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Firefox is the alternative to a Chrome hegemony (batsov.com)
1360 points by gmemstr 52 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 651 comments



I've been meaning to write almost exactly this blog post for a while now, glad that someone else did it.

Two things that I think are worth calling out:

1. In many ways Apple's anti-competitive behaviour on iOS/iPadOS is a blessing. It's one of the few things that keep Chromium's dominance in check. Of course, it's not great that Apple are stifling innovation like this, but consider the alternative: Chromium dominance on all platforms.

2. Why it's worth caring about this at all? So what if Chromium is the only engine, it would make things easier for developers after all. To this I say, go read some of the discussions in standard bodies(for example about FLoC). Engineers from Apple and Mozilla are largely our bastion against Google's harmful proposals for the web. Pushback from Apple and Mozilla are only relevant as long as they have market share to speak of. The recent lawsuit against Google(summary[0]) by many US states should be extremely worrying to anyone that cares about the open web and it should make handing over any more control to Google a terrifying prospect.

Mozilla maintains a list[1] of their positions on various standard suggestions that is also a useful resource.

0: https://twitter.com/fasterthanlime/status/145205393819534131...

1: https://mozilla.github.io/standards-positions/


  > 1. In many ways Apple's anti-competitive behaviour on iOS/iPadOS is a blessing. It's one of the few things that keep Chromium's dominance in check. Of course, it's not great that Apple are stifling innovation like this, but consider the alternative: Chromium dominance on all platforms.
I think it’s worth noting that (at least I believe) the reason apple limit the usage of other browser engines in iOS isn’t (mostly) about maintaining control and dominance. It’s about battery usage, WebKit is heavily optimised on iOS to ensure optimal power efficiency. The number one priority is that the lowest denominator of iPhone user is happy with their device, and battery usage is the number one KPI people care about.


I don't disagree that is their publicly stated reason for the limitation. Them having the ulterior motive of stifling PWAs on iOS and competition for mobile Safari is a common theory.

Whether they do have ulterior motives or not, the effect is that innovation is stifled.


And yet: Steve Jobs wanted PWA's (or something similar) in the beginning and begrudgingly made an App Store.

Yes, I know the circumstances are different, but I do think it's ironic.


That was just a cover for the fact that the app store infrastructure wasn't ready and they weren't even certain the iPhone was going to take off. They only had so much engineering talent and money, and it went into the phone itself. They had been working on the beginnings of app franeworks and the store before launch. The huge response to the iphone caused them to both lower the price (to widen the potential market once it would be wildly profitable) and increase the speed/budget of the app infrastructure engineering.


I guess the grudge went away as the billions started pouring in.


> And yet: Steve Jobs wanted PWA's (or something similar) in the beginning and begrudgingly made an App Store.

or it was just the typical double speak from Jobs until they were able to launch their walled garden. Anyone else remember when iPhone users were told they were holding the iPhone wrong during Antennagate? [0]

[0] https://www.engadget.com/2010-06-24-apple-responds-over-ipho...


US antitrust law is based on tests of harm to the consumer (though most people do not know this nor about its application due to lack of enforcement). Apple frames everything they do as positive for the consumer to throw up chaff that makes consumer harm harder to quantify for people who don't know better.



>Them having the ulterior motive of stifling PWAs

>the effect is that innovation is stifled.

There's no such thing as PWA. There are several dozen of standards, and any combination of them is called PWAs by various people. And quite a few of those combinations work perfectly fine on Apple devices.

What's worse is that too many of those standards are extremely badly designed (service workers) or are pure Chrome-only "standards" rammed through standards bodies (Bluetooth, HID etc.).


Supporting manifests to "install" a webapp to my home screen isn't something difficult for Apple/Safari team.

They just don't get their cut from it, so, not a priority.


According to web.dev, the Chrome propaganda site:

--- start quote ---

Talking about mobile phones and tablets, a Progressive Web App is installable with offline capabilities using the following browsers and app stores:

- iOS and iPadOS

Safari (since iOS 11.3), AppStore (since iOS/iPadOS 14, with some limitations), Mobile Configuration for enterprise distribution.

--- end quote ---


PWA’s aren’t ‘innovation’. Apps can do far more than PWAs.


I believe the stifling of innovation the parent comment refers to is that of browser engines, not of PWAs.


It’s not innovation if it’s just catching up to what another platform has been able to do all along.


In a walled garden, the ability to for the user to do what they want, where they want is perceived as innovation.


The user can’t do what they want where they want on the web. The web is an adware and privacy destroying machine.


> The user can’t do what they want where they want on the web. The web is an adware and privacy destroying machine.

Sounds like you're setting a double standard when Apple also runs ads on their devices[0] as well as selling their user's private data[1]

[0] https://stevestreza.com/2020/02/17/ios-adware/

[1] https://www.macrumors.com/2021/11/26/apple-italy-fine-user-d...


> Sounds like you're setting a double standard when Apple also runs ads on their devices[0] as well as selling their user's private data[1]

Anyone who claims those are equivalent to what is going on on the web is being dishonest.

Neither of the articles even claims that Apple was “selling user data”, so that’s a straight up lie.

I can’t help you if you are going to post links that don’t say what you claim they are saying.


Really?

Why did Spotify and Pax Labs make PWAs again?


No idea about Pax Labs.

Spotify creates native apps for everything. "PWA" aka the web player is there for devices that don't have a native app yet, and for embedding.


Good question- what innovation did they bring?


Another reason is actually security.

Remember that Apple doesn't allow other web browser engines in any application. Imagine if an Electron application on iOS just decided to ship with it's entire, own browser engine. We would have super-bloated apps like our desktops, and if a security flaw was found, good luck getting all those apps to update.

In a way, Apple knows that allowing other browser engines means:

1. Chromium-based browsers just increase their monopoly, Firefox continues stagnation by almost all odds

2. The Electron mess on our desktops will claim new territory on our phones and bring security problems with it

Not very appealing. Limiting competition? When your only realistic competition is Chrome with it's 80%+ dominance, I don't think a regulator would have a problem with that.


The ironic part of this is that if Apple allowed alternative browser engines, I guarantee you it is only a matter of time before you see Electron apps bringing their own browser engines with them to iOS. And not long after before Hacker News is screaming and moaning about it (like they do for Electron on desktop) and begging for Apple to stop it.


HN already screams and moans about mobile apps built with PhoneGap/Cordova/Capacitor/Ionic ect. for not being "native" at the same time as promoting PWAs and complaining that apple doesn't support them, ignoring that PhoneGap, Cordova and especially Capacitor give you that functionality (mostly). I think that says more about HN than Apple...


What it says is that people mostly just post when they want to complain about stuff. Some minority of people are outraged over lack of PWA on iPhone, so they post to complain loudly about it. Some other minority of people are outraged over electron apps on Mac, so they post to complain loudly about it. It's not the same people, it's just the same pattern of the loud minority and silent majority.

I'll admit, though, I'm in the "I really want native Mac apps" minority :)


I’m reminded of a chestnut I was once told; satisfied people generally do not post comments, because people don’t go out of their way to say that things are okay, and your everyday person doesn’t even really post good reviews unprompted, because good service is usually the expectation.

People only really get active about bad divergence from expectations.


You never see "Toy Story 2 was ok" spray painted on an overpass.

People do voice very positive opinions, but nobody really voices indifference.

Further, even extremely opinionated people are usually only opinionated about a few things. Most people are indifferent to most things.


I suppose what I'm trying to say is that in the case of positive opinions, it's not super common to leave them unprompted (see: all the popups in apps for "Like our app? Rate us on the app store!") whereas people angry at bad service have no compunctions about finding somewhere to vent, in public if they have to, and are super driven by their agitation.


I don't think there's a lot of overlap between folks who are very upset with Apple for not making PWAs work better on iOS, and people who hate non-native apps and wish they'd be banned.


the difference is the distribution channel. For cordova you still need to use Apple store and pay yearly and share your income with Apple. With PWA, the distribution channel is web, so no commissions for Apple.


Its almost like different people have different opinions or something.


