Igalia interview with Jeremy Keith and Stuart Langridge

15 June 2020
Igalia's Brian Kardell sits down with Jeremy Keith and Stuart Langridge to chat about rendering engine diversity, history and the health of the web browser ecosystem.


Brian Kardell: okay so… Hi I’m Brian Kardell from Igalia, and… if you’ve listened to some of our other Igalia chats, this one will be a little bit different. In all of the other ones they’ve been one-on-one, but today I’m here with two friends who I think there’s pretty good chance that folks will already know. They’ve been long-time advocates of the open web and web standards. They blog and write and give keynotes at conferences so you probably know them. But, just in case, i’d like to give them the opportunity to do quick introductions and say hi so if you could introduce yourselves.

Stuart Langridge: hi I’m Stuart Langridge. I’m a I’m a consultant, I suppose, these days. But yeah… you can find me @sil on Twitter and yeah I’m… I’ve been a long time advocate of the open web… Hooray. I invented pingback but that was a mistake.

Jeremy Keith: I’m Jeremy Keith. I’m one of the co-founders of Clear Left a digital design agency in brighton OK.

Brian Kardell: All right… So…There’s a conversation that we’ve had in the web community for a long time, framed about rendering engines and the diversity of them, and why it matters. The three of us, and even some other people, have had sort of a lot of conversations about and I wrote a blog post recently which attempts to offer that view is not wrong but it is perhaps… incomplete. As a follow on Stuart wrote a piece with some additional thoughts. And then there was a lot of discussions following on the Twitters. So we thought it would be good to, you know, get together and talk about it. So, in my piece I suggest that like I say, this view is perhaps incomplete and ultimately maybe not as practically useful as some other ways of looking at it, and that depending on how you look at it you can wind up with very different conclusions. So maybe it’s good for us to shift the conversation a little bit so that we do talk about those other things. So, I started with an analogy from one of Jeremy’s posts so I’m wondering Jeremy maybe you could recap that analogy?

Jeremy Keith: Sure. Well, in my post I was kind of talking about how I can… I can understand the arguments that say that losing browser or rendering engine diversity isn’t so bad, even if I don’t agree with it. And the way I put is it’s kind of like you’re we’re moving a line of where we agree to cooperate and where we agree to differentiate. And, in the past that line was definitely lower because there wasn’t even an agreement that we would cooperate on web standards, right? So there was no agreement. It was all differentiation when it came to web browsers in the early days. But pretty soon we realized that there needed to be a level of agreement so that this bar gets raised, and it’s like, “okay now we’re all going to agree to cooperate on the web standards but then they will differentiate on our rendering engines and all the other things that browsers do”. And what’s happened more recently is the bar has been raised again it’s like “okay we’ll agree to cooperate on web standards and rendering engine and we’ll differentiate on some other stuff you know the the browser UI” for example. So, I understand the argument. But the analogy I ended up drawing was was towards political parties and if we were to look back at, you know, when that when the bar was much lower regarding cooperation - it was it was like a situation where you’ve got lots and lots and lots of different political parties with no overall majority. And then, it’s very difficult to get anything done because there’s there’s everyone’s doing their own thing. And I think we could all agree, “well… that’s not great”. However what’s really not great is when you only have one political party, right? So totalitarian states. They don’t need to worry about cooperation because there’s nobody they have to cooperate with. Tt’s just a one-party system. And we generally I think agree that a one-party system is not good., So, it’s all about getting that balance I guess… and that’s the analogy is a one-party system.

