John and Matt have just launched their summer video project with a short teaser trailer. Check it out and bookmark that blog because there's lots more to come.
June 2006 Archives
A couple of months ago, Mike Danseglio, the Program Manager for the Security Solutions group at Microsoft blamed users for the Windows security nightmare, saying "there really is no patch for human stupidity."
Nice one, Mike.
Actually, Mike, there really is no patch for that kind of blame shifting. We make software and it's our job to make it work. Designing and building software is an extremely complex process but it is not magic and it is not only possible to make it safe, it's a requirement.
The makers of internet connected software, primarily browsers and email programs, have created sophisticated platforms for web developers and for those who would do the user harm. Microsoft, with its dominance in the browser and email markets, walked away from improving that platform in 2001 and gave the bad guys half a decade -- and remember, this is "Internet time", half a decade to build ever more sophisticated attacks against users.
This is not some mystery. Microsoft and Netscape built some very powerful technology . In just a few short years they brought hundreds of millions of people online. The security nightmare, though, didn't begin until the leading browser makers left those users to fend for themselves. While Netscape isn't completely free from blame (see Netscape 7 sans pop-up blocker) it is Microsoft that left the majority of users out in the cold for five years while the bad guys developed ever more sophisticated attacks using the tools Microsoft provided.
Here are a couple of examples from the last five or six years:
When it became obvious that pop-ups were not just a nuisance, but a major vector for spyware and adware, we added a pop-up blocker to Mozilla (back at the beginning of 2001). It took IE almost 4 more years to offer the feature in IE -- and then only to XP SP2 users which left hundreds of millions of other Windows users at the mercy of one of the major vectors for malware.
For years, Mozilla struggled with website compatibility issues because it did not support Microsoft's ActiveX technology, another major vector for security attacks on users. Not only would it have been a lot of work to reverse engineer and build Mozilla support for ActiveX, it would have opened Mozilla up to some of the worst threats on the Web. It would have been a bad idea. With the upcoming IE 7 (promised almost a year and a half ago) Microsoft says that "allowing ActiveX controls to run in IE should be the exception". Good idea. And only about 5 years late.
Like I said above, it's really pretty simple. Software makers can choose to side with the user and safety, or not. At Mozilla, we put the user first. Always. We spend our days working to improve the Web for users and to protect them from the bad guys. At Microsoft, at least some have decided it's better spend their time calling users stupid and blaming them for the problem.
You have a choice when it comes to the Internet software you use. But even more important, you have a choice in the companies and organizations that build that software.
I'm back from Moscow. It was a very interesting experience. I'll try to post some photos and maybe some more on the trip later but I've got a week's worth of email to work through so it probably won't happen right away.
The first news I came across after getting home (and back online) was that the Advanced Camera for Surveys onboard Hubble has been down since the 19th. ACS is an amazing instrument and I sure hope they can get it back up soon.
I'll probably be away from the blog for a bit. Deanna and I are headed to Moscow where I'll be presenting on Firefox at Interop Moscow and Deanna and I will be vacationing for a few days. Back in about a week.
This summer, Matt Shichtman and John Carey, both of them Firefox Flicks entrants, have come out to California to work as interns with Mozilla.
We�re very excited to have them here this summer working on video projects for Firefox 2. We�ll start to see the fruits of their labors soon with the launch of the Firefox Web Diaries, a series of short videos telling the Mozilla and Firefox story. These videos will feature many of the key people that helped to make Firefox the success that it is today and who are hard at work on Firefox 2.
I think we�re going to set up a blog for the Firefox Web Diaries so stay tuned for more information.
If you're like me and you bounce between a couple (or a few) different machines, then this is gonna make your day.
Google just released a new Firefox extension, Google Browser Sync, that will keep your bookmarks, history, passwords, and cookies synced across your various machines.
You can read more about the new Firefox extension at the Google Blog.
Yahoo just rolled out the second iteration of their video offering. The first version came last year when the search giant launched, yep, you guessed it, a video searching service. The new version adds video hosting, partner content, and community features like rating and sharing. This relaunch puts Yahoo squarely on the playing field with YouTube, Google Video, and the literally dozens of other video services that have popped up in the last year.
What's to like about this offering? First and foremost, it doesn't look dreadful. Yahoo has eschewed the text and link heavy style so popular at many other video sites (and Yahoo's own Flickr photo site as well,) and made a site that you may actually want to look at -- if you like "Yahoo purple" that is :-)
Second, they've focused on making commonly accessed features actually accessible. Imagine that. The pages are uncrowded and important features get the real estate they deserve.
Right up at the top of all of the Yahoo video pages sits one of the most useful and presumably the most used features, a great big (and nicely highlighted in yellow,) search field. The size and location is a big usability win and a welcome improvement over other services where key features like search are often crammed into tiny spaces off in the corners of the page to make more room for great big "tag clouds" or similarly unfriendly tools.
