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Mozilla Businesses The Internet Apple

New Alliance Hopes To Standardize Web Plug-Ins 365

mksolutions writes "As reported on heise online and mozilla.org 'Apple, Macromedia, Opera and Sun Microsystems join in push to modernize plugins and create a richer web experience.' They are to develop a common, cross-platform plug-in interface which will be used in Mozilla products as well as Opera and Safari and will be released under an open source license."
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New Alliance Hopes To Standardize Web Plug-Ins

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  • Where's MS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by breadiu ( 706188 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @10:39AM (#9570811) Journal
    Why are they scared of working towards a standardized future?
    • by MikeDX ( 560598 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @10:42AM (#9570841) Journal
      Maybe they think a world dominated standard will be open to abuse and be more prone to attack from worms, backdoors, trojans, etc..
      • Re:Where's MS (Score:3, Interesting)

        by koody ( 575863 )
        Well, they've actually used that argument already, but I think it's more of a case of not invented here syndrome. Oh, and they wouldn't want to bind themsleves to abiding to a standard since that would make lock-in more difficult.

        Oh, also remember that GPL is viral and since some of the code already exists in Mozilla, I guess they see the whole thing as infected?

        Read all about scripting plugins with mozilla [mozilla.org]. The article was released today to accompany the press release, and clarify how this all fits in t

    • Re:Where's MS (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Daengbo ( 523424 ) <daengbo@gmai l . c om> on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @10:42AM (#9570847) Homepage Journal
      A consortium like this normally doesn't happen with the big guy on the block. It's an attempt by the Davids to join together to fight Goliath. That's what these things are and what there're for.
    • Re:Where's MS (Score:2, Insightful)

      The more MS accepts new standards, they less they have the industry by the balls.
    • Re:Where's MS (Score:2, Interesting)

      by xyvimur ( 268026 )
      They are to big to care about the standards - the IE is the major, dominant browser - which is quite unfortunate, but true.
      They don't have to join any consortium, as de facto they are the standard (I don't speak about the quality, etc.)
      • Re:Where's MS (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Nurseman ( 161297 ) <nursemanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @11:04AM (#9571075) Homepage Journal
        " They are to big to care about the standards - the IE is the major, dominant browser - which is quite unfortunate, but true."

        This has always been a minor annoyance for me. I use Mozilla and FireFox. BUT I keep a older version of IE for pages that will just not render in Mozilla/Firefox. I thought Java WAS a standard, but many pages with a Java plugin for log-on will just not work. I have been told over and over that "MS breaks the standards" but what good are standards if the browser with 90% market share doesn't use them ?. If I was designing a buisness site, and had to choose between a "standard" or compatability with IE, it would be a no brainer.

        • Re:Where's MS (Score:5, Insightful)

          by xyvimur ( 268026 ) <`gro.jobluh' `ta' `izha3ook'> on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @11:10AM (#9571127) Homepage
          By not being compliant to standards - speaking about IE and page rendering - MS forces the webmasters to create the webpages that are displaying correctly only under the `one and true' :) browser.
          I had a situation that I had to adapt some HTML - that was rendered perfectly under Mozilla and Opera to be displayed correctly under IE.
          There is chance that more users will start using `alternative' browsers, due to various malicious `add-ons' to IE.
        • Re:Where's MS (Score:3, Insightful)

          by scovetta ( 632629 )
          Very good point, I thought so too, except that things are always changing. Would you rather spend your time writing to Microsoft and then have to update it when Microsoft either (a) changes functionality, or (b) starts to crack under the pressure and conform to actual standards? I write business web apps in a 99% IE workplace, but I still don't write IE-only things (no active-x, no quirky behaviors, no filters, etc). Just the area that IE and Opera/Moz/Firefox all support. Just my $0.02 though.
    • Re:Where's MS (Score:4, Interesting)

      by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @10:49AM (#9570929) Journal
      While I am not a MS coder (well not in 13 years), I would suspect that these folks could easily develop a plugin adaptor for MSIE. It would not be difficult and would probably prompt MS to do something. Now the question is, what will MS do?
    • Without Microsoft on board this won't make it. Well, it will make it, and a few people (like me) will use it. But major companies won't, because of all the lusers who use IE. Microsoft will copy it and make it less secure and less stable, and everyone will use Microsoft's new system.

