[whatwg] Why won't you let us make our own HTML5 browsers?

Brett Zamir brettz9 at yahoo.com
Fri Dec 16 23:16:12 PST 2011

What is the reason you won't let us make our own browsers-in-a-browser?

I'm not talking about some module you have to build yourself in order to 
distribute a browser as an executable. I'm talking about visiting a 
(secure/signed?) page on the web and being asked permission to give it 
any or all powers including the ability to visit and display other 
non-cross-domain-enabled sites, with the long-term possibility of 
browsers becoming a mostly bare shell for installing full-featured 
browsers (utilizing the possibility for APIs for these "browsers" to 
themselves accept, integrate, and offline-cache add-on code from other 
websites, emulating their own add-on system).

Of course there are security risks, but a standardized, cross-platform, 
re-envisioned and expanded equivalent of ActiveX, which can work well 
with Firewalls, does not add to the risks already inherent in the web.

I am not interested in the argument that "It is just too dangerous".  
Browsers already allow people to download executables with a couple 
clicks, not to mention install privileged browser add-ons. Enough said. 
There is absolutely no real difference between these and what I am 
proposing, except that executables offer the added inconvenience of 
being non-cross-platform and awkward for requiring a separate, 
non-readily-unifiable means of managing installations. Otherwise, please 
someone tell me what is the /insurmountable/ difference?

I am not really interested in a prolonged technical discussion or debate 
about the limitations of existing technologies. I am asking at a higher 
level why bright people can't help us move to a web like this. As per 
Ian's signature, "Things that are impossible just take longer", I see no 
logical reason why such a web can't be envisioned and built.

 From the resistance I have seen to the idea among otherwise bright 
people, I can only reach the conclusion that there must be some ulterior 
motives behind the resistance. The main browsers would not be able to 
corner the market as easily anymore if such a thing happened. Because as 
long as there are these oligopolic fiefdoms requiring a separate set of 
JavaScript API standards for run-of-the-mill web developers to be able 
to develop privileged applications easily---or for them to be unable to 
interact in a privileged fashion with other such applications, there is 
less competition and sadly, the world won't see competitive and 
collective innovations leading to better privileged browsers.  Rather we 
are stuck with a centralized model whereby, the main browsers remain the 
gate-keepers of innovation.

The dream of "Write once, run anywhere" is thankfully becoming more 
realized with HTML5, though there is still a need for an expanded dream, 
something along the lines of "Write once, run anywhere, access any 
functionality desired", and the current albeit highly skilled custodians 
of the web seem to sadly lack the vision at the moment to at least point 
us in that direction, let alone have plans to achieve it. I would really 
like to know why others seem not to have seen this problem or reacted to 

Admittedly, such a concept could, if the existing browser add-on systems 
adequately expose such high privileges to their add-ons, be initially 
implemented itself as an add-on, allowing a cross-browser API initiated 
from websites to trigger the add-on to ask for the granting of website 
privileges, but in order to be well-designed, I would think that this 
effort should fall under the umbrella of a wider, representative, 
consultative, and capable effort, which is supported in principle by the 
browsers so that at the very least they will not end up curtailing 
privileges to their add-ons down the line on which the effort depends.

Best wishes,

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