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posted by takyon on Friday December 21 2018, @01:11PM   Printer-friendly
from the edge-on-the-brink dept.

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow1984

Google denies altering YouTube code to break Microsoft Edge

A former Microsoft intern has revealed details of a YouTube incident that has convinced some Edge browser engineers that Google added code to purposely break compatibility. In a post on Hacker News, Joshua Bakita, a former software engineering intern at Microsoft, lays out details and claims about an incident earlier this year. Microsoft has since announced the company is moving from the EdgeHTML rendering engine to the open source Chromium project for its Edge browser.

[...] The claims are surprising if they're genuine, and they come months after a Mozilla program manager claimed a separate YouTube redesign made the site "5x slower in Firefox and Edge." That incident led Edge, Safari, and Firefox users to revert to scripts to improve the YouTube experience. Google was also at the center of claims it intentionally blocked access to Google Maps for Windows Phone users years ago.

[...] Google disputes Bakita's claims, and says the YouTube blank div was merely a bug that was fixed after it was reported. "YouTube does not add code designed to defeat optimizations in other browsers, and works quickly to fix bugs when they're discovered," says a YouTube spokesperson in a statement to The Verge. "We regularly engage with other browser vendors through standards bodies, the Web Platform Tests project, the open-source Chromium project and more to improve browser interoperability."

Previously: Is Google Using an "Embrace, Extend..." Strategy?


Original Submission

Related Stories

Is Google Using an "Embrace, Extend..." Strategy? 48 comments

Google isn't the company that we should have handed the Web over to

Back in 2009, Google introduced SPDY, a proprietary replacement for HTTP that addressed what Google saw as certain performance issues with existing HTTP/1.1. Google wasn't exactly wrong in its assessments, but SPDY was something of a unilateral act, with Google responsible for the design and functionality. SPDY was adopted by other browsers and Web servers over the next few years, and Google's protocol became widespread.

[...] The same story is repeating with HTTP/3. In 2012, Google announced a new experimental protocol, QUIC, intended again to address performance issues with existing HTTP/1.1 and HTTP/2. Google deployed QUIC, and Chrome would use QUIC when communicating with Google properties. Again, QUIC became the basis for IETF's HTTP development, and HTTP/3 uses a derivative of QUIC that's modified from and incompatible with Google's initial work.

It's not just HTTP that Google has repeatedly worked to replace. Google AMP ("Accelerated Mobile Pages") is a cut-down HTML combined with Google-supplied JavaScript designed to make mobile Web content load faster. This year, Google said that it would try to build AMP with Web standards and introduced a new governance model that gave the project much wider industry oversight.

A person claiming to be a former Microsoft Edge developer has written about a tactic Google supposedly used to harm the competing browser's performance:

A person claiming to be a former Edge developer has today described one such action. For no obvious reason, Google changed YouTube to add a hidden, empty HTML element that overlaid each video. This element disabled Edge's fastest, most efficient hardware accelerated video decoding. It hurt Edge's battery-life performance and took it below Chrome's. The change didn't improve Chrome's performance and didn't appear to serve any real purpose; it just hurt Edge, allowing Google to claim that Chrome's battery life was actually superior to Edge's. Microsoft asked Google if the company could remove the element, to no avail.

The latest version of Edge addresses the YouTube issue and reinstated Edge's performance. But when the company talks of having to do extra work to ensure EdgeHTML is compatible with the Web, this is the kind of thing that Microsoft has been forced to do.

See also: Ex Edge developer blames Google tricks in part for move to Chromium

Related: HTTP/2 on its Way In, SPDY on its Way Out
Google Touts QUIC Protocol
Google Attempting to Standardize Features of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
Google AMP Can Go To Hell
The Next Version of HTTP Won't be Using TCP
HTTP/3 Explained: A Work in Progress
Microsoft Reportedly Building a Chromium-Based Web Browser to Replace Edge, and "Windows Lite" OS
Mozilla CEO Warns Microsoft's Switch to Chromium Will Give More Control of the Web to Google


Original Submission

Microsoft Employee Sparks Outrage by Suggesting Firefox Switch Browser Engine to Chromium 66 comments

Microsoft Engineer Causes Online Wrath After Saying Firefox Should Use Chromium

Mozilla should give up on its own browsing engine and switch Firefox to Chromium, a Microsoft engineer said in a series of tweets, as what the company does right now is "building a parallel universe that's used by less than 5 percent."

