Category Archives: Technology

SXSW 2011 and Browser Wars IV

On March 15 2011 the browser wars panel is back in Austin again, and I’m back again as moderator. We took a year off last year, but this year I’m headed to Texas with renewed gusto to once again pit representatives from Mozilla’s Firefox browser (Brendan Eich, inventor of JavaScript and Mozilla’s CTO), Google’s Chrome browser (Alex Russell, behind Dojo and Chrome Frame), Microsoft’s IE (John Hrvatin, lead Program Manager of IE), and Opera (Lars Erik Bolstad, Head of Engineering, Opera Software) together to talk about their web browser projects, HTML5, and about the new wave of competition.

Once again, it’s a contentious time for a web platform discussion (which is what has made moderating this panel fun, really). Firstly, there’s the small question of whether web browsers themselves are no longer the juiciest part of the newest new technology and media landscape. The nice folks at Wired Magazine think the web’s kind of done (as in, dead), since everyone’s using apps on iPhones and happily signing in to closed systems now (they mention HTML5 in passing twice).

But then again, for the past two years, HTML5 has been the dubious all-inclusive catch phrase for all that’s new on the web and in mobile, and has found itself at the fore of various axes that corporations have to grind against each other. But catch phrases easily lend themselves to obfuscation, and sometimes companies have to be told off for all the nuance that’s lost through their misguided HTML5 advocacy. Even the W3C got into the act, first sanctioning the all-inclusive catch phrase and then recanting in favor of nuance.

Let’s cut to the chase: how fast can we evolve the web really, what’s with app stores, HTML5 video, and where are the painful spots with disagreements when we collectively craft standards on behalf of developers? As always, audience participation is a huge part of the discussion, so come with burning questions and pressing curiosity. March 15, 2011.

Tantek Çelik Working With Mozilla

When we tell the story of how the web is advanced, we encounter a lot of personalities — passionate advocates of the open web, who have been doing needle-moving things since the fractious era of the (first) browser wars. Tantek Çelik is one such personality, and I’m pleased to say that he’s going to be working with Mozilla as a consultant for a few months to help us out with important projects in the CSS and identity space. Both are his sweet spots. Long-time Mac users will recall with fondness IE 5 for Mac, which Tantek was responsible for. At the time, it pushed the CSS envelope even further than IE on Windows did (making Tantek our favorite renegade Microsoft engineer). He’s also the progenitor of the CSS Box Model Hack, former CTO of Technorati, as well as one of the forces behind

Tantek and I first met as competitors in 2002 at an event called Meet the Makers (organized by Jason Calacanis and Brian Alvey), where he was the IE guy and I was the Netscape guy. Along with Doug Bowman (who had just redesigned the Wired news site with pure CSS), we were on a panel at that event discussing web standards with a bunch of web developers. And while at that time we each worked for organizations whose fierce competition characterized the early evolution of the web (*sigh with Netscape moving from underdog to extinction), I was struck by how motivated Tantek was to get standards right.

It is remarkable what the passage of time can do. Not only are we furthering common goals for the betterment of the web, as we have in the past, but now we’re both working in various capacities for Mozilla. Tantek will help us out with the CSS3 Flex Box Model, figuring out what the right thing to do with respect to stylable HTML5 form controls are, and help us with fundamental questions of identity and the open social web in connection with the account manager initiative in Firefox.

Update 1: here’s a bit on C|Net about Mozilla working with Tantek.

Update 2: here’s a Belorussian translation of this blog post.

No Browser Wars in Austin

This year, I’m not moderating the Browser Wars Panel at SxSW. I did it for three years in a row, and maybe three time’s a charm. It got written up by PC Magazine each time, and that felt great. The truth is, I can no longer be unbiased (I work for Mozilla on Firefox now). What’s even more true is that I’m so occupied with standards-body issues that I’m concerned I no longer have my ear right on the pulse of what web developers want. Last year, Jeremy provoked a riot when he “threw some shit at the fan” (his words) about font formats. Me, I largely kept the peace, but couldn’t resist a little school-boyish bullying of Chris Wilson (then still the IE guy) about a few things, and I also got accused of going easy on Darin, the Google guy.

What makes a compelling story for me is the browser peace, though. The web as a platform (“The Web Platform”) wins through consensus about standardization. I blogged recently about standards in the device era. What I didn’t touch on is whether patents will thwart the attempt to build out the promise of a seamlessly interoperable web. I’m not moderating a discussion dubbed “Browser Wars” this year, but I’ll leave last year’s attendees (as proxies for their browser companies) some fly-by notes:

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Bangalore DevDay

These are excerpted from my notes each night while traveling through India on Mozilla work.

February 28, 2010

We’re in Bangalore. I’m excited to have sethb and ragavan hang with me in my home town, meet some of my friends, and generally get some exposure to the city where my parents live.

We got a chance to visit a Bollywood studio in Mumbai, actually had a celebrity sighting or two, and met some amazing people. But the Mozilla DevDay we are organizing in Bangalore is really the main part of our trip. We’ve “co-organized” the event with Mahiti, an open-source non-profit based in Bangalore, and the Centre for Internet Society. We bought plenty of schwag: t-shirts, wrist bands, posters, and even a few Firefox plushies. We’re expecting over 200 people (at least!) at the National Institute of Advanced Studies campus, where the event is held.

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Pune and Mumbai

Excerpted from my nightly notes as I traveled through India on Mozilla work. This part covers our voyage to Pune and Mumbai.

February 21

The guy working at the bakery knows where it is, or so he says. He gesticulates emphatically, pointing to the alley behind the neon INRI above the cross, which serves as an illuminating reminder that we’re in a big Roman Catholic neighborhood. I’ve been leading sethb and pike on a tour of Mumbai’s narrow winding lanes, all to further the discourse about the Open Web. We’re in Chuim Village on a Sunday night, after having left GNUnify 2010 in Pune. We’re on our way to the offices and are following Sanjay Bhangar’s detailed directions. We’re here to talk to some of the Mozilla Mumbai community about HTML5, video, and emerging web technologies, and to ingest beer and delicious biriyani. We find out that Jan Gerber (who wrote Firefogg) and Sebastian Luetgert are in Mumbai as well, representing the impressive movie database and working with It promises to be a very interesting evening, if we can actually find the place.

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