MozillaZine

Mozilla Services Proposal

Thursday June 24th, 1999

Xplo Eristotle writes in with his proposal for new functionality for Mozilla.

Xplo writes, "I've had an idea for an addition to the Mozilla UI which I call 'Mozilla Services' (or MZS for short). It doesn't really affect Mozilla itself, but it could potentially mean a lot for Mozilla users. I've put up a web page describing it."

It's an interesting proposal, even though it would be "Mozilla only" functionality. My opinion? Well, since you asked! I think that any "proprietary" functionality that is extraneous to the HTML of the page is fine. It's when the functionality starts showing up in HTML and breaking pages on other platforms and browsers that the browser-specific stuff becomes a problem. This seems to be a case of the "extraneous" functionality - similar to Flash panels and plaintext content parsed by other webpages.


#1 Re:Mozilla Services Proposal

by Kovu <Kovu401@netscape.net>

Sunday June 27th, 1999 12:32 PM

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Anything that makes Mozilla more valuable to users and more functional than IE and doesn't botch up standards compliance (and doesn't cause bloat) is groovy.

(BTW, Web is always upper-cased in ref. to WWW and so is Internet, i.e. Web pages, etc. I just learned this myself)

#2 Re:Mozilla Services Proposal

by Lynggaard <Lynggaard@netscape.net>

Sunday June 27th, 1999 5:26 PM

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I like the idea :-)))

just as long as it doesn't screw up the standards

#3 Re: Mozilla Services Proposal

by Anon

Sunday June 27th, 1999 6:08 PM

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> just as long as it doesn't screw up the standards Probably exactly what Netscape said when they introduced BLINK, FONT, frames, ... 1) BLINK: "non-netscape browsers will ignore it, right?" 2) FONT: on COLOR attr. "only color-blind users don't use netscape" on FACE attr. "everybody uses windows" 3) frames: A NOFRAMES tag will take care of interoperability. Just because a feature doesn't blatantly violate existing standards doesn't make it necessarily good.

#4 Re:Mozilla Services Proposal

by Ben_Goodger

Sunday June 27th, 1999 9:29 PM

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bah. people are stuck with blink now anyway. IE will eventually have to support it if they ever want to claim 100% compatibility with W3C standards. maybe the fact that its a CSS thing will keep it from being used irresponsibly by newbies ^_^;

#5 Re:Mozilla Services Proposal

by Anon

Monday June 28th, 1999 1:12 AM

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A note on "broken code": there won't be any. All that the web author has to do to enable MZS is define some JS variables and create webpage(s) for MZS to call. The UI element will do all the rest. Therefore, other browsers will simply ignore it rather than breaking, and it doesn't threaten current standards.

This isn't really "new" technology. It's just a clever use for what's already here.

-Xplo

#6 This is a very, very bad idea

by Anon

Monday June 28th, 1999 3:01 PM

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As soon as I saw the first paragraph of the proposal -- `... MZS would serve to demonstrate the power and flexibility of Mozilla ... It would also piss all over Microsoft' -- I got a horrible feeling that this was going to be awful.

And it is.

`Mozilla Services', when you strip away all the fluff, is this. There would be a special button in the Mozilla UI. Web sites would be able to activate this button using JavaScript. Clicking on the button would then open a new window containing fancy stuff.

Here's why this is dumb.

(1) BROWSER LOCK-IN. This feature proposes building something into *Web pages themselves* which is Mozilla-specific. And as much as we at MozillaZine may all love Mozilla, putting stuff that requires Mozilla into Web pages is just as dumb as putting stuff that requires IE into Web pages. (Requiring standards compliance from visitors' browsers is good; but requiring a *particular brand of browser* is evil.)

(2) BREAKING THE WEB. You just *know* that there are going to be some Webmasters who will, because they happen to be using Mozilla, assume that everyone else is. So they'll put essential stuff (as opposed to snazzy extra stuff) in this extra window. Mozilla should be encouraging good Web site architecture, not discouraging it.

(3) HUMAN FACTORS. A major contributor to the spread of the Worm.ExploreZip worm was that even though the worm attachment is an executable, Outlook Express's warning that it is an executable gets ignored by most users. Why? Because Outlook Express pops up such warnings so often that people get used to blindly clicking the `Ok' button, ignoring what the dialog says. The UI becomes useless.

Why is this relevant? Because exactly the same thing will happen here. The Mozilla Services button is going to be disabled so much of the time that Mozilla users are subconsciously going to start ignoring it -- especially since we (naturally) expect Web-site-related stuff to happen inside the page frame, not on the toolbar. So if a site supports this feature, it wouldn't get noticed -- unless the site says `Mozilla users, look! you can click the Mozilla Services button!!!'. And if they needed to spend time doing that, they'd use the space to do an A HREF TARGET="_new" tag instead.

