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Mozilla The Internet

Mozilla Jetpack and the Battle For the Web 280

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the because-they-can dept.
snydeq writes "Mozilla Jetpack makes it so easy to filter, modify, and mash up pages that it might end up pitting developers and users against content producers in a battle for the Web, writes Fatal Exception's Neil McAllister. By allowing users to modify the behavior, presentation, and output of Web apps and pages to their liking, Jetpack gives users the ability to 'patch the server, in a sense,' McAllister writes, bringing us one step closer to a more democratic Web. Good news for developers and users; not so good for SaaS providers and media companies that have a vested interest in controlling the function, presentation, and distribution of Web-based content and apps. In other words, as Jetpack produces fruit, expect more producers to call for 'guardrails for the Internet.'"
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Mozilla Jetpack and the Battle For the Web

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 28, 2009 @11:08AM (#28124853)

    I read the raw HTML and compose the pages in my imagination, just like the novel readers of the past used to do.

    That really sticks it to the man.

    • by spun (1352) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `yranoituloverevol'> on Thursday May 28, 2009 @11:29AM (#28125123) Journal

      I miss the days when just about everyone using the web was a developer, user, and content producer all in one. I think we all saw the commercial 'content producer' jackals circling and licking their lips, but we thought we had the power to fend them off, that the web would never be fully commercialized like every other media. How wrong we were.

      • by EnglishTim (9662) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @11:46AM (#28125389)

        Pff. I don't pine for those days. You couldn't do half the cool shit you can do with the web now back then, and lots of those things would never have happened without commercial interests getting involved.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by MindStalker (22827)

          Except for a bit of expansion in DHTML and Flash, you could do everything then that you could do now. The only differences is bandwidth and processing power. The real dynamic changes have been the underlying programming languages and the use of backed databases. You could do it all in perl back then, just no one really thought to.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          50% = downloading porn 50% = posting useless comments on a public forum Yeah, I'd have to disagree and say you could do everything back then that you can today!
      • By "content producer jackals" do you mean, like, actual writers, artists, and design professionals? Yeah, it's a real shame they found the web. I really, really miss the blink tags and those spinning yellow-and-black "under construction" graphics.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I don't even see the code anymore. All I see is blonde, brunette, redhead...

  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @11:12AM (#28124911) Journal

    By allowing users to modify the behavior, presentation, and output of Web apps and pages to their liking, Jetpack gives users the ability to 'patch the server, in a sense,' McAllister writes

    And so the new slashdot layout is finally explained in full.

    I keed, I keed. But seriously...

    • I've *long* had my slashdot layout set to the minimal markup and styling. That's how I like it. I'm not even sure I can find that setting anymore, and it's not respected in my front page views anymore. Though strangely, it sometimes is when I'm viewing and replying to comments...

    • by Animats (122034) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @11:33AM (#28125199) Homepage

      And so the new slashdot layout is finally explained in full.

      Yes. There's so much crap running on Slashdot's pages now that Firefox sometimes reports that a script is running too long. Pages load slowly because the five or so different ad servers all need time to respond. The page code has "document.write()" calls which load more Javascript, forcing operations which ought to be in parallel to wait for the previous step to complete. I just had a Slashdot page load wait 9 seconds for "bs.serving-sys.com". That's a 9 second delay for a useless site that's trying to load a "tracking cookie". A Jetpack add-on to block all that stuff will be a huge win.

  • Revolution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by trifish (826353) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @11:12AM (#28124915)

    The guy forgot just one important thing: Most people don't use Firefox.

    • Sure, but this is open source, chances are it will be implemented soon not only in Firefox but also Safari, Chrome, Konqueror, etc. Only IE will drag its feet in supporting this, but then again most people who use IE usually aren't major web surfers.
      • by trifish (826353)

        The browsers you named have even smaller market share than Firefox...

