Friday, 6 October 2017

Microsoft Using Chromium On Android Is Bad For The Web

Microsoft is releasing "Edge for Android" and it uses Chromium. That is bad for the Web.

It's bad because engine diversity is really essential for the open Web. Having some users, even a relatively small number, using the Edge engine on Android would have been a good step. Going with Chromium increases Web developer expectations that all browsers on Android are — or even should be — Chromium. The less thoughtful sort of developer (i.e., pretty much everyone) will say "Microsoft takes this path, so why doesn't Mozilla too, so we can have the instant gratification of compatibility thanks to a single engine?" The slow accumulation of unfixable bugs due to de facto standardization will not register until the platform has thoroughly rotted; the only escape being alternative single-vendor platforms where developers are even more beholden to the vendor.

Sure, it would have been quite a lot of work to port Edge to Android, but Microsoft has the resources, and porting a browser engine isn't a research problem. If Microsoft would rather save resources than promote their own browser engine, perhaps they'll be switching to Chromium on Windows next. Of course that would be even worse for the Web, but it's not hard to believe Microsoft has stopped caring about that, to the extent they ever did.

(Of course Edge uses Webkit on iOS, and that's also bad, but it's Apple's ongoing decision to force browsers to use the least secure engine, so nothing new there.)

10 comments:

  1. Note that Mozilla is also using Chromium in their new Focus browser, which gets more PR push than Gecko based Fennec.

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  2. I was really disappointed by Microsoft's decision. I get that it's the path of least resistance, but I was looking forward to a third choice of layout engines on my Pixel (of course I use Android Firefox normally).

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  3. blink is not the only rendering engine on android https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPW1BFNpG5Q

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    1. Haha. But seriously, Gecko is on Android too.

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  4. Is it only me or did you link a GDB tutorial page as a source?

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  5. While I do agree with Edge using Chromium/Webkit is bad for the web, the article you linked to about Safari being the least secure is a total clickbait article if you read the last paragraph:

    "The security researcher goes on to stress the fact that this test focuses on a single component of the browsers, namely their DOM engine, and, as such, does not reflect how secure they are as a whole. Still, it is an interesting test, as, according to Fratric, "DOM engines have been one of the largest sources of web browser bugs.""

    So is the least secure or the least secure on one section the DOM or just buggy and not necessarily less secure

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    1. It's not a slam-dunk case, but it's not total clickbait either. It's evidence.

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  6. So when's the Google Play version of Firefox Focus switching to gecko? Also, I couldn't post a comment from Firefox 57 beta on Android when using the mobile version of your site.

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    1. I don't agree with everything Mozilla does, but at least Firefox on Android uses Gecko.

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