Brian Kardell: Yeah, and actually… I have not actually heard any reaction from you about the things that I read into this analogy… But one of the things that I said that I liked about it is that, it sort of points to the fact that you said… Like, we generally agree. We don’t talk about that because it’s almost self-evident, right? Like… we don’t. There’s more or less general agreement that one is too few but too many is also not helpful. And so, we know it should be a small number but there’s many ways you can look at that - where… Like… How close are those two parties? Right? I mean, if they’re… if they barely disagree that’s not actually much difference. And, if some of those groups are like not participating well, or like… they’re not good actors - then adding them is not helpful either. So, there’s a number of ways you can you can look at that. Just really quickly, let’s talk about the “one”. I looked really hard to see if I could find this quote, and i couldn’t and so I wonder if maybe there’s a reason for that - so I don’t want to quote it - but I see very little evidence that there is a strong push for a single engine… But…So you see otherwise?

Jeremy Keith: Yeah. I know I’ve definitely I’ve heard developers push for that. In the past it was WebKit. So, the specific engine changes with time, but yeah this comes up over and over again. Generally from developers who weren’t there man. You know, who didn’t live through the the dark days, and say “wouldn’t it be great if every browser used well… the same engine? why don’t we all just use WebKit?” This is a few years back when WebKit was, you know, ruling the roost. But, yeah, you know… it comes up all the time. I hear it. I hear it all the time.

Stuart Langridge: And… to enlarge on that.. I think there’s two separate ways of looking at that. You’ve got at least some developers pushing for the idea that there should be one engine. And that gets dressed up in a lot of ways but it’s basically “it would make my job easier if it was like this”. Which… it would, undeniably make it easy if you could just develop for Chrome. Just developed for Blink. But then, I think, there’s another thing which is that it’s not necessarily that people are pushing for one engine, but it’s kind of that way anyway. If one company achieves a certain amount of market dominance then you end up with essentially one engine. I mean uh Jeremy mentioned the bad old days - which we all lived through - when there was IE, and that was it. If you didn’t work in IE, you know, you didn’t work anywhere. And people just developed for IE because: What was the point in looking at anybody else? But… to a first approximation, and a bunch of people are going to disagree with me here, but to a first approximation - apart from on iOS, everything’s Chrome these days. So, we are largely in that position anyway. Mozilla are now down to somewhere in between 5 and 15 depending on who you listen to, and so there’s not that much competition anyway. It’s segregated by platform certainly - but on a given platform there’s not very much competition at all.

Brian Kardell: So… On this… Actually… I think that you made kind of two or three points in there that play into nicely what the rest of the article is about actually. But, for one thing, when Microsoft won the web in the early days - depending on who you listened to - they controlled somewhere upward of 95 percent. And, the remaining browsers were.. There was opera, and they controlled a very tiny - you know like one or two percent. Then there was Firefox… But Firefox was an open sourcing of netscape and so if you break those out - none of those browsers had more than one or two percent. And then, a browser vendor, microsoft had stepped away – like the w3c had said, like “This web is done. That was an interesting experiment but now we’re gonna go build the real thing.” And so Microsoft disbanded the IE team. This is held up as one of the reasons that diversity matters and I… I agree with it, but there’s another way of looking at this as well, which is: It was doomed at that point already. Because Microsoft was proprietary and single os. A single vendor could work on it. But the history of the web has shifted us in the other direction where now every single browser engine is open source. They all have multiple collaborators and they’re all multi-os. So… I think that that is actually a really healthy thing. Like, aside from a conversation about diversity: That is a really healthy turn, is what I intend to say. Do you agree with that, or…?

Jeremy Keith: oh I certainly think that, you know, open source is better than closed source with… well… just about any software. Certainly with browser rendering engines. Not sure it mitigates the need for diversity

Stuart Langridge: And yeah, similarly, I would… I would certainly agree that it’s a material improvement. A massive improvement over how things used to be, because there is now the possibility for people to get involved without going to work on one of two or three teams at large software companies… Which is great, but jeremy’s point i think is reasonable: That it doesn’t mitigate the need for diversity.

Brian Kardell: i don’t think that I’m trying to make the case that discussions about browser diversity are wrong? i do think that browser diversity is important and I agree that one is too few and that 100 is too many and that the answer is in the small numbers… But… I do think that there is something about that being open source that keeps them potentially more viable and vibrant than they are in another situation… and I guess that’s that’s sort of my point. Like… in theory at least, had opera or microsoft been open source it is very plausible that… i mean… it is at least possible - plausible is a whole other topic which will be the next part - that somebody couldtake that over and keep it going.

