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Opinion: Chrome is Turning Into the New Internet Explorer 6 (theverge.com) 294

Tom Warren, writing for The Verge: Chrome now has the type of dominance that Internet Explorer once did, and we're starting to see Google's own apps diverge from supporting web standards much in the same way Microsoft did a decade and a half ago. Whether you blame Google or the often slow moving World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the results have been particularly evident throughout 2017. Google has been at the center of a lot of "works best with Chrome" messages we're starting to see appear on the web. Google Meet, Allo, YouTube TV, Google Earth, and YouTube Studio Beta all block Windows 10's default browser, Microsoft Edge, from accessing them and they all point users to download Chrome instead. Some also block Firefox with messages to download Chrome. Hangouts, Inbox, and AdWords 3 were all in the same boat when they first debuted.

It's led to one developer at Microsoft to describe Google's behavior as a strategic pattern. "When the largest web company in the world blocks out competitors, it smells less like an accident and more like strategy," said a Microsoft developer in a now-deleted tweet. Google also controls the most popular site in the world, and it regularly uses it to push Chrome. If you visit Google.com in a non-Chrome browser you're prompted up to three times if you'd like to download Chrome. Google has also even extended that prompt to take over the entire page at times to really push Chrome in certain regions. Microsoft has been using similar tactics to convince Windows 10 users to stick with Edge. The troubling part for anyone who's invested in an open web is that Google is starting to ignore a principle it championed by making its own services Chrome-only -- even if it's only initially.

Opinion: Chrome is Turning Into the New Internet Explorer 6

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  • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Thursday January 04, 2018 @11:51AM (#55862919)
    Chrome is Googles gateway drug, of course they're going to try and get you to use it, and then start getting you to use all other things Google.
    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 ) on Thursday January 04, 2018 @11:58AM (#55862961) Homepage

      I don't see a problem when it comes to beta sites, but for full production the site has to be W3C compliant, just use the HTML and CSS validators to ensure that the site follows all standards. But when it comes to JavaScript then it's a headache of its own, primarily on Microsoft browsers where those browsers have a tendency to do things differently.

      But a site that depends on JavaScript is in general a pretty crappy site.

      • I don't see a problem when it comes to beta sites

        Does Google have sites which aren't in beta?

      • by amicusNYCL ( 1538833 ) on Thursday January 04, 2018 @01:42PM (#55863799)

        But when it comes to JavaScript then it's a headache of its own, primarily on Microsoft browsers where those browsers have a tendency to do things differently.

        But a site that depends on JavaScript is in general a pretty crappy site.

        That's pretty old-fashioned thinking. Today Edge is fast and holds to standards pretty well, while all of the most used and useful sites use a lot of Javascript. I wouldn't call any map site a "pretty crappy site" just because you have to have Javascript turned on to pan and zoom the map. That's the core functionality of the thing, trying to do some crappy workaround with arrows on each edge of the map where you click an arrow and the entire page refreshes with the map moved that direction is a stupid way to avoid Javascript.

        • by tepples ( 727027 )

          trying to do some crappy workaround with arrows on each edge of the map where you click an arrow and the entire page refreshes with the map moved that direction is a stupid way to avoid Javascript.

          Some anti-JavaScript hardliners here and on SoylentNews have stated that they actually prefer what you call "a stupid way to avoid Javascript." Or they would prefer to download, audit, compile, and install a native map viewer application distributed in source code form.

          • by laie_techie ( 883464 ) on Thursday January 04, 2018 @02:43PM (#55864257)

            trying to do some crappy workaround with arrows on each edge of the map where you click an arrow and the entire page refreshes with the map moved that direction is a stupid way to avoid Javascript.

            Some anti-JavaScript hardliners here and on SoylentNews have stated that they actually prefer what you call "a stupid way to avoid Javascript." Or they would prefer to download, audit, compile, and install a native map viewer application distributed in source code form.

            I've been creating web sites since the 1990s. I still believe that a site should "work" with JavaScript disabled. I like the idea of using AJAX type technologies to just refresh a small portion of the page (eg. scroll or zoom the map), but if JavaScript is disabled clicking on the buttons should cause the whole page to load with the desired adjustment applied.

        • The problem with some sites is that if you do not enable javascript from at least three different sources all it shows is a blank page (And usually one or more from these scripts only exists to load a second script that then loads a third).
      • So all sites that use react or angular for example are crappy?
        • The ones that require JavaScript to display basic page content, where there was not some reasonable reason (e.g. highly dynamic content) to do so? Yes kinda. Trying to make semi-arbitrary remote code execution a requirement for viewing one's site makes me desire to avoid using their site.
      • it isn't just sites though, I've viewed jpg images on a site using Chrome and when savign them to disk, it saves them as webp format. Annoying as hell as there's little way to save them in their native format.