The message posted by Microsoft Product Manager Kenneth Auchenberg has triggered an almost instant reaction from the user community, with most of the replies pointing out that building alternative products that can compete against Chromium is vital for the health of the browsing ecosystem.

"It's time for @mozilla to get down from their philosophical ivory tower. The web is dominated by Chromium, if they really *cared* about the web they would be contributing instead of building a parallel universe that's used by less than 5%?" he tweeted.

"I couldn't disagree with you more. It precisely *because* Chromium has such a large marketshare that is vital for Mozilla (or anyone else) to battle for diversity. I'm shocked that you think they're not contributing. "Building a parallel universe"? That *is* the contribution," web developer Jeremy Keith responded.

[...] Auchenberg's message has obviously received more acid replies, including this one criticizing Microsoft's recent browser changes. "Just because your employer gave up on its own people and technology doesn't mean that others should follow," Asa Dotzler tweeted.

Also at ZDNet.

Previously: Microsoft Reportedly Building a Chromium-Based Web Browser to Replace Edge, and "Windows Lite" OS
Mozilla CEO Warns Microsoft's Switch to Chromium Will Give More Control of the Web to Google

Related: Is Google Using an "Embrace, Extend..." Strategy?
Google Denies Altering YouTube Code to Break Microsoft Edge


Original Submission

Mozilla Was "Outfoxed" by Google 53 comments

Mozilla "Got Outfoxed" by Google – Former VP Accuses Google for Sabotaging Firefox

Former Mozilla VP, Johnathan Nightingale, has called out on Google for what could only be termed as anti-competitive practices. In a Twitter thread on a somewhat unrelated subject, Nightingale said that during his 8 years at Mozilla, Google was the company's biggest partner. "Our revenue share deal on search drove 90% of Mozilla's income," he tweeted.

However, that doesn't mean Google wasn't involved in some underhand practices. "When I started at Mozilla in 2007 there was no Google Chrome and most folks we spoke with inside were Firefox fans," Nightingale wrote. "When chrome launched things got complicated, but not in the way you might expect. They had a competing product now, but they didn't cut ties, break our search deal – nothing like that. In fact, the story we kept hearing was, 'We're on the same side. We want the same things.'"

"I think our friends inside google genuinely believed that. At the individual level, their engineers cared about most of the same things we did. Their product and design folks made many decisions very similarly and we learned from watching each other. But Google as a whole is very different than individual googlers," Nightingale added.

Google Chrome ads started appearing next to Firefox search terms. gmail & gdocs started to experience selective performance issues and bugs on Firefox. Demo sites would falsely block Firefox as "incompatible."

All of this is stuff you're allowed to do to compete, of course. But we were still a search partner, so we'd say "hey what gives?"

And every time, they'd say, "oops. That was accidental. We'll fix it in the next push in 2 weeks."

Usage share of web browsers.

Previously: After 10 Years with Google, Firefox Switches to Yahoo
Netmarketshare Claims Mozilla Firefox Usage Drops Below Ten Percent
Mozilla CEO Warns Microsoft's Switch to Chromium Will Give More Control of the Web to Google
Is Google Using an "Embrace, Extend..." Strategy?
Google Denies Altering YouTube Code to Break Microsoft Edge
Microsoft Employee Sparks Outrage by Suggesting Firefox Switch Browser Engine to Chromium

Related: Firefox 29 is a Flop; UI Design Trends Only Getting Worse
Mozilla Teases Chromium-Based Firefox, Then Pulls Back
Can the New Firefox Quantum Regain its Web Browser Market Share?
Firefox 64 Will Remove Support for RSS and Atom Feeds
Microsoft Reportedly Building a Chromium-Based Web Browser to Replace Edge, and "Windows Lite" OS


Original Submission

YouTube Software Engineers Hatched a Plan to "Kill" Internet Explorer 6 in 2009 25 comments

Former Google engineer reveals the secret YouTube plot to kill Internet Explorer 6

Nearly 10 years ago, YouTube started displaying a banner to Internet Explorer 6 users, warning that support for Microsoft's browser would be "phasing out" soon. It was a message that appeared on all YouTube pages, at a time when IE6 users represented around 18 percent of all YouTube traffic. Frustrated by supporting the aging browser, a group of YouTube engineers had hatched a plan to kill Internet Explorer 6.

