With Microsoft switching to Chromium, Firefox is now the only viable (cross platform) alternative. FF gaining back a solid amount of market share is critical for the browser ecosystem in the future.
(Personally I switched back to FF after the first Quantum release, which brought performance back on par with Chrome. On mobile, the ad blocker is even more essential to get somewhat acceptable load times...)
I see contributor sites being linked all over the place - social media, news aggregators, even Apple news. I wish there was more awareness that these articles are written by some regular person with no qualifications as a journalist and that there is no standard for accuracy.
I’ve been asked to be a contributor before. I don’t know what the criteria is. I got a cold call about it one day. I’ve been a panelist at a couple local events, got a mention in a niche news outlet and was nominated for an award once. My guess is that’s why I was targeted as a lead. The pitch was mostly about having a bigger platform for my personal brand if I remember correctly.
What credibility is that? My impression is that they have lost quite a lot of what they once had for exactly this reason.
It seems like the ideal solution of using the OS's native web toolkit hasn't been successful so far. So the next best offering (aside from building on Qt), is to have an Electron competitor too.
I don't think that there's a desktop offering at the moment. There used to be quite a few (XULRunner, Prism, etc.) but they all died from lack of love.
Mozilla deprecated it not that long ago in favor of HTML but stalwarts have clung to it and complained.
I use to maintain a couple Add-ons and developed some simple UIs for it. I was never impressed by it and it was easy enough to use so I had no objections either.
Then there's GeckoView, which they explicitly decided not to make available as a WebView drop-in to be available systemwide on Android. In this case, at least they seem to have a reason, though it seems to me that having an alternative to Google's WebView would be valuable enough to continue.
I'm not sure I understand your point. Is there a public statement from Microsoft that they are following Google on this? I don't know what Microsoft is going to do, but nothing stops them from keeping the API fully working. And if Firefox was based on Chromium too, nothing would stop Mozilla from keeping the API working either. Although I expect some forks to follow Google on this, namely other ad-tech companies with web browsers, like Yandex.
I've been checking the tickets associated with the issue (mainly [this one](https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1404042) ) and there doesn't seem to be any significant advance, nor it seems the people in charge are aware of how prevalent and deal breaking this bug is :(
A long shot but you may be able to save us countless hours of effort. Over at the OpenJ9 project we're trying to get z/OS testing for our JDK and one of the dependencies is the XML::Parse perl library which depends on libexpat. In  you mentioned you worked on porting this to work with EBCDIC. Did you ever succeed? If so are your changes available in open source anywhere?
In my experience the bug is usually overlooked because people won't notice that they only have performance issues when the browser is open - for most people, the browser is always running nowadays.
But firefox has shown no indication of gaining marketshare. I'd reckon that a large amount of firefox's current marketshare are people who had pre-Quantum extentions that were critical to their workflow, and who are now using an outdated browser version. One big vulnerability or generally adopted new feature would probably knock a third off even the 5-10% share they currently have.
Firefox's share is so small that the other two-thirds is probably evenly split between google-haters, a constant turnover of people just trying it out for a month or two before going back to Chrome, and people who use Chrome for most of their browsing and switch to Firefox for porn because they are afraid google is watching them.
When firefox was at 40% of the market and shrinking, they somehow decided that their problem was that they didn't look like a cheap knockoff, drop-in replacement for their competitor. They succeeded in making themselves totally disposable.
IMO, their only hope is and has always been to strip their browser down to a virtually featureless embeddable UI component, implement the rest of the current features as a core curated package of plugins against an API that all developers have equal access to, adopt all community-developed plugins that reach a certain usage level, and add a rating system for plugins that communicates the level of mozilla's involvement, e.g. gold for in-house, green for having employees intimately involved with the code, yellow for periodically reviewed by mozilla, red for never reviewed by mozilla, and flashing red for never reviewed by mozilla, has had complaints, and has not responded or been contacted by mozilla.
