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Recent Browser Events

TL;DR

At Igalia, we attend many browser events. This is a quick summary of some recents conferences I participated to… or that gave me the opportunity to meet Igalians in Paris 😉.

Week 31: Paris - CSS WG F2F - W3C

My teammate Sergio attended the CSS WG F2F meeting as an observer. On Tuesday morning, I also made an appearance (but it was so brief that ceux que j’ai rencontrés ne m’ont peut-être pas vu). Together with other browser vendors and WG members, Sergio gave an interview regarding the successful story of CSS Grid Layout. By the way, given our implementation work in WebKit and Blink, Igalia finally decided to join the CSS Working Group 😊. Of course, during that week I had dinner with Sergio and it was nice to chat with my colleague in a French restaurant of Montmartre.

Week 38: Tokyo - BlinkOn 8 - Google

Jacobo, Gyuyoung and I attended BlinkOn 8. I had nice discussions and listened to interesting talks about a wide range of topics (Layout NG, Accessibility, CSS, Fonts, Web Predictability & Standards, etc). It was a pleasure to finally meet in persons some developers I had been in touch with during my projects on Ozone/Wayland and WebKit/iOS. For the lightning talks, we presented our activities on embedded linux platforms and the Web Platform. Incidentally, it was great to see Igalia’s work mentioned during the Next Generation Rendering Engine session. Obviously, I had the opportunity to visit places and taste Japanese food in Asakusa, Ueno and Roppongi 😋.

Week 40: A Coruña - Web Engines Hackfest - Igalia

I attended one of my favorite events, that gathers the whole browser community during three days for technical presentations, breakout sessions, hacking and galician food. This year, we had many sponsors and attendees. It is good to see that the event is becoming more and more popular! It was long overdue, but I was finally able to make Brotli and WOFF2 installable as system libraries on Linux and usable by WebKitGTK+ 😊. I opened similar bugs in Gecko and the same could be done in Chromium. Among the things I enjoyed, I met Jonathan Kew in person and heard more about Antonio and Maksim’s progress on Ozone/Wayland. As usual, it was nice to share time with colleagues, attend the assembly meeting, play football matches, have meals, visit Asturias… and tell one’s story 😉.

Week 41: San Jose - WebKit Contributors Meeting - Apple

In the past months, I have mostly been working on WebKit at Igalia and I would have been happy to see my fellow WebKit developers. However, given the events in Japan and Spain, I was not willing to make another trip to the USA just after. Hence I had to miss the WebKit Contributors Meeting again this year 😞. Fortunately, my colleagues Alex, Michael and Žan were present. Igalia is an important contributor to WebKit and we will continue to send people and propose some talks next year.

Week 42: Paris - Monthly Speaker Series - Mozilla

This Wednesday, I attended a conference on Privacy as a Competitive Advantage in Mozilla’s office. It was nice to hear about the increasing interest on privacy and to see the regulation made by the European Union in that direction. My colleague Philippe was visiting the office to work with some Mozilla developers on one of our project, so I was also able to meet him in the conference room. Actually, Mozilla employees were kind enough to let me stay at the office after the conference… Hence I was able to work on Apple’s Web Engine on a project sponsored by Google at the Mozilla office… probably something you can only do at Igalia 😉. Last but not least, Guillaume was also in holidays in Paris this week, so I let you imagine what happens when three French guys meet (hint: it involves food 😋).

Review of Igalia's Web Platform activities (H1 2017)

Introduction

For many years Igalia has been committed to and dedicated efforts to the improvement of Web Platform in all open-source Web Engines (Chromium, WebKit, Servo, Gecko) and JavaScript implementations (V8, SpiderMonkey, ChakraCore, JSC). We have been working in the implementation and standardization of some important technologies (CSS Grid/Flexbox, ECMAScript, WebRTC, WebVR, ARIA, MathML, etc). This blog post contains a review of these activities performed during the first half (and a bit more) of 2017.

Projects

CSS

A few years ago Bloomberg and Igalia started a collaboration to implement a new layout model for the Web Platform. Bloomberg had complex layout requirements and what the Web provided was not enough and caused performance issues. CSS Grid Layout seemed to be the right choice, a feature that would provide such complex designs with more flexibility than the currently available methods.

