Microsoft limits third-party browsers in Windows on ARM, Mozilla cries foul

By on May 10, 2012, 10:46 AM

Mozilla and Google’s plans to develop a Metro-style version of their browsers for Windows 8 were dealt a major blow this week after it was revealed that Microsoft will restrict third-party browsers like Firefox and Chrome from accessing certain APIs on its ARM devices.

Asa Dotzler, community coordinator for several Mozilla projects and product director for the Firefox desktop browser, explained the situation on his blog: On x86 Windows 8 PCs, there are three kinds of software programs - Classic programs that access the win32 API that Windows 7 applications use, programs that are limited to the Metro environment, and Metro style desktop enabled programs which have access to the cool new features of Metro but also to the underlying win32 API that classic desktop applications use.

The problem is Microsoft has made it clear that the third category won't exist for Windows on ARM, otherwise known as Windows RT (stands for runtime), and that neither will the first category --  unless you're Microsoft, of course.

There are some potential advantages to this approach. In a Building Windows 8 post from February, Microsoft explained that the requirement for Metro-only apps on Windows RT eliminates many of the programming tricks used by Win32 app developers, including background processes, registry changes, admin rights, add-ins, and a host of other common techniques that could result in unreliable, memory-hogging apps.

Forcing all third-party apps to run in the sandboxed Metro environment will deliver a new level of security for Windows on ARM products. But it also means that browsers like Firefox and Chrome will be locked out from using certain APIs necessary for building a modern browser. According to Dotzler, there’s no way another browser can possibly compete with IE in terms of features or performance due to this restriction.

He goes on to point out Microsoft's troubled legal history with Internet Explorer and the promise the company made to developers, users, and OEMs about browser choice after its anti-trust ruling expired.

In a statement to Cnet, Google expressed its solidarity with “the concerns Mozilla has raised regarding the Windows 8 environment restricting user choice and innovation.” It’s unclear at this point, however, if either company will be elevating their concerns into a formal antitrust complaint.




User Comments: 45

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Chazz said:

People want a secure OS, MS plans to give them one. Cry foul guys!

BTW as a Gmail, Google search and google voice user I get no support from Google on my windows phone. They simply refuse to acknowledge it and won't offer their services.

If google can refuse to support their competitors and no one cries foul then Microsoft should be able to do the same. Mozillia and opera are the only companies that have a right to complain.

stewi0001 stewi0001 said:

I guess Microsoft is learning from Apple

treeski treeski said:

Well said, Chazz.

Has anyone been able to point out exactly what APIs Mozilla feels it needs to compete in the Windows RT environment?

"According to Dotzler, there?s no way another browser can possibly compete with IE in terms of features or performance due to this restriction."

Isn't a huge part of Metro centered around make apps perform BETTER? What features won't it be able to compete with?

mario mario, Ex-TS Developer, said:

Dotzler hasn't listed the APIs they need that will not enable Firefox to run on ARM. But modern browsers are now big beasts and they now include pretty complex java script  interpreters with JIT compilers and they also use HW acceleration for canvas and WebGL rendering, among other things.

I don't believe MS is doing this to block the competition, it might be a technical limitation for now and I won't criticize them for limiting API access in Windows on ARM they have the right to do so and I we should wait for an official explanation.

Dotzler is a Mozilla evangelist and it is his job to make this kind of claims public, it is not the first time he makes such criticism and it won't be the last.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

I don't believe MS is doing this to block the competition, it might be a technical limitation for now and I won't criticize them for limiting API access in Windows on ARM they have the right to do so and I we should wait for an official explanation.

Once again, a large corporation engages business practices that stifle competition. And you just nod your head and say something to the effect of, "it's for our own good".

The thing Windows had going for it was the fact it was open to developers. Why does a developer suddenly decide a more closed OS is a good idea? I'm going to say it's because you've been indoctrinated with "Applethink". Then, you're going to tell me I'm trolling. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

And you're right modern browsers are big beasts. Look at the ponderous affair that is IE-9.

hahahanoobs hahahanoobs said:

I don't believe MS is doing this to block the competition, it might be a technical limitation for now and I won't criticize them for limiting API access in Windows on ARM they have the right to do so and I we should wait for an official explanation.

Once again, a large corporation engages business practices that stifle competition. And you just nod your head and say something to the effect of, "it's for our own good".

