Vivaldi Browsercast #2: audio transcript

Dear friends,

Here is the transcript for the Vivaldi Browsercast: The fight to keep the web open (Part 2) audio podcast.

With thanks to Team_Vivaldi for another thought-provoking discussion, and for your assistance and encouragement! 😀


 

(Intro music)

GAËLLE:
Hello and welcome to our 2nd episode of Vivaldi Browsercast. 

Today Molly Holzschlag, Developer Relations, and Jon von Tetzchner, CEO and Co-Founder of Vivaldi, will talk about open standards and technology. 

(Music slow fade out)

 

MOLLY:
Hi everybody. This is Molly Holzschlag.

I’m here with Jon von Tetzchner. Of course my background involves a lot of us fighting with browsers for standards, implementations and specifications. One of the things I like, that’s going on here, is that you chose to go with Chromium and open source. I, as a person who looks at Web standards in a certain way, in the open web in a certain way [wonder]: how do you take the philosophy as well as the technology, how would you say you bring that into the culture that that is surrounding? Because when I walk around and I talk to programmers here, everybody seems to be pretty much on the same page. They’re passionate, they’re focused, they’re enthusiastic. They won’t stay at one-size-fits-all; they want what you want. How do you create and engender that kind of culture?

JON:
A lot of the guys that are coming in here, we have worked together before. So we knew where we had each other and what we wanted to do. So a lot of them are sharing their belief of how things should be done. That’s why they quit their older jobs. They came here because they want to build a great product. They share the vision of what we’re doing: that every user should get the browser that they deserve; a great browser, adapted to them. So that’s the task that we’re taking on here.

And obviously given that we’re all passionate about this and… there is something special about the feedback we get, right? 

MOLLY:
Yes, it’s fascinating to see the love from the community where it’s not: “Why are you doing Vivaldi?” 

But: “When can the next feature be delivered to my desktop and my device?” 

And: “When is the next…?” you know and people who just want more.

JON:
Yeah, they’re very excited about what we’re doing, and that’s the fantastic part, and that’s why we’re doing it.

There is something special about when you build a piece of software — or anything that you’re building — and people really, really love it, right? And that’s what we’re seeing. People love what we’re doing. We’re a special organization in this way. We have hundreds of volunteers that are helping us. Part of that is translating into more than 50 languages which is part of adapting to the user.

MOLLY:
Yes, of course.

JON:
So we like that. And helping us test and giving us feedback and they’re sharing the word and going out and speaking on our behalf.

So we have a massive support from people and I think, they just like what we’re doing; and this feedback that we get from them energizes us.

MOLLY:
Yes, I see that. I felt like there hasn’t been leadership, there hasn’t been this new sense of excitement and thrill that I’ve always felt. This passion that I have for the Web as it’s meant to be; not as it necessarily started becoming as, you know, with the closed social networks and people not understanding perhaps what the greater vision was. Having that kind of get lost in the competition for that top spot. You know, “we own the Web” or whatever that ridiculous thing is; as if anybody could own something that is of, by and for people.

JON:
I think what we have to remember is that the fight for the Web was not given, right? When we started and the concept of the Web came through, there were these very strong platforms, the Windows platform and most everything was there. If you were preferring to use a Mac or Linux computer, you were kind of left with not being able to run all the applications, you had all kind of incompatibilities; and suddenly the Web has turned that on its head. I think we have to realize that it’s a battle we won, but it’s a battle that we have to keep fighting for.

MOLLY:
Yes. It’s an iterative process.

JON:
It’s an iterative process and there’s always going to be companies that would like to reverse that. They would like to make their own closed networks, they would like to make you have to log into their systems, or use proprietary technologies that lock you in, that compete with the Web and that’s going to happen. I think we, as users, we have to fight for that openness. I think it’s important that you can have a link and that link works, independent of operating system, device and the like… takes you to the same content. Maybe formatted slightly differently because of the device or your requirements. But, overall the content should be addressable and available to all.

MOLLY:
One of the most important features of the Web as it was meant to be: “Let’s have an interoperable platform!” 

So that’s something we have. I hear you saying that you feel confident we’ve pretty much gotten there.

