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Mozilla: We're not 'on board' with Google's plugin spice

'No position' on Pepper

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Mozilla says it has "no official position" on NPAPI Pepper, the revamped browser plug-in API developed by Google for use with Native Client, a plug-in that runs native code inside its Chrome browser.

Google is also using Pepper to integrate Adobe's Flash player and a PDF reader with Chrome, and in announcing its plan to bundle Flash with Chrome, the company seemed to indicate that Mozilla was backing the API.

"We are working with Adobe, Mozilla and the broader community to help define the next generation browser plug-in API," Google said in a blog post. That web link is Google's, and it points to a wiki describing Pepper, which updates the old Netscape Plug-in Application Programming Interface (NPAPI).

But Mozilla chief technology officer Brendan Eich tells The Register that the open source outfit has "no official position on Pepper."

Earlier this week, The Register published a story alluding to Google's blog post, saying that Mountain View claims Mozilla is "on-board" with Pepper. But Eich — the man who invented JavaScript — tells us it wouldn't be right to say that Mozilla is on-board.

"We work by consensus in most standards bodies, including informal ones such as plugin-futures, where consensus means general agreement. Until and unless Pepper achieves consensus, it's not accurate to say that Mozilla or anyone else is 'on-board with [...] Pepper,'" Eich says.

According to Mozilla vice president of products Jay Sullivan, the open source outfit has no intention of bundling Flash or a native code plug-in with Firefox, preferring to advance HTML5 and other web standards. But Eich says that Mozilla is "definitely on board with the idea of revamping and improving plugin APIs" and has been since 2004, when it created the plugin-futures@mozilla.org mailing list.

The mailing list, Eich says, was "designed to restart evolution of the old Netscape Plugin API," and it eventually produced the "NPRuntime" NPAPI extension that's used by most major browsers.

Eich also points to an April plugin-futures post from Mozilla's Robert O'Callahan that questions the need for Pepper in particular. "I'm assuming that the goal of Pepper is to provide a rich platform API for sandboxed native code execution across browsers. I think that's a worthwhile goal," O'Callahan writes.

"But browsers already offer a rich platform API to sandboxed code: the standards-based Web APIs. Currently Pepper offers some functionality that Web APIs do not, but I see no reason why native code will ultimately want different functionality from JS Web apps."

In his post, O'Callahan says his views should not be mistaken for Mozilla's official stance. As Eich says, since the community hasn't reached a consensus on Pepper, Mozilla does not have an opinion one way or the other.

Meanwhile, Google is moving ahead with Pepper and Native Client and its integrated Flash and PDF plug-ins. The company has said that Native Client will be an "important part" of Chrome OS, its browser-based operating system, and it's already developing native code browser applications for its still-gestating Chrome Web Store, a central place to find applications for Chrome and Chrome OS.

Google likes to refer to Native Client as NaCL. And that's why it calls the API Pepper. ®

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