      There's agreed-upon standards and de facto standards. The Davids make agreed-upon standards, but they're always trumped by the de facto standards that Microsoft creates.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @11:14AM (#9571161)
      I call it a "virus".
    • Re:Where's MS (Score:5, Interesting)

      by swordboy ( 472941 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @11:21AM (#9571224) Journal
      Why are they scared of working towards a standardized future?

      Microsoft would rather have Windows-only spyware.

      MS don't like anything "cross-platform". Witness the whole java fiasco that took 10 years to sort out.

      But back to the spyware thing.

      What is needed is a "standard working set" of open, cross-platform plug-ins for all browsers. Now, they don't have to be mandatory of default but we have to STOP PROMPTING JOE USERS with ActiveX security warnings because THEY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THIS MEANS.

      But, in the mean time, I would suggest to everyone in need of a few bucks to start their own "Windows Reinstall" business. Simply put up a few flyers at grocery stores (sometimes, even word of mouth is enough to get you more than enough business). You'll be bombarded with boxen that need a simple Windows reinstall. What I have been doing is simply swapping hard drives, throwing down a standard Windows image (you'll have to accumulate them as you get different hardware along the way) and then bring everything back over into a backup folder and let the user sort it out (or charge more to make it nice).

      I do it for $50 a pop which might seem low but once you get a system down, it takes no time whatsoever. Just buy a bunch of cheap, refub drives [pricewatch.com] of various sizes to keep handy. Provided the user's hard drive doesn't have any bad sectors (extra money here as well), there's really nothing to it. Oh - and make sure that the PC has a valid Win2K or XP license sticker on it before accepting it.

      I do about 20/month which works out to about an extra grand in spending cash for approximately 2 hours per night that I'm usually just watching TV anyway. This is strictly drop-off and pick up service. Everything else extra.
      • Good point (Score:4, Interesting)

        by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @11:53AM (#9571601) Journal
        I am almost surprised that MS does not go along with all this.

        Any cracks on this would allow for some damage on other systems. This would allow MS to state that Linux, BSD, and Mac have no security.

        And yes, if the install is done at user level, the *nix OS would still be operating, but the users data would quite possible be wiped, or their passwords stolen, or their Credit card numbers stolen, etc. Users do not really care if an OS survives or not. They are finally starting to care about all the money being stolen. This is only because the news media is finally pointing out that these problems are soley from MS systems.
      • Re:Where's MS (Score:5, Insightful)

        by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @02:52PM (#9573646)
        >What I have been doing is simply swapping hard drives

        I hope you are telling people that you are taking their drives, other than the fact this is fraud and theft you are destroying their warranties. Dell or whomever is not going to replace a third-party drive.
    • looking at the existing group - MS probably were not invited.
  • Shockwave? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Daengbo ( 523424 ) <daengbo@gmai l . c om> on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @10:40AM (#9570821) Homepage Journal
    Maybe now there will finally be some of the missing plugins like Shockwave.
    Not that I really want it, but my kids do.
    • Re:Shockwave? (Score:2, Informative)

      by cronot ( 530669 )
      Unless your kids are using Linux, the Shockwave plugin can be found here [shockwave.com] (Access this link with a Mozilla-compatible browser).