JON:
We have that. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a battle. There is always the “app battle”. Given what Microsoft had, it’s understandable that Microsoft would like to get that back; that other big companies would like to get into that kind of position where they own the platform. It’s understandable from a …

MOLLY:
… or they think they do. I’m not so sure they really do, but they might think they do.

JON:
Yeah I mean, you just want to win. In reality for all of them, and all of us, for technology progress, for innovation, for the world to move forward, having a platform to build on, which is standardized — not owned by any single company — is extremely important. Where there are multiple implementations of the technology. So you’re not locked in. So one party doesn’t dictate the progress of the technology. All of those things are extremely important. And I think we have to work for that. I don’t think we can take it for granted; I think that’s always a dangerous thing. But I do believe that at this very moment, that’s what we have. There are issues — there are issues.

MOLLY:
There will always be. I think what you’re saying here, that I hear and that I experience absolutely, is that we’ve gotten to a certain point — we’ve levelled up, if you will — into the place where now, a new level of innovation and energy can come in. It doesn’t mean that we’ve solved all the problems and it doesn’t mean that… There’s a story, a little anecdote from when I was teaching many years ago, back in the day and age when I was teaching table-based layouts, and we were really in that — 4.0, you know, Microsoft Internet Explorer — really in the midst of the browser wars, and a student of mine said, “When are we going to be done with this?!” And the entire class laughed. He turned red and I felt really badly because here is this young man asking what is really actually a question that should get an answer.

He was serious but it seemed so ludicrous to those of us who were already in the Web, or already got the idea that this was not something that was to be a product, that was going to have a ship date on it, you know: “Let’s ship the Web today! And that’s it.”

JON:
And it continues [evolving]… And I think, if you look at the history of the Web when we started working, the idea was cross-platform, cross-device. I remember the days when — and this is the Opera days — “why are you building a browser” and “why are you doing more than one language, isn’t English the language of the Web” and things like that.

It was very shortsighted and gradually we came to the place, where [it was clear] the Web is multiple languages. And then there was the question: “OK, what about mobile?”, right? And people said “no, no, you need a separate mobile thing: you need WAP, [WML], you need something different.”

No, we believe in one Web and we went and implemented that on the mobile side. And again, there was a battle there. And the next one: “Ok, what about these pads?” We did the first pad implementation in Opera in 2000 and it took a long time before Apple came with theirs and then suddenly that was accepted.

MOLLY:
Kind of set a precedent, sort of… or stabilized the market.

JON:
Yes. But I think there are so many devices that are not connected. TVs are getting connected but typically, you’re not getting the Web on them as it could have been. I think there’s a big opportunity there.

MOLLY:
That’s one area where innovation could be taking place and I don’t see a lot of leadership in it. What do you think?

JON:
There’s a lot of cool things you could do on the television, and clearly we are moving more and more towards using the Web instead of television. But on the other hand, we do have these nice shiny screens, […]

MOLLY:
They’re so huge, too!

JON:
Yeah, so why not use them for something?!

MOLLY:
Yeah, I think so; … many things, perhaps! One of the things that I enjoyed very much in my career, was the opportunity, when at Opera, to be looking at Web browsers on platforms like: in a car. Or let’s say really thinking, at that time, way outside the browser box, as it were. And there was a time when we talked about this being the convergence, right? Remember that, right around the mid 90s, 96, 97: “eventually all media is going to converge”. And actually, what I’m seeing is that TV is now being inspired by what’s happening on the Web, and not the other way around. So it’s very fascinating to me, and I think there’s also more of a demand now in terms of this whole user-centric and individualistic customization features. It seems to me like that really is what we need in order to navigate so many devices. Of course, the amount of information that’s out there… it’s almost like creating our own window on the world. It makes me feel empowered.

JON:
I’m also thinking about the Internet of Things.

MOLLY:
Yes, me too! I’m happy you brought that up: IoT.

JON:
It’s something that we started thinking about obviously a long time ago at Opera when we were doing [projects] like Unite.

MOLLY:
Yeah, yes, Unite. And it comes back to this convergence, the word convergence that I used. This was talked about as a vision for future; and now it’s being realized, I think.

JON:
To some extent; I mean to me, I think it’s moving very slowly. It’s glacial in many ways. 

MOLLY:
It is. Well, IoT [Internet of Things] itself, yes.

