Mozilla, Adobe and Silverlight. Shall we dance?

No doubt you've seen the Prism announcement by Mozilla. Quite an interesting move in this chess game we call "The Software Industry". Personally, I'm not sure what the end game for Mozilla is anymore and I'm sure If I look hard enough I'll find that answer.

Mike Chambers at Adobe put up a post essentially stating why he thinks AIR isn't being treated fairly by the Mozilla folks (welcome to the "my competitor takes shots at me" party ). I get his point(s), but I was surprised to see him say this:

"...Maybe we need to do a better job of getting that info out there, but I would expect (and suspect) that someone working on a similar project would know that..." - Mike Chambers.

Surprised simply because it illustrates for me that AIR as a concept has many hurdles ahead of it, and not only do I disagree with it's "approach" to the market, but now that it has a competitor that's non-Microsoft, it's yet another battlefront they will have to face and a unified messaging front is overdue.

To put into perspective, Adobe needs to approach their competitors differently, and Mike's latest blog post didn't do him any favors (I understood his points, I in part agreed with him, but never ever pick a fight with Mozilla crowd as that product as emotional bonds associated to it, and you will lose - except if you're this guy). I think competition in this space is really going to push us all that much faster in terms of doing better online and to me the web tomorrow is going to exceed my expectations of today.

I agree with Mike on this comment:

"..Unlike Adobe AIR and Microsoft Silverlight, we’re not building a proprietary platform to replace the web..." - Mozilla

hmm, seems like the same execution model as both Microsoft and Adobe, only the boundaries have slightly shifted. "Not a runtime, but the agent that houses in the runtime" to which I ask you these days in our RIA world.. which is the agent and which is the runtime. Silverlight and AIR are separate, but that's been said before and yet people continue to link them together. That interests me as is it a case of "they want Silverlight to have desktop functionality" or is it a case of "no idea, but they are both x-platform so it makes sense to marry the two".


Comments (12)
  1. JosephCooney says:

    Isn’t "interesting" the most over-used cliche at the minute at Microsoft?


  2. Garry Trinder says:

    Just be thankful i didn’t use "Super Excited" 🙂

  3. I don’t understand your confusion about the difference between this and what MS and Adobe are doing.

    MS says "Write a web application using Silverlight and you can get desktop integration".

    Adobe says "Write a web application using AIR and you can get desktop integration".

    Mozilla says "write a website *without* doing anything special, and *we* will take care of desktop integration".

    To use an application targeted at Silverlight, the user needs Silverlight installed. To use an application targeted at AIR, the user needs AIR installed. You can use the same application that Prism targets on a machine with no Mozilla software on it at all, because the website will run perfectly well on IE or Safari.

  4. Garry Trinder says:

    sounds like a…a…a… web browser.. genius!


    I see PRISM is simply de-chroming Mozilla and enabling a desktop icon. The moment it starts to offer customisation you then you can’t play the above card and thus it becomes the same rules of engagement as Silverlight, XBAP, Flash & AIR.

  5. You’re being sarcastic but that IS exactly the genius of it. It’s a web browser with a novel UI.

    In a situation like this where the whole benefit comes from network effects, which of these models has more chance of succeeding?

    A: We require developers to target the SilverXBFlAIR platform; in order to do so, users must install the SilverXBFlAIR platform. But users only benefit from installing the platform to the extent that developers target it. Chicken, meet egg.


    B: Users who install the platform can apply it to any website and gain all the benefits without the developers having to do a thing.

    Note that this analysis still applies even if Mozilla DOES in future provide some custom APIs to do things specific to the Prism environment. As a developer you can then write a small amount of code to make the experience within Prism better (if you find that you have lots of Prism users), but users who don’t have Prism still share 99% of the code.

    Note that I have no idea whether Mozilla plans to do this; my guess would be that they might, but that they’d attempt to do so in a way that the APIs are standardizable and encourage other browsers to implement them too to the extent that they make sense within the other browsers’ UIs.

    Mozilla doesn’t and never has wanted 100% market share. They want *standards compliant browsers* to have 100% market share, because this benefits users, but they’d consider a 25%/25%/25%/25% Firefox/Opera/Safari/IE8 (if IE8 ever gets released and is actually standards compliant) a complete and unmitigated success. Even though that would mean their OWN share was DOWN from today.

  6. Garry Trinder says:

    You picked up on the sarcasim part, so i feel the need to retort.

    Let me start with a simple fact, if Mozilla want to empower web developers around the world to de-chrome the browser tab/history/favourites etc and into their own self-contained application that you can alt+tab or command + tab, all the power to them and what an interesting model to approach the browser distribution story around.


    Should Mozilla allow you to do something simple like "write to your hard drive via JavaScript bridge" (hypothetical)… now you’ve crossed the threshold of runtime delimma. As sure it comes under the guise of a "browser" but one could argue it’s a default installed "runtime" bundled within the said browser. Hey it’s sounds like a bold plan and all the power to them (not disputing it’s merit, or it’s cause).

