Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Google Isn’t the Company to Which We Should Be Ceding Control of the Web

Jack Wellborn:

Switching to Chromium in particular contributes to the problem that gave us awfulness of Internet Explorer – lack of diversity. Chrome controls somewhere between 60 and 70% of browser share, and while that’s no where near Internet Explorer’s former dominance, there have already been a handful sites that are Chrome-only/Chrome-first. Even more worrisome is the number of other Web Developers that disdainfully treat non-Chrome browsers as aberrations.

Edge used to be an independent voice in the web standards community. Now that voice will be lost in such a way that empowers the most powerful.

Peter Bright, Ars Technica:

This is a company that, time and again, has tried to push the Web into a Google-controlled proprietary direction to improve the performance of Google’s online services when used in conjunction with Google’s browser, consolidating Google’s market positioning and putting everyone else at a disadvantage. Each time, pushback has come from the wider community, and so far, at least, the result has been industry standards that wrest control from Google’s hands. This action might already provoke doubts about the wisdom of handing effective control of the Web’s direction to Google, but at least a case could be made that, in the end, the right thing was done.

But other situations have had less satisfactory resolutions. YouTube has been a particular source of problems. Google controls a large fraction of the Web’s streaming video, and the company has, on a number of occasions, made changes to YouTube that make it worse in Edge and/or Firefox. Sometimes these changes have improved the site experience in Chrome, but even that isn’t always the case.

JoshuaJB on Hacker News was, according to his resume, an intern for the past two summers at Microsoft:

I very recently worked on the Edge team, and one of the reasons we decided to end EdgeHTML was because Google kept making changes to its sites that broke other browsers, and we couldn’t keep up. For example, 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. What makes it so sad, is that their claimed dominance was not due to ingenious optimization work by Chrome, but due to a failure of YouTube. On the whole, they only made the web slower.

Now while I’m not sure I’m convinced that YouTube was changed intentionally to slow Edge, many of my co-workers are quite convinced – and they’re the ones who looked into it personally. To add to this all, when we asked, YouTube turned down our request to remove the hidden empty div and did not elaborate further.

Chromium is, by all accounts, an excellent rendering engine. It is not inherently bad for Microsoft to switch its rendering engine, and it is not even necessarily bad that there is less diversity amongst rendering engines. The concern is that Google’s rendering engine is not separate from Google as a company, and its manipulative and self-preferential tactics for directing the web in a direction it favours.

The web is not a Google product. We ought to do everything we can to spoil their attempts to make it one.