Also security, but different: Apple want sight of all of the native code that's running in your app, because their ABI is also a privilege boundary. JIT that's not controlled by them could be used to call symbols that your app is not supposed to call.


Security isn’t a great argument when Apple only updates safari with full system updates. Sure, iOS has a high update rate compared to Android but it’s still far lower than an App Store update would be.

Plus, security is somewhat less of a concern when the application only accesses a limited site and isn’t for general purpose browsing for untrusted sites.


> Security isn’t a great argument when Apple only updates safari with full system updates.

But they can put those updates out whenever they want, so that doesn't go against the security argument at all.


Users can only get an update by rebooting their devices, so it absolutely goes against the security argument.


Actually, as a tidbit, Chromium is a fork of WebKit, which is Safari's rendering engine, which for some reason started as a fork from Konqueror (KDE Linux desktop's browser). Google did however replace the javascript engine in Chromium. The Javascript engine in Chromium deserves a different discussion, since it also powers NodeJS. Back in the day, WebKit was quite popular as a rendering engine and is also used by Qt.


Ken Kocienda writes about the origin of Safari in Creative Selection [0].

It started as a Konqueror fork mostly because Jobs wanted a browser on OS X and Ken was initially tasked with it (back then the mac had IE for mac). One person writing a browser from scratch even back then seemed an impossible challenge so he took a look to see if he could use most of Konqueror as an initial starting base.

[0]: The book has some interesting stories, but I find it hard to recommend because it's weirdly written for an extremely non-technical audience (using grandma like analogies to explain basic concepts, the analogies are so basic they do more to obscure than explain - e.g. the filesystem is like a 'cabinet for files'). It doesn't often get into the weeds of the interesting technical details - which is disappointing since 90% of readers are probably technical. The stories in it are still good though and Ken has a lot of insight into the iPhone development story since he was there.


Minor correction: Ken Kocienda didn't do the Konqueror port. He was working on getting Gecko to build and a teammate got Konqueror working in X11 before Ken even got Gecko to compile.


Ah you're right I was misremembering (read it a while ago) - thanks for the correction.


KHTML was a pretty viable alternative to the mess that was Gecko at the time. And there were already some (underserved) alternative platform ports in-progress at the time.


It started as a fork of Konqueror because it was the highest-quality codebase available, probably because it was open-source from the ground up and written in a higher-level language rather than the l33t h4x0rs at Netscape with their 4 different memory allocators.


#1 reason, and, think back to when iOS came out, was security. The knock off effect was it ensured that ios/webkit gained defacto marketshare for each device since there was no other option - as the thread starter mentions. I disagree with the contention about innovation - keeping IOS from being a minefield for 99.9999% of users I think was the right course. And killing off flash.


> I think it’s worth noting that (at least I believe) the reason apple limit the usage of other browser engines in iOS isn’t (mostly) about maintaining control and dominance. It’s about battery usage,

I disagree with this word gymnastics, it is Apple-ogism. It takes just a brief look at other decisions they've made to easily see that it is about user lock-in which fits in with their general philosophy. It is not great that they are stifling innovation at all, conflating it with browser dominance is a separate thing.


This is a specious argument. Allow competitors to deploy apps causing lousy battery life, and Safari should win easily on that basis. Apple's battery app makes it obvious when apps use a lot of energy.


It doesn't matter if Safari "wins" if all other players "required" Chrome browsers.

Apple sets the rules for its own products. Why didn't "open" win? Why for whatever reason is Apple still #1 in the mobile space?

Perhaps users agree with Apple.


Users are easily duped by marketing. Even technologists. You can see how easily technologists buy Apple's bald-faced lies that its actions are not about user lock-in throughout this comment section.

I can write a browser using WXWebView that wastes battery outside the rendering code, and Apple won't stop me. I can write a maps application that wastes battery, and Apple won't stop me. But if I write a web rendering engine that wastes battery, I have crossed a line? A line that is so important not to cross that Apple won't even let me try to write a rendering engine that uses less battery than WXWebView? I cannot believe that anybody would buy that argument without marketing distorting their thoughts.


> Users are easily duped by marketing. Even technologists.

Ah yes. Everything can be explained by marketing, and marketing alone. Poor, poor Google, and Samsung, and so on, who are struggling to find the money and the power to make people buy Android phones through the power of marketing.

Perhaps, just perhaps, I'm going on a limb here, Apple actually makes a phone that people want?


We are, in this very thread, discussing a reason why Apple's phones are worse that people have been duped into putting in the pros column. They are also worse for privacy, yet Apple markets their devices' privacy. They are worse for security, yet Apple markets their devices' security. The shoe fits.

Apple has been a marketing-driven company for decades now and is better at it than any other tech company by a country mile. It's why they bought Beats, not for their technology, but for their marketing prowess. The other companies you listed pick features that are better on their devices to market. Apple's marketing department figured out long ago that no such restriction is necessary.


> We are, in this very thread, discussing a reason why Apple's phones are worse

Right now, in this very thread I see no such discussion.

> They are also worse for privacy

> They are worse for security

Worse than what?

> The shoe fits.

It doesn't fit, not really. It's gross incompetence and ignorance to explain everything by marketing and people being stupid.

Because what you're saying, is that a good chunk of people on HN are stupid and are "duped by marketing". That I am stupid and am duped by marketing. However, I've seen and tried the alternatives, and I found them lacking.


> Right now, in this very thread I see no such discussion.

Look at the first comment you replied to. It's about how Apple restricts how you can browse the web for user lock in but has convinced people it is for the sake of their battery.

> Worse than what?

Worse than Pixels, Android One devices, and ChromeOS devices currently. There are several open source focused devices in the pipeline that have better security design than iOS devices as well but are not yet ready.

> That I am stupid and am duped by marketing.

I did not say you are stupid. I said that people are duped by marketing, and I gave examples. I even pointed out that technologists can be duped, and they are smart in the field they were duped in. Apple's marketing department is smart, and Apple's other employees are smart for supporting their efforts, though when they get caught parroting marketing talking points that are clearly false, it can be embarrassing.


> Look at the first comment you replied to. It's about how Apple restricts how you can browse the web for user lock in but has convinced people it is for the sake of their battery.

Ah yes. That comment is obviously wrong, and your comment is obviously correct because you are right, and the other person is wrong. Is that how this works?

> Worse than Pixels, ... and ChromeOS devices currently.

So. Pixels and ChromeOS are made by Google. You know,

- 80% of Google's money comes from online advertising. And this advertising relies on far-reaching privacy invasive tracking

- Google's own employees admitted that they have no idea how to turn the various methods of tracking off. Among others location tracking is so intertwined in Google's products that it's impossible to turn it off at all

Yup. These devices are surely worse for privacy than iPhones which go as far as limit tracking at the OS level.

Can't attest to the devices current security. Given Android's spotty track record of updates, I wouldn't hold my breath for AndroidOne. Oh. And Pixel 3 which was released in the ancient times of exactly three years ago will no longer receive any updates. So yeah.

Meanwhile the iOS 15 which was released this September is available on iPhone SE from 5 years ago.

> There are several open source focused devices in the pipeline that have better ... but are not yet ready.

I yes. Imaginary non-existent phones. In that case I have a phone that's better than any of those, and better than iPhone, and better than Pixel 6. Care to buy one?

> I said that people are duped by marketing, and I gave examples.

No, you didn't. What you did, was make overly broad statements that are either pure speculation, or can be easily refuted.


> Is that how this works?

Read my comment in the context of what it was responding to. You seem to have grossly misunderstood it.

> Yup. These devices are surely worse for privacy than iPhones which go as far as limit tracking at the OS level.

iOS devices do not support end-to-end encryption of message backups, do not support allowing a user to run apps on the device without telling Apple, and do not support getting a user's location without telling Apple. Despite what you may infer about each company's motives, each company's actual actions show a very clear difference in privacy on their devices. Apple is motivated to make money by any means it has available. If it can make money by charging users more for devices and violating their privacy by marketing their devices as being better for privacy, it will do so, and we can see that this is happening right now.

