Adobe Systems Incorporated

The Changing Web Platform Landscape: More Fragmentation?

The Web is an ever changing place and the first half of the year has been rich in surprises, big announcements and industry shifts! A diversity of implementations is good for many reasons we will discuss. But a more fragmented web could be the price to pay. Will it be the case?

About Implementation diversity

A few weeks ago Opera announced they were stopping work on their Presto rendering engine and switching to Chromium. They have already started contributing code to the project. Then, earlier this month, Google announced the Blink project, essentially a new fork of WebKit. And now Opera announced they will contribute to Blink!

Reactions were interesting as we went from WebKit monopoly concerns to worries about web platform fragmentation in a matter of weeks. Quite a 180 degrees turn!

At Adobe, we actively contribute to Web standards and browser implementations (historically mostly WebKit and Chromium, even though we also make some contributions to Gecko). As such we are delighted to see Opera join one of the projects we contribute to. Their considerable web expertise will undoubtedly be an asset.

There was some debate before the Blink announcement about whether or not we were heading for a WebKit monoculture: a web where content can be written with the assumption a WebKit-based engine is most likely to render it. While WebKit browsers share much core layout code they also differ in many ways at runtime: different JavaScript engines and graphics libraries, even different sets of features enabled by default. This makes it difficult in practice to write once for WebKit and run everywhere.

So we were not too concerned about a WebKit monoculture. But…

… there was a but in that view. The web is bigger than any one of its leading browser implementations and too important to be limited to a single code base even if that implementation has variations. The web is even growing to be an OS platform (e.g., ChromeOS, FirefoxOS, the new Windows Runtime), the core technology behind packaged applications (like PhoneGap applications). And ongoing innovation across HTML, JavaScript (in the TC-39 group at ECMA) and CSS needs validation, testing, consolidation.

As Brendan Eich says in his blog about “why Mozilla matters”:

“The web needs multiple implementations of its evolving standards to keep them interoperable.”

I believe this tenet to be central to delivering on the promise of the Open Web. A single implementation does not establish a standard. The W3C process even recommends two implementations in order for a specification to reach completion.

The Web needs Mozilla’s Gecko and Microsoft’s Trident engines to nurture an open, innovative environment. Historically, both companies have done a lot for the Web  – think of XHR which Microsoft invented (among other key contributions) or WOFF from Mozilla –  and they continue to innovate:  Microsoft and Mozilla co-edit the CSS Grid specification, which provides much needed and improved layout flexibility to CSS.

I trust that the addition of Blink will strengthen an already healthy browser competition. Over time, the Blink code base will diverge from WebKit’s but no harm to the web occurs if both engines implement the same features in different ways. Only significantly different feature sets could result in harmful fragmentation. Making sure that WebKit, Blink and other browser engines interoperate is more important than it has ever been.

About testing, fragmentation and experimental features

As the founders of Test the Web Forward, we have come to appreciate the mutually reinforcing benefits multiple independent implementations bring to standards. Historically, testing has been key to the success of web standards. For example, the focused testing effort on CSS 2.1 has shaped that specification and its implementations in the corner stone CSS has become. A single implementation would leave a lot of stones unturned.

It should also be noted that the Blink policy regarding prefixes is really good for standards and compatibility across browsers:  draft standard features can become truly experimental features that will not be used (and abused) in production. This should help avoid browser compatibility headaches down the line and I hope this example will be followed by all browsers.

About fragmentation and Adobe’s contributions

In this new web platform landscape, what about Adobe’s contributions to open source browsers? What impact does additional browser fragmentation has on Adobe’s efforts?

Adobe contributes to standards in open browser implementations for many reasons.

One of them is that our new generation Edge tools use a ‘web design surface’. For well over a year now, we have chosen to use the Chromium Embeded Framework (CEF) to provide this ‘web design surface’. So naturally, we will contribute to Blink since it is now the core engine that powers CEF.

Another reason for contributing to open browsers is to accelerate the availability of new features on the web. This is why we collaborate with Mozilla on a number of standards and contribute code to Gecko (like this patch on masking for canvas). And this is why we will also contribute to WebKit, in addition to Blink, now that the two are separate projects.

An open, innovative and tested web!

So yes, I think it is good to have multiple browser engines and Blink is a welcome addition to the web platform landscape. It is bringing a healthy diversity that I hope will help keep the web open and foster innovation as long as all browsers strive to implement ‘the same web’.

And this is where testing efforts are key to achieving diversity without fragmentation. I hope testing activities (of browser code of course, but of standard test suites as well and major initiatives that the W3C is driving) will be a major focus for all the browser vendors going forward, in particular for Google with its new Blink implementation.

12:53 PM Permalink

What’s New in Creative Cloud: Edge Reflow Preview and New Dreamweaver Features

Today, we’re very excited to share two big updates to Creative Cloud for web designers and developers.

25954_337877419664259_1473867768_n-150x150Edge Reflow – We first sneaked a look at Adobe Edge Reflow during our Create the Web event last September, and are eager to share that we’ve just released the first public preview of it today. Edge Reflow – a part of the Edge Tools & Services offering in Creative Cloud – is a new responsive design tool for web designers and developers creating websites and content for screens of virtually all sizes. It features an intuitive resizable design surface that shows how layouts and visuals will adapt to different screen sizes and enables users to create high fidelity web designs on the application’s native web surface leveraging the power of CSS. Get all the details from the Edge Reflow Team blog. Looking to get started right away? Here’s an intro to Reflow video from evangelist Paul Trani.

Also new to the Edge Tools & Services offering are new feature releases to Edge Animate and the introduction of Edge Code preview.

AnimateEdge Animate now supports CSS gradients and filters (so you can, for example, easily add blur effects) and makes it simpler to add rich typography with the free Edge Web Fonts service

 

CodeEdge Code is our code editor for HTML, CSS and JavaScript that is completely written in HTML5. We’re released a preview of it today that allows developers to:

 

  • See changes in the browser as they make them, and code hinting for more CSS properties and HTML tags
  • Edit code in context instead of having to switch between files with the addition of a Quick Edit feature.

 

538832_10150790605656737_1215725222_n-150x150Adobe Dreamweaver – We’ve introduced a second Dreamweaver update for Creative Cloud members. Here’s a brief overview of what new in this release:

 

  • Improvements to Fluid Grids
  • Bring print-quality typography to the web with Edge Web Fonts
  • Custom settings retained after upgrade
  • Expanded table view is back
  • HTML5 support
  • Critical bug fixes

 

For the full scoop, check out the Dreamweaver Team Blog.

Not a Creative Cloud member yet? Upgrade today and save 40%.

10:36 AM Permalink

Announcement Recap of the Create the Web Tour Kick-Off in San Francisco

Monday (Sept. 24) was quite a day for web designers and developers and Creative Cloud members! We kicked off the first leg of the Create the Web Tour in San Francisco, where we shared a number of updates and announcements. If you weren’t there for the action or able to tune in to the live stream, no worries! We’ve recapped all of the news for you:

Dreamweaver Updates – Exclusively for Creative Cloud members

Creative Cloud Dreamweaver users will be excited to hear that we’ve introduced six new features for easier authoring of HTML5-based websites, new support for compositions from Adobe Edge Animate, more robust FTP transfers, and more. Check out this video for a quick run-through:

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6:09 AM Permalink