        • Currently, yes but most of them are supported by large companies who promote them heavily, chances are almost every computer has at least one alternate browser other than IE installed, it might not be used, but it would still be installed, so whenever a site says best viewed in Safari, Firefox or Chrome most people would at least have one of those.
          • chances are almost every computer has at least one alternate browser other than IE installed, it might not be used, but it would still be installed,

            More made-up nonsense.

        • by vtcodger (957785)

          ***The browsers you named have even smaller market share than Firefox...***

          True, but they are part of the pack that is nibbling away at the mindset of incompetent web site designers who think that the fact that their abomination worked once for about five minutes in IE means it is correct and the rest of the world is out of step. Sooner or later I'm going to lose it and go after some clown who suggests that I need to upgrade to a "modern web browser" on a site that fails W3C validation with hundreds of lay

    • Re:Revolution (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RudeIota (1131331) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @11:35AM (#28125239) Homepage

      The guy forgot just one important thing: Most people don't use Firefox.

      Regardless of whether or not it is not more than half of web surfers, plenty of people [w3schools.com] use it. In fact, the percentage is so large, 'most' is moot. Most surveys show at least 30% market share.

      Also, the number of FF users isn't worth bringing up anyhow - This article in no way says, "Teh Interwebs as we know it are ovur!". TFA simply says that this is a good STEP toward a more democratic web, although the TFS certainly sensationalized it quite a bit.

      Numbers really don't matter here. What *does* matter though, is the idea that Jetpack has indirectly brought with it -- more control over web content. This will undoubtedly spread to other browsers in the form of plugins and such, making browser market share irrelevant.

    • Hey, just like with Linux if this *Revolution* allows me to do more, be more flexible, generally control how my experience works then it will be a success. As far as I'm concerned the minute an open source app makes the author(s) and even one other person more productive or happy is a success.

    • Most people also don't use ad-blocking.

      And most people, when they try Firefox with Adblock installed, never go back.

  • Dear "Content Providers",

    However much you might dislike this fact, the internet is not actually television, nor can web pages be designed as though it is(put down the flash and back away slowly).
    • by EdZ (755139) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @11:34AM (#28125215)
      Dear "Customers"

      For too long have you created and shared content amongst yourselves without it passing through our hands first, thus depriving us of our entitled revenue. Luckily we have more lobbying money than you, so this state of affairs will not continue.
    • Re:Sorry Dudes... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sjames (1099) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @01:26PM (#28127157) Homepage

      From day one, the actual rendering (or not) of HTML was intended to be user configurable. HTML was intended to be semantic tagging, not some sort of paste-up specification. A P tag specifies a paragraph, but does not specify what the browser does with a paragraph. The default is a reasonably sane rendering, but if the user wants something else, that's their call. All of the stuff like font, etc and CSS are strong suggestions which most browsers happen to accept and follow by default.

      'Content Providers' in print media cannot stop me from drawing Hitler mustaches or horns on the ads in magazines I buy and they can't stop me from wearing tinted glasses when I read them.

      Television 'Content providers' cannot stop me from hitting mute, modifying my TV to display the picture upside down, or creating funny commercial mash-ups by changing channels right after the voiceover asks a question.

      They'd love the right to strap us down and give us the Clockwork Orange treatment, but that's not something they can have.

  • by abigsmurf (919188) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @11:15AM (#28124963)

    So... Tools that make it even easier to strip the content from people who've spent their free time running websites that are expensive, using their bandwidth to do so? How is this democratic? A democracy is about having a say in how a country (the web) is run, not having your say over individuals (websites). It's easy to spin it as "giving the user control back from the big bad corporations" but there are scores of good websites producing quality content that do struggle to even cover costs, let alone make a profit.

    • by Scrameustache (459504) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @11:27AM (#28125087) Homepage Journal

      So... Tools that make it even easier to strip the content from people who've spent their free time running websites that are expensive, using their bandwidth to do so? How is this democratic?

      Don't make websites that suck and the People won't have to jetpack the suck out of it.

    • So?
      The internet is designed to allow the user to control how they view content. That is what it does. Don't come whining becasue some people chose to work in that medium.

