It’s always nice to see SciAm cover—or at least try to cover—CS/engineering topics in addition to their staples of physics, chemistry and biology. In this case, they raise an interesting point. With the rise of mobile, we’re no longer in control over which browser we use a lot of the time.

  • On iOS devices, Apple permits only its own version of the WebKit browser engine. Technically other browsers besides Safari are allowed, but they must use Apple’s technology for actually rendering Web pages.
  • Microsoft wants a similar approach on Windows RT, the version of Microsoft’s storied operating system for devices using low-power, mobile-friendly ARM processors.
  • On Windows Phone 7, Internet Explorer is built in, but other browsers don’t get its privileges.
  • On Google’s Chrome OS, the browser is the operating system. Linux lurks beneath, but all the applications run on the browser, and that browser is Chrome.
  • Mozilla’s Boot to Gecko (B2G) project takes a similar approach as Chrome OS, only for mobile phones. Mozilla naturally uses the Gecko browser engine that’s the foundation of Firefox.

Really, this somewhat misses the point. What’s actually going on is that as we shift to mobile devices, for whatever reason we seem to be giving up the notion of what a general purpose computer should be and the fact that some regulations are needed to defend users against monopolies.

This is really a smaller part of the war on general purpose computation. Though from the monopolist perspective, rather than the oppressive government perspective. Still, this isn’t going anywhere good any time soon.

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