        Its little things like this where Google wants you to use their ways, and gives you no alternative so you just put up with it.

      • But a site that depends on JavaScript is in general a pretty crappy site.

        Yesterday I tried looking at Google’s security blog with JavaScript disabled for the site (my default setting)... guess what didn’t work?

    • However I am curious. Chrome, seems to score highest on the HTML5 Compatibility Test, compared to other browsers. Perhaps they are using open standard features that other browsers just hadn't supported yet, causing it appear to be following its own standards.

      That being said, usually services are designed to work with other browsers and keeping features a bit behind, as to support the general population. Telling people to use chrome is bad form.

  • Antitrust (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by SETY ( 46845 )

    Break up google. But most people are not capitalists and would disagree. Let the corporations rule!

    • Definitely it's time for some anti-trust action on both sides of the Atlantic.

      Washington and Brussels, I'm looking at you. More so Brussels at the current moment, since if Ajit Pai is anything to go by, this administration isn't going to do anything about the issue.

      If Microsoft had an anti-trust case brought against it for its business practices, surely Google deserves the same treatment. They are doing the same things, if not worse.

      • by tsa ( 15680 )

        Has any US administration done anything ever about this kind of shenanigans? Remember the dancing monkey?
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
        That was because MS was basically rewarded for their monopolist behaviour back in the 1990s and early 2000s.

    • How could you start an antitrust suit on the grounds of Google Chrome ?

      Google Chrome is given away for free (unlike the IE counter example, which was only available to those people who did buy Windows from Microsoft).
      the source code of most of the parts (all the important one) is available to anyone (so anybody can re-implement a chrome-clone on their system of choice).

      Google doesn't make a single penny directly out of Chrome.
      In fact they don't even need you to use their browser, they just want you to use a

      • Re:How so ? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Thursday January 04, 2018 @01:21PM (#55863611)

        How could you start an antitrust suit on the grounds of Google Chrome ?

        They are modifying their websites to discourage or prevent the use of competing browser software.

        Google Chrome is given away for free

        The price of the product isn't actually relevant. Internet Explorer was given away "for free" too, but you paid for the OS.
        In the case of Google Chrome: when you use the browser it feeds Google information about you, so in a sense Google
        receives OTHER compensation than direct payment, but there's still a payment for the product in the form of lost privacy and
        Ad Dollars gained from more-effective targeting; ALSO Chrome feeds into OTHER Google services by incorporating them directly.

        Google doesn't make a single penny directly out of Chrome.
         

        False. As explained Chrome has integrated Google products such as Search defaulting to Google's service, which Google is paid ad dollars for.
        Chrome is able to track your browsing and what you type into the Title bar and share valuable info with Google that makes it DIFFICULT for other Ad agencies to compete with Google.

        Google doesn't give a shit about which browser, as long as you use *A* browser, and go online,

        Clearly that is false, otherwise Google would not be so often prompting users to use Chrome or making websites say they Work better in Chrome, or blocking access to Edge users and sometimes FF users, As explained in the original article.

  • Microsoft (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If Microsoft wants to complain they might want to fix their crappy browser first. Every time I've tried to use Edge it stutters or freezes.

    • Re:Microsoft (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Thursday January 04, 2018 @12:01PM (#55862983) Journal

      Not to mention the fact that Microsoft continually finds new ways to harass or trick me into using Edge. Microsoft is in no position to complain.

    • by ranton ( 36917 )

      Agreed. Microsoft browsers are the reason we cannot have nice things on the Internet. I still spend far too much time making sure things work on IE 11 which could be spent on meaningful work.

      Even though I generally agree with the content of the article, the title made it hard to read it objectively. IE 6 was a horrible browser browser which didn't comply with web standards and caused a generation of developers to hate web development. Chrome is none of those things. The practices of Google mentioned in the

  • It doesn't help (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Thursday January 04, 2018 @11:56AM (#55862953)
    that Firefox 57 just broke a mountain of plugins (mine included) and makes fixing said plugins difficult if not impossible (still wrestling with that).
    • that Firefox 57 just broke a mountain of plugins (mine included) and makes fixing said plugins difficult if not impossible (still wrestling with that).

      Every plug in that I use still works fine and seemed to make the transition without any issue. Your mileage may very of course.

      • You can no longer access the file system. Instead plugins get a 'virtual' file system to store files. My GM scripts were written with multiple files using include directives to reference the local directory, and since I can't just copy the files over they don't work. I'm stuck putting everything in one ginormous file.