The thing Windows had going for it was the fact it was open to developers. Why does a developer suddenly decide a more closed OS is a good idea? I'm going to say it's because you've been indoctrinated with "Applethink". Then, you're going to tell me I'm trolling. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

And you're right modern browsers are big beasts. Look at the ponderous affair that is IE-9.

LMAO!

mario mario, Ex-TS Developer, said:

I'm just pointing out that there's no official response from MS, we do not know their reasons, and yes sometimes saying no is better for an app ecosystem. iOS benefited a lot by banning browser plugins and it's a very secure OS because it doesn't allow any app to run, limits its access to resources and prohibits custom language interpreters. Android has a lot of malware and most of it has even been available in Google's app store.

I don't know if MS limitations are for "our own good" if they are and they have a very good reason for limiting their API access, I might have no problem with it. If I do have a problem I'm free to use any other OS available.

I don't use IE regularly I've heard it's getting better with every release though, I do know that IE6-7 sucked big time and as a web developer I despised them.

OneSpeed said:

I don't see anything wrong with what MS is doing; afterall they have a business to run. I'm a Google user, MS user, and I buy more Apple gear than anyone I know. The actions of any of these companies will either push you away or make you embrace them. You'd be fooling yourselves to think ANY of those large companies would be serving your best interest. IMHO.

fwilliams said:

Leave it to Microsoft to muck up the meaning of RT. To the rest of the computing world it means Real Time.

But, on the browser side of things, Microsoft needs to be the only browser that people can access. If they allowed other browsers people would see how lame the Microsoft browser actually is!

nazartp said:

Just out of curiosity: what can be so limiting if the "ponderous affair IE-9" survives in the environment and none of other browsers can? Opera exists for iOS, I would presume it will exist for W8RT. Just looking for some education.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

iOS benefited a lot by banning browser plugins and it's a very secure OS because it doesn't allow any app to run, limits its access to resources and prohibits custom language interpreters. Android has a lot of malware and most of it has even been available in Google's app store.
And yet Firefox simply edits and evaluates its permissions for extensions, and is possibly the safest browser out there because of them. ( for example: "NoScript", "AdBlockPlus" . Then there's "MafiaFire" which disables censorship of blocked sites. So, in the eternal struggle between good and evil, prudent management allows open access, yet slams the door in the face of "ne'er do wells".

I don't know if MS limitations are for "our own good" if they are and they have a very good reason for limiting their API access, I might have no problem with it. If I do have a problem I'm free to use any other OS available.
You suffer a massive disconnect between understanding the motivations and machinations of a large corporate entity, and the purely technical aspects of a product. I'm not judging, merely observing. It does create problems for you when you're asked to think outside the "engineering box.". I would have a great deal of difficulty if asked to think inside that same parameters.

As to Google's allowing malware to enter the Android app store, why would you think they wouldn't? That's not a tech issue. It's a social issue. Google's arrogance and disdain toward the customer is legend. The consumer's stupidity is documented fact. So, when you mix a company that doesn't care, with a customer that doesn't know, what would expect the result would be, greater general understanding of Einstein's general theory of relativity?

Just pray Google doesn't start ordering mass quantities of endoscopes for their "Street View" crews. We'll all be getting that free colonoscopy we've all "secretly wanted, but couldn't afford"....!

I don't use IE regularly I've heard it's getting better with every release though, I do know that IE6-7 sucked big time and as a web developer I despised them.
OK, that fact that IE-6 sucks is a slam dunk. I learned that during the first 30 days of my first Windows computer ownership. You can't dazzle me with that revelation.... (Sorry).

Chazz said:

Leave it to Microsoft to muck up the meaning of RT. To the rest of the computing world it means Real Time.

But, on the browser side of things, Microsoft needs to be the only browser that people can access. If they allowed other browsers people would see how lame the Microsoft browser actually is!

Runtime is actually pretty popular in the computer world as well. As well, IE9 is a pretty competent browser. This is coming from someone who only used IE(6,7,8) as a method to download a better browser and never touched it again. Keep up with the times!

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Just out of curiosity: what can be so limiting if the "ponderous affair IE-9" survives in the environment and none of other browsers can? Opera exists for iOS, I would presume it will exist for W8RT. Just looking for some education.
If Mozilla or Opera were forced out of the market because of it, that would be very limiting, don't you think?

