is not true. I addressed this in my OP and yet here you are repeating it again. They do not get a free license to do whatever, because other people have the code.
This is just so strange, I didn't expect the developer community to succumb to FUD and hysteria like this.
Even if Firefox disappeared, Apple is still around.
Apple cares about web in the same way Windows cared about web. They want to move you to their native silo apps (for windows it was Windows application).
I.e. Apple wants to rename your Web Browser to App Store. It's already in some regards, the new IE.
because they want Mozilla's users to use google search / services, not out of the goodness of their hearts. what if mozilla had 5000 users left tomorrow? think big G would still write that check?
Except if the website doesn't even warn visitors, and just breaks silently.
 Or Safari and minor Webkit browsers. I hate Apple's stubbornness sometimes, but here's where their focus on resource usage puts an obstacle to browser monopoly, for now.
They made the obvious choice (for them) based on market share
Currently I'm not sure that Google is the very best steward of "The One and Only" rendering engine. Being a commercial enterprise, Google may also have commercial interest that doesn't not always work in favour of the user. The Chrome rendering engine is NEVER going to have anti-tracking features for instance.
Edit: Let's not forget the security implications. A bug in Chrome/Blink will allow attackers to target 90% of the web, that's dangerous.
Why throw that away? I heavily disagree that one rendering engine would be preferable.
I really like to use Chrome but it is opinionated. Bad image quality for scaled images for example. Do not like.
I am no web developer, I think someone could give you more details.
If you look at the longer term, though, that's not true anymore.
I wrote a few things on the topic here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18664053
That's without even counting that Google get to decide on what can be experimented upon and what can't. You probably don't want a single company to decide this.
EDIT: I found the Downvoters, but can I get a comment so we can discuss? :)
Open source isn't a magic solution to Google's kind of monopoly. It's a herculean task to match Google with its free + convenience + monopoly + open source + strong brand recognition offering.
Chrome is already past IE's level of dominance without our realising it - market share percentages just obscures reality.
Google's next card is obvious from their android play book.
They'll soon rip off vital parts of chromium - make em proprietary or google cloud dependent.
Each Chromium fork is bound to implement its own features to some extent or another. Granted, there is still some monocultrure elements at its core, but this is far from the sheer stagnation that came along with the overreliance on IE6.
(Still, it would have been nice if Microsoft would have chosen Gecko instead...)
Oh how I'd wish, in this case.
Google is the one creating a web essentially bound to whatever Chrome does, supports, or doesn't support.
Why do you think this? What is stopping Microsoft from changing the code?
More and more I'm convinced the alarm is just due to a bad mental model of how code works. There is no pull request, there's just Microsoft building whatever they want.
Okay, so what effect does Edge moving to Chromium have? If you didn't care about Edge due to its marketshare then why does it matter what engine it uses?
If Microsoft doesn't completely fuck up privacy again there won't be any more reason to switch to Chrome.
You may wish to click the link.