SitePoint Podcast #96: The Plug-in Wars

Episode 96 of The SitePoint Podcast is now available! This week your hosts are Patrick O’Keefe (@iFroggy), Stephan Segraves (@ssegraves), Brad Williams (@williamsba), and Kevin Yank (@sentience).

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Episode Summary

Here are the topics covered in this episode:

    • Google to Drop H.264 Video Support from Chrome
    • It’s Time to Test Your Site on Firefox 4
    • W3Fools Recommends the SitePoint Reference
    • Tainted WordPress Themes Dominate Google

      Browse the full list of links referenced in the show at http://delicious.com/sitepointpodcast/96.

      Host Spotlights

      Show Transcript

      Kevin: January 21, 2011. Google Chrome drops H.264 video, Firefox 4 nears release, and how to avoid tainted WordPress themes. I’m Kevin Yank and this is the SitePoint Podcast #96: The Plug-in Wars.

      And welcome in to the SitePoint Podcast #96 and Stephan, Patrick, Brad, welcome.

      Brad: Hello, hello.

      Patrick: Hello.

      Kevin: Hello, hello. Good to hear from you again, it’s nice to do this every two weeks, sit down and have a chat with you, and this week it seems like we have more to chat about than we ever have before. So let’s dive right in here with the number one story that’s been on my radar for the past week, and this is Google Chrome and video. So, Brad, I have one question for you, are you gonna quit Chrome because of this story?

      Brad: Uh, no, absolutely not.

      Kevin: (Laughs) It seems like a lot of people are starting to threaten desperate action here. The story those who haven’t heard it is that Google has announced a massive flip-flop from some perspectives, they’ve decided they are going to cut support out of the Chrome browser, the support being H.264 video. So for those who don’t know their video standards this is the video codec that is supported in hardware by all of the i-devices that Apple makes, and so I guess until the iPhone and the iPad came out no one paid that much attention to what video format you were putting on your website because everyone used Flash to deliver video, so Flash supports MPEG-2 video, it supports H.264 video, it supports a couple of other video codecs like VP6, and because it supported this variety of formats no one really cared what format your video was in as long as you had the Flash player you could watch all of this video. But about three years ago along came, four years ago I suppose, along came the iPhone with no Flash support followed a couple years later by the iPad, again no Flash support, and these devices required a single video format and that was H.264. You could embed H.264 video in your site and it would play on these browsers but not on any, well, no other video format would play on these devices, and so gradually everyone started converting their website’s video to H.264, until now. The story, I guess we heard it about a year ago, Google bought up all of the rights to this new video format called VP8 and they bundled it into a file format they’re calling WebM, and I don’t know, when it came out it sounded like good news; when Google made this acquisition we were all pretty positive about it, right?

      Brad: Yeah, we were discussing it, it’s been a few months now since WebM was originally announced, and at the time I remember we were all kind of going back and forth on what we thought of it, and if I remember right Patrick raised a couple good points that I tend to agree with more now then I think I did at the time which is that the video format that is chosen for HTML5 needs to be open, I mean that is going to ultimately help with innovation and help with some of the smaller startups that maybe couldn’t afford any type of a licensing fee when it comes to playing video across the Web, so I’m all for it; I think WebM is the way to go and I’m glad that Google is kind of taking a stance on that side.

      Kevin: Well, I suppose a lot of the debate, you know, we’re coming into this roughly a week in this story so there’s a lot of water under the bridge. The initial reaction was I think very divided, there were people who said finally Google’s doing the right thing, and then there were people saying Google’s screwing the Web as a whole here. So, I suppose it depends what side of that argument you fall on, and even within the walls here at SitePoint the debate has been divided, I think it almost came to blows the day it announced. Some of the people here are on Google’s side on this and other people aren’t. I guess it comes down to what your definition of open is.

      Brad: Yeah, I’m curious to see why people think that Google’s kind of screwing the Web by doing this, what’s that argument? Or is anybody on the — does anybody here agree with that?

      Kevin: Let me paint you a picture because I think I may agree with this, I’m prepared to have my mind changed, but right now open is a difficult term, it could mean open source it could mean free, it could mean not controlled by any one person, and depending on your definition and what you think is right for the Web your preferred video format should be different I think. So, by some definition at least I think H.264 is open and WebM is not; the definition that I think would give you that is that H.264 is owned not by any one company but by a consortium of companies who all participate in this licensing body that has co-ownership of the H.264 video format. There’s no one company that can decide to withhold access to this format to anyone, you know, if we at SitePoint start making videos that people don’t like there’s no way the company that owns H.264 can say you’re not allowed to use this format or start charging us extra licensing fees or what have you. It is an open format in that it is owned by a trust of companies. The WebM format, however, is now owned by a single company and that company is Google, and so your trust in that format, your belief that that format is going to be maintained and licensed and held in the best interest of the Web as a whole should only extend as far as your trust in the company Google extends. Google will tell you that WebM is open because it is licensed for free; no one needs to pay anyone anything to use the WebM video format because Google has said that everyone can have free access to this format in perpetuity. The code for both playing and creating VP8 video that goes into WebM video files is also open source, and so anyone can grab this code and adapt it for whatever device or browser that they want to put it into, so that code is open source. But, it is still technology owned by Google; if I want to make a change to the VP8 video format I have to take it up with Google, that’s one company that is answerable to its shareholders and to its bottom line, it’s not a group of companies like H.264. So that for me is the argument why H.264 is more open than WebM, so talk me out of it, someone, tell me why I’m wrong. Why is WebM open?

      Stephan: It’s Google. I don’t know, I agree with you, Kevin, so I don’t think there’s an argument against what you’re saying, really.

      Patrick: But your belief that it’s safer is more or less strongly because multiple companies own it as opposed to one. I don’t know. I can see that, I just don’t know that that makes a heck of a lot of difference if we see the companies as evil to begin with (laughter).

      Brad: Well, Google’s not evil are they?

      Kevin: They’re not evil but they’re not a not-for-profit altruistic company either, I think that would be naïve to say. Google is not the first browser to decide against supporting H.264. The Firefox browser does not support H.264 video; if you go to a website that has H.264 video on it with Firefox it won’t play unless that site goes, “Oh, you don’t support H.264 video? Well here’s a Flash movie that will sit around that video file to play it.” So Flash is kind of like this compatibility layer, if the browser doesn’t support the video format that’s being given to you by the site, the site will usually say okay here take this Flash movie instead and the Flash player can play that video file format. So this is what we’ve had in Firefox and Opera I believe for years, these two browsers, Firefox and Opera do not have native support for H.264 video, and they have always cited the same sort of reasons that Google has cited which is that web technology has always been free as in beer, as in you don’t have to pay anyone a dollar to create web content or to create a web browser to display web content. This is the argument we’ve made on this podcast before that is the Web more like paper or more like Blu-ray disc? Should the technology required to display web content be technology that you have to pay someone to use. And that is certainly true of H.264 video, but there’s the purist argument and the practical argument, the purist argument is that if you want to build the next YouTube and you’re going to be basing your business around H.264 video then you’re going to eventually cross this certain threshold that your publishing a certain amount of H.264 video and you are going to have to pay the licensing body for use of that technology. But if you just want to put this type of video on your personal blog for personal use and you’re doing a video podcast, you’re putting up a video everyday, you’re not going to cross any sort of barrier or threshold that says that you owe people money to license that technology. The H.264 consortium has very generous limits on personal use and even commercial use below a certain threshold that you don’t have to pay for, and they have made public commitments not only to extend that use for many years, but when the renewal date comes up on that they have also promised that they are not going to unreasonably change those terms. Basically they have committed publicly and to the world that H.264 video will be free for personal, non-commercial use on the Web and free for small scale commercial use as well. What’s wrong with that?

