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Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Mozilla Labs has announced the "Chromeless" project, aimed at making it easier for developers to create browser interfaces. "The 'Chromeless' project experiments with the idea of removing the current browser user interface and replacing it with a flexible platform which allows for the creation of new browser UI using standard Web technologies such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript." There is a "pre-alpha prototype" available now.
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Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 22, 2010 20:20 UTC (Fri) by mikov (subscriber, #33179) [Link]

Isn't Mozilla reliance on XUL part of the reason why it is so slow? Using HTML instead of XUL is not going to help there.

Also (and perhaps worse), despite of the recent fad, HTML is actually really horrible for creating scalable well laid out UIs. Practically none of the web sites scale well when you change the font size.

Objectively speaking, HTML is a very bad layout engine - overly complex and severely limited. Its only advantage is that it is somewhat standard.

Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 22, 2010 22:44 UTC (Fri) by elanthis (guest, #6227) [Link]

Yeah, but any idiot can learn it, so the overwhelming opinion of the masses is that HTML+CSS+JS is fantastic and perfect and the future of computing and it makes perfect toast and gives great...

Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 23, 2010 1:02 UTC (Sat) by xnox (subscriber, #63320) [Link]

There was a really cool demo of CSS3 during Google 2010 I/O showing how the same page scales/reflows based on the screen size from a cellphone(touch) size / to vertically challenged netbooks / big-screen page.

Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 23, 2010 18:27 UTC (Sat) by mikov (subscriber, #33179) [Link]

Do you have a link?

Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 23, 2010 21:28 UTC (Sat) by xnox (subscriber, #63320) [Link]

Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 23, 2010 23:51 UTC (Sat) by mikov (subscriber, #33179) [Link]

This is admittedly very impressive.

However I suspect we are talking about different things. Supporting three different CSS-es for different display sizes/aspect ratios is equivalent to redesigning the layout for different display sizes. It doesn't show that HTML layouts can scale.

I am questioning the ability to scale the same design (HTML+CSS) across different DPI settings and font sizes. As far as I can tell, most web sites use pixel-accurate positioning of images, which by definition doesn't scale (unless you scale the entire thing).

Perhaps it is possible to design a web page that is both scalable and good looking using HTML, but seems it is prohibitively difficult.

Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 24, 2010 0:58 UTC (Sun) by martinfick (subscriber, #4455) [Link]

Could you point out a display technology that does scale well (not including ascii terminals)?

Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 24, 2010 18:49 UTC (Sun) by mikov (subscriber, #33179) [Link]

Let me elaborate.

The only way to achieve beautiful and/or innovative looks with HTML/CSS is by using images. So, you end up with UI elements which are all fixed size. (Perhaps SVG could change that, but not today). That is why there are countless websites which break as soon as you change the font size.

My second point is that HTML/CSS simply isn't that convenient for common UI layouts, which you could do with, say, Java Swing layout managers.

Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 25, 2010 21:08 UTC (Mon) by xnox (subscriber, #63320) [Link]

Hmmm... If you look before the linked demo, there is a beautiful website with coat of arms, music and playing notes. All of the layout is done without images: WebFonts, CSS transitions / effects and SVG paths. That website does scale well.

But I do agree that most of the current web is not ready for this. My friend bought a 42" screen and the whole web has white sidebars as if you are watching 4:3 TV on widescreen......

Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 25, 2010 19:43 UTC (Mon) by ericc72 (guest, #41737) [Link]

I like the re-flow thing to test various "CSS media query" style sheets at various screen sizes. It would be cool to see a Firefox extension that could do such a thing for web development. Not just resize the window, but open the page in multiple various sized sub-windows using different assigned style sheets for each if one chooses.

Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 23, 2010 15:53 UTC (Sat) by Lennie (guest, #49641) [Link]

Have you tried the new Firefox 4 Beta ? It uses a new javascript engine and faster graphics. It doesn't feel slow anymore.

Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 23, 2010 19:06 UTC (Sat) by mikov (subscriber, #33179) [Link]

I have to admit that I haven't tried Firefox 4 yet. While I still like Firefox, I have moved to the goog side - Chrome - simply because it comes with a .deb (as opposed to Firefox'es .tar.gz), the faster startup, and the (I hate to admit it) more robust handling of Flash.

But anyway, my doubts are about using HTML as GUI layout language.

Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 24, 2010 16:55 UTC (Sun) by gmaxwell (guest, #30048) [Link]

"simply because it comes with a .deb"

Of all the insignificant things— If you want a distro packaged version the first choice would be Firefox simply because it will be packaged and shipped by distros and chrome never will be.

The chromium source is some 600MBytes— they've pretty much forked an entire mini-distributional worth of software. So even the free version of chrome is simply not going to make it into any distributions.

FF4 isn't finished yet, but when it is it will be immediately available in many distributions. You can already get in packaged forms it via third party repositories (e.g. ppa:ubuntu-mozilla-daily/ppa )

Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 24, 2010 18:33 UTC (Sun) by mikov (subscriber, #33179) [Link]

Going seriously off-topic:

There is no Firefox4 packaged for Debian. But let's forget the beta, if there were Debian packages available within a couple days of each Firefox3 update, I would probably would be using Firefox. But of course that can never happen.

