50 votes

Former Mozilla exec: Google has sabotaged Firefox for years

27 comments

  1. teaearlgraycold
    Link
    It turns out that monopolies and mega-corporations are bad. I moved back to Firefox after Quantum and haven't looked back.

    It turns out that monopolies and mega-corporations are bad. I moved back to Firefox after Quantum and haven't looked back.

    45 votes
  2. [10]
    Wes
    Link
    Yeah, I don't know about that. Far as I can tell that redesign in the works for a very long time. It seems pretty unreasonable to claim that Youtube switched their entire client stack over because...

    He revealed that both Firefox and Edge were superior when loading YouTube content when compared to Chrome, and in order to counteract this performance issue, Google switched to using a JavaScript library for YouTube that they knew wasn't supported by Firefox.

    Yeah, I don't know about that. Far as I can tell that redesign in the works for a very long time. It seems pretty unreasonable to claim that Youtube switched their entire client stack over because Firefox surpassed Chrome's JS performance on Youtube.

    This seems more easily explained by programmers being programmers. They reached for the shiny new tech (Shadow DOM v0) which they thought would be adopted. The spec changed and they had to polyfill it as a bandaid fix. I doubt anyone was happy about how the situation turned out.

    Unless there's any evidence that this was a nefarious plan from higher up though, I'm taking that with a grain of salt.

    Google Chrome ads started appearing next to Firefox search terms.

    This I can believe. But it's also pretty standard practice to target ads for competitor's product names. Is it considered unethical?

    8 votes
    1. [6]
      emdash
      Link Parent
      It's standard practice, sure. What isn't standard practice is abusing your dominant position in one industry to usurp your competitors in another. Google has exploited their monopoly on search to...

      But it's also pretty standard practice to target ads for competitor's product names. Is it considered unethical?

      It's standard practice, sure. What isn't standard practice is abusing your dominant position in one industry to usurp your competitors in another. Google has exploited their monopoly on search to push their web browser into what is fast becoming another monopoly—a monoculture of Chromium-derived browsers. Classic antitrust scenario.

      This is the sort of shit the tech industry is pulling all the time. Along with widescale privacy abuses, I can't help but think silicon valley needs some good old fashioned federal & international regulation.

      28 votes
      1. Adam_Black_Arts
        Link Parent
        I'm reading a book called "Titan" right now, which is the biography of John D. Rockefeller. The similarities between Standard Oil and modern companies like Apple, Google and Facebook have been...

        This is the sort of shit the tech industry is pulling all the time.

        I'm reading a book called "Titan" right now, which is the biography of John D. Rockefeller. The similarities between Standard Oil and modern companies like Apple, Google and Facebook have been very interesting.

        19 votes
      2. [4]
        Amarok
        Link Parent
        The trouble with regulation is that you're attempting to regulate the people with all the money - which is simply to say that in short order, those people will own and fully control the regulatory...

        The trouble with regulation is that you're attempting to regulate the people with all the money - which is simply to say that in short order, those people will own and fully control the regulatory agencies that are supposed to keep them in check. In many areas, this is the USA's major governmental failing in recent decades.

        Preventing regulatory capture is a hard problem, and we haven't solved it yet.

        5 votes
        1. [3]
          meghan
          Link Parent
          You say this like you think its actually a hard problem. Why is that?

          Preventing regulatory capture is a hard problem

          You say this like you think its actually a hard problem. Why is that?

          1. [2]
            Amarok
            Link Parent
            Because the targets of said regulation have infinite resources to spend corrupting that regulation, and the patience to erode it down decade by decade until it collapses. Can you name any...

            Because the targets of said regulation have infinite resources to spend corrupting that regulation, and the patience to erode it down decade by decade until it collapses. Can you name any institutions that haven't collapsed under those forces? I can't. The best we've traditionally done is a good multi-decade run before they are subverted and turned to ill purpose - and that's more the exception than the rule.