> Meanwhile the iOS 15 which was released this September is available on iPhone SE from 5 years ago.

So you admit an iPhone from 6 years ago is insecure. The fact that only recent devices from either vendor are secure is the same for both, so a user who cares about security will only use a recent device. The difference is that recent devices from Google are far more secure than recent devices from Apple.

> Imaginary non-existent phones.

I was just illustrating that there will be more options in the future. Apple knows about the security features offered by current and future devices but despite that hasn't tried to match those security features and instead contents itself with merely marketing security.

> No, you didn't.

Read my first post. You still haven't refuted it.


> Read my comment in the context of what it was responding to.

I've read the comment an the context. It says "that person is wrong, only my opinion on what Apple does its right"

> Despite what you may infer about each company's motives, each company's actual actions show a very clear difference in privacy on their devices.

Indeed it does. And Google is many magnitudes more invasive than Apple. Including, but not limited to "applications which have location tracking disabled can use location tracking information from another Google application" https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/ne...

> So you admit an iPhone from 6 years ago is insecure. The fact that only recent devices from either vendor are secure is the same for both

It's emphatically not the same for both:

- Apple: support phones for up to five years.

- Google: supports its own "flagship phones" only for three years.

HN poster: see, they are the same.

> I was just illustrating that there will be more options in the future.

Once again: I'm not interested in fantasies and comparisons against non-existent phones.

> Read my first post. You still haven't refuted it.

I mean, your approach to argument is "I'm right just because I say is right", so nothing will dissuade you.

This is pointless. So, adieu.


> I've read the comment an the context. It says "that person is wrong, only my opinion on what Apple does its right"

Where does it say that? I'll repeat the context right here:

"> Right now, in this very thread I see no such discussion."

The context is that I was pointing out that there is a discussion about what you claimed there was no discussion about. Nowhere did I say that I'm right and they're wrong (though it remains the case that none of my points have been refuted).

> applications which have location tracking disabled can use location tracking information from another Google application

Google does this on iOS as well. In respect to what information applications can share on the server, there is no difference between iOS and Android. The privacy differences that do exist between the platforms are the ones I listed, where iOS does a lot of data collection that cannot be disabled, while Android has no such problem.

> HN poster: see, they are the same.

A user who cares about security only cares about which device provides usable security. None of the Apple devices do. All the Pixels that are receiving security updates do. The choice for a user who cares about security isn't between some five year old iOS devices that provide limited security and other five year old Android devices that provide limited security (worse system updates but better application updates) but between any iOS device (including recent ones) that provide limited security and recent Pixel devices that provide superior security. How long they continue to receive system updates (or application updates) beyond replacement time is meaningless.

> I mean, your approach to argument is "I'm right just because I say is right",

I provided reasons why the battery excuse doesn't make sense. Why do you keep pretending I haven't given any reasons?


Battery usage, yes, but if developers could create theirs apps as websites with no loss of functionality and pay zero money to Apple a non empty set of users would use them and Apple would lose some money. I think that Apple ultimately cares about money. Battery, PWAs, etc are all factors they ponder upon to optimize the bottom line.


haha yes, and Microsoft included IE4 into the Windows desktop so that users could have all the benefits of IE for free.


>I think it’s worth noting that (at least I believe) the reason apple limit the usage of other browser engines in iOS isn’t (mostly) about maintaining control and dominance. It’s about battery usage

Why would this be a believable excuse? you can install a Firefox skin of WebKit on iOS and this skin could maybe be terrible on battery usage. A good default browser like on laptops is good enough for battery, people who care about it will use Safari, the obvious reason Apple is doing this is to prevent competition, so if Apple fucks with WebGL then you can't have say a WebGL based mobile game that would go around the Apple Store.


Even if battery usage was the reason behind it, it's not good enough. Let the user decide whether or not they're willing to sacrifice battery life if they want to.


A user has no way to know that's the tradeoff. They don't know what tech any given app was built with and they don't understand what the tradeoffs are for different tech.


simply make it easy for users to see what apps are responisble to battery usage. if someone sees that their crappy browser is using all of their battery but safari doesn't they will quit using the crappy browser.


> battery usage is the number one KPI people care about.

I wish all phone manufacturers actually understood that

/me glances at my Pixel 3XL with 3430 mAh batt


Battery capacity != battery life.

I switched to a used iPhone and was bummed my 8+ had a "small" ~2400mah battery compared to my Android phone, which was 3100. Then I actually started using it. Even though the Android phone had an OLED screen, it would absolutely melt the battery.

I have so little "battery charge anxiety" now it's not even funny. I don't even bother to charge it above 80-85% most of the time...and the battery life estimator says the battery is down to 82% capacity.


Idk, I'm a big fan of what companies like Motorola are doing by taking a 4000mah+ battery and pairing it with some of those low end SoC's that sip battery. Androids power usage can be complete trash, but I've managed 4 days of battery out of these cheap Motorola phones while still using discord/twitter/telegram like normal.

If apple actually went up on their battery sizing they could easily achieve Monday to Friday battery life on something like the iPhone SE.


There's also the Oppo/Oneplus way of doing things and pairing high quality cells to a better charge standard (SuperVOOC/WARP) that can throw 65W (or more) at the phone and minimize time spent charging. I can't overstate how much this changes my use pattern when I know I can throw phone on charger, take a shower, and by the time I'm out it's full.


The 8T (and follow ups) do feel kinda crazy when it comes to charging. Especially considering it has a higher wattage charger than my laptop currently uses. I've also managed to get 2.5 days out of a single charge on my 8T which is impressive considering the hardware.


Sure, but enjoy the battery being degraded to ~70% of its capacity after barely a year of doing that.


Considering they use two batteries to manage the charging rate do we have anything showing its destroying the phones after a year? (the 8T is a year old so someone might have some proof)


This might not always work - low end SoCs might also be built on older process node, making them less efficient. A higher end SoC also can complete tasks faster, meaning the device can sleep more of the time instead of crunching stuff on old slow cores and keeping the device fully up.


Well while not the fanciest, the 11nm node in the 2020 and 2021 Moto G Power were still plenty modern enough 8-core SoC's to get the job done. Their main problem lies in being stuck with 4GB of RAM. You end up with apps reloading from time to time as other applications pushed it out of memory. Even with that taken into consideration they still make for fine phones and the person I handed mine down to is still using it as their main phone without much issue.

Current phone has 12GB of RAM which is a bit extreme given I rarely seem to use more than 6GB. More Sub $250 phones are creeping up to 6GB which makes for a nicer experience for those on tight budgets.

Now if only we could solve the lack of updates most Android phones experience.


My BlackBerry KeyOne actually has a smaller battery at 3300 mAh, but I don't have to charge it every day. I still use Maps and GPS, stream music, and stray from wifi, because child commenter is right - there's more to battery life and screen on time than battery size.


That is legit my favorite feature of the iphone 13 pro max, the battery is like 4300 mAh and it never runs out during the day no matter what I do with it.


There are many Android phones on the market with a big battery and fast charging.

Why people think Android=Pixel is beyond me.


Pixels are the definitive Android phones. Outside of the Pixel and Galaxy lines, you're getting into murky waters.


That always sounded like very crude excuse to exert control over Web standards by them. If battery usage with their own browsers is so much better, then everyone would be using their browsers on iOS. Why even ban others?

So I don't buy any of the Apple's excuses when they actively cause anti-competitive harm.


As far as I’m aware the justification is “no executing pages you can write to at runtime” (because it’s a huge security issue). They give safari an exception to that because you can’t make a JIT without doing that, and that’s the most straightforward way to get fast JavaScript.


Even if you give up the JIT, Apple will still not allow your custom browser on iOS.


So why can’t we just choose what we want? All evil actions have some pretext, though in some cases (such as this one) the pretext is quite flimsy.


Apple's guaranteed Safari market also helps keep WebKit viable for other browsers like GNOME Web and Nyxt, so that's something I really appreciate.


The Apple of today has a very conflicted relationship with webkit, the anticompetitive reasons they want to keep their platform "webkit only", simultaneously encourages them to support and neglect webkit development. i.e on the one hand, webkit must be reliable and secure and compatible "enough" to provide a decent basic browsing experience. But should not improve so much as to make developing applications competitive with the apple store.