I have said this before - it is just not reasonable to rely on the distribution for everything. The distribution should provide the fundamentals and nothing more. I need to be able to download Debian packages from the vendor's website as soon as each new version is released.

Google does it with Chrome and it is a huge practical advantage.

Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 25, 2010 3:55 UTC (Mon) by rsidd (subscriber, #2582) [Link]

I use chrome not because of any of the above, but simply because it is way faster. I only use firefox any more because of zotero. And zotero doesn't yet work with FF4 so I haven't tried it: if it's faster, great, but chrome is fast enough for me.

Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 26, 2010 16:25 UTC (Tue) by alankila (guest, #47141) [Link]

I'm surprised nobody so far has bothered to mention that yes, chromium is available on distribution like Ubuntu.

Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 26, 2010 17:29 UTC (Tue) by Baylink (guest, #755) [Link]

Um, "chromium" is an OS. Of course it's 600MB.

"Chrome" is a browser.

Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 26, 2010 17:41 UTC (Tue) by gmaxwell (guest, #30048) [Link]

Chrome is a closed source browser, chromium is the freely licensed version of it. Chromium OS is an operating system.

I'm talking about the browser, not the OS.

Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 26, 2010 17:43 UTC (Tue) by Baylink (guest, #755) [Link]

<wince>

The *browser* source tree is 600MB? *Really*?

Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 26, 2010 23:39 UTC (Tue) by Lennie (guest, #49641) [Link]

More like 150MB, judging by the result of apt-get source chromium-browser on Ubuntu 10.10 (to compare Firefox is 50MB).

Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 27, 2010 0:55 UTC (Wed) by gmaxwell (guest, #30048) [Link]

That file is 171MB _LZMAed_. Uncompressed the archive is 1004Mbytes. Your comparison with Mozilla is fine, I just wanted to make it clear that I wasn't just making up the big numbers above! :)

Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 23, 2010 17:37 UTC (Sat) by Arker (guest, #14205) [Link]

Objectively speaking, HTML is a very bad layout engine - overly complex and severely limited.

That's because HTML is not a layout engine. It's a semantic markup language designed to be independent of (but to provide usable information to) any number of entirely different engines running on different hardware with different input and output possibilities.

Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 23, 2010 22:33 UTC (Sat) by drag (subscriber, #31333) [Link]

It's gone back and forth at least a couple times in HTML's history. Whether or not HTML is a layout language seems to be more dependent on the whims of web developer fashion then anything rational.

Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 23, 2010 23:07 UTC (Sat) by anselm (subscriber, #2796) [Link]

It really depends on who you ask. According to the W3C, HTML is a structural markup language and always has been (albeit not a very good one at first). The browser makers will tell you something different, and the marketing droids who insist on pixel-perfect output on any platform will of course claim that HTML is a layout engine because Photoshop is all they know.

Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 23, 2010 23:38 UTC (Sat) by mikov (subscriber, #33179) [Link]

The important thing is how it is used in practice. "HTML" usually is meant as a shortcut for "HTML+CSS+JavaScript implementation in a browser-like environment".

Regardless of what it is, the fact remains - HTML+CSS is inconvenient and over-complicated for layout tasks that ought to be simple.

Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 25, 2010 11:17 UTC (Mon) by sorpigal (subscriber, #36106) [Link]

I wouldn't really call HTML+CSS a layout engine, either, unless your output is paper and you don't really care if everything appears exactly correctly. It's actually a shame that this is the technology we're stuck with for cross-platform displaying and exchanging of information.

Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 26, 2010 17:30 UTC (Tue) by Baylink (guest, #755) [Link]

HTML is not a "layout engine", because it isn't any kind of engine.

It's a description language *interepreted by* layout engines, such as Gecko, Webkit and the like.

Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 26, 2010 17:27 UTC (Tue) by Baylink (guest, #755) [Link]

The reason websites scale poorly when you increase the text size is because their designers bake vertical heights into the CSS design, based on their idea of the text lineheight.

I *assume* it's possible to not make that mistake, since not all websites display the problem, and I complain about it whenever I spot it, but no one's listening.

Mozilla's "Chromeless" project

Posted Oct 27, 2010 0:43 UTC (Wed) by mikov (subscriber, #33179) [Link]

I don't know. I have talked to some web designers and without exception they either think it is impossible to design scalable pages, or that it is far too difficult to be economically feasible. In any case they absolutely don't want to do it.

Admittedly my sample size is only a few people, possibly not the cream of the crop, but what they have said corresponds exactly to my opinion of HTML.

XUL is not a problem

Posted Oct 27, 2010 12:56 UTC (Wed) by CChittleborough (subscriber, #60775) [Link]

mikov asked
Isn't Mozilla reliance on XUL part of the reason why it is so slow?
No. The main efficiency problem Gecko has is that it uses XPCOM (Cross-Platform Common Object Module) for all inter-module calls, even from C++ code to C++ code. Also, Firefox uses lots of XBL to add content and methods to native objects using javascript. The XUL components are implemented in C++ (except when extended with XBL) and have quite adequate performance.

mikov also wrote that:
HTML is actually really horrible for creating scalable well laid out UIs.
True. But XUL is really good for creating good scalable UIs. That is precisely what it is designed for, and it is quite well designed (and implemented) IMHO. But it's documentation isn't so great, at least not last time I looked ...


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