            5 votes
            1. cfabbro
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              Sure, most of the Western World's regulatory institutions, which are largely still functioning as they should be. It goes in swings and roundabouts in most places, but in terms of modern history...

              Can you name any institutions that haven't collapsed under those forces?

              Sure, most of the Western World's regulatory institutions, which are largely still functioning as they should be.

              and that's more the exception than the rule.

              It goes in swings and roundabouts in most places, but in terms of modern history IMO you're the one pointing to the exception rather than the rule. The US largely being where the most egregious cases of those exceptions are and have been taking place, I might add. But the US != The World.

              2 votes
    2. [2]
      Fdashstop
      Link Parent
      Perhaps, but it wouldn't be the first time if they have. Docs and the whole Drive suite won't allow copy-paste on non-Chromium browsers, Gmail has multiple bugs on Firefox that the team at Google...

      It seems pretty unreasonable to claim that Youtube switched their entire client stack over because Firefox surpassed Chrome's JS performance on Youtube.

      Perhaps, but it wouldn't be the first time if they have. Docs and the whole Drive suite won't allow copy-paste on non-Chromium browsers, Gmail has multiple bugs on Firefox that the team at Google have avoided fixing for as long as they can, and to pull a non-Firefox example, Google's Youtube app breaks Apple's TOS to sell Premium.

      You don't kill competition by presenting yourself as the malicious one, you present it as all happy accidents.

      7 votes
      1. Soptik
        Link Parent
        Yeah. There was a time that lasted at least two weeks, when I simply could not download anything from Drive. Firefox would end in redirect loop. I tried an empty profile with no extensions, config...

        Yeah. There was a time that lasted at least two weeks, when I simply could not download anything from Drive. Firefox would end in redirect loop. I tried an empty profile with no extensions, config changes, tracking protection. But still, I had to download Chromium, which of course worked flawlessly.

        Google strategy right now seems to be “You’re not using Chrome? Here are minor inconviniences that will break the servives for you so you have to download Chrome for the Web to work properly. Do you see, our browser is better!”

        I don’t know if it was intentional or if they just didn’t test for Firefox and didn’t care about it for several weeks, but it seems way too big bug to be accidental. And why they didn’t repair it for so long, I’d say downloading files from file sharing service is quite important.

        6 votes
    3. Akir
      Link Parent
      The problem is that Google is involved in writing these standards. And because of the quick transformation of the web browser from a document viewer to an application platform, there are only two...

      The problem is that Google is involved in writing these standards. And because of the quick transformation of the web browser from a document viewer to an application platform, there are only two competitive rendering engines any more, giving Google even more power to alter web standards as Blink is put into more and more browsers.

      5 votes
  3. [9]
    Rocket_Man
    Link
    There's been a surprising number of accusations from Microsoft and Mozilla over the years that Google does some shady stuff. But without any real evidence it could all be a coincidence.

    There's been a surprising number of accusations from Microsoft and Mozilla over the years that Google does some shady stuff. But without any real evidence it could all be a coincidence.

    7 votes
    1. [3]
      Deimos
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I have no idea whether Google really does actively try to sabotage Firefox and other projects, but I think everyone should try to understand the ridiculous scale and massive numbers involved to...

      I have no idea whether Google really does actively try to sabotage Firefox and other projects, but I think everyone should try to understand the ridiculous scale and massive numbers involved to see why it might not be such a far-fetched possibility. We're used to just glossing over numbers like "billions" now and don't often think about how large of a quantity it actually represents.

      To explain what I mean, here's something completely hypothetical that I was thinking about a while ago:

      Note: it's not intended to be a realistic scenario and the numbers aren't going to be particularly accurate, but they don't need to be. Try not to focus on the details and just think about the overall scale and point I'm trying to demonstrate.

      Google made $32 billion in advertising revenue in Q4 2018 (PDF link). Let's say that they make $120 billion annually from advertising (this is probably low, and it's only been increasing).