      It's like that guy that buys a house near an airport and then complains the planes are loud. Maybe you should ahve chosen a different medium.

      Just becasue some one writes a book, doesn't man I can rearrange the words in the copy I bought, and just becasue you create a website doesn't mean I can change how I want to view it,

      It's like complaining becasue someone can change the tint on their TV and ruin the artistic vision of the director.
      It is democratic becasue it gives the power to the people. More specifically, it's a Direct Democracy where the people make the decisions. In this case, the decision how they wish to view something.

      • So? The internet is designed to allow the user to control how they view content. That is what it does. Don't come whining becasue some people chose to work in that medium.

        It's like that guy that buys a house near an airport and then complains the planes are loud.

        Unfortunately, it is starting to look like the people who bought houses next to a farm and then got the government to stop the farmer from spreading manure on the field (that the farmer owned) next to their houses because they didn't like the smell (this actually happened).

    • by Abcd1234 (188840)

      So... Tools that make it even easier to strip the content from people who've spent their free time running websites that are expensive, using their bandwidth to do so? How is this democratic? A democracy is about having a say in how a country (the web) is run, not having your say over individuals (websites).

      So PVRs that skip commercials are undemocratic because the viewer is altering the content before they view it?

      Interesting...

    • A democracy is about having a say in how a country (the web) is run, not having your say over individuals (websites).

      The web server provides you with numerous tools to control how the user receives your content. How they view it after that is not up to you, and never has been.

    • If your ads are annoying enough that people are willing to write code to block them, your business model sucks. Give me tasteful ads, or I'll remove them.

      The real question is, would you rather have me view your page without ads, or not view your page at all?

  • Yeah, Sorry Guys. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rel4x (783238)
    It's not democratic. It's another way for people who want something for nothing to remove ads. I was onboard for trying to make information free. Well, now a large part of the information is and I'm not about to hurt the companies who embraced the "alternative business models" I supported. I like their services, and would like them to be able to pay for the server. Keep in mind if people can't pay via their advertising, they'll likely start charging again. Major step backwards.
    • by radtea (464814) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @11:49AM (#28125415)

      Keep in mind if people can't pay via their advertising, they'll likely start charging again.

      Which will drive people to free sites.

      Once upon a time it was possible to make a living by being the only literate person in town, reading and writing letters for people and the like. Universal literacy killed that business model.

      The Web was never designed nor intended as a tool for commercial enterprises--it was intended to allow academics to share information, and however far it evolves under commercial pressure, there is not much that can be done about that fundamental aspect of its architecture. To try to use the Web, which was designed for free and open information sharing, as a tool for restricted information sales is probably going to fail.

      The past decade has seen a number of successful businesses based on Web revenue models. There is no promise from anyone that those models will continue to be viable. That's what markets are like, and while it may be a pity that certain things are not available to users because there is no viable way to pay for it, we're still all better off for having the Web than not.

      • Re:Yeah, Sorry Guys. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @12:09PM (#28125761)

        Am I the only one that finds it interesting how short the lifetime is for Internet business models? Traditional business models can be successful for dozens if not hundreds of years. Web based models seem to only remain viable for around a decade at best, then competition crops up with a new idea or some independent developer ruins the model (Ad-block anyone?).

        It seems to me that if your business is going to survive on the web, you'd better be spending time and effort every single day looking for new revenue streams and business models.

      • by Trojan35 (910785)

        The paid-for news/media is already stupid enough. I can't wait until all the semi-talented writers start charging, and 99% of america gets their news and election info from a right-wing or left-wing blog site... or worse [perezhilton.com].

        Seriously, I think the easy availability of respected newspapers such as the NYTimes has helped improved American's awareness of political issues. Whatever my problems with the NYTimes biases are, they're 100x better than the local news.

        • The solution is not to get news from one site only. news.google.com is your friend. For any given 'newsworthy' topic, there will be dozens of links to stories on different sites. Oh, and most of them wont have a paywall to view.

