Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Web Browser plugins, how I loathe thee, let me count the ways.....

I have had a passionate dislike for web browser plugins. Yes, they add new exciting features...that you may or may not be able to control, or have a predictable behavior across the world-wide-web.

Take for example two very common plugins that I usually have to deal with for reporting, document management/archive, etc.

PDF plugins (Adobe)
TIFF plugins (variety)

Adobe PDF plugins -
  • Versions/upgrades regularly, users have to regular update 'the site', even though it's not the site, it is the plugin asking for upgrades.
  • To embed, not embed, dealing with pop-ups allowed.
  • is a good one....the web-embed adobe plugin making *multiple* http requests for the same content, and if your logging didn't account for that - multiple logs (see http 206, byte serving/byte range requests).
TIFF plugins -
  • Variety of plugins with different options/features/control (and even something 'simple' like if the plugin allows multiple page viewing....apparently not standard?!)
  • You, your client/customer, or someone, has Outlook/Office installed and it has an update, a critical update, a security update, whatever -- and reverts to using the MS Tiff viewer by default despite your best effort to use a different TIFF plugin.
  • TIFF encoding/compression formats (i.e. g3/fax compression that has an X-Y ratio difference, that some plugins understand and show 'correctly', and others that show without the appropriate ratio and have 'crunched' images).
  • And the occasional TIFF that has a byte that isn't understood by Plugin XYZ, or other plugin, but yes on this for it, they happen.
Then you add in other plugins like flash/shockwave, java applets, activex/silverlight, codec/encoding video players (whether to use quicktime, realplayer, windows media player, divx, ......), and developers just can not wait until HTML 5 becomes a real-world/real-usage deal.


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