Why Google Chrome Will Make the Web Worse Than Television

I know very few people who still watch television.

Television is boring, pointless and hopelessly outdated. For some reason millions of people still watch it, but it’s a matter of time until the whole industry will crumble like the governments of the USSR and Libya did, and we shall wonder why did it take so long. It will be painful to some people who make their living from it, but it will happen.

The future of entertainment and broadcasting is shaping now, and the direction is not bad. With each version of the modern web browsers – Firefox, Chrome and Opera – embedding video into pages is getting easier and works better. Users are forced less and less to install proprietary and unstable plugins. Flash is becoming a thing of the past, with YouTube working without it just as well. Diverse people create excellent music and films in their homes and they are able to publish it instantly. Business models for getting people to pay for DRM-free video and music are improving, too, for everybody’s benefit.

For some reason, however, Google and Microsoft aren’t happy about these perfectly sensible developments. They are proposing to add DRM – Digital Restriction Management – to the HTML standard. This weird document says that “No ‘DRM’ is added to the HTML5 specification“, but a document that speaks about encrypting and “protecting” content is a document about DRM. This is not “protection”, but restriction, and it is defective by design.

Preventing the copying of music and video files is not actually important to Google or to the media production companies. They will find ways to charge money for music and video. They rather want to know who is listening to what, to know what to produce and to whom to sell it. Google is essentially an advertising company, and an advertising company’s biggest asset is demographic data about people’s tastes and customs.

This is a grave privacy concern, of course, but there are enough privacy geeks to write about that. I’m not much of a privacy geek; what i really care about for this matter is the future of culture. Culture has to be interesting, vibrant and constantly innovative. When advertisers and media providers know the tastes of the “consumers” too well, culture tends to repeat itself and become very bad. Much like television in the last few years.

It is highly unlikely that the W3C will accept this proposal and make it standard. W3C dislikes DRM to begin with, Mozilla representatives in the W3C will definitely oppose to it, and even Google’s own W3C representative isn’t enthusiastic about it. Nevertheless, it’s easy to imagine that Google will implement this proposal in Chrome, and Microsoft will implement it in Internet Explorer. Then they will set up several websites with “partners” who will provide “content” that cannot be played without this DRM scheme, and this will pull more people into using these browsers and lock them into a nightmare of pointless, recycled, creativity-stifling entertainment.

I am a Mozillian. You may think that this means that i want Firefox’s market share to be 100%. That is not what i want. I love the web and i want it to be great for all people, no matter which browser they use. Building Digital Restriction Management into browsers will make the web, and the whole culture around it, bad and boring.

Don’t let that happen to the web. If you care about culture and arts, use Firefox – a browser that is committed to openness and not to advertising revenue.


Mozilla at the Israel Internet Society Conference 2012

On Tuesday i attended the Israel Internet Society Conference 2012.

I spent most of my time at the Mozilla Israel booth – giving away buttons and stickers, and, more importantly, telling many people about Mozilla’s mission and about the importance of the open web. Our booth was one of the most popular attractions in the event’s hallways. (This is the right place to say a big Thank You to the Mozilla Creative Collective for designing the wonderful posters, buttons and all the other eye-catching stuff. You give Mozilla’s great principles and projects the beautiful and fun look that they deserve.)

Standing like that and telling person after person that Mozilla is not a commercial company and that it’s concerned with far more important things than Firefox’s market share is very satisfying and sobering.

Right-to-left: Elad Alfassa, Amir Aharoni, Tomer Cohen
Right-to-left: Elad Alfassa, Amir Aharoni, Tomer Cohen. Mozilla Israel is an open community, which is friendly to other open projects, so in addition to Mozilla Firefox swag, Elad gave out Fedora CDs and i gave out Wikipedia stickers.

We tried to give special attention to Mozilla’s mobile projects – first and foremost, the rewritten version of the mobile Firefox for Android, which is not yet complete, but getting there; we also got some people to install a preview version (Aurora) of the mobile browser. I’m happy to see that there are quite a lot of open-minded people who are willing to try another interesting browser, even though it’s not completely polished it and even though the default kinda works. Some people who expressed interest in education were very also impressed when i showed them that the Mobile Firefox, though still not being release-quality, is able to render Hebrew poetry very well – something that the built-in Webkit browser is not able to do.

