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Wither Web Standards? (The Adobe and Microsoft Threat)

The Web was created to become (and remain) a fully transparent framework that is built using open components. There were some threats in the past to its openness, namely 'objectification' in HTML (embedded media players, Shockwave, etc.) and disobedient companies that 'extended' things in a variety of undocumented ways (e.g. ActiveX, IE-specific/Office-esque 'HTML').

Back in December, not so long after the anti-Ogg fiasco, we said we would significantly reduce the use of YouTube (Flash) for videos, but this promise has been hard to keep as ripping tools (YouTube -> Ogg) continued to break. Where does that leave us all?

We have explained before why Microsoft's Silverfish [sic] is more harmful than Flash, but all in all, both are harmful. Mozilla too is now warning about them. [thanks to an anonymous reader for the headsup]

ZDNet.co.uk is reporting that at the Internet World Conference in London, Nitot warned that companies like Adobe and Microsoft might have an agenda with their Flash and Silverlight technologies. Even though at the moment these technologies are free to download, this might change in the future. "But maybe they have an agenda," Nitot said, "they're not here for the glory; they're here for the money." He also warns for the dangers of these companies withholding products from certain markets. As examples, he mentions Internet Explorer for the Mac/UNIX, and Adobe's refusal to provide up-to-date binaries of Flash.


The reader who E-mailed this to us called it "decomodization [sic] of web standards." This isn't the first time that Mozilla talks about this serious issue publicly [1, 2]. The significance here is rather high especially if you consider the role of the Web browser, which many continue to consider the 'new O/S', at least in the sense of its presence and role (not the technical sense).

While the current generation of browsers and SAAS applications offers plenty of choice but some security concerns, the next generation could turn this on its head, providing greater security but less choice. That's because we are quickly moving to a type of Web application that will no longer be delivered to a general-purpose Web browser but will instead be deployed to something dedicated to that specific SAAS application.

This is the world of single-site browsers and rich Internet applications.

In this world, users don't open a Web browser and then use a bookmark or link to access their important Web applications. Instead, these Web applications are installed and deployed almost as if they were desktop applications. Users launch them from their Start menu or desktop, and the SAAS application runs in its own single-purpose browser window.


Recent articles of relevance include:



So, as you can probably see, Web-based applications are not going away any time soon. The question to ask is, how will they be built? Will they be based on open standards? Open source code maybe? Or will there be proprietary blocks controlled by a single company (semi- or seamlessly-integrated a la WPF)? It is no secret that Ajax is seen as a competitor to Adobe and Microsoft, for example. As such, the news about Sony mixing Java and Flash is not too encouraging.

Sony Ericsson is planning to offer developers the opportunity to embed Flash Lite applications inside J2ME midlets, in the hope that two mobile phone application platforms will prove better than one.


Flash, however, is not the greatest issue at hand, especially when combined with GPL-bound programming.

Remember the Library of Congress and the plan to push aside Web standards? Microsoft, unlike Adobe, has more reasons to do it because it can stifle online competition (notably Google) and platform competition in this way. The other day we mentioned the poor reporting from Ina fried, who uses very deceiving headlines to promote Microsoft in a fanboyish fashion. It completely ruins CNET, rendering its credibility almost worthless (and worse than it has ever been).

In the same vein, we have received the following thoughts from a different knowledgeable reader: "I'm seeing some fresh activity from old astroturfer accounts. The volume is prodigious compared to weeks or months back. The style has changed, suggesting new staff behind the accounts and the 'quality' of the trolls has improved. It's still bad but better put together than before.

“Microsoft literally paid a government department millions of dollars to abandon Web standards and exclude Microsoft's competitors.”"If I were to take a wild guess I would think that it is to draw attention away from several other things like attacking KDE 4 from the inside, spreading silverfish infestations, and touring the governments again in prep for the summer.

"Looks like a lot of illegal or at least questionable deals are going on to get silverfish infestations in as many places as possible"

Look back at the Library of Congress story, which we have already mentioned in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. Microsoft literally paid a government department millions of dollars to abandon Web standards and exclude Microsoft's competitors.

Another reader points out that "refusing OGG/Vorbis/Theora as HTML5 standard was a real shame. (Thank you for nothing, Nokia)." Remember that the guy from Nokia who was partly responsible for this is actually a former Microsoft employee.

"And yet another demonstration that software/business models/pure idea patents are a really bad idea," concludes this reader.

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