        As for my own plugin, it uses FFMPEG to do conversions, which again is damn near impossible without file system access. And that's before I get into making it all play nice in the new multi
        • by tepples ( 727027 )

          since I can't just copy the files over they don't work. I'm stuck putting everything in one ginormous file.

          That's been true for years. Are native applications distributed as a pile of .o files to link together at runtime, or as a single .exe file?

    • Firefox also refuses to implement FIDO U2F for cheap, reliable two-factor authentication. Right now, only Chrome and Opera support this functionality, and this is the only reason I am not using Firefox at the moment.

    • Come on. Don't exaggerate.

      I have installed Firefox 57 and it has been working find since

      [NO CARRIER]

  • This is what we get for doing away with real standardisation and allowing "evergreen" browsers and nonsense like "living standards" to take over.

    The only meaningful standards left today, for a lot of practical purposes, are the de facto ones of what works in the browsers your visitors are using right now. Anything else can change tomorrow anyway.

    • The W3C made themselves irrelevant when they took 12 years to update from HTML 4 (1999) to HTML 5 (2011 to begin finalizing the spec, it didn't become official until 2014).

      They're the ones responsible for Adobe Flash (nee Macromedia Flash) becoming the de facto standard for multimedia on the web. Web designers begged for a way to implement things like in-line video and audio, and dynamic web menus via HTML. The W3C refused to add those features. So web designers looked for other ways to do it. And lo
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      This is what we get for doing away with real standardisation and allowing "evergreen" browsers and nonsense like "living standards" to take over. The only meaningful standards left today, for a lot of practical purposes, are the de facto ones of what works in the browsers your visitors are using right now. Anything else can change tomorrow anyway.

      From your UID you should be old enough to remember all the de facto extensions back in the Netscape vs IE days, when did we ever have real standardization? The W3C was always more of a working group than a stamp of approval, the recommendations were basically the things they agreed on and everything else they did their own way. They had a few showcase Acid tests but never anything like a compliance suite.

      And just because something is a standard doesn't make it a good standard, "design by committee" is not a

      • I first learned web development with little more than the W3C's own documentation and some browsers to experiment with. It's true that browsers always had their quirks, but in the early days you were talking about, things like HTML and CSS did basically do what the documentation said. You didn't lose much if you just avoided the browser-specific oddities as much as possible, and since browsers in those days were at least relatively stable, the quirks were well understood and workarounds for the major ones w

  • by PingSpike ( 947548 ) on Thursday January 04, 2018 @11:59AM (#55862965)
    Chrome isn't quite IE6 at the height of its power, but its close. On the desktop, Microsoft was actually their main competitor. But then Microsoft launched Edge and it was a crushing blow to Microsoft's market share.

    2 Years ago, MS still held an incredible 50% of desktop browser share:
    https://www.netmarketshare.com/browser-market-share.aspx?qprid=2&qpcustomd=0&qptimeframe=M&qpsp=201/ [netmarketshare.com]
    Now, they are down to 20%:
    https://www.netmarketshare.com/browser-market-share.aspx?qprid=2&qpcustomd=0/ [netmarketshare.com]

    Despite being literally shoved into users faces, the introduction of Edge didn't draw users away from Chrome. No, it seemed to send IE users running to it instead.
    Chrome now has a commanding presence on desktop and we've already seen Google start to flex their muscle a bit in the same way Microsoft did when they controlled the world with IE. Make no mistake, Google has nowhere near that level of stranglehold but since the vast majority of browsers are Chrome they are the big dog now and they can get away with a lot biting.
    • Well, the link to the past seems broken since netmarketshare designed the website since the last time I used. But it looks like IE/Edge combined is now more like 17%.

    • Google has nowhere near that level of stranglehold

      Yeah, there are a couple of major differences. First, isn't Chrome open source? At least most of it? It's hard to argue that Chrome is ensuring vendor lock-in to the extent that the source code is available to be forked. But also, Chrome isn't really able to leverage such a dominant OS to force the browser on people. There's Android and ChromeOS, but neither really give Google the level of control over the computer market that Microsoft had back in the day. Web developers are generally not going to cr

    • by xonen ( 774419 )

      But then Microsoft launched Edge and it was a crushing blow to Microsoft's market share.

      It doesn't help that Edge is a beta-quality browser. It does a lot of things reasonable well, most of them even pretty good and it tries to comply to standards. However, some stuff not works at all. Some stuff is horrible slow. And the browser itself is not a pinnacle of stability and also not free of weird non-reproducible quirks.

      Admitting, that fits the general windows-10 way of doing things: more features coming faster, but at the cost of reduced stability.

