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A proposed anti-copying extension for the WC3's standard for HTML5 has been submitted by representatives of Google, Microsoft and Netflix. The authors take pains to note that this isn't "DRM" -- because it doesn't attempt to hide keys and other secrets from the user -- but in a mailing list post, they later admitted that this could be "addressed" by running the browser inside a proprietary hardware system that hid everything from the user.

Other WC3 members -- including another prominent Googler, Ian Hickson -- have called for the withdrawal of the proposal. Hickson called it "unethical." I agree, and would add "disingenuous," too, since the proposal disclaims DRM while clearly being intended to form a critical part of a DRM system.

In an era where browsers are increasingly the system of choice for compromising users' security and privacy, it is nothing short of madness to contemplate adding extensions to HTML standards that contemplate designing devices and software to deliberately hide their workings from users, and to prevent users from seeing what they're doing and changing that behavior if it isn't in their interests.

Writing on Ars Technica, Ryan Paul gives a good blow-by-blow look at the way that this extension is being treated in the W3C:

Mozilla's Robert O'Callahan warned that the pressure to provide DRM in browsers might lead to a situation where major browser vendors and content providers attempt to push forward a suboptimal solution without considering the implications for other major stakeholders.

Some of the discussion surrounding the Encrypted Media proposal seem to validate his concerns. Mozilla's Chris Pearce commented on the issue in a message on the W3C HTML mailing list and asked for additional details to shed light on whether the intended content protection scheme could be supported in an open source application.

"Can you highlight how robust content protection can be implemented in an open source webrowser?" he asked. "How do you guard against an open source web browser simply being patched to write the frames/samples to disk to enable (presumably illegal) redistribution of the protected content?"

Netflix's Mark Watson responded to the message and acknowledged that strong copy protection can't be implemented in an open source Web browser. He deflected the issue by saying that copy protection mechanisms can be implemented in hardware, and that such hardware can be used by open source browsers.

"Unethical" HTML video copy protection proposal draws criticism from W3C reps

(Thanks, Rob!)

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Firefox 6 is now available. This update to the popular open source web browser comes just eight weeks after Firefox 5 was unveiled. The quick turnaround time and increasing version numbers are part of Mozilla’s new rapid release cycle.

You can grab the latest version of Firefox from the Mozilla downloads site or head to the About Firefox menu and apply the update.

Firefox 6 doesn’t bring any huge changes to the table, despite what the version number bump might imply (and in fact Mozilla is planning to hide the version number so future releases will just be "Firefox"), but it is up to 20 percent faster than Firefox 5.

The most noticeable change to the look of Firefox 6 is the move to a Chrome-style URL bar where the domain name is now darker than the rest of the URL. Firefox 6 doesn’t dispense with the HTTP prefix the way Chrome does, but Firefox 7, which will soon move from the Aurora to the Beta channel, will hide the http:// portion of the URL.

Firefox 6 does include some nice new tools for web developers. Scratchpad is a new JavaScript editor that’s well worth checking out, and the Web Console panel has also been improved.

For a complete list of everything that’s new in Firefox 6, check out the extensive release notes.

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