      Anyway, there's no indication that this "consortium" would set a standard for plugins in that they would be cross-platform. That would be the ideal situation, otherwise it would not bring many benefits to this effort.
  • aargh... (Score:2, Funny)

    by chachob ( 746500 )
    they are just trying to get rid of the fanboys since exploits will affect ALL browsers then... ;)
    • Re:aargh... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by endx7 ( 706884 )

      they are just trying to get rid of the fanboys since exploits will affect ALL browsers then... ;)

      You seem to assume that plugins would autoinstall themselves. I certaintly hope this would not be the case.

      Also, you might get that if all browsers on all platforms came with the same default plugins. However, there are already a set of default plugins (mostly java and flash is what I see), but there hasn't been that many problems with them.

      Now if someone decided to port activex over to this new plugin i

  • by grandmofftarkin ( 49366 ) * <3b16-ihd3@xemaps.com> on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @10:41AM (#9570828)
    Or is this only for browsers that are actually useful?
  • by krray ( 605395 ) * on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @10:41AM (#9570830)
    The boys in Redmond must have smacked their head and said, "IE"
  • Pay attention! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tod_miller ( 792541 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @10:41AM (#9570835) Journal
    English Articles:
    http://www.opera.com/pressreleases/en/2 004/06/30/
    http://www.mozilla.org/press/mozilla-2 004-06-30.ht ml

    "Apple, Macromedia, Opera and Sun Microsystems"

    Spot the odd one out! I misread Macromedia as Mozilla for a second.

    Notable by its absence I see. Macromedia obviously want to be in the mix, as they want everyone everywhere to use their lovely Flash and Director.

    Sun is a puzzle in this, what do they have to gain? aaah the Java plugin. Well all sorted here, Opera want to pull in a little more weight, feeling the heat from FireFox I guess.

    FireFox! Oh I do so kill myself.
  • If this is true (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dmomo ( 256005 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @10:42AM (#9570842)
    I Hope that all browsers involved would allow me to point to my own plugin directory, so I don't have to have a different copy of the same file for each browser I use.
  • Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gr8Apes ( 679165 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @10:43AM (#9570853)
    If this could be completed quickly, this would be a huge boon to consumers everywhere, making life much simpler for Joe Sixpack. It would be another step in commoditizing the underlying OS, and the web browser in a sense as well, as you don't have to worry about plug in support as long as it was a compliant browser.

    And with CERT saying ditch IE, there's no better time than today to have this type of action. Unfortunately, it doesn't exist yet....
    • I might be way off base here, but I see nothing but buggy plugins and new exploits. Keep your dirty IE plugins away from my shiny FireFox.

      Anyway - wouldn't this just create a homogenus network for browsers? We keep arguing that one OS in a network is bad for security sake - isn't this doing the same thing?
      • I might be way off base here, but I see nothing but buggy plugins and new exploits. Keep your dirty IE plugins away from my shiny FireFox.

        Yup, you're pretty well off base here. RTFA and note the complete absence of the word 'Microsoft' in it. Of course the Redmond Boys won't participate in this; why would they? Their share in the browser market is so overwhelming that they could require plugin writers to write their code using an abacus, and they would still be writing away, because if they want their plu

        • Re:Wow (Score:3, Interesting)

          It's easy to turn this into a bash fest, but keep in mind that browser plugins are patented technology, and Microsoft is on the edge of losing a very large lawsuit for using them. It's a bogus patent, but it might hold up.

          Why would Microsoft (and Opera and Mozilla) waste any time working on a standard if they can't legally use the technology?

          Also, there's no technical reason a Windows-based browser couldn't support all ActiveX (IE) plugins, the same way all Windows-based word processors support COM enbedd
    • Re:Wow (Score:3, Funny)

      by Epistax ( 544591 )
      Joe Sixpack has a computer? Oh wait, you mean a six pack in the fridge, not a six pack on the abdomen
    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hackstraw ( 262471 ) * on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @11:40AM (#9571463)
      If this could be completed quickly, this would be a huge boon to consumers everywhere, making life much simpler for Joe Sixpack.