The famous poem "Only About Myself" by Rachel, rendered correctly in Mobile Firefox.
The famous poem "Only About Myself" by Rachel, rendered correctly in Mobile Firefox.
The same poem, rendered incorrectly by the Mobile Webkit browser. That's the one that's just called "Browser" or "Internet" on your phone.
The same poem, rendered incorrectly by the Mobile Webkit browser. That's the one that's just called "Browser" or "Internet" on your phone.

You see, you usually don’t need correct rendering of the special characters needed to display Hebrew poetry if you only use the web to write email and read news, but if you are a school student who wants to prepare the homework or a commuter who likes to read poetry on a train, you’ll be able to do it with Firefox, but not with Webkit (the Opera browser is broken in this regard, too). This is more than a small and unimportant feature that happens to work correctly; this is a demonstration of the fact that Mozilla developers think that it’s important to support all languages, all scripts and all standards – for all people.

And of course there were all those people who said “Why should I bother with Firefox if Chrome is faster?”. It was very pleasant to tell them that the claim that Chrome is faster is mostly a myth, (although it required some mental preparation), but we emphasized that Chrome, though it’s a nice open source project, is mostly developed by an advertising company, which has particular requirements and focuses on particular goals, while Firefox focuses on standards and users. (I’ll publish a post that explains why the claim that Google Chrome is faster is a myth very soon.)

Firefox Home, the app for synchronizing desktop Firefox with iPhone, was a hit, too, and a few people installed it on their iPhones right at the booth.

This was a very satisfying day.

Right-to-left: Elad Alfassa, Tomer Cohen and the special guest Simon Montagu - one of the wizards who make exotic Unicode fonts and right-to-left text work in Firefox
Right-to-left: Elad Alfassa, Tomer Cohen and the special guest Simon Montagu - one of the wizards who make exotic Unicode fonts and right-to-left text work in Firefox

Do you believe in Mozilla’s goal of open web, based on open standards and open to all people? Become a Mozilla Rep!

Eight Taking a Rest

I was reading Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people and then time.com asked me to fill out “a short online survey”.

I love filling out short online surveys. They usually have silly questions about the experience with the website – “Did you find the information you were looking for?”, “Was the information easy to find?”, “How often do you visit ourstupidsite.com?”, etc. The kind of questions that clueless marketing departments and web design studios live by. In the end i am usually presented with a field where i can add personal comments. I always add personal comments and get the warm fuzzy feeling that nobody will read them. I only received a reply to a personal comment once. Guess from which site (the answer is at the end of this post).

Well, i was wrong. This survey is not about time.com. It’s about the financial crisis:

  • Please write three brands of car brands, in particular luxury car brands. (I wrote Lexus, Lincoln and Mercedes. How do you know that this survey was written by an idiot? Any website style guide will tell you to use underlining only for links.)
  • Next time you are looking to lease or purchase a vehicle, how likely are you to consider each of the following luxury automotive brands? [ ] Infiniti [ ] BMW [ ] Mercedes Benz
  • Please indicate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about Infiniti:
    1. Makes vehicles with inspiring performance
    2. Makes vehicles people feel inspired by
    3. Makes vehicles with exhilarating performance
    4. Is inspired about the way they design and engineer their vehicles
    5. Is for people who enjoy doing their own thing
    6. Is a brand I aspire to own
    7. (Well, none of the above, but it inspired me to do my own thing and write this blog post, and i sure hope that it’s exhilarating!)
  • Which of the following websites have you visited in the last 4 weeks? Partial list: Amex.com, CNN.com, Food&Wine.com, MyRecipes.com, SI.com, SouthernAccents.com. (I totally had to visit SouthernAccents.com after i saw its URL, but was disappointed to find that it’s not a linguistics site. Plus, how do you know that this survey was written by an idiot, part II? Food&Wine.com cannot be a URL.)

And, damn it, they didn’t have a field in which i could put a personal comment in the end. This puts them at the bad end on the scale of websites that care about their visitors. On the good end there is scientology.com – the only website that ever sent me a reply to my personal comment at the end of a “short online survey”. What’s even stranger is that they didn’t offer me to take a personality test. They just said: “Thank you for your comments, they were very well-received!”. And i had a feeling that it was written by a human being. That was scary thought number 1.

