17 votes

The reckless, infinite scope of web browsers

Tags: web, browsers

13 comments

  1. dblohm7
    Link
    I don't know how it came to be, but for some reason this narrative developed that Mozilla was eventually going to replace Gecko with Servo. I've been with Mozilla for 7.5 years at this point, and...

    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?

    I don't know how it came to be, but for some reason this narrative developed that Mozilla was eventually going to replace Gecko with Servo.

    I've been with Mozilla for 7.5 years at this point, and I can tell you that, from the product side of the org, nobody was ever considering doing that. Yes, we did (and do plan to continue to) selectively replace parts of Gecko with Servo components, and will continue to add new Rust code as appropriate. But "Mozilla is replacing Gecko with Servo" or "Mozilla is rewriting all of Gecko in Rust" was never a thing.

    (That's not to say that it wasn't a pipe dream of some people working in Mozilla Research, but...)

    In many ways I suppose this reinforces Drew's hypothesis, but using a slightly differently formulated argument.

    18 votes
  2. [6]
    dblohm7
    Link
    That's kind of loaded. I assume by "mandatory plugins" he means Pocket, maybe the ads thing (newtab?), but tracking? If we tracked, we would have no reason to exist.

    Firefox is filling up with ads, tracking, and mandatory plugins.

    That's kind of loaded. I assume by "mandatory plugins" he means Pocket, maybe the ads thing (newtab?), but tracking? If we tracked, we would have no reason to exist.

    14 votes
    1. [3]
      cfabbro
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Drew is so fucking hyperbolic these days that I have honestly lost all interest in reading anything he has to say anymore. And this is yet another example of him being so over the top with his...

      Drew is so fucking hyperbolic these days that I have honestly lost all interest in reading anything he has to say anymore. And this is yet another example of him being so over the top with his claims that you just can't help but roll your eyes and walk away.

      13 votes
      1. [2]
        dblohm7
        Link Parent
        This is one of those "citation needed" things. He shouldn't be making one-off assertions like that without at least linking to why he feels that way.

        This is one of those "citation needed" things. He shouldn't be making one-off assertions like that without at least linking to why he feels that way.

        6 votes
        1. SUD0
          Link Parent
          Agreed. I thought it was kinda inflammatory.

          Agreed. I thought it was kinda inflammatory.

          4 votes
    2. [2]
      Death
      Link Parent
      I'm guessing he also means the new services like Monitor and Lockwise? Or maybe even further back to include things like Sync? Since a lot of these services can or used to be performed by other...

      I'm guessing he also means the new services like Monitor and Lockwise? Or maybe even further back to include things like Sync? Since a lot of these services can or used to be performed by other plugins which did not come pre-loaded with Firefox.

      Although calling them "mandatory plugins" still seems like a bit of a reach, it's not like they're forcibly installed after you install Firefox.

      4 votes
      1. dblohm7
        Link Parent
        Part of this might be an extension of the fact that our dynamic updates to the Firefox front-end are misnamed as "system add-ons," as I previously outlined.

        Part of this might be an extension of the fact that our dynamic updates to the Firefox front-end are misnamed as "system add-ons," as I previously outlined.

        5 votes
  3. [2]
    SUD0
    Link
    I think the big reason why we are seeing such complex and "bloated" browsers is because the web become of the the defacto ways to publish software. So much of the software that we interact with...

    I think the big reason why we are seeing such complex and "bloated" browsers is because the web become of the the defacto ways to publish software. So much of the software that we interact with today is through our web browsers. You can edit videos, pictures, write documents, interact with data, etc. The only thing required for a user to run your software is that they have to have the latest Chrome installed. That's it. It just became the path of least resistance to the user.

    I think people like the author really have an issue with the current state of web browsers because this was not the way that they were intended to be used back when the web was first starting. The web was "supposed" to be a place where one shared hyperlinked documents. It has grown into something quite more for that.

    9 votes
    1. dblohm7
      Link Parent
      Indeed, and personally I think that the current state of web development is an abomination. There is a school of thought that these complex, single-page apps should be deployed using WASM+WASI...

      Indeed, and personally I think that the current state of web development is an abomination. There is a school of thought that these complex, single-page apps should be deployed using WASM+WASI instead, but that also comes with its own complications.

      8 votes
  4. skybrian
    Link
    There were some folks on the Chrome team who started thinking about what a browser would look like if backward compatibility wasn't a concern, and eventually that turned into Flutter. It's not a...

    There were some folks on the Chrome team who started thinking about what a browser would look like if backward compatibility wasn't a concern, and eventually that turned into Flutter.

    It's not a browser and it's still a complicated API, but it might be interesting to look at from that perspective.

    7 votes
  5. ThatFanficGuy
    Link
    I agree with the sentiment, and I absolutely think it should be voiced so that others recognize the valley in which modern browsers reside... ...but I also think there should be some form of a...

    I agree with the sentiment, and I absolutely think it should be voiced so that others recognize the valley in which modern browsers reside...

    The browser wars have been allowed to continue for far too long. They should have long ago focused on competing in terms of performance and stability, not in adding new web “features”. This is absolutely ridiculous, and it has to stop.

    ...but I also think there should be some form of a solution present at the end, and there isn't. Why would the browsers on the market focus on performance rather than features? Why wouldn't they focus on the features? The Web's becoming an amazing place to operate in thanks to all these new technologies: you can so much as have your own operating system built entirely with Web tech. A genuine, usable, long-term, not-just-a-neat-thing OS. Isn't that incredible? Isn't that worth pursuing?

    I think the problem here is not the size of the reference document: it's not that the specs are too big. Or rather, I don't think that alone is the core of the issue, even though it certainly would impede new browser engines from appearing. I feel like there's something deeper that drives the innovation the way it is today.

    I wouldn't want to have a browser that lets me optionally install their newest beta of the Web Components implementation. People are using it in production already, so it's my prerogative as a user to have the underlying mechanisms of that feature available for my browser to render unconditionally. There's no reason why I wouldn't want to not have that feature.

    Perfomance? Sure – but if I have to sacrifice something for it? Yeah, no, FOMO is strong, and it's being made entirely too clear to me that being "left behind", so to speak, is one of the worst things that can happen to me. Browsers update automatically partly because of the security concerns, but it has also enabled an unmitigated flow of new honeytraps that the big companies could set up for its users in order to keep them attached to one particular platform, rather than be able to migrate at any time. Wouldn't you just miss that one little thing that made your life so much better while browsing? (I have one or two of those that would keep me from switching unless there's a large incentive to. Yes, I'm exactly this feeble when it comes to the Web. It's a browser-level feature that I haven't seen implemented anywhere else.)

    So... what do?

    6 votes
  6. [2]
    SUD0
    Link
    Whoops, I put a link that references a specific point in the article. Doesn't look like I can change it either...

    Whoops, I put a link that references a specific point in the article. Doesn't look like I can change it either...

    1 vote