We’ve been implementing CSS Grid Layout in Blink and WebKit, initially behind some flags as an experimental feature. This year, after some coordination effort to ensure interoperability (talking to the different parties involved like browser vendors, the CSS Working Group and the web authors community), it has been shipped by default in Chrome 58 and Safari 10.1. This is a huge step for the layout on the web, and modern websites will benefit from this new model and enjoy all the features provided by CSS Grid Layout spec.

Since the CSS Grid Layout shared the same alignment properties as the CSS Flexible Box feature, a new spec has been defined to generalize alignment for all the layout models. We started implementing this new spec as part of our work on Grid, being Grid the first layout model supporting it.

Finally, we worked on other minor CSS features in Blink such as caret-color or :focus-within and also several interoperability issues related to Editing and Selection.

MathML

MathML is a W3C recommendation to represent mathematical formulae that has been included in many other standards such as ISO/IEC, HTML5, ebook and office formats. There are many tools available to handle it, including various assistive technologies as well as generators from the popular LaTeX typesetting system.

After the improvements we performed in WebKit’s MathML implementation, we have regularly been in contact with Google to see how we can implement MathML in Chromium. Early this year, we had several meetings with Google’s layout team to discuss this in further details. We agreed that MathML is an important feature to consider for users and that the right approach would be to rely on the new LayoutNG model currently being implemented. We created a prototype for a small LayoutNG-based MathML implementation as a proof-of-concept and as a basis for future technical discussions. We are going to follow-up on this after the end of Q3, once Chromium’s layout team has made more progress on LayoutNG.

Servo

Servo is Mozilla’s next-generation web content engine based on Rust, a language that guarantees memory safety. Servo relies on a Rust project called WebRender which replaces the typical rasterizer and compositor duo in the web browser stack. WebRender makes extensive use of GPU batching to achieve very exciting performance improvements in common web pages. Mozilla has decided to make WebRender part of the Quantum Render project.

We’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with Mozilla for a few years now, focusing on the graphics stack. Our work has focused on bringing full support for CSS stacking and clipping to WebRender, so that it will be available in both Servo and Gecko. This has involved creating a data structure similar to what WebKit calls the “scroll tree” in WebRender. The scroll tree divides the scene into independently scrolled elements, clipped elements, and various transformation spaces defined by CSS transforms. The tree allows WebRender to handle page interaction independently of page layout, allowing maximum performance and responsiveness.

WebRTC

WebRTC is a collection of communications protocols and APIs that enable real-time communication over peer-to-peer connections. Typical use cases include video conferencing, file transfer, chat, or desktop sharing. Igalia has been working on the WebRTC implementation in WebKit and this development is currently sponsored by Metrological.

This year we have continued the implementation effort in WebKit for the WebKitGTK and WebKit WPE ports, as well as the maintenance of two test servers for WebRTC: Ericsson’s p2p and Google’s apprtc. Finally, a lot of progress has been done to add support for Jitsi using the existing OpenWebRTC backend.

Since OpenWebRTC development is not an active project anymore and given libwebrtc is gaining traction in both Blink and the WebRTC implementation of WebKit for Apple software, we are taking the first steps to replace the original WebRTC implementation in WebKitGTK based on OpenWebRTC, with a new one based on libwebrtc. Hopefully, this way we will share more code between platforms and get more robust support of WebRTC for the end users. GStreamer integration in this new implementation is an issue we will have to study, as it’s not built in libwebrtc. libwebrtc offers many services, but not every WebRTC implementation uses all of them. This seems to be the case for the Apple WebRTC implementation, and it may become our case too if we need tighter integration with GStreamer or hardware decoding.

WebVR

WebVR is an API that provides support for virtual reality devices in Web engines. Implementation and devices are currently actively developed by browser vendors and it looks like it is going to be a huge thing. Igalia has started to investigate on that topic to see how we can join that effort. This year, we have been in discussions with Mozilla, Google and Apple to see how we could help in the implementation of WebVR on Linux. We decided to start experimenting an implementation within WebKitGTK. We announced our intention on the webkit-dev mailing list and got encouraging feedback from Apple and the WebKit community.