Stuart Langridge: Yes, i’ll buy that. I think it’s reasonable to say that people who wanted to keep those browsers going could do so. I don’t know who out there would want to choose Internet Explorer by choice rather than because they were made to by some constraint or other?

Brian Kardell: But, I wonder how much different that would have been if other people could have contributed as well? Like it is very… They’re very… They’re very intertwined, right? Like, these these concepts are very intertwined because IE was at one point a very good browser. IE6 when it came along was actually pretty great

Stuart Langridge: 5.2. IE 5.2 for the mac: great browser.

Brian Kardell: Yeah… But then they just dismissed the team and… Everything else moved on, and they stayed where they were. But, if other people could have been contributing along the way or, whatever… that could be different. But, I guess this gets into now the the other aspect of this which is the nuts and bolts - which I think is important. Because, talking about browser engine diversity in this way… There is not much we can practically do about it except choose to use a browser. Unless you can contribute, the only other thing you can do is choose to use a browser… And you will only choose to use a browser if it’s a good browser…

Stuart Langridge: …or you’re on a platform which denies you the ability to make a choice otherwise…

Brian Kardell: Sure… I guess part of my premise is also that it is in some ways more valuable to talk about things that are more within our control. Because… there are plenty of things that we can do to keep the web ecosystem healthy and vibrant and alive, and talk about it in ways that are… where… like, previously we didn’t look at it that way. So… I know stuart had in his article had some points that were about what you could and couldn’t affect. Do you want to maybe try to capture that?

Stuart Langridge: oh sure. My… Acknowledging the fact that all the browser engines being open source is, you know, a a huge improvement over how it used to be… And, in theory, you can rock up and contribute any change … And that’s great… But my concern is that that only applies to uncontroversial changes. Now… I got quite a lot of pushback on Twitter about this from people working for browser teams who deny that it’s the case… But I’m not a hundred percent sure I buy the argument.
So.. Some of the examples I gave were: If you show up to the Blink repository and contribute a really good built into the browser ad blocker that lets you trivially block a load of ads: Google are going to say “yeah, we’re not taking that”. Because they have a business reason to not. Not a technical reason, just a business reason to not allow it in. At least some people on the Chrome team pushed back on that quite strongly and said no that’s not the case at all and there already is an ad blocker inside inside Blink for bad ads… and that’s all fine and that’s evidence that we don’t do that…but I’m not entirely convinced about this. In the same way, if you show up and contribute a brilliant PWA implementation to WebKit: Does that mean it’s going to show up in iOs Safari? Answer: probably not. And, again the Apple team may say “no no no we’d happily accept that if someone showed up and did it” and again, I’m not convinced. It depends whether you think that when you’ve got a major commercial sponsor of a browser engine. So the people who use it to build their browser… So obviously Google for Blink, Apple for WebKit, Mozilla for Gecko… Whether putting something into the browser engine means that it will show up in their browser whether they’re prepared to do the work to patch that back out if they don’t want it if they’re paid to carry stuff in their browser engine that they don’t want in their browser… and then they do extra work to remove it from their browser if it conflicts with their business model, or whether you think they wouldn’t allow it into the browser engine at all. And… we’re a bit short on test cases for this. So, it comes down to one’s personal feeling or put another way one’s prejudiced for or against. But that was the discussion I wanted to have happen. So, jeremy’s example of political parties… and I don’t want to be all political here but… There are some political ideals which are hard to get any political party to buy into, because they degrade the experience of political parties as a whole… right? so… if you’re trying to disenfranchise MPs, for example, because you think there should be a different way of running the government - then it’s hard to get any traction with any political party, regardless of their political position. Because that’s about them. They have a unified interest. And this feels like a similar thing. It’s hard to get some discussions on the table. Look at the all the furore over the video element when it was first created… And we are still in a position where there is not a video format that you can publish videos in which works everywhere… Because there was a bunch of business model stuff. Now, the fact that the engines are open source made no difference to that, and there was an open source implementation which was being contributed, it didn’t get taken up and even if it was put into the browser engines, it didn’t show up. So… i feel like the engines being open allows someone to implement a non-controversial change, which basically isn’t in people’s browsers because the commercial sponsors time is limited… their resources are limited, so they haven’t got as far as being able to do everything they want to yet. But if you show up with a controversial change, it still feels to me like the major vendors reserve the right to say no and steer the strategic direction of their browsers in a way that outsiders don’t get to … and the question is… I mean maybe that’s just reasonable? maybe that’s just the way things should be? But, the reason I wrote the post was because it felt a little bit like we’re saying everything’s open source now anyone can contribute - that’s great… But it’s not quite as much of a pa.nacea here as I would like it to be

