A Slow Surrender: Questionable Feature Additions to Open-Source Tools
August 11, 2015 7:49 PM   Subscribe

Following a spate of features added to Firefox in recent months which are arguably for the benefit of content-providers, rather than users, are there other otherwise friendly, open-source tools to which similar features have been added? Are there watchdog groups/resources which monitor this?

As part of what has felt like a marathon of software updates in the last week, I noticed that among the new features in Firefox 40.0 are presumably advertising-driven "Suggested Sites**" which optionally display on a new tab. This, in addition to the recent integration of the closed W3C EME (arguably de facto DRM), makes me, perhaps unfairly, feel nervous about continuing to use Firefox as my default browser.

In a larger sense, however, I wonder what similar similar features have been slipped into other popular tools in the name of "sustaining the web". I generally do not review release notes, etc. and have enough trouble keeping up with OS updates, plugin updates and general software updates.

My questions are: While I haven't been paying attention over the last 12 months are so, have there been other questionable features added to otherwise friendly, open-source tools? Secondly, are there resources or watchdogs which monitor and track such things?

**Apparently, this has been planned for some time. I suppose further evidence that I'm liable to overlook such things.

posted by Ian.I.Am to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It wouldn't have anything to do with making the web better, but I'm sure that there are examples of open source projects that have added partial features, or APIs, specifically in order to support closed-source add-ons. I know that sort of thing was proposed for MySQL (an API for backing up, as I recall), but I think it was eventually torpedoed.

I don't know of any watchdogs monitoring this, other than the press that covers open source generally.
posted by jimw at 10:59 PM on August 11, 2015

Icecat should stay ethically tidy.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:39 AM on August 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Secondly, are there resources or watchdogs which monitor and track such things?

Check the FSF's blogs?
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:09 AM on August 12, 2015

SourceForge, a popular web-based source code hosting service similar to GitHub and Bitbucket, caused a pretty big ruckus when they started injecting ads into the installers which they wrapped around projects hosted on their servers. (Wikipedia)
posted by xbonesgt at 12:24 PM on August 12, 2015

There was also the audio listening facility that got slipped into Chromium that in theory could have been triggered.

The Firefox suggestions seem to be opt-in and neither set cookies nor share information. Your morals may vary, but I'm not donning the Icecat hair shirt (most add-ons don't work! the add-on directory is a free-text search of the FSF website! it defaults to trying to send passive-aggressive "your software isn't free" notes to third-party JS authors!) over that.
posted by scruss at 12:43 PM on August 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

« Older It Really Has Been That Easy For This Pretty Boy   |   How does Metacritic translate foreign language... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.