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

Nils Dagsson Moskopp nils at dieweltistgarnichtso.net
Fri Jul 27 10:04:56 PDT 2012

Fred Andrews <fredandw at live.com> schrieb am Fri, 27 Jul 2012 13:52:28

> […]

> I wish this were the case, however it does appear that websites,
> are trying to control the platform.  They do this via their terms
> of use and by twisting laws to suit them.  There was a recent case
> in which Google took down a website that presented audio from
> youtube videos, stating terms of use violations and copyright laws.
> This service could well be viewed as a cloud web browser that was
> presenting the content in a format requested by the users.  There
> are many other terms of use that attempt to place significant
> restrictions on use.  If it can ever be claimed that HTML is a
> standard suited to delivery of digital content on the terms stated
> by websites then it will be a significant loss.

That multimedia platform providers like Google can (and might even be
obligated to) do this is foremost a sociopolitical, legal and ethical
problem, not a technical one. While software can provide a short-term
gain, a conflict like this cannot be solved by technical means alone.

And as the multimedia codec story has shown, major players are not
obligated to do as the spec says. As many will probably remember, three
years ago, Apple did not implement support for the royalty free codecs
Vorbis and Theora, citing submarine patent concerns. Google, Mozilla
and Opera however did. Fast-forward to VP8 implementation, same story.

Regarding making royalty-free formats part of the specification, Hixie
stated: “Unfortunately, it seems that this would not force Apple to
implement it.” and “if a browser  refuses to implement something, then
we can't require it.”

The specification can therefore only be descriptive – not prescriptive.
Based on this, I would argue that specifying user-friendly features is
outside the scope of the WHATWG.


(Btw, Hixie stated the following to be a possibility: „Google ships
support for the codec for long enough without getting sued that Apple's
concern regarding submarine patents is reduced.“. Any update on that?)

> Adding virtual browser app support would make it so easy to develop
> and share customized web browsers that it would be near
> impossible for websites to enforce restrictions.

Userscripts exist. AdBlock Plus exists. In fact, the four most popular
Firefox extensions all can be used to subvert the intention of content
providers – with VideoDownloadHelper, I would even assert that this is
its only purpose. We are living in a world in which the Browser is
primarily a “User Agent” – not an author or corporate one, as you fear.


> It would also empower users of devices with a fixed browser to
> still be able to have a web app that suits their needs.  It is
> very easy for devices to lock out other native browsers, but if
> custom browsers apps become popular then such devices would be
> less attractive which would place pressure on them to open up.

JavaScript can already be used to implement codecs and even run Linux
on user-hostile, locked-down hardware like iDevices or Android gadgets.
I assert it is only a question of how much time someone wants to
invest, how soon there will be an X server or framebuffer followup.


Be aware, everything that makes user-hostile hardware more suit the
needs of users while still maintaining a lockdown is only strenghtening
the platform in question, making it appear not-so-bad in comparison to
competition where you have a root password for devices you own.

> I will try to assist the development of this feature and to make
> an implementation available as a modification to Firefox if it
> does not get official support in Firefox.

I am looking forward to your Firefox extension.

Nils Dagsson Moskopp // erlehmann

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