Categories
Computers

Chrome Privacy

New changes to the way Google’s flagship application, Chrome, make it easier to stay on top of what Google is getting, and what you may be revealing to third-party sites. Another feature to be ignored by the masses, and questioned by people who still don’t trust them.

While, on their face, these changes make Google Chrome a little closer to other browsers in the privacy aspect. It still doesn’t feel like a genuine attempt at helping the user. It just so happens that keeping others away from their users, while still giving them privileged access to their data is something that dove-tails with their goals, for the moment. Still, they’re trying something Firefox and Safari take very seriously. Who knows where this will end up.

The Ecosystem of Google

Within Google’s sphere of influence, there is a lot to like for your average user:

  • Single sign on to lots of different first and third-party applications, like Docs, Drive, Gmail, GSuite and more
  • High quality web-based applications
  • User account data sync when you use Chrome or a Chromebook including passwords, extensions, preferences, wallets, subscriptions, etc.
  • Integration with your Android Smartphone
  • And much more

I won’t say that I haven’t been tempted to jump ship and join up with Google. I have an older Chromebook, and when I was signing into Google services, it was amazing. I could blow the thing away, and be back up in short order, everything back in place. If I weren’t so enamored with Linux and the Libre software movement, I can easily imagine me being either a hardcore Apple user or a hardcore Google user.

By and large, Google has ‘won’ this generation of smartphone, browser, search and advertising systems. The literal billions of users tied into those systems is no small feat. Even organizations like Mozilla and Microsoft often have to bend slightly to accommodate Google’s whims. This is a really weird time.

While no man lives forever, the same can be said about Google. They’re constantly killing services that don’t provide enough user telemetry or subscribers. Often, it feels like a gamble to use any one of their services because it’s just as likely to be killed a few months down the road. Other than their bread and butter, it’s a hard sell to build a business off of anything Google does.

Shiny Chromium

It’s hard to say that Chrome is a bad browser. The architecture, based on Apple’s WebKit (which, itself, was begot by KDE’s KHTML engine), and is screaming fast, well integrated on most platforms and can be used without the same UI. A feat that Mozilla has only weakly attempted in the past. The support for web standards (driven by a cabal of browser makers, such as it is) is pretty top notch.

The biggest problem with being such an 800lbs gorilla is that everyone starts to ape you. Sites target Chrome-features only, or support only Chrome are becoming more commonplace. A chilling throwback to the days of IE vs Netscape Navigator. The old beast has been felled, long live the new beast?

As I mentioned before, even titans like Microsoft bend to Google on occasion. In an attempt to hang on to browser users and tie them into their own ecosystem, Microsoft released Edge with the launch of Windows 10. A new browser, better, different and faster than their absolutely decrepit Internet Explorer (which still sees regular use in enterprise…). Try as they might, they could not edge out this competitor like they did to Netscape before. In this new Microsoft, they’ve adopted Chrome’s “Blink” engine and rebranded it as the new Edge. Same as Chrome, but different packaging.

History makes ready to repeat itself. What are we willing to do to make it fair, open and available to all? Firefox used to be all the rage, can we make it that way, again?

Categories
Computers Rants

Google The Conqueror

The open web is dying. Corporations are moving, almost silently, across the landscape, tweaking pieces here and there, closing doors and setting up walls. Chief among them is Google. The once proud standard-bearer of openness and standards, now a hunched, twisted reflection of itself. “Don’t be Evil”, it’s one-time motto, now a mocking phrase with a Wikipedia-esque “[Citation Needed]” attached to it.

Google has, by and large, won. The vast majority of browsers run some version of it’s Blink engine. Even that is an almost prophetic echo back to when they forked the WebKit engine from Apple; breaking compatibility. Now they forge forward, ignoring standards, intentionally breaking or slowing competitors down in whatever way is most effective while also giving them sufficient cover.

They publish new formats and standards, like WebM/WebP and SPDY in the name of speed and efficiency, when in reality they’re just looking to push the discourse of the web deeper into their own territory, where they can control more aspects. They offer free tools, like Public DNS to beleaguered Internet users trying to escape out of the, somehow even worse, ISP experience. CDNs to developers and website operators promising faster user access and lower bandwidth bills for the small price of adding further tracking methods to their already frighteningly powerful panopticon of surveillance tools.

People eat it up, too. Free email, office, calendars, contacts, voice chat, search and a whole raft of other services? All I need to do is sign up and agree to let you paw through everything I do? It sounds too good to be true! Tie it all in with your cheap smartphone and ChromeBook, also powered by their tools, and suddenly you’re enjoying the connected life with all of this sweet stuff. All it cost you was your privacy. Haven’t you heard, though? Privacy is dead. Besides, I’ve got nothing to hide…

Categories
Computers Rants

Browse Bugs Bite

I don’t know when it first started.  All I know is that every time I load a browser, I’m compelled to whine about something.

I’m not a programmer by any standard.  I’m not even all that good at scripting.  I just know that when a browser like Safari comes along with it’s nice integrated look and smooth widgets, I feel bad when I load up Firefox, a program built by a team of developers several orders of magnitude larger than Apple’s, I often wonder why such a basic feature is missing.

Don’t get me wrong, the current UI elements (buttons, drop-downs, text-fields, check-boxes, etc) look worlds better than their Windows-esque counterparts.  However, there is something fundamentally irritating about widgets that look like native widgets, but behave in a manner all their own.

Maybe I’m just spoiled by using a browser that was designed to use the system widgets, whereas Firefox has the prickly proposition of having to cater to no less than 3 major platforms.  All with different ways of doing things.  I mean, I know the Safari guys aren’t even going to bother trying to use native widgets on the Windows build (though, they are getting native text rendering).

I mean, does this look good to anybody?  Especially when you have widgets that look like they belong.

Sometimes I don’t even have to do anything out of the ordinary.