      Patrick: Well, I don’t know, let me put a different spin on this because I was thinking about it in terms of our discussion in a previous show about RSS and maybe the death of RSS, and I said something that I think is true here as well, and I said that it’s not any browser’s job to promote RSS, and I really feel it’s a browser’s job to promote a video format either, and I think that the altruistic discussion is best left for the small minority of people that care about that, which is listeners of this show, but there’s also the business aspect of it too, voting with your feet so to speak. You asked Brad if he would stop using Chrome, no, because Brad doesn’t feel it’s a big deal, but then maybe Chrome will take a hit based upon this and other browsers will receive a plus because they want to support that; if it’s that big of an issue I think that the numbers will reflect it in usage more or less and that’s one of the ways that you should vote if you don’t like what Google has done here. Now me personally I still haven’t downloaded Chrome so the most I could threaten is to download it, so me personally not much of a threat. But, I think that there are browsers that support this format obviously, and if you feel that strongly go that way, users will always go by performance I think in general those that care about this sort of thing, everyone else will just use the browser they use because believe it or not I think that web video isn’t going away, so whatever browser they’re using chances are if it’s important enough the website will find a way to display it. So how important is this discussion in the larger context of the Web? I don’t know. But to me it just seems like it’s maybe a little overblown for the weekend, and Chrome is a minority browser don’t forget and let’s see how it goes.

      Brad: So if you want to support H.264 then you need to run IE9 or Safari (laughter).

      Patrick: It’s funny how that works out.

      Brad: Are you running either of those Patrick?

      Patrick: No, actually I run Firefox, so.

      Brad: Oh, boy. So you are supporting WebM.

      Patrick: Oh, man, evil. Another interesting number I saw here was in an article, ZDNet, Ed Bott, a link Kevin had in the show notes I think, was he said, “The maximum annual license for a product like Chrome for H.264 would be 6.5 million dollars.” Now his opinion is that that is less than a fourth of one-hundredth of one percent of Google’s profits, and so it shouldn’t really matter to them. I don’t know if that’s a fair thing to make, I don’t think Google necessarily needs to throw away 6.5 million dollars if they feel like it’s not worth it for them to use this format or to adopt it or they have something they feel is better. I think that’s something that any company or organization owes to itself and its shareholders in this sort of thing.

      Stephan: If they’re looking to cut 6.5 million dollars from the budget that’s kind of scary for Google. I don’t know, I don’t think it’s really the issue though.

      Kevin: I’m curious how much they spent on acquiring the rights to the WebM video technology, I suspect it cost them a little more than 6.5 million dollars.

      So I think Patrick is right though, if we set aside whether Google should do this, whether Google’s right or wrong in doing this, let’s talk about effect, what effect does this move if it goes forward, and as much as I say Google may have to roll back this decision based on public sentiment, let’s say they don’t, let’s say Google sets its feet in the sand and decides to be stubborn about this and goes ahead with what they have announced, Google removes H.264 video format from Chrome. What happens? Their goal seems to be to get everyone to switch to creating video in WebM format; does this achieve that?

      Stephan: No. I just think people are gonna stick with what they know and that’s Flash for web video. And the fact that Flash is the fallback technology for things like H.264 in other browsers then, you know, it kind of seems natural that it stays that way.

      Brad: I think that’s gonna start shifting though because especially with like iOS not running Flash, I mean out of the gate people are looking to develop video without using Flash so that it will be supported on iOS and they don’t have to have a different format or a fallback.

      Stephan: So does iOS fully support WebM right now?

      Kevin: No, not at all, zero support; you cannot play WebM video on an iOS browser, there’s no way to do it, not even with Flash. That’s the trump card for me here is these devices that only support one format of video. Taking native support for H.264 out of Chrome doesn’t prevent you from watching H.264 video in Chrome it just requires you to load a Flash movie to do it.

      Stephan: But doesn’t this seem a little weird, right, because YouTube, when you go to a YouTube video on an iPhone or iPad isn’t the video that’s loaded H.264?

      Kevin: Yes.

      Stephan: And isn’t YouTube owned by Google?

      Kevin: Yes.

      Stephan: So what’s gonna happen here? I mean are they just gonna take all the videos down?

      Kevin: Well, I suspect as a sort of gesture in what they’re hoping other people do Google is gonna spend a whole lot of money and server time re-encoding a new version of every YouTube video in WebM format, and in fact it will be several new versions in all the different resolutions that they want to provide. And so if you go to YouTube in a browser that supports WebM video YouTube will serve that format of the video instead, but the older browsers are still gonna get their H.264 video because I don’t think Google can afford to cut off access to that format, at least not yet because Adobe has already announced that they are gonna add support for WebM video playback into Flash, and so in the not too distant future, and if we guess that this will happen in Flash Player 11, for example, give it a couple years for everyone, enough people to be on Flash Player 11 to make this a mass market deployment, once they do that then every browser that can play Flash can play WebM video and then YouTube can maybe switch off the H.264 pipes. But having YouTube do that and having all the other browsers do that is a difficult thing especially when doing so is still going to prevent iPhone and iPad users from accessing your video at all. It seems to me if Google wants to force the issue they have to either remove Flash support from their browser, which they’re never gonna do, or they’re gonna have to start releasing devices like Apple does, mobile devices, Android phones, the Google Chrome Netbook for example; if they start releasing these devices without Flash support and only able to play WebM video instead of H.264, that’ll force the issue, but it seems like that would be financial suicide for them, no one’s gonna buy one of these devices if it can’t play the most common video format in use which for better or worse if H.264. It feels like the ship has sailed. Google is arguing the best format for the Web should be this, so now four years after everyone has made their decision about what format to use on the Web we want to change everyone’s minds. The time to do this was four years ago. The lingering issue, I guess, is hardware; if you can’t build a battery efficient mobile device that can decode WebM video and hardware everything else is kind of moot for me. You can get all the desktop browsers to switch formats but the truth is that’s increasingly not the place people use the Web most commonly, which is mobile devices.

      Stephan: It’s more splintering of the Web to me. It’s taking something that should be somewhat simple and we’re making it complicated again.

      Patrick: Developers have complained about this sort of stuff since the beginning of time. I mean why won’t this just die, why can’t we just do it this way, why do we need a new format, why do we need to do this, I mean at the end of the day people will find a solution; if the web site is important enough, if it’s big enough, if it’s a hot new startup or whatever and they want to be on that format then they’ll encode their site to be in that format for that device. I don’t want to compare it to like iPod, iPad rather, and Flash but again you’re talking about people rushing to get on the devices. They’ll find a way to do it if that’s what it takes to get on that device. So I don’t necessarily think it’s— I don’t know, I just don’t see it as some big threat. I did watch like 24 hours straight of YouTube videos just in case web video disappeared as a whole tomorrow (laughter), just in case I wanted to get all the watching in, and so if someone said you see that clip I could say, “Yeah, I saw it before it went away forever!” But, I think that people will always find solutions and this will sort itself out over time, but in the meanwhile you have about 150,000 words of blog posts to read about this subject out there right now, all of them in our show notes.

