Jeremy Keith

Jeremy Keith

Making websites. Writing books. Speaking at events. Living in Brighton. Working at Clearleft. Playing music. Taking photos. Answering email.

Journal 2519 sparkline Links 7804 sparkline Articles 72 sparkline Notes 4026 sparkline

Monday, December 17th, 2018

Checked in at Art History Museum (Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien) for Pieter Bruegel d. Ä., Once in a Lifetime. with Jessica map

Checked in at Art History Museum (Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien) for Pieter Bruegel d. Ä., Once in a Lifetime. with Jessica

Sunday, December 16th, 2018

Browsers

I don’t sign non-disclosure agreements. I’m sure that’s cost me projects in the past, but I just find it icky to put a personal request—”Hey, please don’t mention this”—into a legal framework, as though that makes it any more enforceable. It’s not that I can’t keep a secret. I’m more likely to keep a secret if you just ask me than if you try to get me to sign a piece of paper first.

I have a friend at Microsoft who—fair play—did not ask me to sign an NDA when he pulled me aside at the Confront conference in Malmö back in October. “Can we talk in private?” he asked. “Sure”, I said, and stepped aside. “Let’s go outside”, he said. This must be serious, I thought.

Standing out in the cold, he gave me the news (and asked me to keep it under my hat). Microsoft’s Edge browser was going to switch its rendering engine over to Chromium.

My initial reaction was to be deflated and disappointed. I’ve always believed that healthy competition in the browser space is very important (having lived through the consequences of previous monopolies). But I can only assume that Microsoft was quietly telling some people about this in advance so that we would have time to mull it over, and avoid any knee-jerk reactions. The news was made public last week, so now that I’ve had quite a while to think about it, my considered reaction is …to be deflated and disappointed.

There’s just no sugar-coating this. I’m sure the decision makes sound business sense for Microsoft, but it’s not good for the health of the web.

Very soon, the vast majority of browsers will have an engine that’s either Blink or its cousin, WebKit. That may seem like good news for developers when it comes to testing, but trust me, it’s a sucky situation of innovation and agreement. Instead of a diverse browser ecosystem, we’re going to end up with incest and inbreeding.

There’s one shining exception though. Firefox. That browser was originally created to combat the seemingly unstoppable monopolistic power of Internet Explorer. Now that Microsoft are no longer in the rendering engine game, Firefox is once again the only thing standing in the way of a complete monopoly.

I’ve been using Firefox as my main browser for a while now, and I can heartily recommend it. You should try it (and maybe talk to your relatives about it at Christmas). At this point, which browser you use no longer feels like it’s just about personal choice—it feels part of something bigger; it’s about the shape of the web we want.

Jeffrey wrote that browser diversity starts with us:

The health of Firefox is critical now that Chromium will be the web’s de facto rendering engine.

Even if you love Chrome, adore Gmail, and live in Google Docs or Analytics, no single company, let alone a user-tracking advertising giant, should control the internet.

Andy Bell also writes about browser diversity:

I’ll say it bluntly: we must support Firefox. We can’t, as a community allow this browser engine monopoly. We must use Firefox as our main dev browsers; we must encourage our friends and families to use it, too.

Yes, it’s not perfect, nor are Mozilla, but we can help them to develop and grow by using Firefox and reporting issues that we find. If we just use and build for Chromium, which is looking likely (cough Internet Explorer monopoly cough), then Firefox will fall away and we will then have just one major engine left. I don’t ever want to see that.

Uncle Dave says:

If the idea of a Google-driven Web is of concern to you, then I’d encourage you to use Firefox. And don’t be a passive consumer; blog, tweet, and speak about its killer features. I’ll start: Firefox’s CSS Grid, Flexbox, and Variable Font tools are the best in the business.

Mozilla themselves came out all guns blazing when they said Goodbye, EdgeHTML:

Microsoft is officially giving up on an independent shared platform for the internet. By adopting Chromium, Microsoft hands over control of even more of online life to Google.

Tim describes the situation as risking a homogeneous web:

I don’t think Microsoft using Chromium is the end of the world, but it is another step down a slippery slope. It’s one more way of bolstering the influence Google currently has on the web.

We need Google to keep pushing the web forward. But it’s critical that we have other voices, with different viewpoints, to maintain some sense of balance. Monocultures don’t benefit anyone.

Andre Alves Garzia writes that while we Blink, we lose the web:

Losing engines is like losing languages. People may wish that everyone spoke the same language, they may claim it leads to easier understanding, but what people fail to consider is that this leads to losing all the culture and way of thought that that language produced. If you are a Web developer smiling and happy that Microsoft might be adopting Chrome, and this will make your work easier because it will be one less browser to test, don’t be! You’re trading convenience for diversity.

I like that analogy with language death. If you prefer biological analogies, it’s worth revisiting this fantastic post by Rachel back in August—before any of us knew about Microsoft’s decision—all about the ecological impact of browser diversity:

Let me be clear: an Internet that runs only on Chrome’s engine, Blink, and its offspring, is not the paradise we like to imagine it to be.

That post is a great history lesson, documenting how things can change, and how decisions can have far-reaching unintended consequences.

So these are the three browser engines we have: WebKit/Blink, Gecko, and EdgeHTML. We are unlikely to get any brand new bloodlines in the foreseeable future. This is it.

If we lose one of those browser engines, we lose its lineage, every permutation of that engine that would follow, and the unique takes on the Web it could allow for.

And it’s not likely to be replaced.

Saturday, December 15th, 2018

Friday, December 14th, 2018

Thursday, December 13th, 2018

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

Is Tech Too Easy to Use? - The New York Times

Seams!

Of all the buzzwords in tech, perhaps none has been deployed with as much philosophical conviction as “frictionless.” Over the past decade or so, eliminating “friction” — the name given to any quality that makes a product more difficult or time-consuming to use — has become an obsession of the tech industry, accepted as gospel by many of the world’s largest companies.

Monday, December 10th, 2018

Sunday, December 9th, 2018

Saturday, December 8th, 2018

Friday, December 7th, 2018

Browser diversity starts with us. | Zeldman on Web & Interaction Design

Hear, hear!

When one company decides which ideas are worth supporting and which aren’t, which access problems matter and which don’t, it stifles innovation, crushes competition, and opens the door to excluding people from digital experiences.

So how do we fight this? We, who are not powerful? We do it by doubling down on cross-browser testing. By baking it into the requirements on every project, large or small. By making sure our colleagues, bosses, and clients know what we’re doing and why.