Other vendors will end up putting together different core suites, and will offer their own ratings, ultimately spawning 5-10 major concurrent firefox versions and swamping chrome out of existence. Through being able to lay off much of the reviewing work to outside vendors, firefox developers can concentrate all of their efforts on streamlining the core, educational outreach about the internet and the web, and lawsuits against the monopolists for adding anti-features to their sites targeted to ruin the user experience on specific browsers.
Instead, firefox has settled into being the token opposition party in a dictatorship that just exists to make sure that there's another name on the ballot come election time, and the dictator only gets 96% of the vote instead of 100%.
Hopefully Google leaves a workaround to enable ad-blocking. Otherwise, I will switch, it will be a bit of hassle, but I'll drop them none the less. No ads & lower power usage would be nice though.
Why are multiple rendering and JS engines critical for the browser ecosystem? Everyone would be much better off if we standardized on one.
Looking a bit further (into possible future business needs of Alphabet) you might see that chrome will refuse to serve anything not based on Googles AMP standard and globally remove anything that hurts their partnership with the Chinese government.
This is the single standard JS engine we are looking forward to.
Ad blocking isn't part of the rendering or JS engine.
>Looking a bit further (into possible future business needs of Alphabet) you might see that chrome will refuse to serve anything not based on Googles AMP standard and globally remove anything that hurts their partnership with the Chinese government.
>This is the single standard JS engine we are looking forward to.
This is just unsubstantiated fear mongering and mostly flat out wrong. If worst came to worst and Google rammed something like that into Chromium everyone else could just fork it and remove the offending parts. A Google Chromium and a Non-google Chromium fork is still way better than what we have now today with four distinct engines in Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and IE.
If we believe Google it is in a very performance sensitive part of the APIs, I would say that makes it a prime target for future optimizations just to hard wire the performant behavior directly into the engine.
> This is just unsubstantiated fear mongering and mostly flat out wrong.
Of course we can always count on a profit driven company to do the right thing and there was never a project Dragonfly at Google, just as there was never a Tiananmen Square massacre. Trust in Alphabets morality absolutely, trust that when they are doing something obviously wrong that they are doing it for the right reasons.
> Google rammed something like that into Chromium everyone else could just fork it
Maintaining a fork is going to be quite difficult when upstream wants you dead, already ships black box modules for some features and represents the de facto standard for 99% of the world.
When Microsoft was in a monopoly position, they ignored the standards and pushed ActiveX plugins. Chrome this year wanted to push other browsers to adopt obsolete U2F specifications because they used them in Google products. If there's a single implementation, and the gatekeepers are majority from one company, standards and interoperability become irrelevant.
That's a good thing. What's the point of maintaining four separate software projects who's ideal purpose is to literally do the exact same thing. It's much better to settle on one open source project. If we think Google is the boogeyman then settling on a Chromium fork is still light years better than what we have now.
The common ground is the standard not the browser implementation. The web has been working well and is still working well with multiple implementations.
EDIT: I have been informed that it's not cross-platform since 2012. My bad.
Chrome is slower and Firefox on mobile is a joke.
Why is that so unbelievable? I use Firefox every day and haven't even considered that this might be a problem. I don't have difficulty hitting the [-] on HN, but if I did, I would simply zoom in until it becomes large enough.
Chrome still had a slightly better UI the last time I tried it but the gap wasn't remotely wide enough to give up ublock origin.
Adverts are even more annoying on phones than they are on desktop so been able to run ublock origin directly on device is a major win.
A couple issues with Safari I've seen since it's slower to adopt web standards:
- buggier websites from devs who don't have iPhones. Since there are some quirky inconsistencies with how webkit handles css vs other browser rendering engines it's easy not to catch those quirks if you don't have an iPhone to check them with. And once users point them out, it's a pain to fix without a physical device.
- a smaller web feature set than chrome/Firefox. For instance, Safari doesn't allow localstorage while in incognito. I think it supports serviceworkers and webrtc now but it took years to get them.
Isn't that good for privacy? Localstorage can store unique IDs and other data about the client's past behavior, it's much more dangerous than cookies.
Websites can detect the absence of localstorage and change their behavior, e.g. notify the user that information will be lost after the session ends.
