There’s an interesting discussion evolving on the WebKit developer’s mailing list that boils down to adding VBScript support to the project. Well, almost. It’s a discussion between two major contributor camps, Google and Apple, on the framework for integrating Google’s langue du jour: Dart.
To set the stage, no one on the list is arguing in bad faith. If you’d prefer the troll-baiting titillation of he said/she said threads, look elsewhere. Never the less, keep reading here and you’ll be rewarded with a pontifical comment or two.
There’s clearly self-interest in improving browser computing if your entire platform relies on the browser. For starters, you want a browser that won’t have ad-blocking on by default. And you’ll want to smooth out the wrinkles of something like a Do Not Track header.1,2 Sometimes, it’s even convenient to get other browsers, say Internet Explorer, to catch up on technology by plugging your own browser into them.3 (Never mind the implications of a browser in a browser.4,5) That brouhaha of 2009 enabled users to experience brave, new products with their Chrome/IE chimera — which in hindsight must have been necessary since the product was no longer around by the time IE caught up on HTML5.6
Words That Start With E
Now fill in the blank: Reinventing a technology is a great way to [ ____ ]
- Learn from sins of the past
- Remember history and not repeat it
- Forget history and repeat it
- “Embrace, extend, and extinguish” competing standards11
Even desultory readers should notice the biased presentation of choices: Three phrases of cliched meaninglessness and one possibly-too-subtle allusion to the dark times of an almost two decade-old past. It wasn’t until the late 90’s when a Rolling Stones‘ song first graced a t.v. commercial. Their song, “Start Me Up,” played over an ad (this is the dark times part) for Microsoft — the company that created the “embrace, extend, and extinguish” strategy to give Internet Explorer dominance in the browser market.
One great way to embrace and extend is to provide New! Cool! features that work great in one browser, but degrade or don’t exist in any other. A new scripting language is one way to do that, even if it’s as useful as VBDript. To be fair, plugins like Flash and Silverlight need to be pulled into this category. Java counts as cross-platform, but when was the last time you used a Java app in your browser? When was the last time a hacker did? (Hint: Probably more recently than you think.)12
Stepping outside of boundaries isn’t always bad. After all, a foundation of the modern web, the XMLHttpRequest object, arose from an IE-only extension.13 A detraction further compounded by requiring ActiveX. XHR’s adoption into the W3C standards was both acknowledgement of the feature’s widely recognized utility as well as the desire to make the feature equal among all browsers.
All You Need is <!doctype html>
Maybe everything doesn’t have to go into the browser. Yes, I can think of a few reasons why App stores (trademarked ones and not) equally threaten divergence and uncrossable platforms. But at least consider the app+device duo has a better security model than the browser. The browser’s model is mostly a Same Origin Policy affair, whereas you ostensibly have to approve and acknowledge certain behaviors for your sandboxed app.
The worst thing you can do is sign up to the WebKit developers list in order to spam it with flaming, troll-ridden diatribes for or against JavaDart. Let engineers more involved in the browser sausage making sort it out with their constructive conversation.