      Kevin: Yeah, we’ve got a pile of links about this stuff. If we can agree that at least in the short term this is going to have no real impact on everyday web developers. If you’re considering creating some video for your website I don’t think that this impending change by Google should change what you do at all. If you are a Google fan and if you believe that WebM is a better technology for the Web you may wish to vote with your development time and spend the extra little time it will take to create a WebM version of your video that will play natively in Chrome, you can do that if you want, but it doesn’t change the fact that you still need to be creating H.264 video for all of the i-devices out there. So if you’re a lazy developer and you’re wanting to know the minimum you need to do in order to publish video on the Web that doesn’t change as a result of this move.

      What does change I think is maybe the fortunes of Adobe and Flash because over the past year we’ve been increasingly covering stories where Flash has lost relevance, Flash has lost importance; this is the first headline in a while that I have seen the biggest ramification for it is that Flash technology is more important now, it is once again required in an A-grade browser in order to watch the most common video format on the Web. One of the links in our show notes here is by Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, he points out a blog post by Adobe’s John Dowdell responding to this announcement by Google, and predictably he’s pretty happy about it, but it’s interesting to see Adobe’s reaction. Adobe’s reaction has nothing to do with openness here or even the video file format, what he’s saying is, this is a quote from John Dowdell from Adobe, “The <video> tag,” this is the HTML5 video tag we’re talking about here, “The <video> tag was simply not well considered at the outset. Its original rationale was you don’t require a Plug-in to view images so video is the next natural evolution of that, but from the very start the practical questions about use were swept under the rug, at least until the rug started piling up too high, it wasn’t sustainable.” He goes on basically to say that what this proves is that expecting native video playback in browsers is unreasonable, and guess what, this is proof that Flash is the best way to display video reliably on the Web for now and for all time. And Google seems to be playing into this, they’ve announced off the back of the outrage or concern over this move, they’ve said they’re going to release WebM video playback plug-ins for Internet Explorer 9 and Safari, the two browsers that are unlikely to support WebM any time soon. Google’s gonna do the work for them. If you don’t like the idea of relying on Flash to play our video format, don’t worry, we’re gonna make “native” video playback Plug-ins for these browsers, they’ll still have to load up a Plug-in. It’s turned something that was getting simpler, I think you’re right, Stephen, it’s turned something that was settling down into something quite simple, one video format, one <video> tag, we were moving in the right direction, suddenly it’s all over the place; there’s Plug-ins, pieces of formats lying on the ground, we’ve had an explosion in web standards here, and Google’s at the center of it saying, “Don’t worry, when the dust settles the Web will be the better for it.”

      Brad: You gotta love Google, I mean anytime they release something that somebody else doesn’t want to support they just make some kind of way that, some kind of snap-in or Plug-in in this case that supports it, it reminds me of Google Chrome Frame, it’s like okay you’re gonna keep IE 6 around, well, here’s a plug-in that will fix that issue, you know. (laughter)

      Kevin: I bet there are some people at Google really hoping that they can get some traction against Apple’s phones and tablets because if you removed the iPhone and the iPad from this picture things get a lot more interesting, Google suddenly has a lot more leverage for this kind of decision because we’re no longer looking at devices that need to pick one video format, we can agree that everyone can play every video format and developers are free to move between formats as their whims and ideals shift, and Google can play the politics game and try and gradually shift developer sentiment over to WebM, but as long as there are these popular devices that only support one format it’s really hard to convince a developer to abandon that one format. Anyway, it’s tricky; I think if we had three hours we couldn’t plumb every single nook and cranny of this issue, and as you say, Patrick, there are dozens if not hundreds of blog posts on the subject for you to read, each with their own unique spin and take, but of course we are interested in hearing from you, listeners; have you considered creating WebM video along with other formats in the wake of this decision? Are you gonna spend the extra time to do it or are you taking a wait and see? And if so what are you waiting to see, what would convince you to start creating WebM video? I for one will be surprised the first time my browser loads up some WebM video, I’d really like to know what video format— well, what site it is that finally serves me a WebM video because it’s all kind of in theory right now. Despite having talked about this technology for a year on the podcast I have yet to actually see a WebM-encoded video in the flesh anywhere. And, oh, the one other thing I wanted to talk about before we let this issue rest is the thing that makes this especially interesting to me is that Chrome has distinguished itself by being this browser, Brad, that updates itself automatically behind the scenes. So it strikes me that this may be the first time in the history of the Web that a large number of users are suddenly going to wake up one day and find their web browser does less than it did the day before and they didn’t click a button or agree to anything to make that happen.

      Brad: What, do you think a normal user would even know that? I mean essentially they’re going to go play a video and it should play even if it’s falling back to Flash.

      Kevin: Yeah, it’ll play more slowly and their computer will use up more battery power playing video than it did the day before.

      Brad: Seize up, and they’ll probably have no idea what’s going on. Yeah, I mean I think the normal user wouldn’t even realize what’s happening as long as the video plays.

      Kevin: We as developers have been going, yes, this is what browsers should be doing, they should be auto-updating, we don’t want users involved in the decisions and the updating process, and this was an easy argument to make as long as every update made the browser better, more capable, more standards compliant. But this is the first time one of these automatic updates that we thought is such a good idea is actually going to do something that a lot of web developers don’t want to see happen.

      Patrick: So in other words web developers agreed with something because it agreed with them, no way! Shock! (laughter)

      Kevin: Yeah (Laughs). But, yeah, maybe we’re getting what we deserve here, we naively wanted to hand the keys of the Web over to Google, and Google’s showing us just what they’re gonna do with those keys if we’re not careful. I know I’m being dramatic, but—

      Brad: How quickly will we see a Google extension that reverses that process or will that even be allowed?

      Kevin: Yeah, exactly.

      Patrick: The best April Fool’s prank ever that Google could play on developers would be if on April Fool’s Day Google Chrome turned into IE 6.

      Kevin: You know what, if Google is writing plug-ins for Apple’s Safari browser to make it use the video format that Google wants it to Apple should write a plug-in for Google Chrome that restores H.264 support to that browser; we should have the browser vendors writing plug-ins for each other so that eventually every browser is just this mishmash of what all the different browser vendors want them to be. The Web is not getting simpler, guys, as much as we’d like standards to create consensus and consensus to create simplicity it seems like entropy rules the day as usual.

      Let’s move on to another story here because this one’s downright depressing; what’ve we got that’s— Ah, let’s stop talking about Chrome for a minute here and talk about Firefox because I think we’re destined to talk about Chrome all January, but February is looking like it’s going to be the month of Firefox. Maybe it’s appropriate, February starts with an F, Firefox starts with an F. February is as best as anyone can figure it it’s going to be the month where Firefox 4 is released. And as of this week we have Firefox 4 beta 10 out, and Mozilla is trying to get the word out that this is getting very close to a finished browser. We’re less than, by many predictions, we’re less than a month away from a large number of Firefox users switching over to version 4, so now is the time, developers, if you haven’t already to be downloading the Firefox 4 beta and trying it out on your site because you don’t want a nasty surprise next month when your site breaks in this brand new browser. It’s looking pretty good, I have to say. Have you guys tried Firefox 4 at all?

      Brad: I have not.

      Kevin: Brad has not, Stephan?

      Stephan: I’m not a big— I haven’t really used Firefox in a while.

