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April 3, 2019

MUST-READ: “I tried creating a web browser, and Google blocked me”

The Monster of Mountain View stomps on competition again.

For the last two years I’ve been working on a web browser that now cannot be completed because Google, the creators of the open source browser Chrome [actually, Chromium; Chrome isn’t open source], won’t allow DRM in an open source project.

The browser I’m building, called Metastream, is an Electron-based (Chromium derived), MIT-licensed browser hosted on GitHub. Its main feature is the ability to playback videos on the web, synchronized with other peers. Each client runs its own instance of the Metastream browser and transmits playback information to keep them in sync—no audio or video content is sent.

Without a license for Widevine, Samuel Maddock cannot finish his browser.

But of course, Google doesn’t care.

If someone is creating a browser that wants to playback media, they’ll soon discover the requirement of DRM for larger web media services such as Netflix and Hulu. There are a few DRM providers for the web including Widevine, PlayReady, and FairPlay.

As far as I’m aware, Widevine is the only available DRM for a Chromium-based browser, especially so for Electron. Chromium accounts for roughly 70% market share of all web browsers, soon to include Microsoft’s upcoming Edge browser rewrite. Waiting 4 months for a minimal response from a vendor with such a large percentage of the market is unacceptable.

When this site was created, Google Chrome didn’t exist.

Today, Google Chrome is the most dominant browser. It is the new Internet Explorer. And in fact, even the once mighty-Microsoft has acknowledged this, because it is redeveloping Edge to use Chrome’s underlying parts, including the Blink rendering engine. Other browser makers have already done this; Opera is also a Chromium-derivative. Only Mozilla has held out, although its version of Firefox for iOS uses WebKit, an an ancestor of Blink, because Apple won’t allow Mozilla to use its own rendering engine (Gecko).

When you’re practically a monopoly, you can pretty much do whatever you want (including brutally stifling the competition) and there are no consequences.

Google is too big and too powerful. It’s a giant, faceless corporation that needs to be broken up.

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