[blfs-support] Latest news in GNOME world

Aleksandar Kuktin akuktin at gmail.com
Sat Nov 17 14:26:14 PST 2012


Sorry for a late reply. Also, sorry for the long post.

>On Thu, 15 Nov 2012 08:49:06 -0500
>LM <lmemsm at gmail.com> wrote:

> However, if projects won't even bother with patches that don't meet
> their agenda,
> how could the software possibly be less buggy than a closed source
> project?  You
> have the same issue as in a closed source environment, only certain
> people can fix the source.

Exactly.

> Aleksandar Kuktin wrote:
> >Firefox is already a lost cause, although it never really was a real
> >hardcore
> > FOSS project, and certainly never was a browser made for Unix.
> 
> Am curious why Firefox is a lost cause and what possible alternatives
> there are.

For the most part, what follows is my opinion, sprinkled with some
facts.

To undestand why I believe Firefox is a lost cause, I must first
explain what I thought of it before, as well as recap the economics of
Firefox development and marketing (yes, there is a marketing).

Before, I thought of Firefox as a "good thing". This was a carryover
from my days of using Windows, back when there were only Internet
Explorer and Firefox. But, as time went on, and Web 2.0 as they call it
took hold, I began to notice that Firefox was not, in fact, the lean,
mean machine I thought it to be. It was large, arcane and most of all,
had an abnormal number of bells and wistles, some of them (like
geolocation, persistent cookies and such) downright bad, in my opinion.

Then, as if that was not enough, the Mozilla foundation had developed
the idea of remorselessly adding more and more features to the browser,
a good portion of them, in my opinion, either bad or just fluff. It was
at this moment that I abandoned Firefox and started using different
browsers (WebKit based).

Since that time, Mozilla foundation went full in and is now releasing a
new major version every few months (every six months, if I remember).
If I understood their stance correctly, they will cease supporting all
previous versions upon releasing a new one. Which means that you, as a
user, have no choice but to follow the Foundation as it blazes a path
forward, regardless if that path leads to desirable results or
undesirable results. I find this oppressive.

On the other hand, I undestand where this is coming from. As I
understand, this is a systemic development, which emerges from the
competition of the browser vendors.

Now I have to explain how is Firefox in competition. It's simple,
really. Firefox, Thunderbird, Seamonkey and other Mozilla products are
(at least legally) produced by an organization, the Mozilla foundation.
While this Foundation is legally a non-profit, the fact of the matter
is that it still pays its employees. Which means it has some sort of
revenue or revenue-like cash flow. It does - it is financed through
donations. So the deal looks like this: Mozilla foundation makes (good)
software, gives it to users and users then donate money to the
Foundation with the implicit (or explicit) assumption that the
Foundation will make more or better software. Which is a problem
because at _some_point_, software reaches its maximum, its optimal
state, becomes as good as it can get, and you simply CAN NOT make it
better not matter how hard you try.

I am strongly inclining toward the option that web browsers, as a
whole, have reached that point several years back and all the
development since then has been a net liability.

So that is the core of my argument that Firefox is a lost cause: it is
pursuing a goal which is too close to its hands with way too much zeal
and looking the wrong way.

Actually, this can be a good argument for any and all web browsers
today. I have chills running down my spine every time I think of
WebKit. Have you seen the turnover in their source code repository?
It's astronomical. I am willing to bet that WebKit developers, on
average, rewrite WebKit from scratch once a year. Eternal beta. NO WAY
all that code is production-good. And exploit-free, the World has not
quite got to that point that browser security is a matter of the same
consideration as car safety, but we are very close, the only thing that
is needed now are a few casualities.

I think the best thing Mozilla foundation can do, regarding the
software is to stop developing it and just maintain it. But this will
never happen because all those programmers, social experts, managers
and what not have to eat something. An impasse of sorts.

And the final nail in the coffin for Firefox and me was the realization
that Firefox is actually NOT a *nix browser but that it always was and
always will be a Windows browser, first and foremost, with other
platforms added on just so they can be there. For show, if you will.

This realization gets really clear and logical if you think back to
where did Firefox ultimately come from. Recall - in the ninetees, the
two big boys were Microsoft with its Internet Explorer and Netscape
with its Netscape Navigator. The Browser Wars were fought (in a similar
way browsers fight now - by adding more features then users can digest)
and Internet Explorer came out on top. Netscape went belly up and one
of their final acts was to release the source code for Navigator. The
more-features-that-you-need, one-size-fits-all, Windows browser.
Navigator was then relabeled Mozilla and later Firefox. So,
evolutionarily speaking, Firefox is the evolved Netscape Navigator. In
fact, I think that until recently, Mozilla foundation licensed Netscape
Navigator to interested parties. This Navigator was basically Seamonkey
that was not called Seamonkey and had a big N in a compass plastered on
it.

The fact that Firefox is a Windows browser before it is a *nix browser
will critically affect, in my opinion, the way Foundation develops it
and what it lets happen to it. And I simply don't trust them to do the
"right things" to it, racist as that mistrust may be.

> I'm not really thrilled with Chrome/Chromium at this point.

Me neither.

As for the alternatives, there is really little in the way of solutions
or actionable advice that I can offer. There are a number of browser
engines out there, but I know of only three that support Javascript -
Trident, Gecko and Webkit. Trident is automatically off the table due
to not being free-as-in-freedom, Webkit is an eternal beta and Firefox
is really the only browser that uses Gecko (though there is
Kazehakaze, but I have not built it - it requires DBUS and I don't
want DBUS on my system). Though beans.

But if you don't need Javascript (ha-ha-ha, but lets entertain the
possibility), then you do have some other options. First, there is Dillo
which appears to be well-supported, then... well, Links, a text browser,
can be coerced to display pictures, and w3m (if that is its name) does
the same by default. So, you know...

Regarding Webkit, there is a number of web browsers, both established
and not, that use it. For Linux, in no particular order: Chromium,
Midori, Arora, Uzbl and several others. Chromium you know. Midori is
similar in look and feel to the Mozilla browser of 2000 but fast as
lightning. It is also under active development and gets perturbed and
placed upside-down regularly. Arora is a still-in-stalled-development
browser which is rather slow and feature-poor. Not sure, bit I think
its repository has not been updated in years. Uzbl is an attempt to make
a browser adhering to the UNIX philosophy of "do one thing and do it
well". I haven't tried it, but from what I have seen, it has
practically NO user interface to speak of, and requires you to
construct a script framework for it to be, you know, uzbl^H^H^H^H^H
usable.

-- 
   Fourth law of programming:
   Anything that can go wrong wi
sendmail: segmentation violation - core dumped



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