When Samuel Maddock built a browser that lets friends watch an online video at the same time, he used what seemed like the cheapest and simplest option: Chromium, a free, open-source version of Google’s Chrome web browser. Maddock’s creation worked well, but because it was based on Chromium, he needed another Google product called Widevine to authenticate users and prevent video piracy. He sent Google a request, outlining the project, and waited. And waited. Four months and 10 e-mails later he got a one-line answer: sorry, you can’t use the software for that. He wasn’t doing anything illegal. In fact, using Google’s secure-streaming tool would have ensured his project was aboveboard. But the internet giant withheld access, without saying why. Maddock gave up on making a browser soon after. “You have these gatekeepers like Google that decide which projects can work and if you’re not granted that permission you’re screwed,” Maddock said. This is one small developer working on a small project. But his story demonstrates how Google’s dominance of the browser market — and the underlying technology tools — gives the company far-reaching control over how the web works, and who gets to create new ways of accessing it…. Read full this story
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