It does allow (at least in the version I'm using), but doesn't persist the data between sessions. Which is the whole point of Icognito mode.
When I was working more frontend (~1,5 years ago) no browser would cause more work and trouble for us than Safari on iOS (we didn't have to support IE9 and lower).
Also I understand that Safari might've created some pain for you as a frontend developer, but frankly I don't care. I'm an end user and I only care about how fast and secure the browser is. And Safari wins there, it's not terrible by any measure for the end user.
I realize that this is subjective, but Firefox Focus has been my preferred mobile browser, regardless of if I have Safari available, (iPad), or not, (Android). In fact having desktop addons on Android has been great.
Development wise it's not so much about our pain as about certain known bugs that went unfixed for up to 2+ years, similar goes for a range of CVEs (re:being secure).
Here's an example that broke many many sites that use OAuth2 Auth Code Flow for login (including the main UI portal my company provides clients): https://bugs.webkit.org/show_bug.cgi?id=194906
There's also been issues with the handling of 3rd party cookies that create issues for login systems, js stdlib functions being incorrectly implemented, etc.
Chrome generally implements everything new and shiny, no matter how underspecified it is, and with blatant disregard to whether or not it breaks the web.
Software has these everywhere. iOS and Android homescreens are carousels. Netflix 'rails' are carousels. CSS Snap Points is a way to create native snapping scrolling views, which Safari and IE supports, but Chrome does not.
It supports the same crippled ad blocking that this article complains about. It is also years behind the competitors in standards support, and the standards it claims to support are implemented buggily. Finally, it crashes more often than its competitors, but I suppose making a browser unusable is one way to save battery.
(But yes, if I do Frontend development, I use Chrome)
We partnered with them on their DialogueFlow platform (voice recognition) for Google Home integration and voice command intent handling and they totally screwed us over. I won't/can't go into the specifics but it was bizarre; we had no recourse except taking a near trillion dollar company to court. We decided it was not worth it and wrote off the cost and took a hit but never again.
They’re an advertising company through-and-through.
Google employees such as Justin Schuh are aggressively defending the move on tech/security principles and denying commercial motivations, while uBlock Origin dev (Raymond Hill) says the change will cripple or kill uBO on Chrome and evil motives are its raison d'être.
It's good that mainstream media articles raise the awareness of the issue, but a good technical discussion by impartial analysts would also help.
Is it possible to fix the security issues of the existing webRequest API without deprecating it? Or by replacing it with something safer but just as powerful? There should be a simple answer to those questions.
(I'm tempted to side against Google because they keep invoking "performance issues", which is a ridiculous argument: nothing helps Chrome's performance more than efficient ad-blocking. But still, I'd like to know more.)
Of course these types of compromises crop up all the time when you're designing software, but then the problem is: if in the near future one Google engineer has an idea to improve the ad-blocking interface by, say, redesigning a certain component, would they do it? Would management let them do it?
There's a clear conflict of interest here, I expect ad-blocking to suffer death by a thousand cuts on Google's platform. Not necessarily because there's an evil master plan to kill it, but merely because every time there'll be a technical argument in favor of gimping it they're very likely to go with it while every time there'll be a proposal to improve it I'm sure there won't be a lot of motivation to implement it.
So even if we give Google the benefit of the doubt here I still believe that it's a huge problem and we can't let them effectively control the web. Beyond that in this particular case I'm not even sure I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, the technical justification seems iffy to me (and the burden of proof is clearly in their camp) and there's been a clear pattern lately of Google moving to reduce the impact of ad-blocking (such as them bundling a minimal ad-blocking with chrome, most likely as an effort to dissuade people from looking for better third-party blockers).
The WebRequest API is not being deprecated though, only the ability to block through it is. And I don't think blocking a request has very negative security implications. It's hard to not attribute malice to this move when the status quo was absolutely fine, and google is raising a strawman to try and justify their changes.
To put it in a simple form, I will not use a browser that can't run ublock origin, full stop, I don't care what other features it has, ublock origin is the single killer feature for me.