Brian Kardell: Yeah… One of the things that perhaps requires context of, maybe some of my other blog posts and things is: Trying to explain how much from the outside we talk about what appears to be happening, and paint it as if it is like incredibly rigid political strategic discussion or something… When, in many cases, it’s not. It’s much simpler things that are about managing priorities and things like that. Not to… Again, not to say that there is nothing like that - they do have opinions… and actually, it’s interesting because I thought one of the reasons that we like diversity is because there are opinions

Stuart Langridge: I’m not sure i follow what you’re aiming at with that?

Brian Kardell: Well, if all of the open source implementations just need to redo the same thing and no maintainer is able to have any veto power - that would be very new. And, it is basically… well, then why not just have one, right? But, I’m saying really most things that we think are somehow somebody taking a hard stance because …whatever we imagine, is like a firm line in the sand, or because some business model or something… Most, most of it is not that actually… And even the ones that we imagine that maybe have some truth to them - that is frequently the case that the line is very movable, and we can eventually get to a place where we do build consensus that is workable. Right? So… maybe there is perhaps not a single video format - but it is we can easily make video using declarative markup that works in every browser.

Stuart Langridge: Yeah I mean… and that was.. So, i talked about some of the pushback and some of that was from Maciej from Apple who explicitly said that igalia had made what he called key contributions that affected Apple’s strategic direction for Safari.. Where platform features, which you know, is an indication that maybe that does happen and that’s great. Part of the point of the discussion was by the point of bringing the discussion up was to hear examples of that on on both sides. I’m… I’ll say… I’m still not 100% convinced, but I’m slightly more convinced than I was that I wrote the thing.

Brian Kardell: Yeah… I mean… It depends on what you consider “strategic direction” but, like, I can give you lots of examples where there are things that weren’t being done in one browser where we’ve stepped in… Grid is the one that people hold up a lot because it’s very … it’s big and it’s popular. And, you know, like we helped make that happen. Where… it wasn’t getting the priority. And, if you looked back when it was early days people would have said “that seems like controversial” somehow. MathML is another example that everybody assumed is extraordinarily controversial, and you’ll never get into Chrome… But… we’re getting it into Chrome. There are lots of other examples… Hardware acceleration, and unification of the SVG and CSS models - we’re working on that… So… yeah… I mean… I think that there are a lot of examples we could cite a whole bunch. I don’t know… Jeremy, you’re awfully quiet… share your thoughts?