The difference between the resources Google and Apple contribute to their respective open source browser engines is night and day, and as any web developer will know - it shows.

In an ideal world two things would change at the same time: Apple is forced to allow other browsers, and webkit gets some genuine love and decent resources to make it a legitimate competitor again, instead of being used as a pawn in a game between Apple and Google.


"basic browsing experience"

Google pushes out yet another half-baked, poorly considered new feature in Chrome and overnight has mobs chanting about Safari purportedly holding everyone back because of some close to irrelevant fringe thing.

Safari might just be the fastest browser, and it supports a ridiculous, awe-inspiring array of features and standards.

And the greatest indictment of the ridiculous anti-Safari smear is that no platform uses the browser more than iOS users do. iOS users always are over-represented in web usage compared to marketshare.


This is a misrepresentation, before even getting into lack of modern feature support, webkit introduce a lot of long lived regressions on each release and Apple have changed various behaviours in non-standard ways in Safari over the years then left them broken and unpatched on old devices (looking at you autoheight iframes). This has nothing to do with adopting standards and everything to do with a lack of resources, stagnant release cycle and lack of care and support from Apple.

It's not necessary to talk about chromiums bleeding edge non-standard features, webkit easily has the least support for unopinionated standards released over the last decade and adopted by the other two.

> no platform uses the browser more than iOS users do. iOS users always are over-represented in web usage compared to marketshare.

What point are you trying to make here? iOS users have no choice but to use Safari. If you install firefox or chrome or anything that is a "browser" on an iOS device, it's forced to use Safari webengine underneath, so it's essentially safari with different UI, and this is apparent in the useragent string so any decent stats will show that essentially every iOS user == Safari user.


Lack of modern feature support? This is beyond parody.

"What point are you trying to make here? iOS users have no choice but to use Safari."

Android users use the browser on their device -- any browser -- less than iOS users use their browser(s).

Read the Google corporate propaganda repeated on here, and other platforms provide a web bliss of PWAs, freed from app subservience. Only, not at all.


>Lack of modern feature support?

Can't harass users with notifications.

Safari can open a pdf up like a native webpage in a tab. Until one of the Android browsers can do this out of the box (without having to use a ridiculous fork of Firefox so I can install extensions Mozilla doesn't want me to and installing pdf.js extension to use their own project), it will always be the superior browser.


I used to think that I wanted firefox on my iphone (as I use it everywhere else) but I'm happy they are helping to keep google at bay. I have to say a lot of developers don't understand that they aren't the center of the universe and I don't really care if supporting safari based browsers is still a must and makes their lives a bit harder. It's rough for all of us out of here, as an embedded developer I have to work around proprietary crap all the time and yet I've been doing it for almost 2 decades and I'm still okay mentally and physically and they will be too.


Please keep the hyperbole to a minimum, without technical argument it just encourages flamewars.


How does HN maintain such a great community?


It doesn't.


Agreed but as a read-only user of HN, I am compelled to say that your comment borders on Reddit-like low brow posts that fills most of their tech subreddits. I come here to get a break from all that and get an idea of purely the technical aspect of stuff.

I have not seen such a great community on the internet before, so if you have any recommendations of forums like HN, it would be great!


Last I checked, iOS users use their phones way more than Android users period, including the browser. That plus (probably relatedly, though other factors are also in play) spending habits are why so many apps choose to go iOS-first, or to prioritize iOS Safari compatibility over Android for web sites or web apps.


You wouldn’t be calling Safari awe inspiring if you had to develop for it. It is hands down the worst browser, filled with application breaking bugs and supports the smallest number of features out of any browser.

Arguably it’s a result of having no competition on iOS.

From idb, webrtc, to scroll to viewheight, to performance issues Safari is the worst to deal with and this is reflected in all the developer surveys.


"supports the smallest number of features out of any browser."

This is a bit like saying India has the smallest number of people in countries named China or India.

It's still an enormous number of features, and it is simply extraordinary what is capable in the browser.

"this is reflected in all the developer surveys"

Remember "Made for IE"? IE was dogshit, yet there were loads of devs who thought ActiveX was the bee's knees and having to deal with other browsers and platforms was just an annoyance in their lives.

Developer surveys on this are worthless, and if we listened to developers as a group it would be an entirely Windows world.


So you obviously don’t build apps for iOS Safari and I can understand as a user why you might be under the misguided impression that it’s a good browser. As our primary target environment it is an uphill battle to get things to work in a way that it’s not on either Firefox or blink based browsers.

It breaks in every major version that’s been released. Simply talk to any developer who has to do a significant amount of work building apps in Safari and they will tell you the same thing.

The webkit team is talented and do great work but this is simply a result of a decade of underfunding and it’s just not possible for them to maintain a modern browser with their current resources.


Ignoring that I've been a professional software developer for 26 years, a large part of that building large scale web applications (every one for the past decade+ targeting Safari as well, and before that I always ensured my teams supported alternative browsers even when various team members were moaning and whining about how much a nuisance it is), let me just focus on this-

"misguided impression that it’s a good browser"..."Simply talk to any developer"

Your experience as a developer, and you dealing with utterly trivial regressions or handicaps, has shockingly little bearing on whether it is a "good browser" or not.


Let me know when Firefox finally supports backdrop-filter. And it already took Chrome forever.


> imply talk to any developer who has to do a significant amount of work building apps in Safari

Don't build "apps" in the browser. Period. It's shitty, underperforming, and breaks all user expectations, regardless of the browser it's running on.

I've yet to see a single app, PWA or not, that wasn't so. Unless it's just a re-skin of a simple website with text and images, and a few forms, but then it's just a website, and if you can't make it run on Safari, go find a different job.


This is the we can't have competition, because otherwise poorer quality products will win argument?


I can't parse this statement


> IE was dogshit, yet there were loads of devs who thought ActiveX was the bee's knees and having to deal with other browsers and platforms was just an annoyance in their lives.

I don't think that's true.

There were loads of devs that thought that ActiveX was the quickest route to the best experiences for the largest market segment and having to deal with other browsers and platforms was something the people signing paychecks cared less about, if at all.


We seem to agree entirely.

Many developers would prefer a single, universal browser. A single platform. A single input mechanism (a single development language, compiler, RDBMS, filesystem, cloud provider, backup system, etc). All for obvious, practical reasons, at least in the short term.

That would be devastating for the future, but if it makes projects easier today, many developers are entirely onboard.

That was very much a dominant position among developers in the IE days. Other browsers were a nuisance, and maybe they should just be cut out entirely.

If Safari weren't such an important part of the market, Firefox would have been cut out long ago and we'd be awash in "Made For Chrome (and skinned Chrome)" badges. It is only the economic necessity of supporting iOS users that keeps cross browser development alive.


> That was very much a dominant position among developers in the IE days. Other browsers were a nuisance, and maybe they should just be cut out entirely.

I don't usually resort to personalised dissection of post, but to be frank, you've taken a giant shit all over this subthread so I think it deserves it... this notion of yours seems to be the underlying theme of most all of your comments - that everyone here criticising webkit or Apple must be against browser diversity, be Google proponents, or not value stability, performance and privacy... We are not this caricature... It might be worth your while to take a second to reflect on that assumption and binary view of reality.


You have left a number of these meta comments now (a sockpuppet account even appeared to lend you support), apparently that injured that someone disagreed with your comment. To say these add no value is overstating their contribution.

Thanks


heh, more insightful perceptions i see... no comment then?


The Safari/WebKit team has made a great deal of improvements over the last couple of versions. I think "compatible enough" has turned into a good "basically the same as Firefox" when it comes to web standards with the release of Safari 15 and 15.1.

I also support the stance that certain features should remain focused where they belong e.g. natively installed apps. But who can decide what should be a web standard and what shouldn't... it's hard to say. I think having a healthy governance and enforcement body is a prerequisite before we look at technical specifics.