    What i would dispute is to say that if this is the case, to point fingers at Silverlight and AIR, well that’s just not cricket… as at least both equations admit they are a plugin 🙂

    Yet is that fair? probably not, as whom set the rules of what you can and can’t do these days. What I found interesting is that if we decided to say bundle "Silverlight" with Internet Explorer? how far would we get and more to the point, would we get the similiar amount of praise?

    Should the developer model go down the path of tapping into Mozilla specific powers for both Windows and Apple, then Mozilla has to line up in the distribution game just like Silverlight, Flash, AIR and .NET 3x runtime.

    That’s all i’m saying, boundaries just changed a little with PRISM.

  7. "Write to your hard drive via JavaScript bridge" is a hypothetical that has a close enough parallel with reality that I can answer it. Mozilla is working with WHATWG along with… well, every other browser vendor except Microsoft… to standardize things like local storage and canvas that make for richer user experiences. Microsoft is more than welcome to join that effort as an equal player – in fact I think I can say with full confidence that everyone involved wishes they would.

    Mozilla has no plans to adopt Mozilla-specific extensions; they aggressively push everything they do into standards, and aggressively seek input from other browser vendors to aid the standardization effort and get the resulting standards implemented.

    (By the way, I never bought the "bundling is evil" argument. Please DO bundle Silverlight with the OS; for that matter, I wish you’d push .NET more aggressively via windows update and office, and I wish it weren’t possible to have a Windows machine with IE6 still the primary browser. I know you get a lot of grief for stuff like this; I think it’s unmerited. Netscape lost the browser wars all by itself; Microsoft competed better. No foul there)

  8. Garry Trinder says:

    I don’t disregard Mozilla at all, I have enormous respect for them and especially what they have achieved in so little time.

    All I was stating that the moment the developer code deviates from the Mozilla today (ie the browser), then Mozilla have the new nurdle of adoption discussions as in order to get the GMAIL + other bits working for example, it has to be adopted right? that’s all i’m stating. Once that occurs the runtime vs browser argument becomes a semantic one at best.

    Same problem, boundaries shift.

    As for the bundling argument etc, we have a lot to factor into bundling, specifically the department of justice 2002 ruling(s) have some guidelines etc around that.

    Not sure on the Internet Explorer folks not being involved in the WHATWG. I’ll investigate that (if anything for my own curiousity as it sounds "interesting" (sorry Joseph)).

    I think the browser wars was something we still haven’t learnt some lessons from. This is now what i’d call the runtime wars, and the fact that Mozilla are entering into this is quite dangerous to be openly honest (for them). It could get messy or it could be a starting point to another Google succes story. I haven’t formed an opinion on Mozilla in this space yet, suffice to say i’d throw caution to the wind on this one, as why fight the war when you can be the guy that makes the ammunition (ie Seen the movie Lord of War?)..

  9. I should clarify because I think you’re reading something into my comments that’s not there. I’m one of the rare Open Source advocates that actually has a lot of respect for Microsoft. I use both Windows and Linux (although I avoid IE), develop in .NET as my day job, and on a technical level I think Microsoft gained the upper hand with XP and the Linux distros are still playing catch up from that. (I’m even more unusual because I think Linux was in the lead until XP). I also don’t object to OOXML although I wish that Office would support ODF by default as an option.

    I don’t object to Silverlight either; in fact I think the decision to work with the Mono project was a huge step forward for Microsoft. (The fact that the audio/video codecs are still patented and proprietary is a problem though).

    I’m not arguing with your point that if Mozilla started offering Mozilla-only options, they’d be competing with Flash and AIR and Silverlight and stuff. In fact they do have a platform like that, it’s called XUL, it’s what’s used for Firefox extensions. And they’re very open about the fact that that’s on the same level as the other technologies. But notice that’s not the technology that they’re marketing. Apps based on xulrunner are pretty much traditional desktop apps that happen to use a certain library/runtime, and no effort is being made to give that platform ubiquity. They draw a very clear line between the web platform (which is standardized and open and they want everyone to support) and the runtime which is just their toolkit that they built to support their own implementation, and happens to be useful for others too.

    I think the biggest lesson you "haven’t learnt" from the browser wars is it’s NOT A WAR. I know there are a lot of noisy people in the open source camp that are rabidly anti-Microsoft. But fundamentally, open source is based on a set of guiding principles that are pro-user. And fundamentally, to the extent that Microsoft is also pro-user (which is more than many people believe, but less than it ought to be), we’re on the same side.

  10. Stuart Ballard: I was writing a blog post about all this when I read your comments. very interesting^W^W Super exciting 😉

    PS: too bad the links to specific comments are not working here…

  11. At present the installation for Silverlight involves saving a file to your hard disk and re-starting your browser.  Both of these steps are major barriers to the adoption of the plug-in.

    When are these (basic) issues going to be fixed?

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