JON:
Yeah, I mean, I think that part of the problem is — and what you’re trying to solve there is — to get a standard. I think there’s a reason why the Web became the Web in the way it happened: it’s because there was a decision made to make this open. To put the standards out there and help people implement it. And there was no owner of the Web. So from that perspective, it was special.

What I’m seeing in the Internet of Things and home automation and all those different things: there’s just a lot of different vendors, all with their own solutions that are not compatible. If we could get some standards at the bottom of this to make this work, then I think there is fantastic potential. But if we have to first go through this battle of companies trying to win? Then it’s going to take a lot longer.

MOLLY:
I think the conversation about where IoT is going to be standardized, how it’s going to be standardized, it’s already a big fight. If you’re in that part of the industry, you’re hearing the screams!

JON:
Part of the problem is obviously, that a lot of the companies that are capable of doing those things, they want to own it for themselves.

MOLLY:
Of course! There’s a lot of product — and it’s not just software, it’s a lot of hardware — that’s involved there too.

So we’re talking a lot of profit. And it’s so sad to me, when profits get in the way, or the short term thinking… it goes kind of back to that anecdote of the student going “when are we done?”. It’s never done. It’s a growth process just like life, right? Each lesson that we learn, one would hope we would take that lesson home, think about it for a while and come back more… adept.

JON:
If you think about the Web, think about what the Web has brought us… So if you think about if you did the same thing for the Internet of Things, that you actually would agree on open — and totally open — standards with no hindrances in the way for anyone. That would bring a lot of innovation.

And I think that’s where we have to go. You have to open it, then you’ll see a lot of small companies, big companies, come with ideas that are differentiated.

MOLLY:
Because they’re competing, the big guys are competing, and then the little guys can’t get their say in and they might have great ideas. Is that sort of what you’re trying to say.

JON:
If you are building your own ecosystem, and you have to build the ecosystem, the problem is typically that your ecosystem is too small.

MOLLY:
Right, and that hasn’t really formed.

JON:
It’s the size of the market. So if you’re building an idea, and the addressable market is kind of: “OK, you have to build everything yourself, and you’re in your little corner”, that’s one thing.

But if it’s an underlying agreement, that: “OK, we’ll make this all work together.” So we have these different units and they all work together and instead of being part of company A, B or C’s closed systems.

MOLLY:
Right, exactly.

JON:
It’s a lot easier. And that’s the benefit we’ve seen with the Web, that because you — as a provider of services, or technology, or content — you can write it and it’s available to a lot of people, potentially. I mean, we are seeing people put up little shops and sending all over the world. And it’s fairly easy to do. I mean, as long as you have the goods and you get the logistics working and all those kind of things, you can make it work. And because it’s standardized, you can do all those things. But when you have all these different fragmented systems, the amount of work for anyone that wants to set up shop, whether that is a physical or a digital shop or whatever else you want to do, it’s just so much harder. So this is why, I think, we are seeing technology being held back by the competition to own the platform.

Now, the Web is open, and everything is for the most part interoperable…

MOLLY:
…People keep making their moves but they ultimately can’t really do it because of that interoperability issue fundamentals.

JON:
Yes, so if we can get this standardized…

MOLLY:
…in an open way…

JON:
…I think, we could see a lot more progress on the Internet of Things and make it deliver on the promises, instead of what we are seeing now, which is very limited in scope. I mean the kind of things that we were playing with, with Opera Unite 10 years ago? I mean there is nothing like that yet.

MOLLY:
Nothing. I mean, I came into the company, right at the point that was a big piece of the product. Especially in developer relations, we were talking a lot about it, and it was really something quite along the lines of what had been back in the day talked about but nobody had ever done yet. Maybe tell a little bit about that.

JON:
Yeah, the principle of this was that you would use not only the Web technologies on the client side but on the server side. So you could write an application using the normal Web standards as you know it, it would just run on the device… you could share things from it, right? So the kind of things that we were doing is just simple things, like you could do your own file sharing.

If I want to send you a file today, it’s really cumbersome; with Unite I’d just put it on a special place on my disc and share it.

MOLLY:
It’s distributed, correct?