Exactly. Not much of an Apple or Safari supporter but credit where credit's due Safari 13-15 has made more improvement each version than previous Safari. If they keep up the pace Safari 16 should be very close to current Chrome and Firefox.

https://developer.apple.com/safari/technology-preview/releas...


Safari and Firefox have always been close: https://web-confluence.appspot.com/#!/confluence

The vocal minority is a very tiny percentage of web developers who believe that whatever Chrome spits out is the bees knees, the modern standard, and all browsers must immediately have that.


On the other hand, a lot of the stuff Google adds to Blink and tries to push as a standard is often outright bad (e.g. FLoC, WebUSB).


This is true, but not a defence of Apple's behaviour. To be clear I don't think chromium is a panacea either, but Apple has not exactly been webkit's friend and is only keeping a 3rd player barely alive as a side-effect. They are both bad in opposite ways.

If webkit was liberated from Apple I think it would ultimately benefit chromium as well.


there are also other companies working on webkit, e.g, sony.

Apple's investment in safari/webkit goes up and down. They've actually made a lot of investments since 2019 or so. Probably less so for the previous 6 years before that. But again, webkit was very innovative in the early 2010s


This list of standards also shows how Google attempts to make it even more impossible for anyone but them to maintain a browser. Shape detection API ? Seriously ? Picture-in-picture as a standard when it should be up to the OS/browser ? having the <input type="image"/> perform resizing and compression ?


They’re copying the old Microsoft playbook. Add so many APIs - the more complex the better - that nobody will be able to copy them all.


Joel Spolsky called it fire and motion.[1]

[1] https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2002/01/06/fire-and-motion/


We can thank WebKit and Apple's policy around it on iOS for suppressing and holding back these attempts, as sites on average still _need_ to work on an iPhone.


Shape detection is to have predictable QR code scanning across web apps, PiP as a browser API is necessary to enable it cross-platform. And image transformations are to try and collapse 100 js libraries of varying quality into a feature that people clearly want.

I’m a huge proponent of platforms aiming to be stable and largely not messing with shit but it has to be feature complete first.


It's hard to believe Mozilla will do much considering 90% of their revenue comes from Google.

for better or worse, Apple has been the single biggest driver towards privacy enhancement.


Why do people keep saying this when Mozilla is and has already been vocally fighting against Google's overreaching proposals?

There's new headlines about this every few months.

https://blog.mozilla.org/en/privacy-security/privacy-analysi...

https://www.howtogeek.com/756338/mozilla-says-chromes-latest...

There's also this:

https://blog.mozilla.org/blog/2020/08/04/latest-firefox-roll...

https://twitter.com/__jakub_g/status/1365400306767581185

And the top comment of the hacker news thread associated with that last link?

>My friend who works in an adtech company:

>"Protip: Use Firefox instead of Chrome. We get very little data from Firefox users"


Because of such an apparent conflict of interest. At the end of the day we do not know how many good ideas (for the users, for the web and for Firefox market share) were silenced because not to upset the feeding arm. And where would Firefox be today if it relied on its own users for the revenue instead?

Having your main competitor as your main customer is not a good position to be in for any company.


Yes but nobody on HN has ever - ever - come up with a better funding model for them. It's all complaints all the time and people don't even seem to bother researching what they have been doing lately.

It's also fun to watch people complain about the Google situation and then, 10 seconds later, complain about "side projects" which are actual independent sources of revenue.

I don't envy the market dynamics of their situation. Selling FOSS is hard to begin with, and it's even harder in a market that is utterly commoditized by players 1000x larger than yourself, and it's even harder if your niche (privacy) rules out nearly every funding option apart from the search deals with Google.


How about this for a funding model: tie executive compensation to revenue growth.

Mozilla has had five fold increases in CEO compensation over the last fifteen years, as Firefox market share has gone down six fold. Firefox had ~30% market share in the mid 2000's, and now it has less than five percent market share. Safari has twice the market share Firefox does, by some metrics.

Mozilla has literally paid its CEOs fantastical salaries for driving the company into the ground.

Mitchell Baker made $2.5M in 2018 and now in 2021 she's making over $3M.

Mozilla laid of nearly 300 employees post pandemic because of declining revenue.

Being a browser company and seeing declining revenue during a period when damn near every tech company was printing money because everyone hopped online...that's a real special kind of incompetence.

Then there's the fact that Mozilla insists on having multiple offices in probably the most expensive real estate markets in the world. San Fran, Paris, Toronto, Portland? Not just that, but look at where the offices are. I'm not suggesting Mozilla move out to the burbs, but...the offices are dead-center downtown.

If Mozilla moved those offices about a mile or two from the city centers (or shut most of them down - there's no reason to have THREE west-coast offices, especially post-pandemic), and adjusted C-suite salaries to be indexed to growth, I think that would be a great "funding model."


> How about this for a funding model: tie executive compensation to revenue growth.

I'm not sure this would go quite the way you think. The quick numbers I could find are $104 million in revenue for 2009 [1], $828 million in revenue for 2019 [2]. Your market share percentages sound about right, though (and is more relevant to the success of the mission.)

> Being a browser company and seeing declining revenue during a period when damn near every tech company was printing money because everyone hopped online...that's a real special kind of incompetence.

I would agree, if I were to completely ignore the existence of competition and all other forms of external reality. I mean, look at the size of the computer market these days. What were Cray, SGI, DEC, Commodore, etc thinking? They must have all been unbelievably incompetent!

Sure, the results are not good. It is perhaps true that you personally could have done far better. Maybe you should give it a try, in some other market where a little company called Google decides to move in on your territory.

> Mitchell Baker made $2.5M in 2018 and now in 2021 she's making over $3M.

She's CEO of a company with a revenue of $800M USD. What should the CEO's compensation be? Is $3M too high or too low? Personally, I honestly don't know. My perception is that CEOs are generally paid large sums of money until they're fired. Perhaps that's not the way it should be in an ideal world.

> Mozilla laid of nearly 300 employees post pandemic because of declining revenue.

Yeah, that sucks. It really sucks. (I work at Mozilla.) Though for the record, we're not post pandemic.

Still, when your burn rate is too high for your income, you have to do something. In some markets, it might make sense to go for broke: borrow to fund scaling, and pray a lot. In the browser market, that would be incredibly stupid. You can't crush your competitors with a $0 product and a compatibility moat that it is your mission to minimize, especially when your main competitor is many times your size.

> ...office rant...

Thanks to COVID, the offices are indeed getting pruned down. But you seem to place a lot of faith in your ability to armchair quarterback. Those offices provided value (partly as a result of their locations), they incurred costs, and people did the math on them. You can assume rank incompetence, but why?

[1] https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/foundation/annualreport/2009/f... [2] https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/foundation/annualreport/2019/


> You can't crush your competitors with a $0 product and a compatibility moat that it is your mission to minimize, especially when your main competitor is many times your size.

By definition, Firefox is not a $0 product - it is a $500M product, the product name is called primary search engine placement and it has exactly one customer, that also happens to be its main competitor and archrival.

The very fact that user != customer is where most of Firefox problems stem from (IMO). Turning users into customers is a correct (and only) way for Firefox to become independent and achieve a position from which it can really deliver on its mission.


I think "post pandemic" there means "after the pandemic drove everyone to WFH anyway", not "especially after the pandemic is over" (which would be an argument for more local offices, not less).


Ah, your interpretation makes much more sense, and upon rereading I believe that you're right.

I may have been confused because I know some surprising things about how search ad revenue did at different points in the pandemic, so I overthought things. (I don't know if those numbers are public or not, so I won't be more specific.)


1) Save most of the Google bucks rather than spending them on bloating your org to at least 3x the size it has any reason to be,

2) Invest your saved Google bucks,

3) After a few years you can drop Google for a decade or two and coast entirely on savings + investment income while being beholden to no-one. Maybe indefinitely, depending on how well it goes and how lean you keep your spending.

The alternative would have been putting all that extra staff to work on paid products that didn't suck and were in demand. Firefox could have built an open-source Slack alternative with optional, slick, easy-onboarding paid hosting, for instance. Not that big a stretch. And that's on the boring-and-safe side of things they might have done. Truly, they might have done anything worthwhile with the time and huge amounts of money they had, to gain future independence. Instead, they did... the stuff they did.


