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[GNU-linux-libre] Browser plugins

From: Sam Geeraerts
Subject: [GNU-linux-libre] Browser plugins
Date: Sat, 21 May 2011 16:37:03 +0200
User-agent: Thunderbird (X11/20101029)

It's been reported [1] that Konqueror suggests downloading non-free plugins. Even though there's some "flashplugininstaller" Kubuntu code in gNewSense, I suspected that the browser is actually just relaying information from the website. This has been confirmed by KDE developers [2] (thanks, Leo). This means that it's probably not a problem specific to Konqueror, but that all browsers could be affected.

There are several ways we can deal with this:

a) We do nothing. It's the website author who steers the user to non-free software, not the software. The author is free to suggest non-free software. We treat it like a "best viewed with Internet Explorer" message on the website. Strictly technically speaking the software is FSDG compliant.

b) We cut out the browser code that suggests plugins. From the user's perspective, the message comes from the browser, not from the website. This would also block any steering to free plugins, but I have yet to see a website that does that. This is the easiest/quickest fix and already implemented in IceCat if I'm not mistaken.

c) We keep a blacklist of known non-free URLs and replace them with links to free alternatives in the dialog box. While there are probably not many different URLs used in the wild, we're never sure to catch them all. We'd also have to keep track of the freedom status of the alternatives upstream besides all the packages in the distro. There may not even be something FSDG compliant to point to (which is preferably also easily installable by the user).

d) We use the dialog box (or e.g. integration with Software Center) to suggest a package from the distro to install for each media type.

I think (a) is just a poor excuse. (c) seems high cost, low gain to me. A "first (b), then (d) if possible" implementation looks like the best solution to me.

Some other thoughts:
- How do we put this on the NONFSDG list (same problem, (potentially) multiple browsers)?
- What do we expect from upstream, i.e. the browser developers?
- Do any free CMS/wiki packages generate code with URLs to non-free plugins?

Sam Geeraerts
gNewSense dev


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