There is a difference between death of natural causes, and premeditated murder, wouldn't you say?

We have social machinery in force to prevent, or at least punish murder,.We have no such industrial sanctions in place. Unless you'd like to believe anti-trust actions do anything more than make governments money

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Just out of curiosity: what can be so limiting if the "ponderous affair IE-9" survives in the environment and none of other browsers can? Opera exists for iOS, I would presume it will exist for W8RT. Just looking for some education.

I think there's a little disconnect in logic there. The Captain was just backing up a statement about current browsers being large through the IE-9 example. But, IE-9 is not "surviving in the environment" we are talking about. WindowsRT will be utilizing IE10, and it is a specifically optimized desktop version, with access to features that other browsers are not being allowed to utilize. That's the limitation being discussed.

Guest said:

Yea but who says it will stay this way? And if they are right in saying add-ons and extenstions could hog resources, what good is the platform if it doesn't work because of it? My guess is, is WOA is new and MS doesn't want to rush into cramming it with everything its x86 brethren is capable of right away. Technology if forever evolving, and eventually, the people get what they want.

BTW, Google Chrome is more secure (think back to the Pwn2) out of the box than Firefox with add-ons and extensions non techies know nothing about. Also, we still don't have Google Chrome browser on Android phones running Gingerbread... at all. Is Google losing sales because of it? Doesn't look that way considering their market share. Is Apple failing even though they don't allow certain browsers at all? Not even close.

Bottom line is, coming to conclusions this early, especially before it's even released, is silly.

nazartp said:

Captain, I was looking for a technical answer, not a discussion of monopolistic behavior. Guess I did not state it clearly.

From a technical perspective, one would cry foul if and only if IE for ARM is afforded the level of system resources that is different from that of other browsers. And I'm not sure the article gives enough information to make that statement.

Guest said:

There are some potential advantages to this approach. In a Building Windows 8 post from February, Microsoft explained that the requirement for Metro-only apps on Windows RT eliminates many of the programming tricks used by Win32 app developers, including background processes, registry changes, admin rights, add-ins, and a host of other common techniques that could result in unreliable, memory-hogging apps.

When I read this I thought about what Windows Vista was, and how did that play out?

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Yea but who says it will stay this way? And if they are right in saying add-ons and extenstions could hog resources, what good is the platform if it doesn't work because of it? My guess is, is WOA is new and MS doesn't want to rush into cramming it with everything its x86 brethren is capable of right away.
Aw, c'mon: [link]
Technology if forever evolving, and eventually, the people get what they want.
Our belief system suffers a bit of divergence. I think the people will get what they've been told they want, or they've been made to believe they're "entitled to".

BTW, Google Chrome is more secure (think back to the Pwn2) out of the box than Firefox with add-ons and extensions non techies know nothing about.
Is installing, managing, and running "NoScript", a major intellectual hurdle? Maybe if your IQ is 80, it is.
Also, we still don't have Google Chrome browser on Android phones running Gingerbread... at all. Is Google losing sales because of it? Doesn't look that way considering their market share. Is Apple failing even though they don't allow certain browsers at all? Not even close.
Just on purely philosophical principles, I could live easily in a world without either Andriod phones, or Google "Chrome". I'm certain Google would find another methodology to ram ads down my throat.

Bottom line is, coming to conclusions this early, especially before it's even released, is silly.
Perhaps, but then this thread would have been still borne, and we wouldn't be having all this fun, now would we?

Captain, I was looking for a technical answer, not a discussion of monopolistic behavior. Guess I did not state it clearly.
Oh gosh, I'm a Luddite when it comes to advanced tech. That said, I don't believe you can separate technological existence, from the psychology, propaganda, and institutions, that power its distribution. I know most of the people at tech sites such as this are victims of them. That's because we're always the first in line to be ripped off for whatever is the newest trinket coming down the technopike.

It's called "bandwagon" propaganda. "Be the first kid on your block to own of of these"! Or maybe, "Everybody else has an iPhone, don't get left out". Which gradually morphs in an individual sensibility such as this, "oh dear, I'll lose all my friends if I don't have an iPhone".

nazartp said:

Captain, I'm with you on Microsoft trying to cash-in in a matter similar to Apple's walled garden. I'm just feeling that both Mozilla and Google, in that particular case, are crying foul just in case. Preemptive strike, so to speak.