Jeremy Keith: Well.. I think, you know, what a lot of… Coming back to the the political analogy um a lot of what this is about is representation so actually, number of parties maybe it doesn’t make a difference. You know, if… even if there is only one party but that party represents 100 of the population then maybe there’s no no problem there. But in practice that tends not to happen. You tend to have some people who aren’t being represented in a one-party or even two-party system the people who are on the fringes on the outside.
As long as the main players are representing the most amount of people, then things are pretty good, I guess. But i do still think that there is a value in diversity for its own sake… Just in in terms of having, you know, different ideas different priorities working… You know, to agree on standards or implementations what have you is… is a good thing. Whether it’s browsers whether it’s making software, whether it’s making anything: Having a diverse range of priorities viewpoints is a good thing. I think that even if the… if we had a monoculture, but it was, you know, the good kind of monoculture - that genuinely represents what everybody wants …it still feels dangerous. Kind of, I guess, in the same way that in security terms you try to avoid you know having a large attack surface, right? So, you have to always keep your WordPress CMS patched for vulnerabilities not because it’s any more or less vulnerable than some other CMS, but because it’s so popular that it’s a target, right? And I think the analogy might be might be true here is that if if we develop blind spots because we’re all contributing to one browser rendering engine. We won’t know what we won’t know we won’t know ideas and viewpoints and priorities that that are shut out from the get-go.

Brian Kardell: Yeah… So, I feel like this is an interesting question because i talk about how we have three today rendering engines, and even part of the post is trying to convince people that we have three – because the conversations always turn to ““well, there’s really only one that matters” or there’s, you know, “one is only there because of X” or “one isn’t really relevant”, or …whatever. So… We have three today. And they are open source so if I had to ask you to judge like is that a healthy ecosystem if we can maintain it. Only if they can maintain their vibrance and..

Jeremy Keith: Well as… as Stuart said… The number doesn’t matter so much as the amounts… So if you have… One of those three has a market share that’s in the high 90s, the fact that the other two even exist hardly matters, as we saw from Microsoft’s dominance with Internet Explorer back in the day… So the number, you know, if it was three browsers with 33 percent market share then yeah you know that would be some good proportional representation

Brian Kardell: well how do you think that we take action on that? I think like one way we could do it is to use open source to make those other browsers somehow more competitive…But there’s an interesting conversation here about like …I don’t know… Maybe Firefox is just really an awesome browser – but for whatever reason can’t get the market share. So, I guess… Like… What do we do about it? There’s the question.

Stuart Langridge: I don’t think there’s anything we do about it. I don’t think anything we can do about it. This is… to a first approximation there is no technical difference between the major browser engines at this point. Unless you’re right up on the edge of something brand new, there’s no there’s nothing that you do which even causes you a major problem.. I’m sure there are web developers around the world listening to this tearing their eyes out, tearing at their hair saying “what are you talking about that’s rubbish! it’s… i have to do all this work to do cross browser testing and i have to fork all over the place!” But… Largely, I don’t think it’s the case unless you’re doing something which is.. You know… If you’re right up at the caniuse edge - where most of the boxes are red… Pretty much everything works, pretty much everywhere now. This is a huge, huge improvement over how it used to be. So, people are largely not choosing their browser on technical merit and on technical achievement. Chrome did a very good job of focusing on performance back in its early days so their pitch was “we’re way faster than the browser you’re using” and it was the truth because they put a load of effort into performance of web pages… Performance of the browser itself… in a way that the others hadn’t yet… And that was a rising tide raising all boats thing because everyone else went “wow Chrome’s getting loads of browser market share from this ‘we better do performance’” too - and now everyone’s more performant, and hooray. That’s good. But, largely, I think people are not choosing their browser based on its rendering engine being significantly more competent than the competition. The reason they’re making the choices is something else.

