XML inventor joins Google, jabs Apple’s mobile web vision

15 Mar 2010

Acclaimed software developer and entrepreneur Tim Bray who until recently was Sun Microsystems’ web chief, has become “developer advocate” at Google and has hit out at Apple’s Disney-fied vision of the mobile internet’s future.

Bray said today that he declined an offer to join Oracle, which has taken over Sun Microsystems. “I’ll maybe tell the story when I can think about it without getting that weird, spiking blood-pressure sensation in my eyeballs. So I reached out to a couple of appealing potential next employers, both were interested, and Google seemed like the best bet.”

Vancouver-based Bray played a central role in the standardisation of XML and Atom. In 1994, he co-founded the Open Text Corporation, which created one of the world’s first search engines. With his wife, he co-founded the Textuality web consulting practise.

Bray said in his blog the reason he is working with Google is primarily Android. He admires its APIs, the fact it’s open source, the exciting nature of the smart-phone market and its impact on emerging economies.

Competition for Apple

Ultimately, it seems, Bray is intent on competing with Apple, which is currently winning the ‘horse race’ for smart-phone domination. Apple’s iPhone is selling at the rate of 90,000 a day compared with Google’s Android, which is selling at the rate of 60,000 per day.

Comparing the iPhone with the Android OS, Bray said, is like comparing chalk and cheese.

“The iPhone vision of the mobile internet’s future omits controversy, sex and freedom, but includes strict limits on who can know what and who can say what.

“It’s a sterile Disney-fied walled garden surrounded by sharp-toothed lawyers. The people who create the apps serve at the landlord’s pleasure and fear his anger. I hate it.

“I hate it even though the iPhone hardware and software are great, because freedom’s not just another word for anything, nor is it an optional ingredient.

“The big thing about the web isn’t the technology, it’s that it’s the first-ever platform without a vendor. From that follows almost everything that matters, and it matters a lot now, to a huge number of people. It’s the only kind of platform I want to help build.

“Apple apparently thinks you can have the benefits of the internet while at the same time controlling what programs can be run and what parts of the stack can be accessed and what developers can say to each other. I think they’re wrong and see this job as a chance to help prove it.

“The tragedy is that Apple builds some great open platforms; I’ve been a happy buyer of their computing systems for some years now and, despite my current irritation, will probably go on using them,” Bray said.

Bray added he is going to acclimatise to Google, starting by creating an Android app to get a better feel for the issues and learning more about HTML5-based applications.

By John Kennedy

Photo: Software developer and entrepreneur Tim Bray

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years