Guest said:

Had my trollface on as soon as I read the title but seems legit after reading and I see valid points...

1 person liked this | ikesmasher said:

if I have to use internet explorer or a really buggy slow version of a different browser in windows 8,

Im staying at windows 7.

Actually, I probably was anyway, so windows can have fun destroying their own OS.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

if I have to use internet explorer or a really buggy slow version of a different browser in windows 8,

Im staying at windows 7.

Actually, I probably was anyway, so windows can have fun destroying their own OS.

Well now Ike, that's not really getting with the program now, is it? What will your friends think? If that gets out on Facebook, you might be denied a technology job because of making rash, anti-theistic statements like that.

Although, Newegg had a sale on Win 7 Pro 64 bit last week, for a buck ten, free shipping. Not only that, I manged to score a free 1 year, one person copy of Kaspersky AV in the process. (I waited until the sale was about a half hour from being over, and the new promo was in place).. I probably won't use the AV, but it's the gaming aspect of shopping I enjoy winning.

With that said, I can't wait until Windows 8 is released, so I can buy the rest of the parts, and build a brand new Windows 7 box........

In the past I was shouted down when I came out against Vista. I suppose in Hindsight, I "got the bear" there too.

(My only Vista machine is a close out $300.00 Toshiba laptop).

Uvindu said:

Wait, MS has said that they won't have the third category on their Windows RT Devices. They don't mention anything about browsers do they (or did I miss something?). The way I read this, MS is saying that on Windows RT, third party apps will not be able to use those 2 categories. When Mozilla, Google etc. got this news, they started going on about how their browsers won't be able to function as well as IE. The way I see it, any third party software that competes with a Microsoft software will be disadvantaged as the Microsoft software can access those two categories which the third party can't access. The way I see it, this is a limitation Microsoft has implemented for whatever technical reason, but not necessarily to block out other web browsers.

Pls correct me if I'm wrong

m4a4 m4a4 said:

It almost sounds like people are complaining about this as if it was the x86 also...

Otherwise, MS can do that in the name of better security. They already know that they do not like anti-trust suits against them...

SNGX1275 SNGX1275, TS Forces Special, said:

if I have to use internet explorer or a really buggy slow version of a different browser in windows 8,

Im staying at windows 7.

Actually, I probably was anyway, so windows can have fun destroying their own OS.

They are only restricting it on ARM. Not restricting the versions a regular consumer can buy.

MrAnderson said:

It may not be completely fair looking at it from competition, but Apple did the same thing initially.

It will depend if MS eventually elevates some of those API to the Windows RT envirnment to help give developers the access that is closer to Win32 functionality on ARM.

MS made those agree ments in light of User freedom on PC... I don't consider tables PC espcially when using iPad as the model device. It is a computing device, but a walled garden and full of restrictions. MS should be allowe to do this too. If users want more control then they can use the Intel based table devices. That is pretty much what I intend to get after the OS matures to my liking.

Chazz said:

if I have to use internet explorer or a really buggy slow version of a different browser in windows 8,

Im staying at windows 7.

Actually, I probably was anyway, so windows can have fun destroying their own OS.

Well now Ike, that's not really getting with the program now, is it? What will your friends think? If that gets out on Facebook, you might be denied a technology job because of making rash, anti-theistic statements like that.

Although, Newegg had a sale on Win 7 Pro 64 bit last week, for a buck ten, free shipping. Not only that, I manged to score a free 1 year, one person copy of Kaspersky AV in the process. (I waited until the sale was about a half hour from being over, and the new promo was in place).. I probably won't use the AV, but it's the gaming aspect of shopping I enjoy winning.

With that said, I can't wait until Windows 8 is released, so I can buy the rest of the parts, and build a brand new Windows 7 box........

In the past I was shouted down when I came out against Vista. I suppose in Hindsight, I "got the bear" there too.

(My only Vista machine is a close out $300.00 Toshiba laptop).