The central portion of the main Video page is devoted to three highlighted videos, the top "Featured", "Popular", and "New" videos. Each one includes a decent sized video still that links to the player page and well placed information about the clip.
Under the three highlighted videos, you get to the meat of the page and and a nice (but flawed) menu for "Featured", "Popular", "Categories", and "Tags".
Selecting either of Featured or Popular gives you just what you'd expect, a listing of the top featured or popular videos. The video listings are very clean and easy to use with plenty of room for a linked video still, the title and a short description, clear text and graphic indicators for popularity, and a simple link to channel and source information (since not all videos are actually hosted at yahoo. More on that later.)
Selecting either of Category or Tag gives a listing of available categories and tags. After selecting a specific category or tag, the you get a listing of the top 10 videos in that category. The Category listing seems a bit skimpy and the Tags listing is equally weak but I imagine (hope) that will improve with time.
The biggest problem with navigation through these four listings is that the browser back button gives inconsistent results. If, for example, you go to the Tags listing and follow the links to a video page and then hit back, rather than returning to Tags listing, you're taken to the front page. I'm all for good looks but basic navigation has to work.
There are a few other oddities in the video listings. The first is that the Featured and Popular results don't offer the standard "previous and next" link navigation that we're all familiar with and expect. The Category listings and the Tag listings (as well as the video search results list) do offer this standard bit of navigation. This is ameliorated somewhat by the "More Featured Videos" link in the page footer, but we're still left with nothing for the Popular video results and a very inconsistent user experience.
Another inconsistency is that the search results list doesn't show the same columns as all of the other results. It's missing the popularity colum and includes a handy Duration column listing the clip length and format -- something I'd like to see in the default for all video lists.
The back navigation bug needs to be fixed and these other inconsistencies seems arbitrary and completely unnecessary. Other than those problems, which shouldn't be difficult to correct, the video results listing is pretty nice, going for usability rather than quantity.
The video player page is mostly typical and fairly well organized. Underneath the ubiquitous site navigation and the excellent big search field you can find the video player with its nice large graphic controls. Sharing the video is made easy with the click of an email or IM button to the right of the player controls. The other key community features, saving and sharing are accessible from large controls directly below the video.
To the right of the video player sits all of the video metada. Yahoo has done a decent job organizing this section, putting the most important information in nice large bold fonts above the fold.
The downside for the player page is that it doesn't use that nifty Ajaxy goodness to keep the video playing while you interact with the page. If you want to save the video to your Yahoo Favorites, you're taken off the page and into your Favorites page. If you click the stars to rate the video, the player stops and the page reloads to show your rating. The same goes for emailing or listing the full set of applicable tags. You're kicked out of the video experience when there's just no need.
Videos, even over broadband, can take some time to load and tossing the us of the page when we try to interact is just unacceptable. What's strange is that Yahoo put some time into optimizing the experience for less important tasks. Updating a profile or deleting a video from your collection gives nice Ajax information/confirmation dialogs that don't force you through a page reload. Let's hope they spend some time streamlining the video player page experience.
Besides not being horribly ugly, Yahoo Video has another major distinguishing feature: it isn't just a hosting service. Yahoo video is aggregation service of sorts. Yahoo has combined its Web video indexing and searching service, this new community video hosting system, and content from the growing list of Yahoo media partnerships to give users a rich hybrid experience that offers a lot of quality content.
The up side to this aggregation and indexing approach is that Yahoo provides a lot of content and a very consistent experience for these diverse content sources all the way up until the point you launch the actual video. This means that you can take advantage of most of the Yahoo features, saving the video, emailing it, rating, and reviewing regardless of where the video is actually hosted. The down side is that this can be a bit jarring when you go to actually watch videos. Sometimes the video plays right there in the page, sometimes you're forced to other Yahoo pages, sometimes you're sent to a partner site and other times you're tossed to some random site out on the Web. At a bare minimum, Yahoo should be able to integrate their own video content and Yahoo partner content into Yahoo video pages.
I'm already a fan of Yahoo Video for giving users an experience that doesn't look like it was designed for engineers. and the overall look and feel as well as the placement of key pieces of information and interaction are definitely moving the video experience in a better direction that what I've seen at the other, text heavy and cluttered, video hosting sites. There are still a few big glitches in usability though, the scattered bits of Ajax not withstanding, and I hope that the next version addresses some of these problem -- especially where users are yanked away from their primary tasks (watching and interacting with the video).
Rafael has a great post up on the new search plug-in auto discovery. If you don't know what this is, and you're using the latest trunk or branch builds, please visit technorati.com to experience it before reading Rafael's blog post. Then read the post on how it works let me know whether or not it worked for you.