Honestly though it makes me glad that I never stopped using FF as my primary browser, Chrome is used for dev/testing so this doesn't really affect me directly, I'll just make sure that Chrome can only access sites under dev/testing and carry on.
My understanding of the current behavior is that an extension like uBlock can programmatically read requests. Extensions will be made to abuse an API and people will install them unwittingly.
Whatever Google's true motivation is, there's no way to solve those problems without limiting the power available to ad blockers.
The security concern is difficult to solve (more fine-grained permissions might help), but also seems a bit disingenuous since extensions can also inject code into the HTML of all sites and already syphon off a lot of data if they want to. Sure, it's a sharp knife, but some tough issues require sharp tools.
Nowhere did I ever say "evil motives". I merely pointed out that Google has a duty to its shareholders.
For folks looking for simplest anti ads and tracking browser (for friends and family, for instance) should consider Firefox Focus  instead of Brave. It is light and works like a breeze on lowest of configurations.
And folks using Android not bothered enough to setup Pi-Hole should consider using Intra with nextdns or adguard-dns .
I've installed Intra for friends and family on their phones, on their AndroidTVs... It takes a quick one minute setup and another minute to show them how to use it. Esp, nextdns' analytics dashboard is a real eye-opener for them. When they actually see the results, they start taking notice and are bothered enough to figure out how to blacklist additional domains.
I setup DNS66 easily and that helped with some ad heavy apps as well. Only issue is it cannot be used with actual VPNs.
I open Firefox manually if I want a heavier browser with tabs and ublock or umatrix but focus is usually first.
I think nextdns is fantastic for this purpose and has a barrier of entry that makes it usable for non-tech folks as well.
I created an account recently and linked my WireGuard server's IP (when connected) to a saved nextdns configuration.
Ads/trackers are now blocked on all my devices that use the WG egress when the provided DNS server is set in each peer's conf.
This is obvious given the scale of their blocklists, but let me just say the browsing experience and speed boost is utterly phenomenal. Does a better job at blocking than both my old Pi-Hole server and my localhost AdGuard Home daemon.
You can also run a ridiculously simple script from time to time (or create a cron job that does it for you, for example) to update your hosts file periodically, using the same blacklists. No extra hardware needed.
Not that I don't want people to switch to Firefox/other browsers, I just feel like if Google implements their own solution I think most people won't mind...
My Chromebox is my most used computer in my house (it powers the living room TV) so this'll be a real inconvenience for my family.
Google's Adsense (or whatever you call those text ads that appear next to search results) was a reasonable compromise, unobtrusive and often useful, whereas full window timed ads that force you to click the "x", and similar excessively animated distractions and pop-ups, are what motivate people to install add blockers.
The only praise for a browser that I am hearing in this and similar threads is about how a browser is superior for content consumption (browser X is faster, etc.). It’s never about how one browser offers better developer experience than others. And I have not yet found a browser that is nicer to develop in than Chrom(e/ium).
also, since i'm the only one on my team that does it, i often get CSS issues that only appear on firefox because the frontend people are using chrome specific hacks.
Thank you to FF for maintaining AdBlocking but memory usage needs love, too.
A browser of the future will fail to display ads, while giving no hint of this to the ad source; ads need to be downloaded as usual.
A browser of the future will cloak its identity by sandboxing each website, manipulating browser signature and apparent IP address (some variation of VPN services) to destroy tracking.
The issue isn't saving resources, it's winning the privacy wars.
99% of people don't even know that adblockers exist. Those same people are generally scared of computers.
Trust me, this isn't gonna matter. I saw these same arguments during the IE/Firefox war. Didn't matter that much.
How can that be when mainstream publishers complain about 20% and more of users using adblockers?
Speaking as a FF user I have a hard time using Chrome too. In other words you get used to what you use and FF is a decent option.
I also dislike its history management, download management, auto-complete, search in address bar functionality, pocket integration, and much more. I'm sure if I were forced to spend more time with it I could possibly find configurations to customize all those things in a way I like, but even using it for a few days the easily findable settings weren't flexible enough.