I'm quite sure the general opinion is that windows 8 is bad. So everything you said is quite the opposite.

killeriii said:

(My only Vista machine is a close out $300.00 Toshiba laptop).

lol

(never had a Vista machine myself, it's a pride thing)

spectrenad said:

Also, we still don't have Google Chrome browser on Android phones running Gingerbread... at all. Is Google losing sales because of it? Doesn't look that way considering their market share. Is Apple failing even though they don't allow certain browsers at all? Not even close.
Just on purely philosophical principles, I could live easily in a world without either Andriod phones, or Google "Chrome". I'm certain Google would find another methodology to ram ads down my throat.

HAHAHA so true!!

spectrenad said:

both sides have valid points. however, I don't like the idea of Mozilla disappearing in the near future. they are protecting our online freedom since a while and I admire them for that. we would have a lot more to worry about without them.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

I'm quite sure the general opinion is that windows 8 is bad. So everything you said is quite the opposite.
Well Chazz, that's why they call it "sarcasm".

lol

(never had a Vista machine myself, it's a pride thing)

Well, Vista basic (in the lappy) isn't much different from XP Home, and Toshiba got their drivers to work. So basically, no difference. I use it once every six months or so, and charge the battery every three. Plus, it's shiny as hell, that means a great deal in tech circles.

both sides have valid points. however, I don't like the idea of Mozilla disappearing in the near future. they are protecting our online freedom since a while and I admire them for that. we would have a lot more to worry about without them.
Nobody wants to see Mozilla disappear. Just watching the soap opera between them and Google is entertainment elevated to a fine art.

Google giving Mozilla money to operate and keep them as their home page, while trying to destroy them through their Chrome browser, is dysfunctional to the point of incestuousness.

It strikes me as similar to tossing the keys to your teen aged daughter's bedroom to your second husband, then telling him you're going to spend the night out with the girls.

Guest said:

Who cares? Does anyone buy Microsoft products anymore?

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Who cares? Does anyone buy Microsoft products anymore?
Well yes, but not you it would seem.

spectrenad said:

Who cares? Does anyone buy Microsoft products anymore?

I do, as well as 99% of everyone around me.

Guest said:

This is what happens when you make software work a certain way but in reality it's only used to be show off then to never be used again. In other words just a key feature to sell the OS however not developed at all to grow.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

This is what happens when you make software work a certain way but in reality it's only used to be show off then to never be used again. In other words just a key feature to sell the OS however not developed at all to grow.
You need to polish the concept and syntax in this statement quite a bit. It might even be on topic, but there's no way to tell for sure.......

Guest said:

I don't know if it's a glitch or an intended behavior.Our users should can choose the browsers we like.Not everyone enjoys using IE after all. I currently have chrome,firefox, avant in my win7, I hope I can still keep using these browsers in win8.

Guest said:

If your in the EU cry foul to the commisioner at comp-market-information@ec.europa.eu who after a number of "citizens" complain may feel forced to act.

Its another case of Microsoft trying to get a commercial advantage - the ARM platform will be subsidized initially anyhow by the established users, so Microsoft should not be allowed to act this way

raybk said:

Boycott Microsoft, no more upgrade of its products!

Guest said:

ZOMG, THE SKY IS FALLING!!!!

Seriously guys, if Chrome or FF fail it is because THEY fail, not because MS limits their deployment.

It amuses me to watch people get all spun up by things like this. Don't like what a company does? Then don't buy their products, but don't say they don't have the right to make the product they want so long as they're not killing or causing someone bodily harm.

The whole antitrust lawsuit in the beginning was a sad and pathetic attempt by Netscape, et al. to not work harder to educate consumers why they should use their product over the one that came installed on their computers.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

The whole antitrust lawsuit in the beginning was a sad and pathetic attempt by Netscape, et al. to not work harder to educate consumers why they should use their product over the one that came installed on their computers.
As you may have heard in the news tuitions are going up all over. In other words "an education" these days, costs both more to give and more to get. In yet other words, small companies can't afford to give out the "education" you're advocating.

spydercanopus spydercanopus said:

The "for security" argument doesn't work for Internet Explorer. What an awful browser. And don't visit internetexplorer.com for god's sake. It's blacklisted with Spybot Search and Destory.

Guest said:

Another reason to use open source software...

Guest said:

I don't really know what they are worried about, it's not like Vista 2.0 is going to sell very well.

Guest said:

Just like Netscape. So why do you do this? So even more people will hate you? I don't get it. Just give the people what they want and you will make money... Everyone's Happy.

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