(4) CLUTTER. Let's just assume that this feature gets implemented. Only a very small proportion of Webmasters are going to (a) want something like this, and (b) be silly enough to use `Mozilla Services' (rather than more browser-universal JavaScript, for example) to do it. And if the feature's going to be used that infrequently, I don't want it bloating my copy of Mozilla, thanks very much. Neither do I want it taking up space on my default UI, so that I then have to spend time extricating it.

So, Xplo: thanks, but no thanks. Forget fancy browser-specific functions in Web sites. Let's just have a nice flash-panel implementation of HTML 1.0's LINK tag instead, shall we? Thanks very much. Bye now.

-- mpt

#7 A very, very stupid post

by Anon

Monday July 5th, 1999 8:12 PM

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I intend to rebut the previous poster's comments, but before I begin, there is one thing I would like to make clear:

You, sir, are an arrogant ****, and I'm certain that you possess no attribute that could NOT be improved by kissing a piece of hickory at 120 kph. Please do so at your earliest convenience.

Now then.. "(1) BROWSER LOCK-IN. This feature proposes building something into *Web pages themselves* which is Mozilla-specific."

So what if it does? For the time being, CSS2 is Moz-specific, with the exception of that small portion that made it into IE5. And it looks like a fair amount of support for emerging file formats will be Moz-specific. XUL, which is what makes MZS possible, is Moz-specific. So unless you want to sit behind IE in the #2 slot and use it as a "pacing car", you haven't got an argument.

"(2) BREAKING THE WEB. You just *know* that there are going to be some Webmasters who will, because they happen to be using Mozilla, assume that everyone else is."

Of course I do. If you'll recall, people have been doing this ever since web browsers could display pictures, or roughly thereabouts.. that's a period of several years. The trend has continued throughout that entire period and there's no way that Mozilla is going to change this, regardless of whether it incorporates MZS or not.

Browsers can ALLOW good design, and there's no reason to think that Moz won't, but they are incapable of encouraging it, because some people will always be stupid. Next!

"The Mozilla Services button is going to be disabled so much of the time that Mozilla users are subconsciously going to start ignoring it --"

...uh-huh, and since no one had ever had Netscape 3-enhanced pages to look at before, they didn't see what they could possibly want it for, and so it did poorly in the market, with almost no designers taking advantage of its extra features. Keep the fertilizer; how much for just the bridge? *_*

But for the sake of argument, let's suppose that you're right, and MZS is a huge flop. Even in a worst-case scenario, having it there doesn't affect Moz' ability to function, so at worst it does nothing good or bad. Moving right along...

"And if the feature's going to be used that infrequently, I don't want it bloating my copy of Mozilla, thanks very much. Neither do I want it taking up space on my default UI, so that I then have to spend time extricating it."

How unfortunate for you. It must be terrible to go through life with a sense of perspective so diseased that the prospect of adding another button to an interface that has four or five of them fills you with loathing. Here, have a tissue.

In closing, there is no way to "forbid" the existence of something like MZS, because the technology already exists within Moz, and implementing it requires nothing more than a working understanding of XUL and Javascript. People WILL make things like this. It's only a matter of time.

#10 Rebuttal to the rebuttal

by Anon

Sunday July 11th, 1999 3:32 PM

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Ok Anon -- small chance you're still reading this, but here's why you're wrong.

(0) You have no idea who I am, and I do not describe myself in my post. So you have absolutely no evidence that I `possess no attribute that could NOT be improved by kissing a piece of hickory at 120 kph'; personally I disagree, but even if that was true it's completely irrelevant. Resorting to personal attacks just makes the whole of your argument look worse.

(1) `CSS2 is Moz-specific, with the exception of that small portion that made it into IE5 ... a fair amount of support for emerging file formats will be Moz-specific. XUL, which is what makes MZS possible, is Moz-specific. So unless you want to sit behind IE in the #2 slot and use it as a "pacing car", you haven't got an argument.' But I'm not using IE as a pacing car -- I'm using the W3C as a pacing car. They've been sitting waiting for browser makers to get around to implementing HTML 4.0, CSS1, and yes, CSS2, for years now. And what are these? IE standards? No. Mozilla standards? No. They're open standards, and as such have every right to be included in a Web page. Browser-specific standards, however, should not be. I have no problem with sites providing XUL files for download, as long as the Webmasters don't make the stupid mistake of relying on them. But with MZS, they will.

(2) `Browsers can ALLOW good design, and there's no reason to think that Moz won't, but they are incapable of encouraging it, because some people will always be stupid.' Sorry, I disagree that browsers are incapable of encouraging good design. That's what human factors is all about -- encouraging effective use of a tool. My rant against MZS is a simple example of trying to *discourage* BAD design.

