I think we have some fundamental philosophical differences about how the world should work. ;)
Of course I don't think that. I meant by "ubiquitous" to imply the opposite. I fear we're talking past each other.
The risks of Google behaving like a Microsoft-style monopolist here are low because (a) they have no monopoly in browsers, VMs, or OSes to abuse, (b) their culture is the most hacker-driven of any large company, (c) their interests are aligned with what is good for the web, and (d) the industry has changed since the bad old days.
Given this, and because the potential value of this project is so high, I'm willing to give them a chance.
I admit the odds are against it turning out so well. But this is the rare case where at least some optimism is well-grounded. If what they release does turn out to be an attempt at the above, it will be exciting.
With ActiveX, the interfaces that might be used are too many, and their implementations too large and complicated, to have bug for bug compatibility. Even having source code would not be enough. All-paths testing would be needed.
Someone could (and a few companies did, for COM on Unix) tediously reverse-engineer a subset of COM interfaces and components implementing them. No one ever pulled off anywhere near a full Windows workalike.
The same threat arises with delayed-open-source controlled by a single proprietor. You can port and fork such code, but you can't depend on the single proprietor, especially if it's a hostile competitor. You'll have to co-maintain if you don't make a long-term fork of your own.
Source != spec. An implementation will over-specify in its source code and API. Abstractions leak. Standards can and do turn down specificity by dropping to prose or more formal means, without overspecifying.
"The risks of Google behaving like a Microsoft-style monopolist here are low because (a) they have no monopoly in browsers, VMs, or OSes to abuse,"
Look closer: Google is a search monopoly in many locales, and they are an emerging duopoly member (the larger share than Apple) on mobile, whose growth predicts it dominating desktop.
"(b) their culture is the most hacker-driven of any large company"
That was true a few years ago. It is much less so now. Larry has cut back on the thousand flowers, and focused on a few strategic bets: Android, Chrome, Google+, Search.
"(c) their interests are aligned with what is good for the web,"
So you say (and perhaps Google people say this, but I know some who candidly admit it just ain't so any longer).
Why do you believe this? As a public company, Google has to show quarterly good results, not just great profit margins but bubbly growth, to keep its stock appreciating, to retain and recruit (see the Facebook defection problem of last year). This is a big distortion on a pure open web mission.
"and (d) the industry has changed since the bad old days."
And human nature has changed since the 20th century, or the French Revolution, or the dark ages? Yeah, right.
In that case, I have no idea how you think ActiveX could ever have become "ubiquitous".
> they have no monopoly in browsers, VMs, or OSes to abuse
They have a monopoly in search engines (and some would argue webmail clients), and are trying hard to work on browsers and OSes, especially on mobile... Give them a few more years, and see how things look.
> their interests are aligned with what is good for the web
They used to be, for a bit. At this point, I've very skeptical that this is still true.
> the industry has changed since the bad old days
Has it? I don't see much evidence of this. Particular _markets_ have changed, but attitudes really haven't.
You know what, scratch everything I said about ActiveX. I didn't think about it very much (it was so awful, I can't bear to), and you're probably right.
< I don't see much evidence of this. >
Really? To my mind the industry is more hacker-centric than it used to be. For example, there's a spectrum of how open and sharing Google may turn out to be with Dart. Some points on that spectrum are better than others, but nowhere on it is the possibility of an old-school closed-source implementation. That's a major change from how things used to be.
The two technical/cultural shifts, open source and the open web, make for a good trend.
That's why counter-trend action such as delayed-open (Dart), delayed/partly-open (Android, e.g., but other examples are easy to find) raise hackers' hackles. At least for some hackers.
And hackers aside, the competing vendors meeting in existing standards bodies get left out. That clouds the prospects for future standardization, unless (again) based on market power. Which is not there, if the topic is Google Dart (and it is :-|).