I know everyone says Chrome is a memory hog, but for me Firefox turned out to be even worse. It kept crashing with the same tabs Chrome was running with ease.
Have you checked out Brave Browser?
Now when this change lands if it really turns out that adblocking doesn't work well on Chrome, then things could move.
Fool me once, shame on you...
The reason I use chrome as my main browser there is because Firefox and Slack do not seem to be friends on MacOS. I use slack in the browser rather than the native app and FF seems to get copy and paste functionality all messed up.
I would use Safari, but some quirk of the office webmail (Outlook of some sort) means that email from Safari gets flagged and blocked as potential spam by an outbound mail server :/
But everywhere else, Android phone included, it's Firefox because they don't pull these kinds of shenanigans.
I hope they can be sorted out.
For me extentions like _uBlock Origin BitWarden_ & _LastPass_ are vital
Now I have to look if the latest incarnations are not as CPU hungry as the ones that forced me to stop in 2013.
If it is good on this ageing #DAW, I have my response to google's FU to us, their users
Firefox still uses much more CPU on my machine, that will create a problem when google pushes their crap through our throats
my main hurdle was absence of decent support for multiple isolated profiles in firefox and it's still not great but multi-account containers are good enough for now.
Did chrome have better support for that?
i've also tried native firefox profiles but they are somehow too isolated. chrome has this behavior where clicking a url outside the browser would open in new tab in most recently used chrome profile window. in firefox it's always the first(?) profile window that you opened.
Chrome was way ahead, but by overreaching against ad-blockers, they forced their users back in a buying position, and this time Firefox had gotten way better. Unless Google messed with the status quo, their users would never consider switching. The only thing pushing me toward Fastmail is that Google keeps messing with Gmail/Inbox.
This death-cycle seems to be unavoidable for MBA-types who inherit working products, and I bet you could build a business around this idea, or at least design a consistent enterprise takeover strategy.
[^2]: Legacy = any code you can't (safely) change.
Yes the webrequest v3 proposal seems problematic for scripts /malware / crypto / ad / etc blockers.
This is consensual.
Chromium is open source and has those two main actors: opera and Microsoft.
Almost everybody seems to consider chromium in the debate as a proprietary software owned by Google.
And thus argue to switch to Firefox.
Let's be clear, when you look at the technical, chromium is a far superior browser.
Chromium has far more active devs, far more features (look at caniuse.com) and has almost systematically better performance. And it has many others kinds of advantages.
All of the stated advantages are sufficent to consider chromium as the best browser.
So instead of arguing that opera or Microsoft or simply open source community will simply stay in sync with chromium master but keep the patchs for keeping the current webrequest api.
You want people to choose a poorer, less featureful browser which has real consequences on what web devs can offer as user experiences.
This is forgive me, dumb.
What everybody should ask for is to mozilla to get rational and to migrate Firefox to chromium while backportikng the best parts of gecko to chromium 1) and to ensure the respect of privacy in the chromium source code 2)
This would lead us to a web that evolve far more quickly, to the fastest browser and to an implementation which satisfy every interests (the ones of Googles and the one of Microsoft/mozilla)
If Google and mozilla disagreed on something, mozilla should maintain a set of patchs for applying their custom changes (a micro fork)
That's simple but there's still a long way for the medias and the people to understand that.
I would have hoped that hackernews community, wanting to be like the pre-eternal September would debate with intellectual riguour in the common goal of seeking true, sound progress.
The way I see it is that my (and other's) interests are not aligned with yours.
You want a web that evolves quickly, I want a web that is not a constantly moving target.
You want one web engine implementation to rule them all, I want an open web where standards are respected, not constantly changed by a single conflicted (as in conflict of interests) actor, where multiple implementations can thrive and where users can still expect every website to work independently of the user agent they use.
Is this enough for intellectual rigour?
Creating patches might work in the short run, but over time when according parts of the code base change and get refactored, you're constantly busy keeping your stuff compatible. Case in point safari: They severely lack behind in several areas. Why? According to your post it should have been trivial for them to just take any improvement from Google's fork and apply it to webkit. Didn't seem to have happened.