"We began collectively fantasizing about how we could exact our revenge on IE6," reveals Chris Zacharias, a former Google and YouTube engineer. "The plan was very simple. We would put a small banner above the video player that would only show up for IE6 users." A group of engineers implemented this banner, knowing that most YouTube employees using the company's staging environment wouldn't even see it. At the time, Google had acquired YouTube a few years prior to the IE6 banner and the video sharing site hadn't really fully adapted to Google's infrastructure and policies.

YouTube engineers had created a special set of permissions called "OldTuber," so they could bypass Google's code enforcement policies and make changes directly to the YouTube codebase with limited code reviews. Zacharias and some other engineers were granted OldTuber permissions, allowing them to put the banner in place with very little oversight. "We saw an opportunity in front of us to permanently cripple IE6 that we might never get again," admits Zacharias.

[...] YouTube engineering management eventually realized what had happened, but it was too late and they "begrudgingly arrived at the conclusion that the ends had justified the means." The rebel YouTube engineers succeeded with their secret plan to kill Internet Explorer 6, and by April 2012 IE6 usage had dropped below one percent in the US. Even Microsoft was celebrating IE6's death.

Related: Is Google Using an "Embrace, Extend..." Strategy?
Google Denies Altering YouTube Code to Break Microsoft Edge


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 2) by nobu_the_bard on Friday December 21 2018, @01:27PM (2 children)

    by nobu_the_bard (6373) on Friday December 21 2018, @01:27PM (#777182)

    I have a hard time believing anyone would bother making any deliberate effort to defeat Edge. It's bad enough to not need the help.

    That said, is this really such an intense race that the moment some slowness happens everyone immediately jumps ship to another browser?

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by rigrig on Friday December 21 2018, @01:47PM

      by rigrig (5129) <soylentnews@tubul.net> on Friday December 21 2018, @01:47PM (#777189) Homepage

      It's not just slowness, these days battery life matters:

      they recently added a hidden empty div over YouTube videos that causes our hardware acceleration fast-path to bail (should now be fixed in Win10 Oct update). Prior to that, our fairly state-of-the-art video acceleration put us well ahead of Chrome on video playback time on battery, but almost the instant they broke things on YouTube, they started advertising Chrome's dominance over Edge on video-watching battery life.

      I like the spin though

      YouTube does not add code designed to defeat optimizations in other browsers

      i.e. "YouTube optimises for Chrome only, and crippling performance on other browsers is just a happy side-effect"

      --
      No one remembers the singer.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 21 2018, @06:29PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 21 2018, @06:29PM (#777270)

      I don't have a hard time believing it .. in fact that should be canon/roadmap for any would be global dominator ..
      https://www.theregister.co.uk/2003/02/06/msn_deliberately_breaks_operas_browser/ [theregister.co.uk] https://thestack.com/cloud/2016/06/22/opera-repudiates-microsoft-edge-battery-saving-claims/ [thestack.com]

  • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 21 2018, @02:33PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 21 2018, @02:33PM (#777201)

    everything from youtube more hi-res then 480p is now only watchable if you enable the "DRM module" in YOUR browser :(

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 21 2018, @10:53PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 21 2018, @10:53PM (#777349)

    Microsoft sure knows how to pick a crackpot team if they can be thwarted by the mighty HTML div!

    What next? Maybe "Google added an empty HTML image tag to crash Windows!"

    P.S. edge users might want to avoid this comment, it may defeat your browser's "optimizations", just saying.

    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 22 2018, @03:00PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 22 2018, @03:00PM (#777540)

      Why yes, an empty div is all it takes. Thats because of how hardware and software works.

      There is a hardware accelerator in the CPU for rendering graphics, which makes it a lot faster and more energy efficient to do as compared to doing it in software. However, it only can be safely used when you know that video is being displayed. An empty div is a placeholder which can have any arbitrary content entered in later, so it forces an HTML-compliant browser to not use the hardware renderer. In effect, Google can cheat by not following the HTML spec because they (and only they) can guarantee the div will be empty.

      By analogy, imagine Google had tens of thousands people trying to enter a stadium, and they all need to be security checked. They also give them backpacks. Now Edge and Firefox security guards need to slow down to check each person's backpack, whereas Chrome guards just waives them through as Google internally knows each backpack is empty.

      So yes, "an empty backpack is all it takes to dramatically slow down a properly-run checkpoint." (And yes, this also means that Google's Chrome is not fully following standards.)

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