from the Safari?-Brave?-Opera? dept.
Software developer Drew DeVault has written a post at his blog about the reckless, infinite scope of today's web browsers. His conclusion is that, given decades of feature creep, it is now impossible to build a new web browser due to the obscene complexity of the web.
I conclude that it is impossible to build a new web browser. The complexity of the web is obscene. The creation of a new web browser would be comparable in effort to the Apollo program or the Manhattan project.
It is impossible to:
- Implement the web correctly
- Implement the web securely
- Implement the web at all
Starting a bespoke browser engine with the intention of competing with Google or Mozilla is a fool's errand. The last serious attempt to make a new browser, Servo, has become one part incubator for Firefox refactoring, one part playground for bored Mozilla engineers to mess with technology no one wants, and zero parts viable modern web browser. But WebVR is cool, right? Right?
The consequences of this are obvious. Browsers are the most expensive piece of software a typical consumer computer runs. They're infamous for using all of your RAM, pinning CPU and I/O, draining your battery, etc. Web browsers are responsible for more than 8,000 CVEs.3
The browser duopoly of Firefox and Chrome/Chromium has clearly harmed the World-Wide Web. However, a closer look at the membership of the W3C committes also reveals representation by classic villains which, perhaps coincidentally, showed up around the time the problems noted by Drew began to grow.
An Open Letter to Web Developers (2020)
Google Now Bans Some Linux Web Browsers from their Services (2019)
HTML is the Web (2019)
The Future of Browsers (2019)
One Year Since the W3C Sold Out the Web with EME (2018)
Molly de Blanc writes at that it has been one year since the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) sold out. It was then they, including Tim Berners-Lee himself, decided to incorporate Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) into web standards signalling an end to the open Web. She covers how it happened, what has transpired during the last year in regards to EME, and what steps can be taken.
Digital Restrictions Management exists all over the world in all sorts of technologies. In addition to media files, like music and film, we can find DRM on the Web and enshrined in Web standards. As a Web standard, its use is recommended by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), making it not only easier, but expected for all media files on the Web to be locked down with DRM.
It's been a year since the the W3C voted to bring Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) into Web standards. They claimed to want to "lead the Web to its full potential," but in a secret vote, members of the W3C, with the blessing of Web creator Tim Berners-Lee, agreed to put "the copyright industry in control" of media access. The enshrinement of EME as an official recommendation is not how we envision the "full potential" of the Web at the Free Software Foundation (FSF).
Despite sharing a common Chromium codebase, browser makers like Brave, Opera, and Vivaldi don't have plans on crippling support for ad blocker extensions in their products -- as Google is currently planning on doing within Chrome.
The three browsers makers have confirmed to ZDNet, or in public comments, of not intending to support a change to the extensions system that Google plans to add to Chromium, the open-source browser project on which Chrome, Brave, Opera, and Vivaldi are all based on.
A few hours after reading about Brave, Opera, and Vivaldi breaking with Google blocking ad-blockers, I find this story -
Firefox may introduce a paid version in order to reduce its reliance on Google revenue
Mozilla, the maker of open source browser Firefox, is by no means strapped for cash; although the said browser is offered free of charge, the foundation has a lucrative search deal with Google.
Some of the revenue also comes thanks to its controversially proprietary online bookmarking service Pocket, and some from sponsored content and donations.
But although the Google deal is sweet – Mozilla is very dependent on it and nervous about the prospect, however unlikely, of losing it. Therefore it always seems be on the lookout for new revenue streams.
In an interview with German media outlet T3N, the company's CEO, Chris Beard, said that it's aiming to launch the new version by October, with features like a VPN and secure cloud storage.
The company's already experimented with a VPN service by partnering up with ProtonVPN and offering a $10 subscription. Now, the company's thinking of offering some amount of free VPN bandwidth to get you started, and then charge a premium for metered access in the form of a monthly subscription.
So - what is the future? Are browsers to be divided between "free" browsers, that play games with Google, and paid browsers, which thumb their noses at Google?
And, how will all of that affect those of us who routinely modify their browsers? Will we have to work harder, for the same effect - or will we just be shot down in flames? Surrender to Google, or pay to browse?
"Front-end" developer, Pete Lambert, writes about why front-end "web" developers should start to learn HTML. More and more developers are using only pre-made frameworks and quite unfamiliar with the fundmentals of the technology they are using, such as semantic markup. He notes that the continued failure to pay attention to the basics of semantics is slowly breaking what's left of the World Wide Web and suggests reasons to correct that and has some pointers to learning resources.
I’m a ‘frontend of the frontend’ kind of guy. My expertise is in HTML and CSS, so it’s easy for me to wax lyrical about why everybody should learn what I already know (for the record, I don’t know it all - we still have heated debates in the office about what the best way to mark up a certain component might be). This isn’t about ‘my job’s more important than yours. If you’re writing code that renders things in a browser, this is your job.
Earlier on SN:
How to Build and Host an Energy Efficient Web Site (2018)
Conservative Web Development (2018)
Dodgy Survey Shows 1 in 10 Believe HTML is an STD? (2014)
BleepingComputer recently published an article which says:
Google is now banning the popular Linux browsers named Konqueror, Falkon, and Qutebrowser from logging into Google services because they may not be secure.
[...] In tests conducted by BleepingComputer, we can confirm that we were unable to log in with Konqueror or Falkon on multiple machines. When attempting to do so, we were told to try a different browser as Konqueror or Falkon may not be secure.
This has led people to offer a variety of theories for why this is happening including it being an A/B test being done by Google, related to the version of QtWebEngine installed, or maybe even an account setting such as 2FA being enabled.
Google does have discriminating tastes, does it not?
Moonchild, the lead developer of the Pale Moon browser writes:
"Dear Web Developer(s),
While, as a software developer ourselves, we understand very well that new features are exciting to use and integrate into your work, we ask that you please consider not adopting Google WebComponents in your designs. This is especially important if you are a web developer creating frameworks for websites to use.
With Google WebComponents here we mean the use of CustomElements and Shadow DOM, especially when used in combination, and in dynamically created document structures (e.g. using module loading/unloading and/or slotted elements).
Why is this important?
For several reasons, but primarily because it completely goes against the traditional structure of the web being an open and accessible place that isn't inherently locked down to opaque structures or a single client. WebComponents used "in full" (i.e. dynamically) inherently creates complex web page structures that cannot be saved, archived or even displayed outside of the designated targeted browsers (primarily Google Chrome).
One could even say that this is setting the web up for becoming fully content-controlled."
https://about.google/: "Our mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful"
Useful to... whom?
Co-founder of Netscape (formerly Mosaic Communications Corporation) and of Mozilla.org, Jamie Zawinski, has some brief comments about the current situation with Mozilla and its browser.
Back to Mozilla -- in my humble but correct opinion, Mozilla should be doing two things and two things only:
- Building THE reference implementation web browser, and
- Being a jugular-snapping attack dog on standards committees.
- There is no 3.
And they just completely threw in the towel on standards when they grabbed their ankles and allowed W3C to add DRM. At this point, I assume Mozilla's voice on the standards committees has all the world-trembling gravitas of "EFF writes amicus brief."
By the way, one dynamic that the cited article missed is that a huge part of the reason for Google's "investment" in Mozilla was not just to drive search traffic -- it was antitrust insurance. Mozilla continuing to exist made Chrome not be the only remaining web browser, and that kept certain wolves at bay.
Google has decided that they don't need to buy antitrust insurance any more. Wonder why.