> Save most of the Google bucks rather than spending them on bloating your org to at least 3x the size it has any reason to be,

But then there would be no money for Mozilla's social justice initiatives.


A better funding model is right in front of our eyes and is used by almost every other company - sell the product to the users. There is no rule saying that a browser needs to be directly or indirectly monetized by ads. On the contrary, in this day and age, not helping sell more ads would surely be seen as a good thing? So if the browser is that good as a product, it surely will be paid by a percentage of its current users, no?

10M Firefox users paying $50/year would yield same amount of revenue as 200M users monetized with a Google deal. Now, would 5% Firefox users convert to paid users is a different question. If not, then perhaps Firefox as a product (or as an idea) may not be as good. But I think they would, and even if the percentage is lower, it would at least set Firefox free. And that is a good position to be in for any company.


Mozilla have been losing market share when the barrier to entry is "install this free alternative to your existing browser" the chance that they could succeed with "buy this paid alternative to your existing browser" is approaching zero.

Opera was paid at one point, they lost the competition with free alternatives.

Paid browsers are a concept that has been and gone, and if Mozilla attempted to bring the idea back, it would probably be the stupidest decision Mozilla had ever made. They have made plenty of stupid decisions, but nothing so far has utterly destroyed their market share instantly, this would.

In the end, the funding model alone doesn't define how a company acts. It matters, and is certainly a threat to Mozilla's neutrality, but Mozilla tends to hire developers who care about thier mission, they tend towards openness in their processes. Both these things protect Mozilla from becoming a Google shill despite their funding process.

If Mozilla ever backed Google on the wrong decision, I trust that many Mozilla devs would push back - either internally or by going to the press, even if it cost their jobs. Being a particularly successful open source project tends to select for a certain kind of employee.

Apple devs don't have this advantage - Apple has a culture of secrecy (for prefectly understandable buisness reasons, they don't like leaks), this means Apple's decisions are much harder to monitor, and Apple devs are much less likely to fight internal decisions that hurt the web as a whole.

That said, Apple does have its own incentives to fight Google which are also legitimate - a more independent funding model, and an intense dislike within their internal culture of relying on external vendors for their software and apis. There's a reason Apple develop their own browser, their own compiler, their own dev environment, their own everything. There's a history to that, Apple have been bitten by externally controlled systems, so they are very unlikely to jump to Chrome, probably even moreso than Mozilla.

The point is, both Mozilla and Apple have good and bad elements to their continued position providing alternative browser engines, both are strong in their own ways, and we're vastly better off with the benefits of both than with just 1 of them, either would be a major loss.


>10M Firefox users paying $50/year would yield same amount of revenue

The only way that works is if they abandoned the entire Firefox codebase and made another Chrome clone.

Even in their diminished state they still have 220 million monthly-active-users. With only 10 million, they'd have no leverage in the web standards groups, and no leverage with web developers. The Blink monoculture would be well and truly complete.

Plus I'd bet hard cash that even most HN readers wouldn't pay $50 a year for a web browser. Good luck finding 10 million.


> Plus I'd bet hard cash that even most HN readers wouldn't pay $50 a year for a web browser. Good luck finding 10 million.

I disagree. 50M people (including myself) already pay $12/mo ($144/year) for YouTube Premium [1], basically so they do not see the ads even though a completely free alternative is available. (this also tells us you need just one 'killer' feature)

And a browser, executed right, is arguably a much more valuable product. It is where we spend most of our day in. It is what we use to work and create value for companies we work at. So 10M people at $5/mo should not require such a stretch of imagination. The only question is is Firefox that good as a browser right now, and what would need to change?

Besides what is the alternative for Firefox? What good does its leverage in web standards group bring it? Even at the price of free, it is losing tens of millions of users every year and the death spiral of user attrition will drive its market share to the ground eventually. It clearly signals a need for a radical turn.

[1] https://www.theverge.com/2021/9/2/22654318/youtube-50-millio...


You are arguing that people "should" pay based on value.

This is a competitive market. There are reasonable alternatives. Cost to switch is low. Economics 101 (literally that class!) says that the price in that situation is going to be based on competition (for the companies/producers that survive), and the price of the competition is $0.

(It's actually not, you're paying with slightly less personal data for Firefox than the alternatives, and there are substantial externalities like the effects of monoculture, but none of that is going to change the big picture.)

Not only are you not going to get a critical mass of people willing to pay, but also those who are willing to pay will feel massively entitled, and will abandon your product when it changes in any way they don't like.

The only way to make it work would be to provide some value that cannot be replicated by competitors, in order to add switching costs and reduce the fidelity of alternatives. And for that to be relevant to Mozilla, it must also be compatible with the mission of an open web.

Good luck with that.


> You are arguing that people "should" pay based on value.

I believe I am arguing that we underestimate the willingness of people to part with their money when there is a right product.

> Cost to switch is low. Economics 101 (literally that class!) says that the price in that situation is going to be based on competition (for the companies/producers that survive), and the price of the competition is $0.

Not sure whether we live in different times, but isn't the same with YouTube? The cost to watch is $0, and you can even watch it ad-free for $0 with a free ad-blocker, yet 50 million people still choose to pay $12/mo for YouTube Premium.

>Not only are you not going to get a critical mass of people willing to pay,

I think you are speculating, so let me speculate as well. If Firefox does not make a radical turn, it will become irrelevant in 3-5 years.

> but also those who are willing to pay will feel massively entitled

With YT Premium, the one thing I request is that the one killer feature that I pay for (no ads) works reliably. So yes, I can agree that users will feel massively entitled to get what they paid for, but that is up to Firefox to define and control.

> The only way to make it work would be to provide some value that cannot be replicated by competitors

I agree! Firefox lost a lot of the product innovation and leadership mindset it had until roughly 2010-2011. Bringing that back would help (and the right business model could do it).

> And for that to be relevant to Mozilla, it must also be compatible with the mission of an open web.

How does making Google a default search engine in Firefox help that mission? Firefox should do it because it believes Google is the best default choice for their users and the open web, not because it gets paid to do it (if compatibility with its mission is what Firefox is striving for).


> yet 50 million people still choose to pay $12/mo for YouTube Premium.

Yes, because de facto YouTube has no viable competitors, so I am not feeling that analogy.

If I want to watch YouTube videos specifically, I have to go to YouTube. People don't use YouTube because they necessarily like the experience of how YT does things, they use it because it has the content users want. Browsers aren't like that. Both Firefox and Chrome on a high level provide the exact same content.

Sidenote: adblockers and such are nice, but, as others have pointed out alread, non-tech savvy users won't bother. And the situation on mobile devices and smart TVs (which account for a growing percentage of YT consumption) have a pretty non-simple adblocker story (or non-existent, if we are talking about using native YT app on a mobile network).


>Not sure whether we live in different times, but isn't the same with YouTube? The cost to watch is $0, and you can even watch it ad-free for $0 with a free ad-blocker, yet 50 million people still choose to pay $12/mo for YouTube Premium.

Isn't that more about information asymmetry than value proposition?

Blocking YouTube ads with the appropriate add-ons for free isn't necessarily that well known, except among the tech savvy.

While some tech savvy folks may choose to pay rather than use such add-ons is one thing, but the "great unwashed masses" don't have information about such add-ons, perhaps encouraging them to purchase something they wouldn't purchase if there was more perfect information availability in the market.

I'm not claiming that's the case, but it seems a reasonable supposition.


Potentially yes, but hard to believe that a $7bn business exists only because of lack of information. I certainly don't lack the information and few other people from my circle that also pay for it so it is hard for me to scale from there.


Ad blockers don't work for YouTube on a TV or the native YouTube app (unless you are one of the few people with a DNS ad blocker). I wonder how many of YouTube Premium subscribers primarily use the website. I'm a YouTube Premium subscribers solely because I typically watch YouTube on my TV.