      • by cdrguru (88047)

        Universal literacy killed that business model.

        I think we're about to fix that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by JesseMcDonald (536341)

      If you really wanted to support someone it would be far more effective to cut out the middlemen and just send them a check.

      Pay-via-advertising is unreliable at best, annoyingly disruptive to readers, and has a tendency to alienate those who would otherwise support you. It only exists due to the lack of an economical micro-payment system. Direct-charge with automatic negotiation would be far superior, but the overhead of handling many small payments is just too high--for now. The incredible degree of regulat

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Yeah, allowing people to manipulate what they see on their computer screen is a major blow to democracy. We shouldn't innovate or give them new tools if it threatens a profit model that is so easily broken. Protect the profit model so we can stay where we're at. I AM FINE WHERE I AM AT RIGHT NOW thank you. ~
    • by geekoid (135745)

      "It's another way for people who want something for nothing to remove ads"

      Giving people a way to do that is democratic.

      Step 1: "..start charging again. "
      Step 2: Dry up and go away
      Step 3: No profit.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Shoe Puppet (1557239)

      It's another way for people who want something for nothing to remove ads.

      I doubt there will be more people killing ads via Jetpack than there are people killing ads via tools and addons like Adblock Plus. Unless doing it with Jetpack is easier, which I doubt is even possible.

    • by Spatial (1235392)
      It's not like everyone on the planet is going to do it. Look at Slashdot, a geek-fest where nearly all of the users are at least aware of ad blocking tools. Yet the site continues to exist.
    • by cdrguru (88047)

      Better yet, it is a way to rebrand web sites. Your content with my brand. Now, if only I can get other people's browsers to view it that way it means I own the Internet.

      If as part of the ISP "connection package" Cox can deliver this it means that Cox owns all the web content there is and can use it however they see fit. I'll bet Cox thinks this is a wonderful idea. And Time-Warner, and Comcast. And anyone else in the big-ISP business.

      How come so much stuff gets figured out for the Internet without ever

    • Re:Yeah, Sorry Guys. (Score:4, Informative)

      by ljw1004 (764174) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @01:10PM (#28126827)

      God I hate advertising. I hate the American attitude that advertising is acceptable (indeed inevitable) in all areas of life. Billboards everywhere, sportscasters interrupting their coverage to promote products, ads read by the presenters on NPR, advertising of prescription medication...

      These things don't happen anywhere else. It's only in America that you've been persuaded by the advertisers that their hold on your psyche and paycheck is normal.

      The figures I have are from 2000, when the total amount spent on advertising worked out to about $5000 per inhabitant of the US per year.

      What a stupid tax for us all to be paying! It doesn't go to anything we particularly want. It lines the pocketbooks of advertising agencies and irritates us when we're trying to browse the web or watch television or listen to the radio or see the countryside from our cars.

      As a way of funding anything, it's hugely inefficient. I bet it's even more inefficient than taxes.

  • Ad Injections (Score:2, Interesting)

    by moon3 (1530265)
    The critical question here is whether JetPack also plugs or replaces ads in the steered websites.

    Once you take the route of deliberately modifying content, this is just next logical step. I hope that is not the case.
  • by asemisldkfj (1479165) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @11:38AM (#28125267)
    As a web developer/designer, things like this irk me. When I design a website it is standards-compliant and looks how I intend it to, for what I think are good reasons. Empowering users to further mess with my presentation of my website is bothersome.

    As a web user, things like this make me glad. I will be glad if I am given more control of the presentation of poorly-designed websites, because I really don't have any sympathy for someone who designs a site that hinders me from obtaining the information that the site is supposed to be giving me.