      Kevin: Yeah, and Patrick?

      Patrick: (Laughs) No go. Sorry.

      Kevin: No, what browser are you using these days, Patrick?

      Patrick: Firefox. I use the latest stable version of Firefox and still have not downloaded Chrome, just to repeat that, sorry.

      Kevin: This I think is representative I think of a shift that’s happened in the developer marketplace lately. Firefox has succeeded in becoming a mass market browser and a lot of end users have switched to Firefox, but developers seem to be on to the next shiny new thing, and I say shiny, no pun intended there, but it does seem like a lot of developers have moved along to Chrome leaving Firefox as this kind of unattended, relatively-speaking, territory; I think a lot of developers have stopped following the development of Firefox as closely as they used to. So Firefox 4 may be a bit of a blind spot for developers. The biggest change for users seems to be in the realm of performance, Firefox 4 seems to be intended mainly to turn this browser into the speed demon it once was again; plenty of user interface bling, there’s the whole new tab switching system called panorama that’s built into it, a rewritten bookmarks system, the contentious moving of the RSS button from the address bar into the Subscribe item in the Bookmarks menu as we had discussed previously, so plenty of new stuff for end user to see here, but I’m taking a look at the Firefox 4 for developers page on Mozilla’s site here, and really impressive list of new stuff as well for you as a developer to take advantage of; there’s a whole new HTML parser, which supports embedding SVG and MathML directly into your content. HTML5 forms with support for things like range sliders, data validation automatically provided by the browser, that sort of stuff, support for various HTML5 tags like articles, sections, navigation menus, those sort of things, lots of HTML5 stuff here and plenty of stuff for you to dig into. In CSS we’ve got CSS transitions, computed values, so if you’ve got— Instead of having to calculate the number of pixels for every one of your CSS properties you can do a little simple math in your CSS style sheets, lots of stuff to play with here and plenty of stuff to take your site off the rails. So I guess just as a matter of public service make this the week you spend an hour to download the Firefox 4 beta and give it a try. If you as most developers are no longer using Firefox as your primary browser maybe it’s safe to update to a beta just to get a picture of what’s coming down the road here. Don’t want to be surprised in February.

      Brad: The big question is whether Mozilla is actually going to push to break their download record that they set for Firefox 3.

      Kevin: Oh, yeah!

      Brad: Because that’s a little risky. I mean back when Firefox 3 came out that’s all anybody was talking about, and now like you said it’s obviously dropped off a little bit, so if they push and promote it and then they don’t break that record how does that look for Firefox and Mozilla.

      Kevin: Well, yeah, I guess what drove that record in Firefox 3? Was it the developer enthusiasm for the new release or was it the fact that they had gained a large amount of the mass market? If it’s the mass market thing that allowed them to break the record I think they might stand a good chance of breaking it again with Firefox 4 because it feels like Firefox is as big in the end user market as it was when Firefox 3 came out, if not bigger, slightly.

      Patrick: The record is the Guinness World Record for largest number of software downloads in 24 hours they hit 8,002,530 downloads; they say that number of people downloaded Firefox 3 so maybe they had some sort of unique identifier there, but yeah, that many people downloaded Firefox 3 from I guess 230 countries or more than 230 countries.

      Kevin: I’m betting they’ll beat it just ’cause I think they have the grass roots effort, I think if it takes them an extra week to put a plan together to release it that will allow them to beat that record they’re gonna take that extra week. The people behind Firefox they are those kind of people; if they have the choice between releasing a week earlier and not making a splash or taking the week to make a splash with the release I think they’re gonna take it. We still don’t have an exact release date yet, we’re guessing February just based on the pace of beta releases and the size of bugs that are being fixed at this point, but Mozilla is saying “Look we’re not gonna release it until it’s ready and we don’t have a date for you yet.” So, remains to be seen but I’m betting on February and I’m betting on a new Guinness World Record on this one.

      Patrick: Yeah, the interesting note about that record is that it was made in June of 2008 and I pulled up the Statcounter global stats for browsers and they only go back as far as July 2008, but at that point Firefox had 26.14% of the overall market share, now in December of 2010 they have 30.76%, so though Firefox has been stagnant over the past year their overall growth since that point is about 4%.

      Kevin: Alright, I’m feeling good about my bet, guys, I’m feeling good about it. Let’s see what else have we got here on stories. We’ve got this site called W3Fools that sprang up over this past weekend in protest it would seem for the popular web standards or web developers reference site W3Schools. Anyone here learn HTML, CSS through W3Schools? I think a lot of people did.

      Brad: Yeah, that was a huge site for me.

      Patrick: Yeah, I’ve learned some things through them as well, I wouldn’t even confess to know HTML all that well, but I have picked up like when I’m looking for specific variables for an element in CSS, say, and just looking for a quick list of variables sometimes I’ll go there.

      Brad: When I was learning classic ASP that was one of my top resources. And I still end up on it on occasion because the site has amazing search engine ranking no matter what you’re searching, whatever web language you’re searching it’s usually first or second page for something, and it’s been that way for like ten years.

      Kevin: Yeah, it’s one of those sites that got the rankings early. You know, I think when Google rose to prominence and W3Schools must’ve been the first web developer resource site that recognized the importance of the link economy and they were able to build those rankings and congratulations to them for doing it, they were able to establish their spot at the top of the Google rankings for common searches for what are the attributes of the <html> tag, how do I set the background color on my document; these kind of things they managed to get to the top of those search engine rankings and over time have cemented their spot in that position because developers, well-meaning developers, have continued to link to those references. But I guess what W3Fools is about is a bunch of web developers have recognized the fact that although they are very good at maintaining their spot at the top of the search engine they have been less good at maintaining the quality of advice and the currentness of information on their site. W3Schools has kind of stagnated from a content perspective, and as a result, when you go there for advice these days you’re not getting the best advice you could be getting, the best information, the most up-to-date information. So this group put together this site and kind of called them out on it.

      Brad: Good for them.

      Patrick: I’m sorry to maybe take this perspective, I don’t know, well I guess Brad maybe you can present the counterpoint then, but my feeling on this is for example is a moderator at the W3Schools forums has this in his signature, “W3Fools: a foolish attack on W3Schools.” And I can’t help but feel that this is maybe a little mean-spirited and maybe not the best way to go about this particular issue for a few different reasons. First, obviously a lot of developers, I’ll throw Brad in that category because I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a developer, have been positively influenced by W3Schools in a good way, and a lot of the content, I would dare say most of the content, on W3Schools is valuable. I think for them to have to pull up how many links they pulled up to just point out queries, one line of something that’s incorrect on a page, speaks to the volume of the data on the site. So, I think that’s it’s easy if you wanted to pick and choose at a large website and pick things that are outdated or incorrect, and according to an article at ReadWriteWeb that talked about this story, Paul Irish mentioned that the authors didn’t even contact W3Schools ahead of time, and he said that the report bad information link, or something like that, should’ve been more visible. Maybe they should have hit the contact page, you know, I don’t know if this is how you aim to treat people within the same community, I don’t know if this is your first recourse or your first way to go about things is to put up a website, call it W3Fools and throw all this stuff up in public because like I said it’s easy to pick apart a big website and point things out that are incorrect, and to me, again, it seems little mean-spirited and maybe not the best way to go about it, Brad.

      Brad: Well, no, it’s definitely mean-spirited but I think according—

      Kevin: (laughs) Yeah, that goes without saying!

      Brad: Yeah, I’m not saying it’s not mean-spirited, but I think based on just reading it they have mentioned in a couple spots that they tried to contact W3Schools and there has been no response, and so I think at that point that’s where this came about. Had there been a response from W3Schools and maybe had they listened to some of the inaccuracies that were being reported and fixed them this never would’ve even been launched. So I think that the fact that it is, I mean if you just go down the list there are a lot of errors, it’s not like a handful, there’s a lot.

      Patrick: But how many pages do you think are on the website versus how many pages—?

      Brad: Well, sure there’s plenty.

      Patrick: I bet this is less than 1%.

      Brad: If you’re promoting yourself as a resource it’s no different than SitePoint, if SitePoint resources section, which I know is—

      Patrick: SitePoint has outdated information, though, in some areas.

      Brad: Right, but the resources section I would expect that to be an accurate resource and to be correct—

      Patrick: And Kevin starts to sweat now. (laugh)

      Kevin: —the forums obviously are a little different. (laugh) Hey, they actually list SitePoint as one of the good places to go so that’s hats off to the Reference team.

      Kevin: Yeah, they list a bunch of alternative sites that are good and SitePoint is about halfway down the list, so we got sites like HTML Dog, The Opera Web Standards Curriculum, Google’s HTML, CSS, and JavaScript from the Ground Up, and then they say “SitePoint is a pretty good reference for HTML CSS and JavaScript.”

      Patrick: Pretty good!?

      Kevin: Yeah, “their documentation always mentions feature support across different browsers and describes known browser bugs.” Yeah, it’s an honor to be listed among those excellent resources. I’m especially proud of the SitePoint Reference because I had a big hand in making that section of our site.

      Brad: It’s a great resource too, I mean it’s something I wish was around ten years ago because it is nice and I hope W3Schools can fix it because like I said I love the resource, I learned a lot of things off that website and I think it’s laid out very clear, they’re easy to understand examples and tutorials and things like that, so I just hope that they can fix it and get it a little more accurate is all.

      Kevin: Circling back to the point that Patrick made I think I kind of agree. If they had taken the cont—

      Patrick: Hedge your bets, Kevin, hedge those bets.

      Kevin: Let’s say they took the content of this site, they went to all the same trouble to build up this extensive list of gripes they have and they’re reasoning why it is so important to address those and update that information, and instead of posting it on a site called w3fools.com they put it in an email and sent it to the editors of w3schools.com. I have to say I agree with Patrick that that would have been the right thing to do; if I were a betting man I would say that it would not have had the impact or the immediate effects that this approach has had but that still would have been a recourse for them. So, what we’ve seen is looking down the list of issues on the w3fools.com site, many of the issues are now crossed out because W3Schools has addressed them and fixed the problems, and I think the reason that the owners of this site that has not been significantly updated in so long have cracked open their FTP apps and started making changes to the site is because of this public ridicule that they’re seeing. So, I think Patrick you’re right to say that by making this their first recourse they’re kind of being a little mean-spirited about it and it probably wasn’t the right thing to do. By the same token, if I am taking time out of my day to correct issues on the number one web developer resource site on the Web that is making money from this content day in and day out through advertising, through sale of certifications, if I’m taking time out of my day to do that as a volunteer I don’t think it’s out of the question for me to want a little bit of recognition for that. So I understand why these people would want to instead of putting it in an email and risking that these changes get made and my time goes unrecognized I’m gonna invest my time into this on the condition that I get to put it up on a site with a funny name that makes fun of the site that I’m correcting and gets me a little credit. You can tell they’re interested in credit because the very first thing below the fold on the site is the list of people who were responsible for putting it together, their Twitter handles. So these people are doing it out of an informed self interest.

      Patrick: Yeah, so more or less what you’re saying is that it’s not just about providing better information on the Web, it’s also about them.

      Kevin: That’s right, they’re padding their CVs with this, they know that W3Schools was not gonna pay them to do this work so how can we do this work in a way that’s profitable to me and gets the job done, well, we can put it up on a site that ridicules them. I think W3Schools can stand a little ridicule, this isn’t gonna knock them off the number one spot on Google, I think the medium- and long-term effects here are all positive and so I am behind this even though I do agree, Patrick, it wasn’t the kindest thing, the kindest way to go about this, I think it possibly was the most effective way.

      Patrick: I agree with what you said and I just with that in mind about getting credited, I have to say that I find it interesting that their first recommendation of what should be done is to consider wikifying content, and a wiki by its very nature, at least in my experience, tends to go away from the idea of individual credit and crediting one person or a group of people for the act, but moreso the page quality itself takes priority, so I found that to be an interesting recommendation for that reason.

      Kevin: Yeah, and Google took that approach, Google created a web standards Wiki, I’m trying to remember, it came out about two years ago and they created a Wiki for web standards and I can’t even remember the name of it now.

      Brad: Type! Type! Type!

      Patrick: Nothing really comes up for web standards wiki on Google.

      Brad: Google can’t find its own wiki! (laughter)

      Kevin: Yeah, I think I found it, it’s at code.google.com/p/doctype, so it’s the
      Doctype Project on Google code, “Doctype documenting the open web, welcome to Google Doctype, written by web developers for web developers”, and it says you’d expect a Wiki reference and list of how-to articles on web standards and I guess the fact that none of us could remember the name speaks to the success they’ve seen with it. But, yeah, if you believe a wiki effort is the right way to do this the Wiki’s out there for you to contribute to.

      I think we’ve got time for one more story here, and this one’s a story close to your heart Brad.

      Brad: Yeah, it’s an article that was written on wpmu.org by, and I’m sorry I’m gonna butcher your name, Siobhan Ambrose, one of the writers there.

      Patrick: You nailed the second one.

      Brad: I’m glad I got the last name right.

      Kevin: I think it’s Siobhan Ambrose.

      Brad: Siobhan Ambrose, yeah, it’s a really interesting article and essentially what she did is she searched for free WordPress themes in Google, the term free WordPress themes, and she took the first ten results and reviewed how safe are these themes, how solid are these themes.

      Kevin: What do you mean “safe”? There’s non-safe themes?

      Brad: Safe as in is there malicious code in them, are there hidden links, is there anything in that theme that you would not expect to find basically, so she actually went through the code of all these themes, ran the themes through some various scanners looking for malicious code and things like that, and surprisingly or not surprisingly, I guess, basically nine of the ten themes reviewed had some type of issue, and in fact eight of them they said should be avoided completely. And this is something that most people that work with WordPress or really any CMS day-in or day-out this is something they’re aware of but I don’t think the average user is aware of how unsafe some of these themes are.

      Kevin: Well, yeah, I think web users have gotten used to the fact that file downloads can have viruses in them, they’ve gotten used to the fact that visiting the wrong website in a browser that hasn’t been updated might not be the smartest thing to do, clicking on links in emails that they don’t recognize the sender, these kinds of things people have gotten used to being suspect about. But going to Google searching for a theme for your blog, that strikes me as something that the ordinary, you know, someone setting up their first WordPress blog, they would not stop and think is this gonna get me into trouble, but it really can.

      Brad: Yeah, and to be clear the code, there was some of the code that was found in these themes it’s not malicious, it’s not code that’s gonna hack your site or give out your passwords, whatever; basically what they’re doing is they’re encoding links, so you activate the theme and some links might be hidden in the footer at that point to, you know, like “best free single dating website”, things like that, “top food blog”, they’re basically trying to hide like—

      Kevin: So it’s search engine spam.

      Brad: Exactly, yeah, it’s search engine spam. It’s not malicious per se, but it is something that the average user certainly doesn’t want on their site, and most people wouldn’t even know it’s there because a lot of times they’re hidden, you know, black text on a black background, really shady kind of black hat SEO stuff.

      Kevin: Yeah, the first one that Siobhan found on Google for her search was WordPress Themes Base, so you search for free WordPress themes and the very first site it points you to is wordpressthemesbase.com, and let me just load up Word Press Themes Base, a little difficult to type, but let me load that up because I’m curious what this looks like as a site, is this a suspicious looking site?

      Look, this looks pretty reasonable as a site, the writing it not great, it says “It is beyond doubt and we know it from our experience)” closed parenthesis that was never opened, “that good free WordPress themes and WordPress templates are always in great demand. Nowadays even among abundant choice of blog engines WordPress still remains the most widely used and the most popular blog engine,” that third appearance of WordPress was misspelled with a lower case p. “It gives evident benefits such as simplicity in usage and setup, flexibility, great choice of plug-ins, our collection contains a great number of free WordPress themes.” So, at a glance I’m not gonna spot that this is poorly written, and the main things on the site are big, luscious-looking screenshots of WordPress themes with star ratings and a convenient download button. At a glance this is a pretty pro-looking site, there’s not porn ads in the sidebar, there’s not pop-ups popping up in the background. On a bad day I could be fooled by this site into downloading a theme from them, and it’s the number one result on Google for free WordPress themes; the results that Siobhan had was that the themes hosted on this site have had extra code injected into them so that if you install this theme on your site you become part of the problem, your site has hidden links on it to anti-virus software websites and these links are intended to boost the Google rankings in turn of these sites, and I would say that the owners of this theme site are getting paid for the pleasure.

      Patrick: Hold on there, one thing I would say real quick is there are a lot of things that are being maybe assumed here from reading this article that maybe are not fair. Now, running phphacks.com for almost ten years now as an unofficial resource, things can happen with a theme that’s submitted and so maybe this website as a whole isn’t a bad website, maybe they just have a bad theme or a few bad themes here. The author of the article spotted a theme that probably shouldn’t have been there and so then noticed that theme and put it out there as having encrypted code, which is right, but at the same time I don’t want that necessarily to mean that the whole site is bad. Maybe this site is bad, maybe this is site is good, but, these things can slip in and to point to one theme on a site with 90 pages of themes? This site to me looks a little off, but there are WordPress theme sites out there that are unofficial that have a bad theme and just because they do doesn’t mean that they are questionable or profiting or even aware of it. Some of these sites they have to report some of these things and things like this have slipped into the official sites before as well I’m sure.

      Patrick: Patrick’s glass is always half full.

      Kevin: You do gotta give them the benefit of the doubt, I think Siobhan has done her homework here because on the sites she avoids she says she downloaded another two themes and three for three have malicious code in them.

      Brad: And just looking through these themes I recognize these other themes as other people’s themes that they have basically downloaded, put in some extra code that they wanted and then released them.

      Patrick: Yeah, and this site does look suspicious to me, there’s a lot of stuff like that with phpBB too where basically some sites harvest the database and we get that as well for sure, so I mean these sites are out there.

      Kevin: So, the other danger of getting one of these I guess you’d call them counterfeit themes; Brad, themes have an update mechanism built into them these days, right?

      Brad: They can, yeah, I mean so the official place to get free themes is the wordpress.org theme directory, and they have over 1,300 themes there and they’re all free, in fact they’re all reviewed at the code level to look for stuff like this before they’re even released, but if you have something in the wordpress.org directory when you release a new version you can easily upgrade it so anybody running your theme it will alert them there’s a new version. There’s also a way if you really know how to code you can hook into that and serve up the theme from a different server, it doesn’t have to come from worpress.org, but primarily that’s how it’s done.

      Kevin: So if you manage to get suckered in and install one of these counterfeit themes obviously the author of that counterfeit theme has an interest in preventing you from updating to the correct official version of that theme, so you’re likely to lose your auto updates and potentially be subject to security issues down the line. Would you agree with that?

      Brad: Yeah, absolutely. I mean essentially as soon as they’ve changed the theme name it breaks any kind of link that it has to that theme and that update, so really it’s as easy as changing the name, which they know I’m sure, so they probably change the name to something else so the update would never appear. But it’s certainly something I think the end users don’t really think about, like I said, wordpress.org is where I always tell people to start, there’s 1,300 themes, there’s easy ways to kind of filter out the searches based on color or site layout, and they’re all free and open source and GPL, they all work great with WordPress. And outside of that there are other places to get free themes, a lot of the premium theme makers have free themes that they give out, not as many as they sell, but they do have free ones that they give away, so you really just gotta look for a reputable source and do some homework; if you find a company search their name on Google and see what comes up.

      Patrick: Right, and just to put this in perspective, the title of the article is a little dramatic, “Why you should never search for free WordPress themes in Google or anywhere else”, but by the end of the article the author concludes that there are sites to download things from that are unofficial. I’ve seen a lot of things with the phpBB community over ten years, and a lot of things that I’d like to forget, and one of the things that has happened is some people have tried to use security as a chip to discredit sites that are unofficial, and that’s a dangerous trap to fall into so you don’t necessarily want to take this article as saying “oh my gosh, I should only use wordpress.org, that’s the only site I can ever trust,” that is kind of the wrong response I think. And so like I said do your homework and be aware of things and never trust anything fully but at the same time unofficial communities, unofficial sites are a big reason why projects like WordPress and like phpBB are so successful; without those sites those projects would not be what they are today, so I think it’s important to take this with a grain of salt and understand that there is a larger community out there that is very diversified and isn’t unofficial or official but just people who are offering good resources. And yes there are bad apples but you have to weed those out.

      Kevin: I mean how do you tell the difference?

      Patrick: That’s a good question.

      Kevin: I suppose Google, you know, if Google is serving these results up and the sites contain downloads tainted with malicious code, consistently, I guess the onus is on Google to block those from their search engine results. I think the situation is already getting better because when the story was written the official wordpress.org theme repository was number five in the rankings, and I’ve just done a non-logged-in search on Google and it gave me that as number three. So maybe just the coverage that has come around this story has been enough to boost the official site up to number three, but that still means the first two results on Google are sites distributing code specifically designed to spam search engines. It seems— I’m surprised in the, what is it, a week since this story was published and got coverage that Google hasn’t taken action and marked those sites as spam.

      Patrick: Is this even a blip on Google’s radar?

      Kevin: Well it should be. The biggest blogging platform on the Web, it seems someone at Google must have seen this. I’m gonna pledge right here and now that as soon as we’re finished recording this I’m going to submit all of these spam things to Google’s anti-spam email address, their abuse email address, and hope that it makes a difference because I would be surprised if no one has done that already, but I’d hate for the status quo to remain just because everyone’s too busy blaming Google to actually tell Google about it.