ARIA

ARIA defines a way to make Web content and Web applications more accessible to people with disabilities. Igalia strengthened its ongoing committment to the W3C: Joanmarie Diggs joined Richard Schwerdtfeger as a co-Chair of the W3C’s ARIA working group, and became editor of the Core Accessibility API Mappings, [Digital Publishing Accessibility API Mappings] (https://w3c.github.io/aria/dpub-aam/dpub-aam.html), and Accessible Name and Description: Computation and API Mappings specifications. Her main focus over the past six months has been to get ARIA 1.1 transitioned to Proposed Recommendation through a combination of implementation and bugfixing in WebKit and Gecko, creation of automated testing tools to verify platform accessibility API exposure in GNU/Linux and macOS, and working with fellow Working Group members to ensure the platform mappings stated in the various “AAM” specs are complete and accurate. We will provide more information about these activities after ARIA 1.1 and the related AAM specs are further along on their respective REC tracks.

Web Platform Predictability for WebKit

The AMP Project has recently sponsored Igalia to improve WebKit’s implementation of the Web platform. We have worked on many issues, the main ones being:

  • Frame sandboxing: Implementing sandbox values to allow trusted third-party resources to open unsandboxed popups or restrict unsafe operations of malicious ones.
  • Frame scrolling on iOS: Addressing issues with scrollable nodes; trying to move to a more standard and interoperable approach with scrollable iframes.
  • Root scroller: Finding a solution to the old interoperability issue about how to scroll the main frame; considering a new rootScroller API.

This project aligns with Web Platform Predictability which aims at making the Web more predictable for developers by improving interoperability, ensuring version compatibility and reducing footguns. It has been a good opportunity to collaborate with Google and Apple on improving the Web. You can find further details in this blog post.

JavaScript

Igalia has been involved in design, standardization and implementation of several JavaScript features in collaboration with Bloomberg and Mozilla.

In implementation, Bloomberg has been sponsoring implementation of modern JavaScript features in V8, SpiderMonkey, JSC and ChakraCore, in collaboration with the open source community:

  • Implementation of many ES6 features in V8, such as generators, destructuring binding and arrow functions
  • Async/await and async iterators and generators in V8 and some work in JSC
  • Optimizing SpiderMonkey generators
  • Ongoing implementation of BigInt in SpiderMonkey and class field declarations in JSC

On the design/standardization side, Igalia is active in TC39 and with Bloomberg’s support

In partnership with Mozilla, Igalia has been involved in the specification of various JavaScript standard library features for internationalization, in specification, implementation in V8, code reviews in other JavaScript engines, as well as working with the underlying ICU library.

Other activities

Preparation of Web Engines Hackfest 2017

Igalia has been organizing and hosting the Web Engines Hackfest since 2009. This event under an unconference format has been a great opportunity for Web Engines developers to meet, discuss and work together on the web platform and on web engines in general. We announced the 2017 edition and many developers already confirmed their attendance. We would like to thank our sponsors for supporting this event and we are looking forward to seeing you in October!

Coding Experience

Emilio Cobos has completed his coding experience program on implementation of web standards. He has been working in the implementation of “display: contents” in Blink but some work is pending due to unresolved CSS WG issues. He also started the corresponding work in WebKit but implementation is still very partial. It has been a pleasure to mentor a skilled hacker like Emilio and we wish him the best for his future projects!

New Igalians

During this semester we have been glad to welcome new igalians who will help us to pursue Web platform developments:

  • Daniel Ehrenberg joined Igalia in January. He is an active contributor to the V8 JavaScript engine and has been representing Igalia at the ECMAScript TC39 meetings.
  • Alicia Boya joined Igalia in March. She has experience in many areas of computing, including web development, computer graphics, networks, security, and software design with performance which we believe will be valuable for our Web platform activities.
  • Ms2ger joined Igalia in July. He is a well-known hacker of the Mozilla community and has wide experience in both Gecko and Servo. He has noticeably worked in DOM implementation and web platform test automation.

