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> True, but I'm starting to think "Open Standards" was a huge Trojan horse. - It lead to, or continued, a huge monopolization of platforms. Only a few large companies are able to maintain modern browsers (see the demise of Opera).

Free-slash-open-source programs are like banks in this way. In principle, a bank that fails can always be shut down rather than bailed out, and this is what justifies the existence of private-sector banks. In principle, an open-source program can always be forked if you can't persuade the maintainers to make the changes that you want, and it's always been agreed that this is a central, essential requirement for a program to be considered free-slash-open. But some programs are, in practise, TBTF - Too Big To Fork. A program can be "big" not only by having a large codebase but also through network effects, such as having vast amounts of client software tied to one of its interfaces. The big-boy Web browsers are TBTF in both these ways. So if, for example, you're insulted by Google's decision to knife MathML (as everyone should be), it's relatively easy to roll a Chromium with MathML inside, but you'd still effectively be just maintaining a branch, because you'd have no hope of maintaining "your" browser independently if Google took the whole Chromium codebase in a direction you didn't like - and more importantly, good luck getting users to use your browser or developers to create MathML webpages to support it.

A second example of the phenomenon is the Gnome/KDE mess - part of the reason that the Linux desktop sucks is that, even if you have a clear idea of how it could be better, it's still a whole lot of man-hours to spin up an alternative implementation, get apps customised for it, and so on. In general, an area is the domain of TBTF to the extent that you have to win a political persuasion battle or spend a truckload of your own money before you can produce a viable implementation of your alternative idea.

The solution, to the extent that there is a solution, to these problems is a technical one: find a way to shrink large programs and/or break them up into small, reasonably independent ones. (Of course all social/political problems are technical problems in disguise just as all technical problems are social/political problems in disguise. ;) ) In the case of the web, this is why the vertically-integrated Web browser must go away https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6720793 .




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