      First off, its good to see people on /. still care about Joe Sixpack. Noone has really mentioned him lately, and I thought noone cared :)

      OK, now for the meat here. Joe Sixpack, odds are he will buy a Dell computer with Windows [0-9A-Z]{2,4} that has an internet icon on the desktop that loads Internet Explorer which at worst will have a slightly older version of the flash plugin installed, where the hip web developer can detect the version and say "Click here to get the latest version", and since its too easy to install software on Windows, a click away, and he's off and running.

      Let me say this about plugins. I HATE THEM. Some of it is because I've been through too much with them, that even if they work now, I'm still scared.

      Back in the day, there was the plugin craze. This was probably the first instance of spyware for some of the plugins. Then you could not go to a website that did not require a laundry list of exotic plugins so that you could look at the text and pictures on their site. Being a Linux user, these plugins were few and far between, and the ones that did exist were very sucessful in crashing Netscape (something it didn't need much help with as it was). Recently, I had a conflict with flash on linux and it was blocking my soundcard and would just hang. In my web experience, plugins have not been a feature, but a problem. I've never found them useful, eyecandy at most.

      My personal opinion is that plugins should not exist for the web. They are unnecessary. If you want me to download something and run it with a helper app, thats fine, but I do not need this junk inlined with the html. I don't like the old versions of the embeded acrobat reader that didn't allow you to save the document, and did 202 requests or whatever to get partial content, so the 1st page loaded fast, and every other may be slow. Same with movies, let me download and double click on them, I don't need them in my browser window. Currently, I have 10 windows open, plus 4 webpages in tabs. I can manage an 11th window to get some "featurerich" content. Odds are, you are using a mutitasking OS as well. Also, its really annoying when I'm navigating a website via the keyboard and my mouse pointer goes overtop of an obnoxious flash advertisement and it siezes the keyboard input. Thanks.

      Now that I think about it, standardizing plugins could be the revamping of the plugin craze (read spyware). Maybe I'm too simleminded, but I still cannot think of a need to have 3rd party code running inline with my webbrowser.
  • Oh great! (Score:5, Funny)

    by revery ( 456516 ) * <charles AT cac2 DOT net> on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @10:43AM (#9570859) Homepage
    I think the internet's broken. That first link, heise online [heise.de], it's in a whole other language.

    I've already tried resetting the defaults on IE...

    Can anyone help?

    --

    I uhm... write stuff [livejournal.com], but not well, and not often
  • w3c? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ols22 ( 553332 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @10:44AM (#9570862)
    Does anyone know how the w3c fits into this?
  • Richer? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @10:44AM (#9570863)
    Great! I, for one, welcome our new Punch The Monkey and Win 10,000 Banana Points overlords.

    Har!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @10:45AM (#9570879)
    Now, regardless of browser, everyone can have 10,372 smileys and valuable advertisements from Hotbar.
  • by roror ( 767312 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @10:47AM (#9570902)
    seriously .. slashdotting it everyday?
    now on topic.. isn't sun standing in for MS there ?
    And on a more serious note .. for what are these multimedia and java plugins good for anyways ? But, these kinda aliances good, 'cause they will help move the lazy MS ass to do some serious work atleast.
  • Oh no! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by callipygian-showsyst ( 631222 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @10:47AM (#9570905) Homepage
    Don't reinvent Active-X with all its problems. Maybe browsers *don't* need standard, easy-to-install extensions (think BHO and ActiveX)
    • More then likely this will be hooked into Java somehow. Before you say "We already have Applets", Applets were visual components, but plugins dont necessarily need to be.
  • by Dr. Spork ( 142693 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @10:48AM (#9570926)
    Grr! The transition from Firefox 0.8 to 0.9 was a big pain, as you had to wait for all the extensions to get repackaged before you could upgrade. It was a pretty big headache, because it wasn't clearly marked what works with 0.9 and what doesn't.