Jeremy Keith: Yeah, this goes back to what I was saying about that bar kind of being raised. So, whereas in the past, like I said, you know, to begin with we weren’t even collaborating on web standards. Then we agreed “okay we have it in web standards but we have different quite different rendering engines with quite different you know, capabilities”. And now, it’s like Stuart said… Well, the rendering engines are pretty much on an equal footing, and so the differentiation is happening in stuff that’s beyond the rendering engine. It’s stuff like the other features the browser gives you: Like privacy,. right? Blocking trackers, and stuff like that. So, another way to put that is priorities. So, a company that has one set of priorities will… will… you know, pimp out their browser - which is rendering engine plus priorities - to have UI features that that, you know, will favor some features. And a different browser maker can technically be pretty much equivalent in terms of web standard support but have a very, very different feature set in terms of things like, yeah blocking surveillance… and …and … or maybe taking a stance on DRM, and stuff like that. So.. yeah… I think that’s where the differentiation happens. Stuart is absolutely right that’s the reason why people choose one browser is another way in the past you would have chosen a browser by saying “oh this browser is just better”, right? “This browser has better support for standards… to serve as a better support for some features” and these days… Yeah, I mean, there does.. The support is pretty much on an equal footing, so it’s those other things above that bar that are the reason why people choose different browsers and should be free to choose.

Stuart Langridge: This …yeah …and I think that’s… I mean there is a distinction here between Mozilla and the others because, as was pointed out to me mozilla ship what’s in master. If there’s no separate proprietary version of Firefox - which is the thing that actual users get - unlike the other two where Chrome is not quite Chromium, and iOS Safari is not just a shell around WebKit. But even that aside, the things where competition is happening tend to be things which are much less open to influenced by outside contributors either because they’re about operating system integration or they’re about the closed sourced bits of the browsers or they’re about strategic direction and marketing plans. I mean no matter how open source you make chromium, I can’t make the google search engine page put a thing saying “Hey… Why not install Chrome?” at the top of it or “Why not install Stuart browser?”” at the top of it. I can’t make google inbox only work in in my browser and not in Chrome. I can’t make Apple’s …When apple streams wwdc or whatever it is… I can’t make it pop up a thing on my Android phone which says “Hey… use Chrome instead of Safari”. And… I think that’s the kind of thing i was meaning about strategic direction. That it’s it’s things that aren’t technical and therefore are much less subject to outside contribution and outside influence… Precisely because they’re not things which are checked into GitHub and can’t sensibly be checked into GitHub.

Brian Kardell: The thing you’re saying about Gecko and the proprietary things… So… Both WebKit and Chromium have… and Gecko as well, but.. it’s a little bit different… All of the browser projects are open, and you can think about them as being like the middle lego brick. They’re not the bottom, and they’re not the top. So it’s not just that you slap a skin on it - you also need the OS level bindings, and like… You need to make it work on the different os’s and all that kind of stuff. So like, in WebKit each of the ports has their own low-level piece as well as whatever then we put atop that as a browser. The other thing, which is about things you said about like, the Google search page, saying, you know, download Chrome or Microsoft shipping Internet Explorer with the operating system.. Or… You know… Whatever. Like… There are, for sure, there are advantages there… and I… I sort of don’t know what we can do about them. Like, I…. Part of me is interested in the… I mean… we talk. And you read my posts. And you know I’m super interested in the theory… But I’m more interested in, like, where the wheels hit the road. Like: What can we do? What are the practical, actionable things we can do to improve? Because… Just merely shouting into the wind is not useful either… right?

Jeremy Keith: Well… I think where I think where we, you know, tend to work on improving things is at - I guess the middle layer of the biscuit you’re describing… Which is still at the web standards part, so maybe not so much about getting those web standards into the rendering engine that ships with the browser that’s owned by the company. So all that stuff you know certainly browser part and company part we can’t influence - even the rendering engine part. Yeah… In theory we can, you know, ship some code into a rendering engine… But I think the the practical place where we have most influence is at the level of of the web standards… Tven if it’s just by demonstrating the wish for something to exist, right? That idea of representation. If the people that are making the rendering engines that go in the browsers - they’re owned by the companies which are supposed to be representing what people want… Then we, as people, can kind of show up and say “well we want this”, and “we’ll work on that with you”. So… I think where we influence is still down at that level… In middle level.