(3) `...uh-huh, and since no one had ever had Netscape 3-enhanced pages to look at before, they didn't see what they could possibly want it for, and so it did poorly in the market, with almost no designers taking advantage of its extra features.' You're dodging the issue. I'm talking about the interface, not the Web pages themselves. People used Navigator 3.x extensions because there was no bettwer way of achieving those formatting goals. With MZS, there is a standard way of achieving the same goal -- use A HREF="..." target="_new", or JavaScript.

`But for the sake of argument, let's suppose that you're right, and MZS is a huge flop. Even in a worst-case scenario, having it there doesn't affect Moz' ability to function, so at worst it does nothing good or bad.' Oh really? Having an almost completely ineffectual button on the Mozilla interface doesn't affect the user's perception of the whole program? You certainly are optimistic.

(4) `In closing, there is no way to "forbid" the existence of something like MZS ...' But I'm not trying to do that, Anon. I have no objection to other people putting all sorts of silly things on their Mozilla interfaces. But you and I both know that 90% of users, at least, can't be bothered changing their interface. All I'm trying to do is prevent MZS from being built into the *default* Mozilla. Because that would be bad for Mozilla, and bad for the Web.

-- mpt (<mpt@mailandnews.com> -- take this to e-mail, if you wish)

#8 Re:Mozilla Services Proposal

by SomeSmartAss

Tuesday July 6th, 1999 12:54 PM

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ummmm.... the link to the proposal doesn't seem to work...

#9 Re:Mozilla Services Proposal

by Anon

Wednesday July 7th, 1999 3:26 AM

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That's odd, the file seems to have disappeared from the server. O_o

Try the link again; I just uploaded a fresh copy. Sorry for the inconvenience.

#11 Mozilla Services Proposal

by Anon

Monday July 12th, 1999 5:59 AM

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"Ok Anon -- small chance you're still reading this..."

And why shouldn't I be? It's my proposal.

"You have no idea who I am, and I do not describe myself in my post."

Oh no? I find the implication that I am required to wait for you to explicitly describe your flaws before I become capable of recognizing them, faintly offensive. Perhaps you have confused me with an eel, or a fern, or some other life form generally incapable of reason, as so many other people seem to do (by way of making the same implication).

"They've been sitting waiting for browser makers to get around to implementing HTML 4.0, CSS1, and yes, CSS2, for years now. And what are these? IE standards? No. Mozilla standards? No. They're open standards, and as such have every right to be included in a Web page. Browser-specific standards, however, should not be. I have no problem with sites providing XUL files for download, as long as the Webmasters don't make the stupid mistake of relying on them. But with MZS, they will."

Here you go again saying that MZS will cause bad design and broken pages.. but you have no evidence to support your claims, and you can hardly say that MZS will contain sinister, demonic powers that will lead designers astray.

On the other hand, I can (and do) contend that given a sufficiently good browser to design for (which Moz is), the designer, not the browser, is responsible for good design. Furthermore, I contend that some people are responsible designers and some aren't; and that the responsible ones will know to include non-MZS content, just like they would include clean browser sniffers or ALT tags or NOFRAMES content or anything else. The irresponsible ones have been designing bad pages all along, and MZS can hardly be blamed for chronically irresponsible designers, especially when they've been around for years before MZS was even conceived of.

"Sorry, I disagree that browsers are incapable of encouraging good design."

I don't know about you, but my copy of Netscape doesn't offer formatting tips, advice on X-browser Javascript compatibility, or nagging reminders to provide alternative content for other browsers. It doesn't lecture me on coding style, and it doesn't provide me with user studies on my web pages. So I don't know what you're talking about, but my browser sure doesn't do anything to encourage good design.. the best it can do is allow it.

"I'm talking about the interface, not the Web pages themselves. People used Navigator 3.x extensions because there was no bettwer way of achieving those formatting goals."

I don't know what rock you've been under, but most web pages ARE interfaces, in addition to any content they might provide. Any page with a hyperlink qualifies. In fact, the Mozilla interface itself is nothing more than a screwy web page, thereby taking the concept of page-as-interface to its logical extreme.

"With MZS, there is a standard way of achieving the same goal -- use A HREF="..." target="_new", or JavaScript."

I'm well aware of that. The difference between those methods and MZS is simply that MZS is always available and uses up otherwise wasted space on the toolbar, while putting the links directly on the page would either require frames (possibly wasting genuinely useful screenspace) or scrolling to find the link.

"I have no objection to other people putting all sorts of silly things on their Mozilla interfaces. [...] All I'm trying to do is prevent MZS from being built into the *default* Mozilla. Because that would be bad for Mozilla, and bad for the Web."

I still don't see that you've established how this is so. Your arguments seem to consist almost entirely of supposition, misconception and strawman-whacking; if you want to convince me that integrating MZS is such a bad idea, you're going to have to better than this.