    On the other hand, I expect that plugins will get even better once they have an audience beyond the standard Mozilla browsers. And I'm happy they're leaving out Microsoft. Let's finally put to rest that tired Internet Explorer!

    • by tentimestwenty ( 693290 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @10:59AM (#9571028)
      Ya, they finally got smart. Even though they're all smaller companies than Microsoft, their mindshare and market sway is probably as great together at least in industry circles. Hopefully this just accelerates the whole browser development cycle by letting developers know there's a consortium and there will be standards.
    • Plugin != extension. (Score:3, Informative)

      by Chris Burke ( 6130 )
      Just in case you were confused, this is about things like the Macromedia Flash plugin that lets you view Flash docs, not the "Flash Click to Play" extension of Firefox. Granted, having one without the other seems insane, but this article is only about the one.
  • Shockwave. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Raven42rac ( 448205 ) * on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @10:50AM (#9570941)
    I use Firefox on both Windows and Mac, and have not had the need for shockwave yet, java and flash shoul d be standard too. At least this just wraps them all up in 1 package.
  • by Phil John ( 576633 ) <phil.webstarsltd@com> on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @10:51AM (#9570944)
    ...world for some time. There is a widely adopted "open" standard (VST-Virtual Studio Technology). They are not cross platform as they are native software, however I can load up one of a number of sequencers on Windows and use the same plugins.

    There are competing plugin formats such as Direct X, but VST's seem to have the market pretty sewn up - there's even bindings for java :o)

    One the mac side of things Apple introduced AudioUnits which seem to be gaining popularity.

    The great thing is, since developers no longer have to target a certain platform (i.e. only one sequencer family) you see a huge wealth of plugins available to be used on anything - hopefully we'll see that same kind of developer community flourish around rich-content plugins for the web.
    • by Dominic_Mazzoni ( 125164 ) * on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @01:20PM (#9572643) Homepage
      There is a widely adopted "open" standard (VST-Virtual Studio Technology).

      I'm glad that you put "open" in quotes. VST is free-as-in-beer, but not free-as-in-speech. Namely, you're not allowed to redistribute the VST SDK sourcecode. This makes it very, very difficult to include VST support in open-source programs, which is very annoying.
  • by Ma´djeurtam ( 101190 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @10:51AM (#9570946) Homepage Journal
    ...and release the plug-ins themselves (hear Flash) under an open source license.

    I'm not playing the open source fanatic here, but I'd really like them (*cough* macromedia *cough*) to realize that Linux is more than Red Hat.

    Being a Gentoo PPC user, I still have no way to play flash on my iBook (well, I can boot it on OS X).

    If really they want to protect their trade secrets (are there any? Isn't .swf more or less an open standard?), at least, could they release their plug-in for other archs?
    • ...and release the plug-ins themselves (hear Flash) under an open source license.

      Not as easy as it sounds, even if they wanted to do it. Flash player contains stuff they licensed from third parties (audio and video codecs are the best example).

      Someone else replied to the above comment and suggested that a bigger problem was that the Linux ABI changes too often. That poster got modded down as a troll, and I'm not sure why, because it's a very good point. Linux could be adopted by the mainstream much fa
  • Konquerer? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mccalli ( 323026 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @10:52AM (#9570962) Homepage
    I see Apple listed there, presumably for the KHTML-based Safari. Anyone know if their work might filter into Konquerer too?

    Cheers,
    Ian

  • by xyote ( 598794 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @10:53AM (#9570971)
    or will lynx be the only secure browser?

    Remember, your browser is only secure as the least secure plug-in.

  • by kabocox ( 199019 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @10:53AM (#9570974)
    What each of these groups needs is an IE ActiveX helper object that automatically downloads and installs their web browser on a visitors computer and then it should make their browser the default while removing "IE" icons from the desktop and start menu.
    • http://msdn.microsoft.com/workshop/components/acti vex/packaging.asp

      Microsoft page on packaging ActiveX controls. Just take the .zip version of Firefox, put it into a CAB, add a .bat file to work with the shortcuts, and put in the necessary ActiveX magic and you could have just that.

