Without any apparent irony, Google marks Chrome's 'small' role in web ecosystem

Chrome Dev Summit also brings resolution of tabs vs. spaces fight, for now


At the Chrome Developer Summit on Monday, Google finally settled the tabs vs. spaces debate and celebrated web community diversity, now at risk of becoming a monoculture thanks to Chrome's market dominance.

"Chrome is here today, and every day, to show up as one small member of this much, much bigger community," said Anil Sabharwal, VP at Google during the keynote presentation.

Sabharwal showed a slide with 21 different browsers as if they were all equal players in this community. But Chrome's presence dwarfs the competition.

Google's web browser has 65 per cent market share worldwide, according to Stat Counter. That's enough to set the web tech agenda, something that a few attendees approached at random said concerned them, even as they confessed to liking Chrome and using it.

Less-popular browsers like Firefox and Safari can still influence the ecosystem, but their minority presence puts them at risk of being ignored by web devs.

A poll conducted among attendees to resolve the heated tabs vs. spaces debate illustrated the situation. Audience members were pointed toward the website bigwebquiz.com where, using their (mostly) mobile devices, they could vote on whether tabs or spaces provide a better mechanism for source code indentation.

As the votes were being tallied, an attendee in the audience shouted out, "It doesn't work in Firefox." And later, Google developer advocate Jake Archibald, was brought back on stage for a light-hearted scolding in which he confessed that he hadn't tested the page in Safari. Doubtless many others in the audience have done the same.

For those interested in the poll, spaces won with 51 per cent of the vote. It's unclear whether votes from excluded browsers might have swayed the outcome.

Much of the morning went to recapping recent technological changes in Chrome and revisiting how Chrome deals with the consistent concerns of web developers: making the web faster, easier to use, more accessible, more secure, and more private – provided your definition of privacy leaves space for advertisers and data collection.

Speedshaming

Perhaps the more significant news to come out of the event is that Google is exploring shaming developers of slow loading websites with a loading badge that calls out their bloated code while it crawls to the screen.

"In the future, Chrome may identify sites that typically load fast or slow for users with clear badging," said Chrome engineers Addy Osmani, Ben Greenstein and Bryan McQuade in a blog post. "...Badging is intended to identify when sites are authored in a way that makes them slow generally, looking at historical load latencies."

There's no timeline for when this might be implemented and the final form of the speed signaling could still change. Google thoughtfully offers various speed measurement and optimization tools to help developers craft more responsive websites.

A new addition to Google's speed toolkit includes Lighthouse CI, which allows developers to automate their website performance testing routine.

Some APIs discussed at Google I/O earlier this year have made their way into Chrome, where they can be tested, including Portals – imagine iframes with navigation features – and Web Bundles – a way to turn websites into shareable files that work offline. Two other APIs, Background Periodic Sync and Content Indexing, intended for making content available when connections are spotty, have entered into origin trials.

Dion Almaer, director of engineering, said Google has developed two new metrics for measuring site performance: Largest Contentful Paint, the time until the largest page element become visible, and Cumulative Layout Shift, the degree to which content has shifted on-screen.

And the Web Almanac, an educational resource for web tech, got seventeen chapters about various web-related topics.

Security and privacy

Emily Stark, a Chrome security engineer, explained and defended Chrome security decisions, delving into how Chrome's look-alike site warning works, justifying how the browser handles URL visibility and explaining Google's decision to move Extended Validation Certification signaling to the Page Info popup.

Michael Kleber, a Google software engineer, went further still with a full-throated defense of Google's ad ecosystem. At a time when third-party cookies are being blocked by default in Firefox and Safari, Kleber insisted third-parties are great.

Dart board

Google throws new version of Dart at the desktop, will be hoping it sticks with app devs

READ MORE

"Just like most homeowners get a professional to do their electrical work, lots of websites have third-party experts to do their analytics, their video serving or other specialized functions for them," he said, offering an analogy that omits the role played by web visitors in this scenario and implies equivalency between entering someone else's surveillance-wired house and requesting files from a publicly accessible IP address.

Privacy, Kleber acknowledged, matters. "People should be able to browse the web without worry that someone is collecting a dossier on them for what they're doing," he said, "and developers should be able to build sites without worrying that their infrastructure is compromising their users interests."

Google answer is to provide third-parties with privacy-respecting measurement tools, such as the company's poorly received Privacy Sandbox scheme.

