HTML Rendering Unification
1 October 2007 in Business | Comments enabled

I’ve been thinking about this for a while – why doesn’t an organisation such as the W3C undertake the development of an HTML rendering engine that can be used by all browser makers? Ignore that they may not have developers or money for a moment.

It strikes me that one of the bigger slow downs in web application development is trying to deliver for multiple browsers that supposedly support all the same standards. There is very very little benefit to any one browser being ahead of the pack in terms of standards support because developers still need to build for all browsers and their employers need to pay for that (read: zero competitive advantage in building the most advanced rendering engine).

If browser makers focused more on the chrome and value-add features I’m sure we should see some terrific innovation in browsers. Feature additions to a renderer, outside the standards support, only serves to splinter said standards.

The same could be extended to elements of that browser, e.g. the javascript engine.

John
believes this would be the worst case scenario – there would be no innovation of the underlying engine. My argument is that standards move slowly and, despite their being 5 major browser makers I can think of, innovation of the renderer is somewhat slow anyway. Perhaps because there is no major competitive advantage for supporting new standards when nobody else supports them yet?

All very pie in the sky but sometimes it is worth pondering the theoretical.

John-Daniel


4 comments. Add your own comment.

John Rusk says 1 October 2007 @ 19:10

JD,

Have you read Eric Sink’s story on his experiences (http://www.ericsink.com/Browser_Wars.html )?

He worked for a company which sold the “guts” of a browser:

“Instead of selling a browser to end users we developed core technology and sold it to corporations who in turn provided it to their end users. We considered ourselves to be the arms dealer for the browser wars. Over 120 companies licensed [our product]”

The trouble was, one of those companies was Microsoft:

“We sold our browser technology to 120 companies, but one of them slaughtered the other 119″

Sad, but still an interesting story.

John-Daniel Trask says 1 October 2007 @ 19:20

Ah yes, I forgot about Spyglass back in the day – cheers for the reminder John.

My view is that the core renderer would not allowed to be modified which clearly was not the case with spyglass.

– JD

Johnny-johnny says 1 October 2007 @ 20:35

Hey JD, It sounds like we just have different perspectives…

Your assertion that “There is very very little benefit to any one browser being ahead of the pack” is almost EXACTLY the same argument I would use against browser communism.

If we all had to use the same rendering engine then there would be no chance of innovation. Look what happened when IE6 became so dominant, Microsoft actually dismantled the IE development team. Fast forward a few years and you have a Mozilla Foundation slowly eating into your lead and out-innovating. Then Microsoft were then forced to rebuild that team and work on a new version.

Another side effect from browser communism would be that *all* websites would be effectively held ransom by whichever group developed the engine. Scary. It should be the other way around.

I think if we look more closely at the Mozilla Foundation you might be looking at your near ideal scenario. There IS “terrific innovation” here, troll through the different projects that are being worked on… The W3C and their Standards are driving the development of the rendering engine. And there are masses of groups and people who are working on those “value-add features”. I can’t live (or do my job well) without my Firefox Add-ons!

IMHO a free (and voluntary) market is far better at meeting the needs of users than some commie/socialist alternative.

P.S. I’ve tried hard not to argue about the impossibility of your theory ever happening from a purely logistical/detail point of view… If you could get all people to agree on following this path your talents are wasted online… head to the Middle East and solve all their problems instead.

Matthew Cruickshank says 2 October 2007 @ 09:30

The W3C tried to make their own reference implementation of web standards. The result was Amaya… a freakishly awkward and easily confused creature that forgot text and images while making the bizarre assumption that every page was editable.

The “why don’t we stop the fussin’ and feudin’ and work together” is a great way to mine salt but it doesn’t tend to result in good software. The rare examples of success tend to be in stagnant infrastructure software, rather than bleeding-edge browser development that’s still challenged with integrating E4X/SVG/HTML5/APNG/Python/Ruby/et al.

I imagine that a 3rd party would write their own browser anyway and hold people into their idea of the web with proprietary tags. Or they just wouldn’t call it a browser, they’d call it Silverlight, and we’d have consistency with an entirely different problem.

Leave a Comment

Name (required)

E-mail (required - not published)

Website

Your comment: