Reversing course, Google rejects Adobe Web publishing tech

The CSS Regions would have helped ease magazine-like layouts on the Web. But Google's priority now is on performance, not features -- especially mobile browser performance.

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Stephen Shankland
2 min read
Adobe's CSS Regions and CSS Exclusions technology lets text flow within defined regions or around defined regions.
Adobe's CSS Regions and CSS Exclusions technology lets text flow within defined regions or around defined regions. Adobe Systems

It can be hard to say no to an idea with some merit -- especially after already saying yes.

But that's the position Google is in with an Adobe Systems technology for bringing more sophisticated, magazine-style layouts to Web publishing through a technology called CSS Regions. Google changed its mind after deciding that it was too complex and that it would hamper one of Google's top 2014 priorities, making Chrome faster on mobile devices, according to Google Chrome programmer Eric Seidel.

Adobe had been working on CSS Regions for years, developing the idea as part of its effort to reincarnate Flash Player abilities as native Web standards. Adobe made progress working CSS Regions support into Google's Blink browser engine and the Apple WebKit project from which Blink originated. But Seidel proposed working with Adobe to remove CSS Regions code from Blink.

"I believe Blink's focus this year must be on mobile and specifically mobile performance...I have come to understand that Regions both does not play well with existing performance optimizations [and] impedes ongoing simplification and optimization work to our core rendering code," Seidel said about his reversal of opinion on CSS Regions. "Regions addresses some very real deficiencies of the Web platform. But I believe Blink (hopefully with Adobe's help) will need to find other simpler/smaller ways to address these deficiencies."

Eric Seidel, a Blink project leader, speaking in 2013 at Google I/O.
Eric Seidel, a Blink project leader, speaking in 2013 at Google I/O. Stephen Shankland/CNET

CSS Regions supporters, unhappy with the decision, pushed back with arguments that the technology and a related one, text fragmentation, are useful, and that Google's "draconian" decision-making style would deter others from contributing to Blink. And Adobe tried to re-reverse Google's position.

"We pledge to work together, address these concerns, and make sure that the regions code does not hamper your Blink 2014 goals," said Mihnea Ovidenie and Andrei Bucur of the CSS Regions team.

But they made little headway. Another Google Chrome programmer, Adam Barth, said he wants Blink to be good at running Web-based applications so developers write for the Web instead of mobile software foundations such as iOS's Cocoa.

"It's not that I don't care about viewing books or magazines, it's that I'm more interested in making the Web a compelling platform for applications," Barth said on Sunday. "I'd like to make the Web a more compelling application platform than Cocoa."

Better performance on less-powerful devices tops Google's list of Blink priorities for 2014.

"Blink should be hands-down the best performing mobile Web engine," Seidel said of the goals. Not only should have the top benchmark scores, but it should also have the lowest power consumption, consume less memory, load Web pages and Web apps faster, and smoothly refresh the screen when scrolling or showing animated elements.

Google Blink artwork