"I know it's hard to think about something specifically meant to help ads being built into web browsers," said Kleber. "But the browser is the place where we can offer privacy guarantees. And these capabilities turn out to be really important for them to flourish."

Without the ad personalization enabled by all this tracking, websites earned 52 per cent less ad revenue on average, according to Google's figures, and news publishers earned 60 per cent.

In short, Google remains committed to privacy, but with ads. Imagine that. ®

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Ransomware encrypts files, demands three good deeds to restore data
    Shut up and take ... poor kids to KFC?

    In what is either a creepy, weird spin on Robin Hood or something from a Black Mirror episode, we're told a ransomware gang is encrypting data and then forcing each victim to perform three good deeds before they can download a decryption tool.

    The so-called GoodWill ransomware group, first identified by CloudSEK's threat intel team, doesn't appear to be motivated by money. Instead, it is claimed, they require victims to do things such as donate blankets to homeless people, or take needy kids to Pizza Hut, and then document these activities on social media in photos or videos.

    "As the threat group's name suggests, the operators are allegedly interested in promoting social justice rather than conventional financial reasons," according to a CloudSEK analysis of the gang. 

    Continue reading
  • Microsoft Azure to spin up AMD MI200 GPU clusters for 'large scale' AI training
    Windows giant carries a PyTorch for chip designer and its rival Nvidia

    Microsoft Build Microsoft Azure on Thursday revealed it will use AMD's top-tier MI200 Instinct GPUs to perform “large-scale” AI training in the cloud.

    “Azure will be the first public cloud to deploy clusters of AMD's flagship MI200 GPUs for large-scale AI training,” Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott said during the company’s Build conference this week. “We've already started testing these clusters using some of our own AI workloads with great performance.”

    AMD launched its MI200-series GPUs at its Accelerated Datacenter event last fall. The GPUs are based on AMD’s CDNA2 architecture and pack 58 billion transistors and up to 128GB of high-bandwidth memory into a dual-die package.

    Continue reading
  • New York City rips out last city-owned public payphones
    Y'know, those large cellphones fixed in place that you share with everyone and have to put coins in. Y'know, those metal disks representing...

    New York City this week ripped out its last municipally-owned payphones from Times Square to make room for Wi-Fi kiosks from city infrastructure project LinkNYC.

    "NYC's last free-standing payphones were removed today; they'll be replaced with a Link, boosting accessibility and connectivity across the city," LinkNYC said via Twitter.

    Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine said, "Truly the end of an era but also, hopefully, the start of a new one with more equity in technology access!"

    Continue reading
  • Cheers ransomware hits VMware ESXi systems
    Now we can say extortionware has jumped the shark

    Another ransomware strain is targeting VMware ESXi servers, which have been the focus of extortionists and other miscreants in recent months.

    ESXi, a bare-metal hypervisor used by a broad range of organizations throughout the world, has become the target of such ransomware families as LockBit, Hive, and RansomEXX. The ubiquitous use of the technology, and the size of some companies that use it has made it an efficient way for crooks to infect large numbers of virtualized systems and connected devices and equipment, according to researchers with Trend Micro.

    "ESXi is widely used in enterprise settings for server virtualization," Trend Micro noted in a write-up this week. "It is therefore a popular target for ransomware attacks … Compromising ESXi servers has been a scheme used by some notorious cybercriminal groups because it is a means to swiftly spread the ransomware to many devices."

    Continue reading
  • Twitter founder Dorsey beats hasty retweet from the board
    As shareholders sue the social network amid Elon Musk's takeover scramble

    Twitter has officially entered the post-Dorsey age: its founder and two-time CEO's board term expired Wednesday, marking the first time the social media company hasn't had him around in some capacity.

    Jack Dorsey announced his resignation as Twitter chief exec in November 2021, and passed the baton to Parag Agrawal while remaining on the board. Now that board term has ended, and Dorsey has stepped down as expected. Agrawal has taken Dorsey's board seat; Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor has assumed the role of Twitter's board chair. 

    In his resignation announcement, Dorsey – who co-founded and is CEO of Block (formerly Square) – said having founders leading the companies they created can be severely limiting for an organization and can serve as a single point of failure. "I believe it's critical a company can stand on its own, free of its founder's influence or direction," Dorsey said. He didn't respond to a request for further comment today. 

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022