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Google are spoiling my Blue Beanie Day

Posted in Development

Back in 2012, I wrote about Blue Beanie Day which covered:

  • the financial benefits of web standards, as code complexity and cross-browser bugs reduce
  • web standards as a facilitator of free speech
  • agreed upon standards as central to accessibility on the web

So it was an exciting day when the Web Standards Project announced that their work was done, passing the web standards baton to the developer community at large.

‌Over the eight years since that article, things have continued to improve in some ways, but I’m seeing a different, more insidious kind of problem in Google.

Me? I refuse to use Chrome if I possibly can. I use Safari as my primary web browser because:

  • it’s fast
  • it’s comparatively very kind to my battery
  • Reader mode is a great way to read, as well as avoid all of those infuriating cookie pop-ups
  • it stops trackers from profiling me (125 preventions the last 7 days, according to Apple’s new Privacy Report feature)
  • my bookmarks, history and keychain sync beautifully across my devices, and Handoff is nifty
  • the look and feel is consistent with other Mac apps

For web development, I use Firefox as:

  • the developer tools are excellent
  • they have some great developer-centric extensions like Axe, that Safari doesn’t
  • I like to separate my general browsing from my development work

Google’s ‘G Suite’ productivity web apps often crash, and have features that don’t work well on Safari or Firefox; videos on YouTube—another Google-owned company—often throw an error on Safari on my Mac. All of this means that I have to open Chrome (or another Chromium-based browser, like Opera or, more recently, Edge) to do what I need to do.

Then I see Google proposing un-agreed-upon elements for Chrome, their search engine favouring sites built with their proprietary, JavaScript-based AMP pages.

Feels like Google are frustrating us into abandoning other browsers; tempting us with new, shiny features that might never be adopted by other browsers; bribing us with extra search engine points for doing things their way. Not really in line with web standards.

As more browsers move away from developing their own engines (Opera and Edge being the biggest players), instead working in collaboration with Google on their Chromium project, I see a dangerous ‘one browser to rule them all’ scenario, which wasn’t great in Lord of the Rings, and wouldn’t be great for the web either.

Blue Beanie Day is a great reminder to keep fighting for browser diversity and playing by the rules.

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