      Somewhere around 10% of users are blocking ads (it varies a lot based on audience, but that seems to be a reasonable estimate from looking around). So let's say that Google is missing out on about $10 billion annually because of inability to show ads to that group of users.

      To try and capture some of this "lost" $10 billion, Google could start a team entirely dedicated to finding subtle ways to annoy adblock users enough that they will just stop using their adblocker. If they can annoy one out of a hundred adblock users enough to disable it, they will make an extra $100 million per year.

      That would be kind of a sleazy job, so they decide to pay everyone on the team $500,000/year to keep quiet and say they're working on "ads" if anyone asks. Even at that level of pay, Google could put 200 people on that team, and the only thing that all of those 200 employees need to collectively accomplish each year is finding a way to annoy just 1% of adblock users enough to stop using it. If they can do that, they break even, and any results better than that would be massively profitable.

      I find that completely insane to think about (and originally thought that I must have done some of the math wrong). When the numbers involved are this large, even minuscule shifts can make a massive difference—the above example was talking about an effort to impact only 1 in 1000 users overall. It's shocking how many resources you can devote to tilting the scale a tiny bit more in your favor and still have it be "cost-effective".

      40 votes
      1. Rocket_Man
        Link Parent
        I agree the numbers are ridiculous and Google does have a very large incentive to be shady and mess with the competition. Thank you for illustrating that fact so well. I think its worthwhile...

        I agree the numbers are ridiculous and Google does have a very large incentive to be shady and mess with the competition. Thank you for illustrating that fact so well. I think its worthwhile keeping this in mind for a lot of other companies as well. For example, how much money does Facebook get by figuring out how to keep users in the app for 1 minute longer? Probably a significant amount.

        11 votes
      2. teaearlgraycold
        Link Parent
        I interviewed with Google last year. One of the people I talked with was a software developer in their advertising department. The best thing he could say about his job is that the metrics are...

        I interviewed with Google last year. One of the people I talked with was a software developer in their advertising department. The best thing he could say about his job is that the metrics are good. They know pretty much instantly when something is working or not.

        Short feedback loops are one of the best things in programming for refining a solution.

        4 votes
    2. [2]
      emdash
      Link Parent
      The universe is rarely that lazy.

      it could all be a coincidence

      The universe is rarely that lazy.

      12 votes
      1. Rocket_Man
        Link Parent
        Maybe coincidence wasn't the right word. I should have probably used confirmation bias. It would be easy to see instances where your browsers performance decreased after a change. But you likely...

        Maybe coincidence wasn't the right word. I should have probably used confirmation bias. It would be easy to see instances where your browsers performance decreased after a change. But you likely wont remember an incident where performance increased.

        3 votes
    3. [3]
      NeoTheFox
      Link Parent
      Take the YouTube case, for example - the redesign used a deprecated DOM API. Now, if you ever had any experience doing websites one of the first things you do when you test stuff is cross-browser...

      Take the YouTube case, for example - the redesign used a deprecated DOM API. Now, if you ever had any experience doing websites one of the first things you do when you test stuff is cross-browser testing, to make sure that everything works the same across at least Chrome, Firefox, IE and Safari. So, it just so happened that the biggest web corporation in existence somehow decided to use a deprecated API in it's new design for one of the most critical websites it has, and it also just so happens that Chrome is the only browser that has that one deprecated API?

      8 votes
      1. [2]
        Jedi
        Link Parent
        A) Redesigns take a lot of time, effort, and planning; it's not unbelievable that the API was deprecated by the time they finished. B) Chromium is usually first to implement APIs, even...

        A) Redesigns take a lot of time, effort, and planning; it's not unbelievable that the API was deprecated by the time they finished.
        B) Chromium is usually first to implement APIs, even experimental ones. They took advantage of the API, expecting it to be widely available by the time they were finished. It wasn't, so it performed worse on other browsers.
        C) The API that was used with YouTube has been deprecated, as you pointed out, and is being removed from Chromium by M75.