> Ad blockers don't work for YouTube on a TV or the native YouTube app (unless you are one of the few people with a DNS ad blocker). I wonder how many of YouTube Premium subscribers primarily use the website. I'm a YouTube Premium subscribers solely because I typically watch YouTube on my TV.

An excellent point. I mostly watch YouTube on a computer with ad blockers, and I also have a DNS-based ad blocker (Pi-hole). And the combination does block many ads, but other add-ons are required to block the video window ads as well.

I don't use YouTube enough on non-general purpose computer devices enough to care about that. As such, I didn't consider that as a reason to pay for Premium.

Thanks for expanding my view on this!


I'm not aware of any scholarship looking at correlation between level of tech knowledge (specifically, ad blockers) and subscription behavior to avoid ads.

That said, apparently ~42% of global users[0] block some ads.

Given that there are ~4.6Bn users[1], of which ~1.9Bn sometimes use ad blockers, some 2.7Bn users don't use ad blockers at all.

50 million (although that includes YouTube Music subscribers as well as YouTube Premium) subscribers is a little more than 1% of total users and ~2% of users who don't use ad blockers.

I'd also point out that nations with higher per-capita incomes tend to use ad blockers less, which implies (again, I'm not claiming this to be true) that they may be less knowledgeable about ad blocking technologies.

It's not clear what the global distribution of YouTube Premium subscribers looks like, but it's reasonable to think that those with higher (and presumably more disposable) incomes would be more likely to pay for such a subscription.

I don't have any data to back up my hypothesis, as I can't find any published research into the tech savvy of those who pay for YouTube Premium vs. those who don't.

Even more, just because the absolute numbers (50,000,00 subscribers which includes 30,000,000 YouTube Music, and 2+ or 7+ billion in revenue, depending on if you count the 30,000,000 YouTube Music subscribers) are large, given the total population, they are a tiny group.

How many people use add-ons to block youtube ads? Who knows? Possibly Google/Alphabet, but they certainly aren't going to talk about that.

I want to be crystal clear that I'm not saying you're wrong, but the idea that there's a lack of information driving subscriptions to get ad-free youtube is certainly a reasonable one.

Perhaps that's a good topic for a master's thesis in psychology? Since I'm not a marketer or a grad student in Psychology, that wouldn't be something I'd do. Hopefully someone will.

[0] https://backlinko.com/ad-blockers-users

[1] https://www.oberlo.com/blog/internet-statistics

Edit: Added the missing link.


It is a valid analysis and I think that my primary analogy still holds - a good browser should be able to find 10M paying users, when something like YouTube Premium is able to find 50M, just because browser is a much more valuable tool - even though free alternatives exist (because free YouTube also exists).


>It is a valid analysis and I think that my primary analogy still holds - a good browser should be able to find 10M paying users, when something like YouTube Premium is able to find 50M, just because browser is a much more valuable tool - even though free alternatives exist (because free YouTube also exists).

A reasonable point. And I don't necessarily disagree.

Although "Video of stuff I want to look at" may be more compelling than "some icon I click to view the intarwebz," when they see essentially the same thing unless they take specific steps to block ads/tracking.

And that goes double for Android phone users.

My hypothesis was orthogonal to your thesis, but I agree that the data I outlined certainly supports yours.


I'd be curious how many were just Play Music that rolled over into YouTube Premium. I'm not sure it would do as well if it dropped the music streaming.


Here's the one I have always touted:

They could build themselves to be the independent alternative to conglomerates.

They could be the alternative, offering services above and beyond the browser. I think their VPN service has been a modest success for them. I'd love for them to have moved into the same space as say, 1Password and other cloud based services of that nature. They are the independent 3rd party that works on all platforms. That is what I think their position could be. They're a trusted entity with known good track record of caring about privacy and their users, why wouldn't they move into markets where its a natural extension of this is a win?


I think Brave is a good model for developing alternative, independent revenue streams. They're helped in large part by having a community that understands the need for it, a lot of the vocal Firefox fanbase seems to want an independent browser engine and service backend run and distributed as donationware.


Business model wise, Brave is same thing as Google just at a smaller scale. Their revenue stream is still ad monetization, just it happens that it does not come from Google (although it is curious that on default settings, Brave's ad blocker does not block Google ads?).

And what does the world look like if Brave "wins" (meaning becoming Google size)? Still ads everywhere, just Brave gets to pick them.

Worth noting is that people would run ad-blockers even if all ads in the world are privacy-respecting. Users simply do not want ads on the web pages and eating the bandwidth.


> Business model wise, Brave is same thing as Google just at a smaller scale

> if Brave "wins" […] Still ads everywhere, just Brave gets to pick them

No, Google’s business model is gathering humanity’s largest hoard of data and monetizing that through targeted advertizing. Brave doesn’t show any of their most traditional ads unless the user explicitly opts in, and then it doesn’t come with comparable tracking.


> Brave doesn’t show a single ad unless the user explicitly opts in, and then it doesn’t come with comparable tracking.

I have what looks like a promotion for Crypto.com, Binance, Gemini and FTX.us in Brave browser, on default settings even though I never turned them on. For few of these I never heard and I certainly do not have any interest in crypto. Not sure why these would even belong in a web browser on default settings unless there is some kind of a deal/partnership going on?

Both Google and Brave have the same business model. They make money when a user clicks on an ad.

The execution may differ and maybe only because Brave is still new and relatively small and did not feel the same kind of shareholder pressure Google withstood for the last 20 years. That is why I said, imagine a world in which Brave "won". It would not be the same company it is now (compare Google from 2000 to Google today).


Fair enough, I’ve edited my comment (I haven’t used Brave besides ~2 hours of trial months ago — I won’t use any Chromium browser more than that when I can help it — but that’s no excuse to leave misinformation up). Still, those promotions are more in line with the ones that Firefox is filled with (Pocket, Google and Amazon search, etc.), not really the same type of thing as Google’s banners and youtube autoplay videos, and AIUI they only track the referral source (Brave) not the individual user (a defining distinction IMO).


Brave has at least two kinds of ads at present: Sponsored new tab page backgrounds, and user-controlled mechanism that delivers ads as toaster popups. The sponsored backgrounds are on by default, the popups are not. The toaster popups have a revenue share thing where Brave gives a cut of its ad profits to users so they can use Brave's tipping service to benefit creators.

Brave Talk and Brave News are ad-funded as well but I haven't tried them so it's hard to say.


Brave does ad-hijacking and has been caught hijacking referral links in the past. I'm not sure I would call their model "good".

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23442027


Ad-hijacking?

The referral code thing was a bug that got fixed - the intended function was Firefox Suggest-esque sponsored links from a local directory when you typed a word but not a complete url, eg. "binance". The bug was that it gave you a suggestion for complete, legit urls too (eg. "binance.us") and put the suggestion at the top. The bug was fixed to make the feature work as intended, and the feature is turned off by default.


Brave replaces the ads from the website with its own ads.

I don't totally understand how people think Brave is against ad-tech, when it is very much an ad-tech company making money primarily from ads, and secondly from its crypto ownership in BAT.

Brave does a lot of user tracking, but it says it anonymizes it, which hopefully it does, but it still tracks all your behavior.

It is still a cool model, but very much ad-tech and ad-based.


Of course they're not against ad tech, they are an ad agency. They just think there's a market for a privacy-respecting setup, is all. And I think they're right in that.

As far as web ads go, a lot of people's objection to them is not seeing ads (though the ads themselves can obviously be very invasive and bothersome), but to things like tracking and fingerprinting, which the company is adamantly against. The attempt is to have ads, but also have privacy, which IMO is the correct move. It's not like we can run everything on subscriptions.

> Brave replaces the ads from the website with its own ads.

This is not exactly true. They have separate functions for an adblocker, an ad delivery system that's entirely separate from the websites you visit, and a tipping system for sending BAT to creators.

I'm not terribly fond of crypto, so I use Brave as essentially a degoogled Chromium with a built-in adblocker that won't get fucked over by Manifest v3 (since it's not an extension) and is available on mobile, and who run an independent end to end encrypted sync service. It's pretty nice.