      In my personal point of view, Firefox is back as

  • by slaker ( 53818 ) on Thursday January 04, 2018 @12:01PM (#55862979)

    Even if you're convinced that Webkit is strictly speaking better than anything else, it's not like people don't have Webkit alternatives. In Windows-land, I've found that having Chromium installed is most likely an incidence of malware, as there are any number of pre-fucked Chrome-alikes, but there's always Vivaldi or Opera, which are both completely functional and IMO indistinguishable from Chrome.

    Ironically, now that Edge has some level of Add-in support and there's both "mainstream" Chrome-like Firefox and Greybeard "Pry my addons from my cold, dead hands" Palemoon, it's not like there aren't any non-Webkit alternatives out in the world, either. It is a bit of a shame that for most web developers "mobile web" = Webkit, but that's also somewhat reasonable given the prevalence of Apple and Google devices.

    I suppose the question comes down to whether the value of the actual Google services integration (profile sync, better Youtube experience, cloud print, desktop sharing) is worth ceding control of the whole browsing experience to Google. I don't really use any of that stuff so I can't say, but no, letting a giant ad company control my internet experience really isn't any better than when we were pissed a Microsoft for trying to do the same thing. I'm not really seeing how Google got to this point on the desktop. Firefox and Safari were never THAT bad. Is it really just a matter of marketing?

    • I suppose the question comes down to whether the value of the actual Google services integration (profile sync, better Youtube experience, cloud print, desktop sharing) is worth ceding control of the whole browsing experience to Google. I don't really use any of that stuff so I can't say, but no, letting a giant ad company control my internet experience really isn't any better than when we were pissed a Microsoft for trying to do the same thing. I'm not really seeing how Google got to this point on the desktop. Firefox and Safari were never THAT bad. Is it really just a matter of marketing?

      First let me say that I am no fan of Google's products outside of search and maps. I simply don't like their tracking. But I can certainly see how they got to where they are. They tackled and conquered amazing problems with their products. Earth, maps/streetview, search, android/play, docs, and drive just to name a few. And Chrome. They took the browser market. I think that they did all of these things with good ol' engineering. They raised the bar, and not through promises but by delivering product

  • Aww. (Score:5, Funny)

    by msauve ( 701917 ) on Thursday January 04, 2018 @12:01PM (#55862991)
    ""When the largest web company in the world blocks out competitors, it smells less like an accident and more like strategy," said a Microsoft developer"

    As they say - What goes around, comes around.
  • by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Thursday January 04, 2018 @12:02PM (#55862999)

    Sure you can install Chrome, Firefox, Opera or whatever on macOS, but on iOS even the other browsers are just a GUI attached on top of Safari, i.e. WebKit.

    • by tepples ( 727027 )

      A sufficiently funded developer of a web application can rewrite it in Swift or Objective-C++ as a native iOS application and offer it through the App Store.

      • Not really. Because to get any kind of usefull javascript performance you need to write a jit compiler, and that is not allowed to iOS.

        • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

          By "rewrite it as a native iOS application" I don't think he meant "create an 'app' that's really just a crippled web browser to show your web app."

        • by tepples ( 727027 )

          rewrite it in Swift or Objective-C++

          to get any kind of usefull javascript performance you need to write a jit compiler

          What does "a jit compiler" have to do with an application that has been rewritten in Swift or ObjC?

  • Google has been at the center of a lot of "works best with Chrome" messages we're starting to see appear on the web.

    This is one of the (lesser) reasons I still use Firefox. Already been down this road once with Microsoft. Don't need to do it again with Google. Nothing particularly against Chrome but any particular browser getting too much market share is a bad thing.

    On the other hand I haven't really seen any sites yet that actually require Chrome. Back in the day when IE6 was dominant it actually got kind of hard at times to use the web without resorting to IE6 now and then.

    • Thankfully, Chrome doesn't use ActiveX, a terrible security decision on Microsoft's part.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 04, 2018 @12:15PM (#55863101)

    I was a web developer in the IE6 days. We're nowhere near where we were then. A few Google specific sites blocking Edge is hardly the horribleness that was IE6. With IE6, many, many, many companies thought of it as a software platform to develop software on. You also essentially HAD to have workarounds for IE6 because it didn't support standards.

    I'm not in love with Google, and they can most certainly do wrong. But we aren't anywhere near what IE6 was, and I don't see the same thing happening with Chrome.

    Also, Google's business model isn't the same as MS's. MS sees the web as a threat to its business model. The web IS Google's business model. They don't really have a huge interest in you using Chrome, they just want the web to grow in popularity. If other browsers adopt the same web standards, that's good for Google, not bad.

    Now, that's not to say Chrome's popularity isn't an issue. We need more diversity and less centralization. But for a variety of reasons I find it hard for the same IE6 situation to repeat itself. The world in 2018 isn't the same at it was in 2002.

  • Google Meet, Allo, YouTube TV, Google Earth, and YouTube Studio Beta all block Windows 10's default browser, Microsoft Edge, from accessing them and they all point users to download Chrome instead.

    I imagine this is an attempt to provide an easily understandable alternative for non-technical users should detection of necessary video codecs or JavaScript APIs fail. Though not as far behind standards as IE was during the IE 6-8 era, Edge is also perceived as lagging, as is Firefox ESR at times. What is a web application supposed to do when a necessary component of the web platform is missing? Is it recommended, for example, to implement an entire video codec in JavaScript as a polyfill?

    Would the followi

  • by DaveM753 ( 844913 ) on Thursday January 04, 2018 @12:27PM (#55863205)

    IMHO, it's particularly alarming when the Debian Stable version of Chromium is showing as "no longer supported" by Google Docs. I ran into this warning several times, and it's one of several reasons I had to break my addiction to Google Docs. I can understand Google's desire to add functionality to their Google Docs platform, but to break Docs' functionality in fairly recent versions of their own open-source browser baffles me. There are reasons I don't want to use Chrome, and prefer to use Chromium. When Google slaps limitations on my ability to use W3C standardized browsers and force me to use their non-standard browser, I get the feeling they're only going to do worse in the future - al la Microsoft.

    And so, last year I decided to ditch Google Docs and go back to LibreOffice. The most painful aspect of this is the loss of world-wide, easy access to my documents. Leaving the cloud is a hassle, but it's better than vendor lock-in.

  • The only way Chrome will have IE6 levels of influence is if web developers will have to support its quirks and bugs for a decade, even after new versions of Chrome come out.

    It is possible if Google leaves bugs in place in future versions and intentionally starts a process if embrace extend extinguish. It could happen but we are not at IE6 levels of insidiousness.

  • by CruisinAdam ( 1372903 ) on Thursday January 04, 2018 @01:20PM (#55863609)
    We recently had a product forced on us by our state government that they had written by and outside contractor. Everything works fine in Firefox with a user agent switcher, but otherwise you are blocked with the message "Google Chrome is the only supported browser..." I get the feeling it's people who can't be bothered to test their code in anything other than Chrome.
  • by Vektuz ( 886618 ) on Thursday January 04, 2018 @01:44PM (#55863821)
    They are starting to tighten their grip to the point where systems are starting to slip through their fingers.

    Google's new strategy has definitely been walled-garden - for example look at the youtube vs amazon fire tv debacle.
    They're starting to use the systems they already inhabit as leverage to wall people in.
  • There are many things that are way different then back in the IE days, the most important perhaps being that unlike IE the essential parts of Chrome are FOSS. There are quite a few feasible Chrome clones out there - commercial and enthusiast/FOSS and Chrome is way closer to web standards that IE ever was. Google would be very stupid to turn Chrome into something proprietary.

    Google wants the Web to remain free. They just want everyone to use Google, that's all.

    The danger with Google isn't Chrome but that they potentially have the power to hijack the web. For ordinary people who can't tell the difference they bascially have already, with their search engine. However, as soon as they attempt lock-in, people would notice and streat clear. The choice to rely on Google ranking for you business is nearly without alternatives for many people, but still no one forces you to do it,

    I see some dangers lurking but Chrome turning proprietary and locking others out sure isn't one of them. At least not yet.

    My 2 cents.

  • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 ) on Thursday January 04, 2018 @02:47PM (#55864293)

    Yeah, there are similarities but it is actually completely different, both in philosophy and magnitude.

    First, besides a few bleeding edge web apps (pun not intended), the vast majority of websites work on any recent browser. The situation is much better in that regard than it was before. In fact most headaches come more from compatibility between different versions within the same family rather than between the latest version of different families.

    And unlike Microsoft in the IE6 days, Google actually wants other browsers to be compatible. Google doesn't make money off Chrome, they make money when you use their online services, they are perfectly happy to have Firefox users too, they even pay good money to Mozilla for it.
    Microsoft was in the opposite situation: they make money by selling you the browser (as a component of Windows), they broke compatibility deliberately so that you needed to pay for Windows/IE in order to access a significant part of the web.

    The reason Google makes Chrome is to push standards. When they want to add a feature that is advantageous to them (ex: lowers their bandwidth requirements) they don't have to beg standards governing bodies and other browsers developers. They just implement it in Chrome and encourage others to do the same.

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