        8 votes
        1. NeoTheFox
          Link Parent
          While a redesign can take a lot of time and effort it doesn't absolve it from quality control. The API got deprecated by the time they rolled it out, and if you are right in your suggestion that...

          While a redesign can take a lot of time and effort it doesn't absolve it from quality control. The API got deprecated by the time they rolled it out, and if you are right in your suggestion that it just took long they could've delayed it to replace this API with something else. Since they didn't it implies one of two things, either:

          1. They decided to only test their designs against Chrome internally or/and base their judgment on if something is ready solely on Chrome, or
          2. They are deliberately picking out the worst possible cases for other browser to make Chrome look better

          While both options are possible, neither of them is good for the web as a whole, a critical infrastructure that Google represents right now on the web means that the neglect of standards and favoritism on their part gives them power over w3c, mozilla and any other player. One can even say that the biggest web company controlling the biggest web browser is a clear case for antitrust investigation, specifically because of these cases.

          6 votes
  4. Papaya
    Link
    That's just what happens with monopolies. Microsoft is complaining now but remember when Netscape was around ? It was the best navigator but Microsoft decided to come up with Internet Explorer and...

    That's just what happens with monopolies. Microsoft is complaining now but remember when Netscape was around ? It was the best navigator but Microsoft decided to come up with Internet Explorer and make it free to drive them out of business

    5 votes
  5. [6]
    DonQuixote
    Link
    I avoid google search whenever possible, using instead DuckDuckGo and on Iphone, Safari. currently looking for a viable alternative to gmail.

    I avoid google search whenever possible, using instead DuckDuckGo and on Iphone, Safari. currently looking for a viable alternative to gmail.

    3 votes
    1. [5]
      alcappuccino
      Link Parent
      Actually, I think what's hardest to replace is really to stop using YouTube (no alternative at all) and Google Maps (somewhat doable). I always use OpenStreetMaps for directions but to look at...

      Actually, I think what's hardest to replace is really to stop using YouTube (no alternative at all) and Google Maps (somewhat doable). I always use OpenStreetMaps for directions but to look at reviews / opening hours of certain places / stores, Maps is quite useful.

      For e-mails there are many alternatives, to be honest. You simply have to search well enough what you want. It took me sometime, but eventually I chose Tutanota. Until now, no complains at all. Clean UI, fast and reliable e-mail provider with encryption, no logs or tracking.

      5 votes
      1. [4]
        Keegan
        Link Parent
        I still use YouTube, just not through their official app or website. I use FreeTube on my PC, and NewPipe on my Android phone. Both of them lack the features that come with a YouTube account, such...

        I still use YouTube, just not through their official app or website. I use FreeTube on my PC, and NewPipe on my Android phone.

        Both of them lack the features that come with a YouTube account, such as synchronization, commenting, liking, etc., but they are pretty neat and NewPipe supports downloading videos as well.

        Both are open source and thus can be built from source, but if you view the "Releases" pages you can get premade executables/Apks.

        https://github.com/FreeTubeApp/FreeTube
        https://github.com/TeamNewPipe/NewPipe

        5 votes
        1. [2]
          alcappuccino
          Link Parent
          Oh! That's cool! I really don't have an account logged on so I don't do any of those things. Thanks, I'll check them out.

          Oh! That's cool! I really don't have an account logged on so I don't do any of those things. Thanks, I'll check them out.

          1 vote
          1. Soptik
            Link Parent
            NewPipe is really great app. It allows me to listen to music in background and create playlists, so it basically replaced spotify for me. And it’s on F-Droid.

            NewPipe is really great app. It allows me to listen to music in background and create playlists, so it basically replaced spotify for me. And it’s on F-Droid.

            1 vote
        2. unknown user
          Link Parent
          You can use F-Droid to get software like NewPipe. It is a FOSS android app store.

          You can use F-Droid to get software like NewPipe. It is a FOSS android app store.