JON:
Well yeah, I mean, I put it on my disc and I just send you a link to my machine. And that was something that I could do very simply. And then we were doing cooler stuff, right? 

MOLLY:
That seems to me like you’re just creating a one to one peer network, yeah.

JON:
Yes. Which has a great benefit. I think, we were thinking about what comes after the cloud. We were thinking the cloud was getting a bit old! 

MOLLY:
Already 10 years ahead of everybody and thinking the cloud was getting old!

JON:
We were thinking: “Okay, this is not the solution for everything, and we have to think about what comes after it.” And I think in the history of computing we’ve had these centralized [to] de-centralized [trends]. So this is a natural thing to think about: “Okay, more de-centralized, more peer-to-peer.”

MOLLY:
Distributed.

JON:
Yes, our feeling was that that was the next natural step.

MOLLY:
I think that has to be the future of the Web or any platform. I think to take this to the next step, if you will, and the Internet of Things and all of that. One of the things that’s happening at the W3C, I’m not sure if you’ve taken a look at some of the early work? There’s an interest group for Web of Things and this would be the open standards for the ontologies that would go into the semantic layers of the Internet of Things.

W3C and the people that are working on this, they have some very good ideas and I’d love to see that extrapolated out but they are also being faced with this problem, where it’s so fragmented because everybody is operating in those little niche markets as opposed to opening up and working together in a collaborative way: the way the W3C had worked for many many years, where we all have a common interest and let’s set a standard for all of us. Just as we would for manufacturing safety in cars or something of that nature.

Why don’t we have [that]? And the only place we really have that check, is in accessibility in terms of legal. And that seems so heavy-handed to me, that it shouldn’t have to come from law, that it should be by people’s long-term vision. But there isn’t a lot of that going around, is there!

JON:
There is a particular problem, that people want to own their own spheres and sadly there’s that kind of thinking. I think in a way, the different companies should focus on competing on the quality of their products and let the quality of the products talk for themselves and otherwise try to standardize as much as possible.

The focus for the company is serving the end users and what’s good for the end users should be good for the companies overall. That is then a question of, okay, providing choice and providing solutions.

I think it would be great for the industry to get the Internet of Things off the ground and I think it would be massive for end-users. I think there’s so many things that we could make…

MOLLY:
Look at the quality of life and the ability to improve the way of life for all the world.

JON:
Yeah, I mean if you think about it, the Web has changed the world massively and I think overall it’s been positive. We all agree that we don’t want to go back.

MOLLY:
I think the Web is simply a reflection of humanity. You’re going to get all the good and all the bad. 

JON:
Yes. The Web isn’t very old.

MOLLY:
No, it’s a baby!

JON:
Yes, and there is so much more coming and it’s a question of letting it evolve in a natural way. And I think that’s what we need to see, that the Web evolves in a natural way, that we see the next natural steps coming.

We should be seeing more and more interesting things on TV and it shouldn’t be closed systems. It should be open, it should be open systems.

And the same with the Internet of Things. We should start to see that there is interoperability between all the different devices, that it is at a level which is similar to what we’re used to on the web; that programming your different devices should be no more difficult than making a Web page. That’s where it should be, so it’s open for the creative mind. I think, technically speaking, all of this is very much feasible. So it’s really a question of will.

MOLLY:
I think unfortunately the challenge is it’s a human shift. It’s a consciousness shift, where people are going to have to let go of some of their old habits and be willing to embrace new ones. And that’s really hard for a lot of people.

JON:
I think what was happening on the Web, it wasn’t kind of like that everyone just came together and said that it was a good thing to do the right thing. A number of people saw it in their interest to do so. Everyone kind of followed. I mean there was a massive battle for the standardization of the Web. We all know that there was a massive battle between Netscape and Microsoft and different [CAMs?] and then kind of a Microsoft won and then the Web was not moving forward. And then a few of us came together — Opera, Mozilla and Apple — with the directions of: okay, we will push the HTML5, we got the W3C back on track taking over that.

But it was kind of stuck there for a little while.