Incidentally, I never said that MZS *has* to be integrated into Moz by default. I simply feel that without that integration to give it exposure (both to designers and to the general public), it'll end up being ignored, and any benefits it might have provided will be lost.

#12 Oh good, you *are* still reading

by Anon

Thursday July 15th, 1999 6:03 PM

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`And why shouldn't I be? It's my proposal.' Because you didn't *say* it was your proposal. I suspected you might be Xplo -- I couldn't see how anyone else could be so vitriolic towards someone who disagreed with MZS -- but I didn't want to jump to conclusions about your identity. :-)

`I find the implication that I am required to wait for you to explicitly describe your flaws before I become capable of recognizing them, faintly offensive.' What, so you think that my rejection of unwarranted personal attacks is `faintly offensive', but your description of me as `possess[ing] no attribute that could NOT be improved by kissing a piece of hickory at 120 kph' is presumably *not* offensive? How very strange.

You can accuse me of poor grammar, misspelling, inconsistency, hypocrisy, anything you have got evidence for from my posts; but if you don't have the evidence for any other personal attack (such as your attack on *all* my `attributes'), then desist, because it just makes you look bad.

`Here you go again saying that MZS will cause bad design and broken pages.. but you have no evidence to support your claims'. Ok, I'll spell it out more clearly.

No matter how good Mozilla gets, it will never be the only Web browser in existence: blind people, those who use headphones-and-microphone Web browsers in their car or kitchen, those who browse in text mode on their cellular phones, and so on, will always be using browsers other than Mozilla, and for good reason.

Because there will always be a plethora of Web browsers, it increases the usefulness of the Web as a whole if all Web pages follow the same standards which allow them to work on any Web browser. These standards are set down by the W3C, and include HTML, CSS1, CSS2, and XML. One of the primary reasons for the excitement over Mozilla is that it promises to support these standards properly.

Anything on the Web which restricts itself to one browser makes the Web less useful. This is because it increases the cost of Web page production (time spent building in workarounds or parallel versions of Web pages), the cost of finding information (from the fact that many people will just not bother to put up such pages, so the Web will be smaller), and the cost of navigation (time and bandwidth spent finding and navigating to the correct version of a Web page for your browser, or even bandwidth spent loading browser-sniffing code).

The sole point of including MZS in Mozilla *is* to restrict parts of the Web to one browser. You noted this in your original proposal, when you said that use of MZS would `piss all over Microsoft'. There can be no other reason for MZS because, as I have noted previously, everything that MZS does can be achieved with existing HTML -- the only difference being the position of the interface element (which I discuss below).

Now you say that `some people are responsible designers and some aren't; and that the responsible [designers] will know to include non-MZS content, just like they would include clean browser sniffers or ALT tags or NOFRAMES content or anything else'. But will they bother to use MZS at all? I don't think so. Non-MZS content, and browser sniffers, and NOFRAMES content, are examples of the sort of duplication which increases the cost of the Web. But, and this is the crucial point, everything MZS does can be done -- just as easily -- using a standard, non-MZS method. So instead of including non-MZS content, responsible designers will just use the non-MZS method, to decrease the cost of Web production. I am therefore forced to the inescapable conclusion: only irresponsible designers will use MZS.

`So I don't know what you're talking about, but my browser sure doesn't do anything to encourage good design.. the best it can do is allow it.' Oh really? Not supporting BLINK would be one obvious example of encouraging good design. Not allowing designers to specify whether a frame has scrollbars would be another. And not supporting ActiveX in Web pages (because of its horrendous security, and platform-dependence) would be yet another. If a feature will only be used by irresponsible designers, it makes sense not to include it in Mozilla.

`The difference between those methods and MZS is simply that MZS is always available and uses up otherwise wasted space on the toolbar, while putting the links directly on the page would either require frames (possibly wasting genuinely useful screenspace) or scrolling to find the link.' Otherwise wasted space? Surely you jest! Screen space is precious, and very few sites would use MZS, so the MZS button would have no function most of the time -- it would largely be a waste of space. Putting a permanent MZS button on the toolbar makes as much sense as, say, a `search this site' form on the toolbar to cater for those sites with a search facility, or a `sign my guestbook' button on the toolbar to cater for those sites which have a guestbook, or anything else which is only ever going to be activated by a few sites. I'd rather use that toolbar space for something more useful.

`Incidentally, I never said that MZS *has* to be integrated into Moz by default. I simply feel that without that integration to give it exposure (both to designers and to the general public), it'll end up being ignored, and any benefits it might have provided will be lost.' Well, I think that the costs MZS would cause overwhelmingly outweigh any benefits it might provide, so it's my duty to discourage its integration.

I see Mozilla as a tool for making the Web more useful. You, on the other hand, appear to see the Web as a tool for making parts of Mozilla more useful (namely, the MZS button). So I guess our disagreement isn't going to be resolved any time soon.

Have a nice day

-- mpt