Scary thought number 2: A degree in Sociology was probably required to get a job writing these surveys.

A friend of mine told me that he came from a small-town Yemenite family. “They didn’t teach us a lot in the school there,” he said, “the math teacher, for example, called the infinity symbol ‘Eight Taking a Rest'”.


Toshiba website. To fulfill your identification, please enter your gene sequence (with control digit).
Toshiba website. To fulfill your identification, please enter your gene sequence (with control digit).

Hadar bought a Toshiba laptop a year ago. Approximately. I don’t know exactly when. Why would i want to know such a useless thing? For warranty? Thank God, no. The laptop works, although Windows Vista makes it work about 20 times slower than it is supposed to, which doesn’t stop Toshiba from recommending it.

No, i am supposed to want to know the date that i purchased this laptop in order to log in to the Toshiba website. Why would i want to log in to the Toshiba website? That i don’t know, actually, but they sent me an email asking me to renew my membership, and i’m nice, so i usually do things that people ask from me if i don’t have to bother too much.

So anyway, this website asks me for the user name. OK, i enter my usual amire80 and my usual password and it doesn’t work. So i enter my second option, amir_e_a, and it doesn’t work. So i enter my email amir.aharoni@gmail.com as the user name, which is actually a reasonable thing to use as a user name. But it doesn’t work.

So i looked at the email, where i saw the string amir.aharoni@gmail.com_IL somewhere. So i tried that as the user name and it didn’t work. I didn’t give up and entered it as the user name in the password reminder form. And it worked.

And then it asked me for the date when i purchased the laptop with that serial number (see the image).

How could it be stupider? I mean, this question is a bit less ridiculous than my mother’s last name, but how the fuck am i supposed to remember the exact date when i purchased? Do you actually expect me to dig up the receipt to find that date? Asking me for the serial number would be reasonable—i can look it up on the laptop itself. But the date?

And oh—does it mean that anyone can enter any email address, schlep an “_IL” (or “_US” or “_RU” or “_IQ”) at the end and find out whether that email’s owner has a Toshiba laptop, and its serial number, too? That’s a direct violation of their privacy policy.

Now, check out this part of their email. Read this slowly: “If you don’t activate your profile for our personalised website experience we will delete it after one month. That also means you will not receive any alerts anymore. We would like to make you aware that with this process you do not withdraw from your permission to allow Toshiba to contact you.”

What idiot wrote that? That same idiot that put “EMEA” on that website. “EMEA” means “Europe, Middle East and Africa”. It’s a term commonly used in marketing departments. It is supposed to be internal. I am a customer, Toshiba; i am not supposed to give a damn about how you run your marketing department.

And Ubuntu doesn’t work so well on that laptop, too. (Although when it does work, it works 20 times faster than Windows Vista.)

No more Toshiba laptops, then.

Reality – Which one’s Pink?

Pink Floyd - Sarit Hadad

There’s no business like show business.

Some salesman put Pink Floyd and Sarit Hadad on one banner, which advertises a DVD sale.

In Wikipedia there are articles in eight languages about Sarit Hadad. This seemed weird at first, but the reason for that is probably that she appeared in the Eurovision song contest. Reading about Hadad in German and Hungarian is very sobering, even though i don’t understand either of those languages.


People want to make money, which is why a lot of folks fail to understand how Free Software can be good for business. Richard M. Stallman works hard to explain why is it perfectly reasonable to make money out of Free Software, but still, a lot of people fail to grasp this idea.

Companies such as Red Hat, Sun and Zend invest a lot of money and effort into software which freely redistributable – both in the sense of Freedom and price. They make money from selling services with their brand (in the case of Sun it’s also hardware). So, for example, you can use CentOS, a product which is virtually identical to Red Hat Enterprise Linux, but with a different logo and a slightly different automatic updates mechanism and you don’t have to pay Red Hat a dime, and Red Hat doesn’t mind, because there are enough customers who willingly pay Red Hat for licenses and service contracts.

And it is perfectly fair. You know why?

Because of the “willingly” part. People can get the same product for nothing, but they buy a (pretty expensive) license anyway. It’s probably a matter of brand recognition, and that probably happens because in this business model marketing people need to work really hard. And they are probably great marketing people, too – it’s as close as it gets to “selling ice to Eskimos”.

Isn’t it great?