      I for one welcome our new Self-Installing IE Firefox Overlords
  • I have not read it yet, but I would guess that konqi will fall in line as well.
  • I wonder how Apple's work on this for their Safari will effect KDE's KHTML

    Sunny Dubey
  • by Boss, Pointy Haired ( 537010 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @10:54AM (#9570988)
    Whilst it's all very well for us "FireFox on Linux" users to gloat about our immunity from scumware; we must be aware that the developers of scumware only target IE _because_ it is the most prolific browser. The security weaknesses of IE are more likely the second reason.

    Now if a critical mass of Internet users migrate to FF/Moz/Saf etc., scumware authors WILL target this shared extension architecture.

    Now, it is all very well saying that the Mozilla platform may not allow drive-by installation (to the best of our knowledge); but remember that scumware is often installed through social engineering of the user. "This website requires Hyperviewing 3D Spatial Extension" (bundled with scumware for your convenience); and the user may click "Yes" to install without second thought.

    How you go about allowing extension installation whilst maintaining a level of sanity needs carefull thought at this stage.
    • by RickHunter ( 103108 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @11:21AM (#9571220)

      Got news for you - scumware authors have already tried to target Firefox and Mozilla. The developers' reaction? Implement a "whitelist" system that only allows extensions to come from a small, fixed set of official servers.

    • by bheerssen ( 534014 ) <bheerssen@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @11:35AM (#9571392)
      Actually, malware is more prevalent in IE because it is easier to compromise, not because it is ubiquitous. Look at the case of IIS. Even though it has a minority market share in web servers, it is still the one most frequently attacked. This is because of two factors: it is easily exploited and there are sufficient numbers of them.

      This leads one to conclude that the actual number of installations of Intenet Explorer does not matter to malware authors so long as there is a critical mass of them and enough of those remain vulnerable. So, malware authors will continue to target IE until one of those conditions is no longer met.
  • Yes but (Score:5, Interesting)

    by line.at.infinity ( 707997 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @11:02AM (#9571051) Homepage Journal
    would Apple push for standardization of synchronization between bookmarks (a feature they will be including in Safari for Mac OS 10.4)? Cross-browser synchronization of bookmarks would be very handy for people who want to try more than one browser.
    • Re:Yes but (Score:3, Interesting)

      by wine ( 211387 )
      ...who want to try more than one browser

      Agreed. Sometimes it's even very convenient to use different browsers. I have different machines, which have different resources and I use them for different things. For web development I like mozilla on my main machine, but on my old notebook I like firefox or konqueror for leisure browsing, depending on my DE/WM for that day.

      I think it's wise of Apple to implement something like that. Better yet, I suppose keychain already let's you share passwords between app

  • I know that Opera works with /most/ netscape (4?) plugins - it was designed that was for obvious reasons.

    Makes sense that Opera and Netscape/Mozilla would tie together to set a standard - it really is in their mutual interest, and very good for us.

    It would be nice to have MS on board with this, but the likelyhood is slim - they have no need to do that. It does mean that for plug-in creators, they will only need to create 2 plug-ins in order to cover the majority of the browsers.

    Looking good from the end
  • if your plugin system is well sandboxed it should be no problem at all. I am thankful for the effort. I'm sick and tired of plugins that work only half the time on half the systems.
  • What's the point? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NoMoreNicksLeft ( 516230 ) <john.oyler@NOSpam.comcast.net> on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @11:07AM (#9571105) Journal
    The only plugin that could be said to cater to an otherwise neglected niche is Flash. And hopefully with browsers natively supporting SVG, someday it's usefullness will wither, too.