      Patrick: Two thoughts, Kevin. First, don’t report any sites unless you’re sure that the sites themselves are evil, I think that’s the first thing; second thing is you have to sort the difference between someone having something on their site that’s bad and someone who’s doing something bad as a whole, and do we really want Google deciding from an article cursory glance here that, okay, these sites are all bad, we’re gonna delist them and we’re gonna knock them off the first page. Is that a fair response to take? I don’t think so. I think that if a site is truly bad, and I am not convinced that these seven, it’s really seven sites had questionable code, the rest had links which are sponsored themes which are depending on who you talk to a good or a bad thing, but it’s not a hidden link or blackhat SEO, just links that are at the bottom of the theme. And so, you know, is that a bad thing or a good thing; it’s not something that Google should delist upon so, again, do we want Google to be the cop and the judge and the decider because someone wrote an article and said, oh, this site has three bad themes on it, I don’t think so.

      Brad: Well, it’s what they do now, if your site is compromised or hacked Google could delist you, I’ve seen it happen, I’ve had to fix sites that were like that.

      Patrick: But generally when someone has an embedded JavaScript or something bad on every page, not on just one page.

      Brad: Right, but if every theme is compromised and say you’re a legit free theme company or whatever but every theme is compromised, is that the same thing?

      Patrick: Well, if every theme is compromised then you’re not I would say, right?

      Kevin: Maybe. Let’s say you start up this free WordPress themes site and you allow open submissions and someone malicious comes along and fills your site that previously had 20 correct and genuine themes with 200 compromised themes, suddenly 90% of your content is malicious, it’s because someone else submitted it to your site but you as the site owner I suppose you couldn’t really complain if Google delisted you as a result of that.

      Patrick: In that circumstance I would say no, and open submission there’s really nothing wrong with giving the community the power, but I would say that it depends on the history with Google as well, and you know a new site versus an old site and all those things that Google needs to take into account because Google does have this larger responsibility of traffic and of the Web as a whole. So just like people talk about them with web video I think the same thing should be applied to search results.

      Kevin: Yeah. Alright, well, that’s all the time we have for our news stories, guys, which means it is time to wrap the show up with our host spotlights. So who wants to go first?

      Patrick: I will. I’ve got an article at splitsider.com by Chris Gethard, Chris Gethard is a comedian, he’s been in movies and on television and has done a lot of stuff online as well. He wrote this article summarizing his 13 month quest if you will to get Diddy, Sean Diddy Combs, on his monthly talk show at the UCB Theatre in New York which is a comedy theatre. And the title of the article is How I Convinced Diddy to do a Basement Theater Comedy Show Tonight. And there’s a quick recap of how he made it happen and his interactions with Diddy, and really it started as something on Twitter, on YouTube, kind of a joke, kind of serious where he posted this video asking Diddy to come on his show and he got people to Tweet out Diddy Gethard, which one pronunciation might be “Diddy get hard”, and so but it’s really Diddy Gethard, and so he got this momentum and Diddy responded actually pretty quickly to him, but it took a while for them to nail down a time that would work that would allow him to get to the show. So they kept in contact over this 13 months, people kept Tweeting about it, kept bringing it up, and Gethard was on Jimmy Fallon which is a nightly show here in the U.S. which is on one of the major networks and he talked about it on there, and so he finally had this achieved and he wrote this article kind of summarizing and it’s a great story, and what I appreciated maybe most about it is just his general approach to it and how humble he was about the whole thing in an age where I think a lot of us are entitled to people where we say, oh, he’s on Twitter or this person’s on there, we should be able to get a response from them, I think Mr. Gethard handled it in a real good way and it’s kind of a good thing to see, great story and a good example for people out there as well.

      Kevin: Brad, what have you got for us?

      Brad: I have a cool blog background, as exciting as that sounds it’s actually really neat. If you go to blog.nihilogic.dk, and we’ll make sure to have that in the show notes, it’s the blog Jacob Seidelin, and basically you load up his blog it looks like a standard blog and then all of a sudden you’ll notice something falling in the background, and if you look closely you’ll start to recognize some familiar items and realize that it’s Mario falling and he’ll land at the bottom and in the background of the blog is actually a fully functional Mario game, Super Mario Bros. the original, that you can play on the background of the blog while you’re reading your blog post which I thought was pretty cool. It’s all done with JavaScript, a little bit of jQuery, but it’s pretty slick.

      Kevin: I’m climbing the stairs at the end of the level right now.

      Patrick: And the question is if you play while you read the blog who wants to read the blog? (laughter)

      Brad: It’s a total distraction.

      Kevin: Aww!

      Patrick: This is the worst idea ever if you want to have blog readers because I haven’t read a word on this page yet.

      Brad: His average time on sites is probably like 25 minutes per page or something, his analytics, because people are just playing this game.

      Kevin: When you try and press down to go down a pipe it makes the blog scroll down, so whenever you try and go down a pipe it actually forces you to read the next piece of content. As you run through the level it scrolls in the background and there are funny messages written in the background, like partway through it’ll point out the fact that the bushes and the clouds are actually the same bitmap image. And, well, I won’t spoil the funny message at the end of the level for you, I recommend running to the end of the level to check it out.

      Patrick: We have to maintain our PG rating.

      Kevin: (Laughs) Yeah, excellent site, nice little JavaScript Easter egg there. Stephan, what have you got?

      Stephan: I have an app called ‘to do’ but it’s spelled teuxdeux so I guess it’s a French (laughter). I haven’t had a chance to play with it yet but it looks like a really neat app and the video that they have, the intro video for it is kind of funny, they seem to have a nice, comedic approach.

      Kevin: Do they pronounce it teuxdeux (French accent)? (laughter)

      Stephan: No, but it’s really simple and I saw a link today so I thought I’d throw it up here.

      Kevin: I haven’t watched the video yet but I dare one of our readers to download the video and redub every mention of the product name to say teuxdeux (French accent), I suspect it will make the video twice as funny (laughter). It looks really slick and simple, it’s not one of those to-do apps that overwhelms you with features and GTD contexts and different types of projects, it’s really a nice layout. If you’ve got a list of ten things you gotta do everyday this is a really nice way to set up that list.

      Stephan: And it has an iPhone app too.

      Kevin: Mmm. Very nice, and I couldn’t help notice the video on the site is H.264, just saying! (laughter)

