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Microsoft switches to Chromium

  • What at first was just a rumour has now been officially confirmed:

    Microsoft's next Internet browser will be based on Chromium.

    So it seems that even companies with the financial strength of Microsoft have to capitulate to the chromium dominance. Only Firefox remains the exception and I wonder how they do that...

  • @yanta Well... there is also Seamonkey along with Firefox that remain the exception. I don't honestly hold out much hope for Mozilla ever regaining much user base. Personally, I think Microsoft made a smart move.

  • @coffeelover

    I'm afraid Opera could lose market shares to Microsoft if MS should succeed in developing a browser with a nice UI and some useful additional features.

    Regarding chromium dominance: Browser market share reports can be viewed here:

    If I read the numbers correctly (various filter settings can influence the result), in 2018 Chrome's market share was over 60 percent, whereas apart from Firefox and Internet Explorer the other competitors ranked in the lower single-digit percentage range (and some of these competitors, like Opera, are also chromium-based):

    This quasi-monoculture might threaten security and diversity.

  • @yanta said in Microsoft switches to Chromium:

    This quasi-monoculture might threaten security and diversity.

    The whole culture/system is cost-driven. Websites (of which there are now enormous numbers) operate by writing website code which interfaces with web browsers and their underlying rendering engines. Since there are different ways of doing the same things, there may be different forms of browser code that render the same website code into a screen display, but show it somewhat differently - which causes what's seen on-screen by the user to be different from what was intended by the site-code writer. Likewise, for certain other forms of embedded functionality (embedded video, pop-up buttons, page swapping, etc).

    Consequently, to ensure their site-code looks and operates the same on different browser/engine designs, the site would have to test each browser design for compliance... continually retesting, since both website code and browser/engine code are changed constantly. That costs money, so many sites simply test against a few browsers and publicly declare the other ones "unsupported". The few browsers tested are simply the ones with most market share, hence the smaller market-share browsers are frequently ignored or rejected. Some sites go so far as to put in a few lines of site code that actively test (or "sniff") for the brand of visiting browser and actively block it from access. Their reasoning seems to be that it's cheaper to simply reject a small-marketshare browser than deal with the cost of support complaints over potential compatibility problems. Other websites don't even publish a list of supported browsers, but instead simply code for the big one or two browsers and ignore everything else.

    Frankly, this channelization looks to only worsen in the current "free" universe of browsers and websites. Cost recovery is very difficult when the end product is being 'given away' and other income sources (ads, favored placements, paid-product tie-ins, etc) must underwrite the income. Diversity is indeed being threatened, as it always is in a monoculture - and that means innovation is being quenched. Insofar as innovation is being threatened, that implies security innovation is also being reduced, at least in the grand scheme of things.

  • @yanta said in Microsoft switches to Chromium:

    This quasi-monoculture might threaten security and diversity.

    To amplify on this very real risk with a currently-unfolding example, Chrome/chromium developers are at this very moment evolving major changes to a critical chromium API via their proposed new ManifestV3 API. This involves replacing/restricting the current webRequest API with a declarativeNetRequest API which will essentially prevent adblockers and various other privacy/security types of extensions from functioning - period. In the chromium group's thread regarding extension-maker input on this (!topic/chromium-extensions/veJy9uAwS00 ) , it's apparent that when/if this change occurs, many extremely popular and creative adblocking extensions for Chrome/chromium (eg: uBlockOrigin, Privony, Adblock Plus, AdGuard, Ghostery, etc) will cease to function. Moreover, they will no longer even be feasible, according to the extensions' own authors. Furthermore, other types of extensions will be killed off as well (eg: user-agent switchers, anti-phishers, targeted-attack blockers, certain JavaScript blockers, etc.) The universe of security/privacy extensions will be significantly altered, and user choices/control of related functionality will be vastly reduced. This battle will certainly be fought out over coming months, one way or another, so the ultimate outcome is not yet clear.

    Regardless, my key point here is that with so many 'different' browsers orbiting one central chromium core, all those browsers, their extensions, and their users are now all subject to the consequences of a single design change within that one core. The loss of so many kinds of extensions would represent a huge loss of security and diversity for a wide range of users, all as the result of a single quasi-monoculture's potential decision that impacts everybody.

  • @blackbird71 A sobering thought, blackbird. I suppose if this change does occur (and that remains to be seen), Firefox will quickly gain a much larger user base.

  • @coffeelover said in Microsoft switches to Chromium:

    @blackbird71 A sobering thought, blackbird. I suppose if this change does occur (and that remains to be seen), Firefox will quickly gain a much larger user base.

    Perhaps. But in reading through the chromium thread (and others), it seems that many of the current Chrome extensions can also be fairly readily adapted to Firefox versions as well (and vice versa) because of recent standardization of certain key APIs in both browsers. That means many developers don't have to completely redesign an extension from scratch for the two different browsers, but only have to do some marginal re-interfacing to make their extensions play on both classes of browser. (Note: this is not true for all types of extensions, eg: NoScript, which because of their deep reliance on other browser-unique engine APIs can't be easily ported from one browser to another.)

    But a problem arises because most developers indicate that many of their extensions would not be economical to continue developing at all, if they only worked on one class of browser (eg: Firefox)... hence the extensions simply would disappear entirely if Chrome compatibility is removed.

    Making "the world" largely reliant directly and indirectly upon a single rendering engine has placed unique importance upon the ongoing compatibility and flexibility of that engine and its APIs. Unfortunately, it's not clear whether chromium's developers are marching to the same drummer as are many extension developers and users in that regard. Hopefully, things will sort out and the "worst" won't happen, but it's a clear demonstration of the dangers of putting so many browser 'eggs' in one engine 'basket' - an engine basket not necessarily under full control of all those needing the eggs.

  • @yanta I've only in the past couple of weeks moved from Firefox to Opera as default, after having been a Firefox user for over a decade.

    Edge moving to Chromium is both a plus and a minus.

    It's a plus as it makes developers and consumers lives easier re websites "working" more widely.

    It's a plus because Microsoft will be adding code to Chromium, which provides a complement to Google's ideas and also could lead to improved behaviour and performance of all Chromium browsers on Windows, for example.

    It's a minus because of the centralisation of bugs and security vulnerabilities.

  • @yanta said in Microsoft switches to Chromium:


    I'm afraid Opera could lose market shares to Microsoft if MS should succeed in developing a browser with a nice UI and some useful additional features.

    For myself it has proven quite hard to shift me from whatever has been my preferred browser. I was a Firefox user for well over a decade. I've now switched to Opera as default (although I still use Firefox). Edge will have to replicate the features of Opera that I've discovered to be compelling to get me to switch.

    I should say though that I do not find any one browser to be superior to all other in all respects. Hence I have several installed and occasionally have a need to use one of the others - even Edge as it happens!

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