    Plugins are just excuses for Adobe Acrobat in the browser window bullshit. For all those fools that put up Word and PDF all over the place, get a clue already.
    • by polyp2000 ( 444682 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @11:23AM (#9571244) Homepage Journal
      To a certain extent I would agree with you. However while I agree with your comment about word files; PDF is probably the best choice for publishing "download - and - print" documents on the web at this current time; It is a well documented and well supported file format that practically everyone can read and print. I dont particularly like embedding pdf's into the browser; having a pdf that I can download and print at my convenience is far more preferable to most other downloadable file formats.

      Purists would say the web was never meant for all these new-fangled plugins and fancy schmancy flash sites. While there are thousands of examples of how the internet should and shouldnt be used it always boils down to one thing. Information, and the ease at which it can be accessed. I personally dont know of a better more crossplatform solution in widespread use than PDF for "download-and-print", that retain the look and feel of the original document. There are some upgoming formats in the sideline SVG & XML et al; But i have more respect for a webmaster who takes the time to publish pdf's than one that sticks the word file on the web and hopes for the best, But that is not to say when the standards compliant formats come to fruition that we should not push and encourage their use.

    • The funny thing is I recall word documents used to be the standard for distributing documents online ages ago, before the web, in the days of BBSes, Compuserve, and the pre-web AOL. Everyone had Word. I remember thinking that Word could display information better than Mosaic when it first came out, and I always thought that if Microsoft turned Word into a Web browser at that time, and used Word documents as the standard for web pages instead of HTML documents, they could have taken over the web at the very
  • One of the things that I wonder about is the choice of language for the API implementation. Looks like, according to the NPAPI docs, it's either C or the highway. What if I want to write my browser in Java yet allow plugins? I have to use JNI? Should we expect that every modern programming language has a bridge to C?

    I also wonder how badly the plugin API is limited by going with a non-OO implementation language like C. Sure, you can create some complex data types in C, but you've got to kiss your own

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @11:14AM (#9571157)
    There is a Mozilla plug-in called Plugger [hubbe.net] which itself allows stand-alone programs to be used as plug-ins. This provides the desired feature of in-line viewing of formats not natively understood by Mozilla. But it also does another thing that other plug-in APIs misses, it seprates the stablity of the browser from the stablity of the Plugger'd viewer.

    The Netscape plug-in, IE ActiveX and IE BHO APIs all allow the plug-in to crash the browser! Even worse, these APIs make it trival for Spyware to collect information including online banking username/passwords [slashdot.org].

    For the majority of plug-ins, all the plug-in functionality needed was a display system to provide their "window" in-line with the document. So, why then does plug-in APIs allow the program to run in-process with the browser?
    • Plugger is mainly for NS4 and hasn't been actively developed for a couple of years. Mozplugger [mozdev.org] is an actively maintained fork for gecko browswers.
      • by dmaxwell ( 43234 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @01:50PM (#9572978)
        Actually, I just looked at the Plugger page and they've just had a release after a long hiatus. The mozplugger devs say their next release will be based on it. Since mozplugger is just an apt-get away, I'll probably be staying with it.

        I'll also point out that plugger does a better job of being the Acrobat plugin than the Acrobat plugin. The downside is each PDF viewed causes acroread to be started again. It's stable though and lets me use gv or xpdf in Acrobat's place on my Powerbook.
  • by blueZhift ( 652272 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @11:29AM (#9571317) Homepage Journal
    A cross platform browser plugin spec is a good idea and the timing is pretty good. The publicity that IE's security issues are getting, is opening up a window of opportunity for the major competing browsers. MS knows that this is getting serious because they are reconstituting their IE development division. If MS is smart, they'll get on board with this asap. That would look good to the DOJ and EU too and realistically it really won't threaten their browser dominance. It'd be good PR and could IMHO jump start their development efforts.

  • ...by using a technology such as TenDRA [tendra.org]: the plugins are distributed in a platform-neutral format, and then the final stage of compilation into fast, native machine code is done on installation. For the sandbox environment of a web browser, TenDRA's ability to define global interfaces would be a great help.