>A better funding model is right in front of our eyes and is used by almost every other company

An even better "funding model" would be a non-profit entity with no additional agenda beyond providing an anti-adtech browser to the world. I'm guessing that there are a lot of people who would donate their time and money to thwarting the overreach of adtech.


Isn't Firefox the proof that this isn't the case?


> Selling FOSS is hard to begin with

Also worth noting is that Firefox is not in the business of selling FOSS, it is (currently) in the business of selling primary search engine placement.


Maybe because Mozilla collects a massive amount of "telemetry" on users, in a way that is personally identifiable, despite zero need for it to be so?

https://firefox-source-docs.mozilla.org/toolkit/components/t...

Or maybe it's because you can toss some money at Mozilla and they'll silently install a browser extension on behalf of an advertising company for a shitty TV show about a l33t haxx0r d00d?

By the way, the bugzilla report about that particular incident was locked, then made employee-only, then made public again...then restricted beyond employee-only...by a project manager...who used to work for advertising companies before she came over to Mozilla.

Or how about the fact that flipping on some of the anti-tracking features include munging the timezone, which means times in almost any website are wrong - which seems to be a poison pill to keep people from turning it on?

Edit with details regarding the extension controversy: https://www.theverge.com/2017/12/16/16784628/mozilla-mr-robo...


> Maybe because Mozilla collects a massive amount of "telemetry" on users, in a way that is personally identifiable, despite zero need for it to be so?

Please point out how to personally identify a telemetry user.

I am a Firefox engineer who uses telemetry data, and know of no way to personally identify any of my users. Well, one way -- you can voluntarily put your email or other info into a crash report, though I know there was some talk of stripping that text field out because it's so rarely useful and touching any potential PII is like touching hot lava.


btw, Firefox crash reports no longer have an email address field, though they still have a comment field:

https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1688883


resistFingerprinting is a hidden setting. Mostly it's for Tor Browser. Supporting Tor Browser's threat model and not supporting yours might be disappointing. That doesn't make it a poison pill.


What is the browser extension incident you're referring to? Can you provide a link to an article or previous HN discussion?


They're referring to https://www.engadget.com/2017-12-16-firefox-mr-robot-extensi..., an event that occurred 5 years ago, was immediately rolled back after launch, and hasn't happened again.


>an event that occurred 5 years ago, was immediately rolled back after launch, and hasn't happened again.

It shouldn't have happened in the first place so no one gets any points for taking it down immediately. The fact it doesn't seem to have happened again also earns no points because again it should never have happened in the first place. At no point should your web browser silently install an addon/extension without your permission. That this same web browser wants to trot around afterwards and prattle on about how secure and open they are makes it even worse.


nonsense.

about:telemetry shows you all that is collected and none of it is PII, a unique fingerprint maybe...


In general the people making decisions on standards and implementation don't directly answer to the people honoring the Google deal. Plus, Google knows they really shouldn't stop feeding FF revenue lest they be called out, leading to bad PR and more potential antitrust lawsuits, so I don't see them stopping anytime soon.


1 is the worst possible rationale I've ever heard.

"Let's support a company that abuses its customers, developers and refuses to implement web standards just so a company that makes a far superior product doesn't gain more market share..."


They aren't advocating or supporting Apple, though. They are merely pointing out that in suchg a dire situation as the one we have now, Apple's interests partially align with consumer interests.

I think their tone makes it relatively clear that this is not a healthy state to be in!


What hyperbole! It's entirely possible for some process to be bad, and it still have (some) good consequences.

The Black Plague was terrible; but it lead to increased social mobility in the aftermath. Likewise, Apple's "one browser" policy is bad, but ironically it's the main thing stopping the other browser, Chrome, from becoming the one browser that dominates everything. I'm still against the one browser policy, as I am against the Black Plague, but a reasonable person can make these distinctions.


> abuses its customers

Apple customers are generally pretty happy with their hardware and software.


I view it more like the lesser of two evils. I don't like Apple's behaviour and I agree with a lot of the criticisms against their behaviour. That said, I think it's preferable to the alternative.


The enemy of my enemy is my friend.


> Engineers from Apple and Mozilla are largely our bastion against Google's harmful proposals for the web.

Brave also deserves a mention. As long as Brave exists in its current form, there will be a version of Chromium without Google’s “bad” stuff.


Sure, it just has Brave's "bad stuff" instead :)


What would you define as "Brave's 'bad stuff'" ? It would seem that Brave does a lot to leave power of choice while erroring on safety / privacy for the defaults. What issues does it have?


For now it let's you keep the BAT stuff and ads off, but the incentives are not totally aligned there and I'd worry in the future they might force you to use it.

Ultimately they're inserting themselves in as the attention reseller - it's still an engagement/ad play dressed up a bit.

I really like what they've built, but I don't like how they're trying to monetize it. I think the ad/attention model is a corrupting influence on content quality generally, I can see what they're trying to do but I'd rather ad supported models just die. A browser completely focused on the user would just block ads and be done with it (imo).

Just let me pay for software that doesn't suck so our incentives are aligned. If you want a free ad-supported version for people unwilling to pay then fine.


As Chromium adds more and more bad stuff, it will be harder for Brave to patch everything out.


I suspect they'll eventually just remove capabilities entirely that allow ad blocking and brave will have to completely rewrite it and shoehorn it in.


They are already restricting it with manifest v3. It is only a matter of time until it becomes manifest v4.


Does Vivaldi deserve a mention here alongside Brave?


>Why it's worth caring about this at all? So what if Chromium is the only engine, it would make things easier for developers after all.

It sure would, but here just as in many areas of tech, developer convenience is diametrically opposed to what's good for users.


I think firefox and apple are our last voices before google takes over web browser technologies which is a really scary proposition, at least to me.


As someone who for quite awhile almost exclusively used Chromium based browsers and then coming back to only using but actually appreciating using Firefox I approve and very much agree with this message.


Google is up to so many sneaky things, it's stopped surprising me to find out how they're always one step ahead to make their products even more intrusive.

A new one I found out is their supposedly open-source initiative called 'Cloud Information Model' [1]. Along with others such as Salesforce, Genesys and AWS (companies that I personally don't trust), they promise 'you can create seamless and tailored personal experiences across cloud-native applications'. It's all a bit vague and fancy and sufficiently "tech-y" to impress the marketing folks but colour me suspicious.

EDIT: forgot the link,

1: https://cloudinformationmodel.org/faq/


I always wondered why the engine is not separated from the GUI in browsers. In chess world this is totally normal, you have a chess GUI and a chess engine (and a crude communication protocol).


> I always wondered why the engine is not separated from the GUI in browsers

For WebKit that's the case.


All the major browser engines can be embedded, the GUI is a separate layer. It's been that way for ages, even IE was this way.


Gecko isn't really embeddable. Except on Android.


Gecko was ALWAYS embedable, it was literally designed that way from day one.


Mozilla removed the embedding APIs in 2011. And they were incomplete and unstable before.[1]

[1] https://groups.google.com/g/mozilla.dev.embedding/c/c_NMcO-N...


That's about being about to build out Gecko as a blob to be called like a library. That doesn't mean Gecko can be used without all the extra parts in your app.


> That's about being about to build out Gecko as a blob to be called like a library.

That's what embedding a browser engine means.

> That doesn't mean Gecko can be used without all the extra parts in your app.

What extra parts?


FLoC has nothing to do with rendering, though.

Mozilla existing (and shipping spyware, just like Chrome) doesn't really do anything to stop any of that.


it's not "just like Chrome". It's not great, but it's not in the same ballpark as what Google does.


I'll go ahead and point out the obvious that the chances of Safari going Chromium-based are high given that (1) iOS Safari sucks and (2) Microsoft has had good success with Edgium. So the likelihood of Mozilla being the only dissenting voice is high.


The chance of Apple switching from a browser engine whose security and energy profile they control completely to one built specifically to advance the goals of a competitor is somewhere close to the chance of the heat death of the universe happening in the next five minutes.

It could happen, but even if it were to happen, there would be a split from Blink in a very short time period because Google’s values and mission do not align with Apple’s values and mission.


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