Brian Kardell: I guess… Hmm… It’s important that they be vibrant and practical and maintainable. Those last two are really important. If not, they will not continue to exist. And then, no matter what we want, we… it’s… you know, that will be the the case. How do we retain the diversity that we have now? And is there a way we could like imaginably increase diversity? Like, I had an idea in my post about how we might get one more engine… i don’t know. I’m curious for your thoughts… if you have any…

Jeremy Keith: Well.. I mean, I think “use firefox” as a short-term thing. More people. Like I said, if it was closer to 33 market share for all the different engines that would be great. So anything we can do to push it towards that number, great. But, on a more practical level… You know, maybe it needs to become a real problem in order for it to be corrected, right? So, in the situation with Internet Explorer, it was when it became the real problem… So, the fact it had 90 whatever percent market share wasn’t really a problem until Microsoft disbanded the team and there were no more updates… and then that’s when the situation was interpreted as damage and routed around with the creation of of Firefox. And… So, maybe if the situation were to deteriorate today and, you know, say Firefox disappeared or whatever… Then that situation would be interpreted as damage and something new would come along… Or, you know, the same rendering engine would be made in by a different consortium perhaps. I guess what I’m saying is it’s a bit theoretical today because as you point out it’s actually working pretty okay today. I mean that could change from one day to the next and people could lose representation and it would be an unfair situation… But, actually.. Right now… Things are okay. So it is… yeah … maybe more about keeping things more or less as they are. Trying to get maybe more the the numbers to change the amounts of market share to change rather than you know numbers of rendering engines… But I do hold out hope that if things were to get bad in terms of representation and diversity that again it would be interpreted as damage and and rooted

Stuart Langridge: Uhhhh.. I am less keen on this possibility. Even ignoring the fact that if you let things get bad then that means things have got bad… it’s… you know… bad… it’s right there in the name. But more importantly, I think the thing which is different now, to what it was many years ago, is that a web browser is now… I would say, by some distance, the most complicated program on any machine. So, the barrier to entry for a new player is really high. I mean, yes Google got into it and built Chrome - and they had the advantage of being able to start with WebKit. Apple built WebKit, and they had the advantage being able to start with khtml. They had to do an awful lot of work to it to make it into WebKit, but nonetheless, they had somewhere to start… But those are also the two biggest companies on earth. Half of Mozilla’s problem is that they don’t have a war chest with billions of pounds in it… And there are a bunch of people out there who would say, and possibly rightly, that that’s because they don’t have a business model… And there’s a there’s a point to that. But essentially, what that means is there is no business model of just making a browser, unless you’re using that to push something else… That you’re selling… Tou can’t sell the browsers themselves, so realistically, where’s the next player going to come from? Who’s going to say it’s worth me spending billions of dollars to get into this game? And, it’s hard to see where that next thing comes from. Mozilla survive on a combination of largesse and nostalgia and the fact that they had a much more dominant position in the past - plus they’re the ones flying the flag for “it’s possible to build a browser without massive corporate support” but we’re starting to see the lie in that now. And… if they go away… I don’t necessarily see where anyone else is coming from, because it’s hard to imagine who would find it worthwhile to get into this game.

Jeremy Keith: That’s a very good point. The complexity of building a browser is… Yeah… Tou’re right… it’s completely different now than than it was.

Brian Kardell: Yeah, there’s three things here - so these are all… all of these are related, and they’re all in my post. To add to your list of “an x begat y”

Stuart Langridge: [chuckles] yeah…

Brian Kardell: Even microsoft internet explorer and Mozilla came from previous things…

Stuart Langridge: Yeah.

Brian Kardell: So, Mozilla was a rewrite of Netscape, as a new - like - a new open source version that was trying to fix problems with its old past but it’s old past. And Microsoft Internet Explorer both had the same past which were both Mosaic - like, they they were licensed and, you know, like… They were created by the same people and you know…

Stuart Langridge: Yeah

Brian Kardell: We don’t have like the birth of a whole brand new rendering engine and javascript engine integration that is fully complete…We will only probably get that through evolution, right? And I think that’s why I think that the open source thing is really positive… Because it…. without that… that’s not possible, right?