      Yeah, watch it now while you can before Google cuts you off. My spotlight is a blog post about Dropbox. Dropbox hosted, well, let me start at the beginning here, if you’re not already using Dropbox you really should go to Dropbox.com, download the free app, set up a free account and what it gives you is it lets you have a special folder on your computer that everything you put in that folder is automatically uploaded to your private little two-gigabyte box in The Cloud, so it automatically stores these files on the Web and it does it really transparently really nice. You drop a file in the folder just like you would any other day, you can edit these files, open them in whatever applications you want just like any other files, but behind the scenes, transparently, they are uploaded to this Cloud storage. And if you have more than one computer or if you have a mobile device like an iPhone, an iPad, an Android phone, you can install the Dropbox apps for these devices and have access to those files everywhere you go. You make a change to one of your files on one of your devices it’s automatically synched up to The Cloud and then automatically downloaded to your other devices, and it’s really slick, really smart, it’s smart enough to recognize that your laptop and your computer are on the same network, and so rather than downloading every change that you make to your files from the Internet it’ll automatically transfer those files over your local network. It’s a really slick app and it is absolutely free for your first two gigabytes of storage, but if you’re like me you get pretty used to having those two gigabytes and you start filling it up really easily. And anything you can do to expand that will be a help. So my spotlight is this blog post about a scavenger hunt that Dropbox is conducting at the moment, this came out of their Holiday Hack-a-thon where they got a bunch of developers in to build cool projects surrounding the Dropbox service, and this project is called Dropquest 2011, and it is basically a web based scavenger hunt that you can follow and if you can puzzle out all of the steps you get an extra free gigabyte of storage in your Dropbox account. So if you’re on a free two gigabyte account if you get to the end of this scavenger hunt you can expand it to three gigabytes, that’s an extra 50% for free. If you’re a paid Dropbox user where you have like a 50 gigabyte account an extra gigabyte it’s not a lot but it’s probably worth clicking a few links online to get it added to your account. And my spotlight beyond the actual scavenger hunt is this blog post that is kind of a cheater’s guide to the scavenger hunt. If you want to spend a day working out the mathematics and the Sudoku puzzles and all of the other strange hoops that the scavenger hunt makes you jump through, you can do that, certainly I could think of worse ways to spend a day, but may days are valuable and so this blog post by Mathias Bynens at mathiasbynens.be, his blog, we’ll have the link in the show notes, it basically says here’s the list of 16 things you do, you do these things one after another and you will have completed the scavenger hunt. You don’t even have to read any of the pages, you type in the secret codes when it gives them to you, you click the links when it gives them to you, it’s really you are cheating here I will tell you, but my guess is that Dropbox is just looking for a really fun way to give away a little bit of extra storage on their servers, and so I don’t feel a whole lot of guilt about taking advantage of this. You go to this site, you follow the 16 steps and within three minutes you have an extra gigabyte of storage in your Dropbox account. Do it, it’s worth doing.

      Brad: Cheater.

      Kevin: (laughs) I am a cheater and I apologize for it not one bit. And that’s it for the SitePoint Podcast this week; let’s go around the table guys!

      Brad: I’m Brad Williams from Webdev Studios and you can find me at my blog, strangework.com and on Twitter @williamsba.

      Patrick: I’m Patrick O’Keefe of the iFroggy Network, ifroggy.com, on Twitter @iFroggy.

      Stephan: I’m Stephan Segraves, you can find me on Twitter @ssegraves and my website is badice.com.

      Kevin: And you can follow SitePoint on Twitter @sitepointdotcom, and follow me on Twitter @sentience. The SitePoint Podcast is produced by Carl Longnecker and I’m Kevin Yank. Thanks for listening, bye, bye.

      Theme music by Mike Mella.

      Thanks for listening! Feel free to let us know how we’re doing, or to continue the discussion, using the comments field below.

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      • Claire

        Siobhan is pronounced Shi-von. In Irish, Si is an sh sound, and bh is a v sound. Other than that, a great podcast. Thanks for doing this.

        • http://www.ifroggy.com Patrick O’Keefe

          Thanks Claire. Stephan actually mentioned this during recording, but it must have been cut. :) Glad you enjoyed the show!

          Patrick

      • John Dowdell

        Regarding a blogpost I wrote:

        “… and predictably he’s pretty happy about it…”

        No, please check your source materials. The “giddy/happy” stuff is just what you were told to think.

        “He goes on basically to say that what this proves is that expecting native video playback in browsers is unreasonable”

        Said nothing of the sort. It’s certainly possible. But serious questions were ignored from the start.

        “…this is proof that Flash is the best way to display video reliably on the Web for now and for all time.”

        Again, no. Please go back and re-read what I actually said. It annoys me when people object to things I didn’t actually say.

        Here’s the source link:
        http://blogs.adobe.com/jd/2011/01/video-debate-cutting-to-the-chase.html

        jd/adobe

      • BrenFM

        GREAT content as usual, guys. Loving teuxdeux… thanks, Stephan!

        • http://www.ifroggy.com Patrick O’Keefe

          Thanks BrenFM!

      • goldfidget

        Hi guys, thanks for a great podcast! Regarding Web M though, you seem to be missing the point that Google has actually done something rather rather kind here. At huge cost, they’ve boughtt he rights to the technology, then released it, for free, open source.

        Not only that but they’ve said they will pay to create Web M codecs for IE9 and Safari. Why? Because they are a web company and they want a better web.

        There was a case a few years ago where someone tried to claim a basic patent on the hyperlink. Open source means open source, Google can’t revoke that, even if they wanted to. Nobody does, or should own the web.

        • http://www.ifroggy.com Patrick O’Keefe

          Thanks for the comment, goldfidget. :) We appreciate the kind words.

          That is definitely one way to look at it and I can see that. I think the flip side, is that some people don’t believe Google’s purposes are altruistic. And Kevin raised the point that he’s rather have multiple organizations owning a codec, rather than one organization, so that the power behind it is distributed and not absolute.

          Personally, I don’t know that I really care about all of that. But, that’s the counter argument (or part of it) that people are making.

          Patrick

          • goldfidget

            I take the point, but with an open source BSD licence, the code doesn’t belong to an individual, or to to a consortium of corporates, but to everyone and anyone who cares to get involved.

            It’s not Google’s code any more. They gave it to you, (and me, and everyone) when they signed the BSD licence. Of course they’re after a profit, but they’ll get it indirectly from an open and free web.

          • http://www.sitepoint.com/ Kevin Yank

            Google’s open sourcing of WebM merely offers up the code for a free implementation of the encoding/decoding software, so that other browser vendors can use it (or modify it for their own purposes) freely.

            What it doesn’t do is make WebM an open standard that any browser vendor (or interested web devleoper) can have a say in the future of. Google still decides what commits are accepted into the official WebM codebase.

            What *does* bode well for WebM is news this week that Google has submitted documentation of the VP8 video format to the IETF standards body. This is the first step down a road that may eventually see Google opening up its control over WebM video to an open standardization process like the W3C’s.

          • goldfidget

            Well hooray for Google! I don’t want to sound like a fanboy but Google is a company I have a good deal of respect for. It seems that it’s hard to be that big and still behave well, but Google, for the most part, has managed it.

            This codec issue will blow over and, in a year or so, we will all be better off for Google’s intervention.

      • Anonymous

        Great episode! However, it feels like you missed that the main thing that had annoyed the makers of w3fools was that w3schools look like they are are affiliated with the W3C, or ARE the W3C, which of course is not the case.

        Oh, and Siobhan is pronounced “Shi-von”, but someone already pointed that out :)

      • mezmo

        While yes, the H264 patents are owned by many different companies, there is one agency, MPEG-LA, that has the say so to shut down any use of that format. I have no inside knowledge of anything Google, but I wouldn’t be surprised if H264 started disappearing from YouTube, being replaced with WebM, since as I understand it, Google is doing a lot of the transcoding work getting those video files into H264 in the first place, thereby having to pay MPEG-LA for that usage. As far as those particular devices that might never be able to view WebM? Well, to paraphrase the great Steve Jobs, “Let them get an Android for that.” ;)

      • tdriley

        Kevin’s point about users waking up and finding that they can no longer play H.264 video inspired me to write this post:

        http://tomriley.net/blog/?p=41

        Please have a read if you are interested :)

        • http://www.ifroggy.com Patrick O’Keefe

          Thanks Mr. Riley, for listening to the podcast and for writing this post. I think you make a good point.

          A point I made while we were discussing this was basically that… people like something until they don’t and that you should try to see the general application of things, versus just saying “oh, this is great while Google agrees with me.” That’s not fair to Google, honestly. If you liked the idea of automatic updates, you also have to be willing to take the consequences of that, as well.

          Thanks again,

          Patrick