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Apple lifted 'make web go away' button from open source

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Apple Safari's new "make web go away" button is based on an open source project distributed under the Apache 2 license.

The Safari Reader – which debuted yesterday with version 5 of the Apple browser — is built using the source code for Readability, an Apache project from Arc90 Labs. In the wake of the browser's release, Arc90 praised Apple for including a tool that mimics its own — a tool that strips a webpage of its ads and site branding, reducing to text and core images — and only later did the outfit realize that Steve Jobs and cult had actually dipped into its code.

The Apache 2 license does not require code contributions back to the community.

Apple does include a nod to Readability in its Safari acknowledgments (Help > Acknowledgments), but true to form, it never said a word to Arc90 — or anyone else. The likes of TechCrunch are still under the impression that Apple built Reader on its own.

Safari acknowledges Arc90

Apple tips hat to Arc90's Readability

That said, the two tools are a tad different. Readability can be used with Chrome, Firefox, and, yes, Safari. It's a bit of JavaScript you add to your browser toolbar as a "bookmarklet," and when you want to strip a webpage down, you simply give it a click. Meanwhile, with Safari 5, Apple does away with the bookmarklet. Instead, it adds a button to the browser toolbar whenever it detects a webpage that's suited to reformatting.

Apple also removes the option of customizing the font and font size. With Readability, you can choose from five font styles, five font sizes, and five margin sizes. But the basic setup is the same. "Safari Reader removes annoying ads and other visual distractions from online articles," Apple says. "So you get the whole story and nothing but the story."

While still unaware that Apple was using its code, Arc90 hailed Apple for taking "another step towards better reading on the web." The outfit was particularly pleased that the tool has been rolled into the browser itself. "For us, the most exciting aspect of the announcement is that content display is being addressed on the Web," it said. "While content packaged 'apps' litter Apple’s own iTunes app store with the promise of a better reading experience, it’s great to see the Web get its due attention."

But you could also say that the tool is a bit of curve ball for web publishers interested in showing you ads and branding. And we have. ®

Bootnote

You can download the Readbility source code here.

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