Stuart Langridge: Yes. Software can’t evolve unless it’s open source. But yeah… I mean we’re in a position where Microsoft couldn’t afford to devote the resources to build a competing browser. Microsoft, who have all the money in the universe, looked at… looked at this market and went “yeah… we can’t afford to spend the money and the time that it will take to build something like this, so we’re just going to take chromium and then devote our efforts to the bits that make it Edge”

Jeremy Keith: You know.. In terms of what we can do there… There’s something I think we can do and, you know, I kind of brushed off as “well we can we can use Firefox”… But there is something to it… We can at least defend what Firefox is doing… What Mozilla is doing in terms of of having diversity and push back against an idea that I did see come from an engineer at Microsoft after the announcement that they would be switching rendering engines, which was this idea that what Mozilla is doing is actively harmful. That by wasting their time building a separate rendering engine, when they could be contributing so much more to the web by contributing to the one rendering engine to rule them all, that that that that’s somehow a bad thing. That what mozilla are doing, which obviously I strongly disagree with and I think as I said you know diversity for its own sake it’s a positive thing… So I think what we can do is push it back against that… That idea. And… to be fair this isn’t, you know, a party line I’ve heard from other people at Microsoft or or Google, but i understand the argument. I just disagree with it very strongly.

Stuart Langridge: And, from a… an organizational/political point of view, it’s difficult to get that kind of thing through. Because, lots of people say “yeah, yeah we should all use we should all standardize and use one thing”… But what it almost always means is “all of you other heathens should renounce your heathenry and come and join the true faith”. Right? So everyone is happy for… everyone is happy to standardize on one thing - as long as it’s their thing. I’m not 100% sure you get past that. I mean this is, to put it mildly, not a sentiment unique to technology.

Brian Kardell: So…. some of the people who are making this statement are not saying there should be only one browser – or there should be only one implementation. What they’re saying is something considerably more subtle than that which is like, there should be one main reference implementation architecture. That you would still then have all these browsers but on a whole bunch of things they would not have to… they would collaborate in concrete ways rather than just at the words level, and then have to go and re-implement every single piece. I don’t know if that makes any difference but I i do see a difference there that I think is important, but I would hate to paint it too differently than I know that they’re trying to talk about…

Jeremy Keith: I mean… it’s it’s a bit like the the monoculture of crops. I mean, technically: Yeah we don’t need that many different crops, right? We canjust use the the most popular ones. But then we are running the danger likes at that large attack surface… That “not knowing what we’re missing what we’re missing out on”

Brian Kardell: I think the topic of how we could get another one is interesting. I was sort of hoping that would generate a little bit more discussion than it did on the Twitters because the other thing that we haven’t talked about here is that there are these these ones that we don’t talk about so much…Which are implementations of the standards but… There is no caniuse that includes them… But if they did, it would be very, very ragged… And it would also include supersets of things that the platform has not in browsers caught up to yet – which is also a whole misunderstood thing that’s its own show but – I propose that those things like Prince XML and Antenna House, and Amazon has a Silk browser and they have also epub system - -that all have a need for rendering engine …and a lot of them are not using browser rendering engines… And, they’re not working on the same project so they can’t they can’t share any of that lift, you know? So… so this is an interesting dichotomy of this problem right because they are diverse …but sometimes they’re diverse in ways that… i don’t know that they’re helpfully diverse, maybe? Like maybe these other engines would benefit if we would either get them behind Gecko or WebKit and make those engines more viable, with more contributors and doing greater things…Or maybe they could get together and, while maybe one of them doesn’t have a business model to compete.. together? …. I guess that’s kind of all the time that we have so thanks for joining me… Is there anything that you would like to say in closing?

Jeremy Keith: Use Firefox

Stuart Langridge: I’ll buy that. Yeah. I mean I’m currently looking at a Firefox window, and so… Yes.

Brian Kardell: All right. Thanks…Bye…