And counting on Microsoft, a company active in the ad business as well, doesn't sound too convincing in this context either.
Your attempt to crudely quantify something as vague as "superiority" of something as complex as a browser is far more absurd.
> Almost everybody seems to consider chromium in the debate as a proprietary software owned by Google.
For many intents and purposes chromium _is_ proprietary by sheer mass of code, if you don't think so, go and fork it by all means.
> Let's be clear, when you look at the technical, chromium is a far superior browser. Chromium has far more active devs, far more features (look at caniuse.com) and has almost systematically better performance. And it has many others kinds of advantages. All of the stated advantages are sufficent to consider chromium as the best browser.
You have a terribly one dimensional view of browsers, do you still measure your CPU performance in Hz? Browsers are extremely complex, chromium does many things better than FireFox and FireFox does many things better than chrome (even from a purely technical perspective ignoring "user" issues as this one).
Yes, because Chromium is owned by Google and uses its own Web services and binaries. See “Ungoogled Chromium”, which was on HN homepage a couple weeks ago: https://github.com/Eloston/ungoogled-chromium#motivation-and...
I use firefox for speed reasons and only use chrome when I'm forced to. Chrome opens up 20 small processes firefox used to open one main thread now a dozen.
Not sure what is being measured in the technical tests you mention but in userland firefox has a lot of support for those of us still on windows 7.
If they did that with Gecko then websites would simply detect and block Gecko even if they changed the user agent. Because it's only in the single digits on desktop and non-existent on mobile.
However I know Mozilla isn't interested in that since that would still likely break websites. Also, they officially believe ads are good for the web.
However, I want them to continue to work on Servo since I think it's important to be able to parallelize reading/parsing and rendering the web.
There are always the pro and con arguments about software mono culture and there are good points on both sides, and in this case there is indeed a gigantic cost to maintaining more than one implementation -- no one is debating that. Also, an across-the-board evaluation would probably find Firefox technically inferior at the moment, although I think that's more of an interesting debate and also a measurement where I feel the gap has lessened these last few years. My disclaimer would be that I'm a long-time user of both browsers, but ethically on Mozilla's side.
However, I think the following
> and to an implementation which satisfy every interests (the ones of Googles and the one of Microsoft/mozilla)
doesn't put nearly enough emphasis on exactly how different those interests are. Google's main source of income depends on user surveillance and privacy intrusions (to use some loaded wording), and while Mozilla's indirectly does too through their sources of funding the two entities have very different goals and core beliefs.
That in itself doesn't preclude sharing an implementation, but thinking that those differences won't (and don't) cause conflicts of interest that affect both the evolving of the standards and how the actual implementations work would be, I believe, a big mistake.
Just saying "ensure the respect of privacy in the chromium source code" and that they should maintain a set of patches or a "micro fork" I think ignores the level of control they will be (or rather won't be) able to exert over the Chromium code base. I don't think Opera, Brave, Microsoft, Mozilla or anyone else that decides to either be a downstream user of or active participant in Chromium will be able to keep Google from doing whatever is in their best interest with the code base. Additionally, I think keeping patch sets (that won't end up being very complicated and will slow down or put to a grinding halt independent development) won't be able to make up for the implementation differences caused by the differences in goals. Keeping patch sets can be extremely painful.
> Chromium is open source and has those two main actors: opera and Microsoft.
I really apologize for my tone, but... Please. In what regard are they main actors? Certainly not to the extent that they have any significant control over the main direction of the Chromium code base or any power to stop Google from completely controlling it.
The core beliefs and goals of the entity exerting the main control over the code base matters a lot more than your post makes it sound like. And if Chromium really were the only code base able to browse the modern web, then that would also put the standardization of the World Wide Web more or less in Googles hands.
Also, for someone asking for better "intellectual riguour", you do a pretty so-so job at showing your understanding of the arguments of the people you don't agree with.
This seems to be the norm , as Firefox will download them on-demand so long as the user agrees.