New browser on the block!

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Photo by Jacalyn Beales on Unsplash

Well, it looks like the web browser ecosystem is getting another browser.

This is healthy for the web assuming standards are followed. From the Tweets I've seen it appears to be fast, but it is early days and from what I can tell there is no preview version to download yet.

What are your thoughts on another browser entering into the browser ecosystem?

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I think having another browser using SpiderMonkey that isn't Gecko-based (assuming they really did start from scratch on the rest of the browser) will be good for the JS ecosystem as it applies to the web (especially since Chakra is probably going away and almost everything except Firefox and Safari is using V8).

Whether having another HTML/CSS engine will be a good thing remains to be seen. They're going to have to get a lot of market share for it to even matter what they do that isn't copying WebKit, Blink, or Gecko (for example, pretty much nobody on the development side cares about Pale Moon even though they've diverged (a lot in some cases) from Gecko).

Either way, until we see actual code or even just a build, it's hard to say.

 

Looks promising. With no preview there's not a whole lot to go off of but I would be willing to give it a shot at release or even install a beta. Anyone in marketing knows "show, don't tell" so as of yet I'm not excited about it.

 

Oh yeah, for sure. Definitely need to see the goods. Just interesting that another player is jumping in.

 

Excellent. I was sad when Opera decided to use the Chrome engine, sadder still when Microsoft ditched the great engine behind Edge (yeah, yeah, hate as much as you like: IE stayed rubbish because Microsoft had to guarantee legacy compatibility for enterprise users -- but Edge never had that restriction; now Edge is just another Chrome).

We need competition to stop another "IE6" from happening -- anyone here remember having to write nasty css and js hacks to get perfectly good sites to work in IE6? I do. When one company owns the roadmap, that's what we get. Mozilla has been fighting the good fight, but it's great to have someone else in the ring!

 

Fingers crossed. Having another competitor will keep the others on their toes. Currently, Microsoft and Google are having a cold war over tracking and ad revenue against each other, Apple is slightly struggling keeping up with the ever changing web standards while Mozilla is looking for the next worst way to monetize their user base.

From what I see, it looks pretty similar to what the Servo rendering engine crowd is doing. While I see no blog updates from them since July, even though their github is pretty active.

At the moment, all they have is a few screen shots and marketing claims. Since they are using SpiderMonkey, I hope they make this open source.

 
 

There's some terminology I don't understand here. Multithreaded I'm at least familiar with, but what is a "clean room" browser?

When you ask what are my thoughts about another browser entering the browser ecosystem, I assume you mean a cooked-from-scratch new layout engine, as "new browsers" spawned off the usual engines are something of a cottage industry.

My answer would be that a new open source browser would be a godsend, as Mozilla basically caved on the EME issues and a few other things, and is becoming less hacker-friendly in other ways (such as discontinuing what was their vastly superior add-on architecture). It's telling that forked browsers differ from (usually) Firefox more by deletion of anti-features than addition of new features.

I fear it's unlikely/unrealistic that there will ever be a noncommercial implementation of something as necessarily large and complicated as a standards-approximating browser, nearly-fully implementing HTML, CSS and [Javascript?] without cribbing massive amounts of existing code. It probably doesn't matter since the very idea of (even a little) noncommercial content on the web seems to have given up on itself.

As for the Flow Browser, I came across what I can only assume is its official page and I get mixed signals. The word "license" doesn't appear anywhere on the page. That their target audience seems to be the cool kids with the latest hardware is also not encouraging.

 

If it wasn't clear to others, here is the official page for the Flow browser.

Just going to drop the EME repository link here as I did not know what EME was. For those like me who did not know what EME stood for, it's Encrypted Media Extensions.

Yeah, clean room browser is a bit of a weird term. I think they mean building the layout engine from scratch? Not sure. The only thing they appear to be using, from what I read was the Spidermonkey JavaScript runtime from Mozilla.

When you mean cool kids hardware, I'm assuming you're talking about the "Layout performance that scales with the processorโ€™s available cores" and "100% rendering on the GPU"?

I must admit it seems like an enormous feat to create a new browser given that Brendan Eich (JS Inventor/Netscape and Mozilla) opted for Chromium when his team created Brave.

 

Point taken, I also assumed too much audience terminology familiarity. A mistake that's way too easy all around.

EME concerns me because I miss the hacker ethos and find the *YPM (* you, pay me) ethos that has displaced it to be, while laudably pro-labor, ridiculously mercenary. To say it has resulted in the proliferation of comically brazen acts of value subtraction (i.e. monetization) would be an understatement.

Clean room I guess is still a mystery to both of us. It's a term I associate with hardware, so perhaps it's a statement. The web standards have become so complex a document that implementing it is the logistical and even technological equivalent of a fab lab. Give it a few years to acquire more cruft and I suppose it will be out of reach of all but state-level actors. Standards complexity creep is one of the many ways the web has been taken out of the hands of noncommercial users. Much as the web per se replaced Gopher with something much more sophisticated, perhaps what's needed now is something to similarly replace the web with something much (technically, but also of course end-user) simpler, with by-laws in place to hopefully keep it that way permanently.

Yes, my idea of cool kids' hardware is late-model, but even moreso high-graphic. It's no coincidence that graphics cards and sound cards are the hardest peripherals to configure in an open source operating system. Those two peripherals are the interface between the world of computing and the world of showbiz (i.e. DRM). I assume it would be uncontroversial to state all two of the manufacturers of video cards actively thwart the development of open-source drivers.

My take on Eich's current quest is that it's one of reinventing monetization rather than reinventing the browser. I'm mostly unimpressed, in large part because he seems to be trying to package deal it with cryptocurrency adoption. It seems that with Eich there's always some kind of political statement. He does seem genuinely interested in reducing the sensory overload in web advertising; perhaps that is his penance for foisting Javascript on web users. I'm old enough to remember when Javascript scripts could and would resize your browser window to many times your screen size for no reason other than to annoy the * out of you (and of course monetize websites).

Yeah, I remember when you could resize the windows to nothing as well. I think the lowest you can go these days is 100px x 100px. As well, good old ActiveX z-index issues, IE conditional comments, IE behaviours (the original web component?), MSXMLHTTP, XUL etc.

Good times. ๐Ÿ˜‰ You'd probably enjoy this tweet thread.

Long live <framesets /> and <marquee />! ๐Ÿ˜†

Yeah, for Brave, I'm not really interested in the crypto/better adds/monetization part, but I do enjoy the better security aspect of it though. Who knows where it will go. Edge is doing similar things now that they are Chromium, but I do not see them pushing monetization apart from getting some credits if you use the Bing search engine.

My guess for Edge is that migrating to Chromium will hopefully kill all the splintering of IE/older Edge. They even apparently guarantee to help you if your site worked in IE11 and has issues with the newest edge.

I can only imagine how difficult it is to build a browser from the ground up. Kudos to anyone that can.

 

What I'm not immediately seeing is a download link or link to GitHub. Makes me suspicious that this is not a community effort and will probably be a sold product. If so, good luck with that in a world where browsers are typically free.

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