MOLLY:
It really was and it was very frustrating to be part of that, I think, because, especially when you have the passion and the momentum, to all of a sudden hit a wall. It’s very hard. But in a way, maybe we needed that. I remember speaking to some developers on Chromium actually and they were saying “oh well, we’ll just let that bug slip; we’re going to fix it later”. I was saying, you’re young, that’s such an optimistic viewpoint because a lot of us know that if you don’t fix it now, it won’t get fixed later. And then maybe 20 years from now you’re going to be still stomping it!

It’s interesting to see that sort of coming to bear, what we started 20 years ago, is now really… we’re seeing it realized perhaps the way we would have wanted it then but it’s only starting to mature. It’s just now coming of age. Would you say that it’s through its teen years? Maybe those browser wars were its bad teenage rebellion?!

JON:
In some ways. But actually, you know what, I see it more as a continuous battle. There was a battle in the beginning. There was a battle for what is the Web going to be and it was: okay, should it be a closed system or an open system? The open system won.

Then we had a situation where the direction was decided by IE [Internet Explorer] and they were stopping all the innovation. A number of the smaller players pinched together and decided, okay we can try to do something. And we managed to turn things around. And I think every step of the way there has been an interest in stopping the Web evolving.

MOLLY:
It seems to me that you are very specifically saying that it is the ownership of it that is the thing that gets in the way of it moving forward. That people’s desire to have a piece — or ownership — of the Web, or of the Internet of Things: that desire is actually creating the roadblocks to innovation.

JON:
Owning monopolies is… can be a lucrative thing. I hope I’m not like that. 

MOLLY:
Uh, you are not like that. I can promise you!

JON:
But I believe that there is a value in having things open, right? And I think that’s what the end-users want and is best (I think) for everyone. And then it’s a question of how do you ensure that that happens? And again it’s a continuous battle.

MOLLY:
I was actually wondering whether it was accurate to say that the open Web was a dead idea.

And, until I really came and talked to you and from other people around, I’m realizing that maybe I was very wrong. That my impression was far more negative coming back in because I wasn’t seeing the innovation; and I wasn’t seeing the opportunity; and I wasn’t seeing that open, equal playing field. And that’s nurturing and that wants people to be innovative and wants to foster a creative environment. That seemed to be very gone. And it really hurt me as a person who had fought alongside you all for the benefit of that open Web. Why is it this way? I mean, I have to dig a few layers down and now I’m beginning to find the veins where the blood is, and it’s alive, and the passion is alive, and the open door to innovation still is desirable, and it’s still there and possible.

JON:
Yes, I think that’s what people want. It’s mostly a question of: there are some companies that are in a position where they could own it all, and we have to hold their ears and make sure they do the right thing. Make them just understand that it’s in their interest and everyone else’s interest, that we want technology to move forward. And there’s a benefit in us working together at the level to make that happen.

MOLLY:
I want to personally thank you and everybody you’ve surrounded yourself with and the people… and the vision. Because it was very hard coming back to an industry that I have had so much passion for, and so much love for and worked very hard through some of those battles with others… to come in and see a fragmentation on many layers, both in the philosophical arena, as well as the technical. And I was overwhelmed by that. And now as I’m getting a little more comfortable, I’m beginning to see it’s not so dire.

And there is innovation. I think people really need that. It’s like a refresh. I want to thank you very much for that because I think it takes an incredibly selfless person to step back and say: “Okay, we all need to make some money in the world but really, do we have to mess up something so golden, so helpful for humanity and technology, and all things, potentially”.

JON:
Yeah I mean what we build with the Web is something that’s worth fighting for, and I think it’s important to continue doing so. And the way you fight, it’s about championing opening open standards and technologies. And that’s what this is all about: to ensure that this Web that we build, that it is accessible to all, that it continues to evolve with the potential it has and reaches its potential and I think it’s in its infancy in many ways. There’s so much more that we can do and we just have to continue doing that and enabling the layers for people to innovate on top of. And that’s what this is all about.

MOLLY:
I could not agree with you more. This has been so wonderful. Thank you. Great seeing you and spending time with Vivaldi. All systems go!

JON:
This is a lot of fun. Good to see you.

MOLLY:
Very good to see you. Let’s move the Web forward.

JON:
Let’s do that.

 

(Outro music)

GAËLLE:
Thanks for listening to Vivaldi Browsercast. Let us know how you liked this podcast and which topic you’d like us to cover on vivaldi.net.

(Music ends)

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *