Mozilla CTO Sees an Upside to the Browser Wars
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With Apple, Google, Opera and Microsoft now all competing for mind and market share in the new browser war, the challenges and the stakes are perhaps greater than ever. Yet in this new contest, it's not the vendors themselves that will ultimately prevail, but rather it is likely that it is the web itself which will emerge victorious.
"The future of the Web is bright," Eich told InternetNews.com. "We talk about things like Silverlight and Adobe AIR being a threat to the open Web but they won't succeed in displacing the reach of the Web. Competition is going strong in the Web browser market and I think that will bring them all up towards parity and keep them evolving in ways developers want."
Though Firefox and Internet Explorer (IE) are rivals for browser share, Eich credits Microsoft with improving IE in recent years.
"My interpretation of what Microsoft is doing with IE in the last few years is they are trying to support standards more and they took some risks doing that with CSS improvements that frankly could break things for some of their enterprise customers," Eich said.
The question for Eich however is how far Microsoft will actually go in supporting truly open standards. That said he noted that between the pressures of competition and developers, Microsoft may have little choice but to support standards.
The Impact of HTML 5
One such new standard that is emerging is HTML 5 which would be the first major revision of HTML in nearly a decade. The first public working draft of HTML 5 was released earlier this year and the final draft is expect by 2010. Efforts on revising HTML have been underway since at least 2004.
"HTML 5 is a large thing and it's kind of a standards party," Eich commented. In some ways there is a lot in it that is good, original and a logical extension to what is already in HTML today. Some of it is a response to the needs of developers building Web apps in the modern world who really can't make do with the scotch tape and wire approach that has been used so far."
Though the specification is not yet finalized, several browser vendors, including Mozilla, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), have already included some components in their browsers.
"We're really concerned about getting the best parts implemented first, making sure they are interoperable and then going from there," Eich said. "I think that's happening."
In particular Eich noted that WebKit, used by Apple Safari and Google Chrome, has done a good job of implementing some early HTML 5 features. Eich also credits Google for Chrome's multi-process isolation model.
Eich noted that for years there have been various bugs in Mozilla where people have blamed plug-ins and wanted to put them out of process. That said Mozilla has been at work updating its plugin model which had been based on an old Netscape API.
The Google Chrome approach for process isolation however won't necessarily work for Mozilla, in part because, according to Eich, it uses more memory.
"If we went back and started using more memory that would be a problem for us, but with Chrome they have a clean slate approach and they can say they use more memory, but it goes away as you exit processes," Eich said.
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