    Tools like this are not inherently good or bad. People may use them to the detriment of their experience on the web (if they somehow degrade a site's visual appeal or function [not that the two things go hand-in-hand]), or people may use them to make their experiences on the web more efficient, productive, and enjoyable. I say more power to tools like this, because people should be able to have a say about how content is presented on their computers. And perhaps once poor web design dies (as if this will ever happen), the web developer/designer views the web in a different way, or the browser changes the way it presents websites, tools like this will either go out of fashion or become more integral to our idea of what the web is.
  • i remember reading about a startup in the dotcom days that allows users to annotate webpages in ways that can be shared. complete failure

    why? no one wants to exert the extra effort. what's the benefit? the summary makes it sound like some sort of revolutionary anticorporate antimind control movement. guess what: most users not only want to do nothing, they want to make sure they are seeing exactly what everyone else sees

    its a basic human desire for commonality of culture: sharing anything on the web is all about being part of contributing to a group, and consuming what is the same for everyone else. this is a basic human social drive. that if they had content that was "special" and only visible to them in a certain way, even if in just cosmetic appearance, you are driving a wedge between the user and that sense of shared commonality. what is the whole point of the internet? what is the driving force behind its popularity and adoption?

    this project flies directly in the face of that basic human social impulse and drive

    ps: this observation of mine applies most especially to subcultures: small splinter groups that are outside the mainstream and proudly so. their desire to see the same thing the rest of the subculture sees is accelerated due to the fact that it takes more effort to be part of a subculture than be part of the mainstream, they need to "work harder" to remain synchronized in bona fides with the rest of the members of their subculture. suggest to them that they aren't seeing quite what everyone else sees in that subculture and it will disturb to them, that they aren't fully part of the group yet

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Interesting, but wrong.

    • this observation of mine applies most especially to subcultures: small splinter groups that are outside the mainstream and proudly so. their desire to see the same thing the rest of the subculture sees is accelerated due to the fact that it takes more effort to be part of a subculture than be part of the mainstream,

      And you think that installing an additional set of subculture-specific page transforming filters won't take effort? That subculture members won't pride themselves on their ability to tweak the way those filters work for that subculture and that the other members of that subculture won't reward them with attention and accolades for helping to further delineate their subculture from the mainstream?

      • with a webpage, you know you see what everyone else sees. well, you can make scripts to modify pages for certain users, but this is done when you are purposefully attempting to exclude someone, not draw them further into a subculture. and even if such a membership track existed within a subculture (special tweaks per user), it creates feelings of classism and paranoia, which alienates and destroys: fred sees something i don't see, he is more "special" than me (even if what fred sees is random unimportant fl

    • i remember reading about a startup in the dotcom days that allows users to annotate webpages in ways that can be shared. complete failure

      why?

      Because it was really badly implemented. It required an unreliable plugin, didn't stay up to date, and had a lousy user interface. Oh, and it had a really weird name that had nothing to do with the product (something like 'don't trust in TV').

      There were a couple of better versions, college projects, that worked a lot better, without the need for browser plugins, and pr

  • it is my computer, and i am going to control the content that is viewed, sincerely the nerdyUser
  • Then don't use them. Seriously, if producers don't like people utilizing open standards to integrate and mashup products delivered using HTML/XML/JavaScript/etc., then don't use those standards. Junk all your wares into a DRM-laden flash applet, sit back and relax - and leave the rest of us to range freely on the other side of the guard rails.

  • It would seem that if I want to reformat, rebrand and (obviously) republish content found on the web, I should be able to do so, right?

    I guess a further step is putting out a plug-in for any user's browser that automatically reformats and rebrands content found on the web as mine. That way no matter if they go to my site or CNN, they are always seeing content as if I published it, right?

    Now, if I can make this happen to users automatically once they visit my pages once, all the better.

    Maybe it is just a ma

  • Greasemonkey (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Idiomatick (976696) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @12:28PM (#28126051)
    Sounds just like greasemonkey. Maybe greasemonkey + platypus? Mozilla ripping off its own addons now? :P I've been using modified internet for a year or so now. Its neat to be able to set the internet to match your theme... or remove annoying buttons you never use. (Examples...I have no sidebar in /. and when i click my name it redirects to my comments to check for replies rather than the annoying feed.)

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