    Has anyone actually done anything useful with TenDRA yet? It seems like such a great idea, and yet there's so little interest...

  • Yay, More Spyware!!! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dduardo ( 592868 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @11:43AM (#9571500)
    I really hope they think this standard through and implement some type of certificate authentication or something. I don't want to my browser to automatically download stuff onto my computer. I already checked off all the automatic downloading in firefox. I would rather go through the hassle of manully typing in the address of the software developer's website and downloading the pluginh from there.
  • by ArmorFiend ( 151674 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @11:53AM (#9571605) Homepage Journal
    I know we all think we like plugins - for me at least it evokes the early days of netscape corporation, and VRML, and Flash, and Java, and the idea of "limitless possiblilities".

    But now that we've great gpl'ed browser, plugin is just another word for "longwinded not-as-good-as-gpl click-thru licensing agreement".
  • no thanks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dekeji ( 784080 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @12:01PM (#9571679)
    I don't want a "richer" web experience. Things already blink too much. Worse, plug-ins kill a normal standardization process. If there hadn't been any plug-ins, people would have been forced to standardize something like SVG much earlier instead of relying on Flash and similar systems.

    Also, the problem with plug-ins is not their availability, it's version hell: you need to have the right constellation of library versions, operating system versions, and application versions. A plug-in standard usually still uses APIs other than those provided through the plug-in standard, so a standard won't change that.

    Altogether, I think it's a bad idea. Let's get rid of plug-ins altogether and instead work towards better, universally implemented, open web standards.
  • by oliverk ( 82803 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @12:15PM (#9571821)
    ...a few more pieces.

    1. True Integration of media objects into the browser. Right now, the browser still drops a little box on the screen and tells the plug-in where to paint it's output. Why can't everything be integrated as pure objects in the DOM such that layering one item on top of another can happen with no problems? If I want a QuickTime movie as my background, with the page content painted over the top...why do I need to build the whole thing in Director? The browser should be able to sort this out.

    2. Consistency in access to standard IO functions regardless of plug-in type. If I want to trigger the start of a media stream out of Flash, Director, RealAudio or QuickTime (or the countless other media types) can't there be a consistent way to code play()? That would also allow for client-side code that detects which plug-in is installed and simply passes a standardized code chunk into the page...rather than forking off and having individual code chunks to handle each plug-in type.

    3. A _FINAL_ decision regarding the OBJECT and EMBED tags. This is silly Microsoftism, and requires double-coding...a killer to all things HTML.

    4. W3C support.

    I'll keep my fingers crossed, but I've been disappointed for a long, long time.
  • super plugin? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dirvish ( 574948 ) <dirvish@ f o undnews.com> on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @01:10PM (#9572486) Homepage Journal
    Couldn't they get together and create one super-plugin? I am sure most of the slashdot crowd wouldn't be interested in using it because most of us prefer finer control but it would be great for the average user who doesn't want to worry about plugins and just wants to browse the web and have everything work.
  • by Mr Z ( 6791 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2004 @01:23PM (#9572678) Homepage Journal

    Most of the time, I hate "rich, interactive" websites. I want the freakin' thing to sit still and give me the information I came for. Yeah, the web will be rich alright. Nice, rich manure.

    Really, my complaint isn't with plugins, per se. It's with the lack of restraint that web designers have in using them. Some web sites, such as Homestar Runner, wouldn't exist without Flash. Most other places I see it used, it adds nothing to the site except a layer of complexity, or it pummels me with advertisements.

    --Joe
    • I understand your reservations about plugin abuse, but I won't accuse sites like HomeStarRunner for assaulting my web experience. Flash finds its niche on sites like HomeStarRunner, where you either go there with Flash installed or you don't because the page doesn't load otherwise. The real assault is web pages with mixed content that force you to view some frivolous intro (or, worse, some pointlessly animated menus or something to that effect) before getting to the substance of the page.

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