Conclusion

Igalia has been involved in a wide range of Web Platform technologies going from Javascript and layout engines to accessibility or multimedia features. Efforts have been made in all parts of the process:

  • Participation to standardization bodies (W3C, TC39).
  • Elaboration of conformance tests (web-platform-tests test262).
  • Implementation and bug fixes in all open source web engines.
  • Discussion with users, browser vendors and other companies.

Although, some of this work has been sponsored by Google or Mozilla, it is important to highlight how external companies (other than browser vendors) can make good contributions to the Web Platform, playing an important role on its evolution. Alan Stearns already pointed out the responsibility of the Web Plaform users on the evolution of CSS while Rachel Andrew emphasized how any company or web author can effectively contribute to the W3C in many ways.

As mentioned in this blog post, Bloomberg is an important contributor of several open source projects and they’ve been a key player in the development of CSS Grid Layout or Javascript. Similarly, Metrological’s support has been instrumental for the implementation of WebRTC in WebKit. We believe others could follow their examples and we are looking forward to seeing more companies sponsoring Web Platform developments!

The AMP Project and Igalia working together to improve WebKit and the Web Platform

TL;DR

The AMP Project and Igalia have recently been collaborating to improve WebKit’s implementation of the Web platform. Both teams are committed to make the Web better and we expect that all developers and users will benefit from this effort. In this blog post, we review some of the bug fixes and features currently being considered:

  • Frame sandboxing: Implementing sandbox values to allow trusted third-party resources to open unsandboxed popups or restrict unsafe operations of malicious ones.

  • Frame scrolling on iOS: Trying to move to a more standard and interoperable approach via iframe elements; addressing miscellaneous issues with scrollable nodes (e.g. visual artifacts while scrolling, view not scrolled when using “Find Text”…).

  • Root scroller: Finding a solution to the old interoperability issue about how to scroll the main frame; considering a new rootScroller API.

Some demo pages for frame sandboxing and scrolling are also available if you wish to test features discussed in this blog post.

Introduction

AMP is an open-source project to enable websites and ads that are consistently fast, beautiful and high-performing across devices and distribution platforms. Several interoperability bugs and missing features in WebKit have caused problems to AMP users and to Web developers in general. Although it is possible to add platform-specific workarounds to AMP, the best way to help the Web Platform community is to directly fix these issues in WebKit, so that everybody can benefit from these improvements.

Igalia is a consulting company with a team dedicated to Web Platform developments in all open-source Web Engines (Chromium, WebKit, Servo, Gecko) working in the implementation and standardization of miscellaneous technologies (CSS Grid/flexbox, ECMAScript, WebRTC, WebVR, ARIA, MathML, etc). Given this expertise, the AMP Project sponsored Igalia so that they can lead these developments in WebKit. It is worth noting that this project aligns with the Web Predictability effort supported by both Google and Igalia, which aims at making the Web more predictable for developers. In particular, the following aspects are considered:

  • Interoperability: Effort is made to write Web Platform Tests (WPT), to follow Web standards and ensure consistent behaviors between web engines or operating systems.
  • Compatibility: Changes are carefully analyzed using telemetry techniques or user feedback in order to avoid breaking compatibility with previous versions of WebKit.
  • Reducing footguns: Removals of non-standard features (e.g. CSS vendor prefixes) are attempted while new features are carefully introduced.

Below we provide further description of the WebKit improvements, showing concretely how the above principles are followed.

Frame sandboxing

A sandbox attribute can be specified on the iframe element in order to enable a set of restrictions on any content it hosts. These conditions can be relaxed by specifying a list of values such as allow-scripts (to allow javascript execution in the frame) or allow-popups (to allow the frame to open popups). By default, the same restrictions apply to a popup opened by a sandboxed frame.

iframe sandboxing
Figure 1: Example of sandboxed frames (Can they navigate their top frame or open popups? Are such popups also sandboxed?)

However, sometimes this behavior is not wanted. Consider for example the case of an advertisement inside a sandboxed frame. If a popup is opened from this frame then it is likely that a non-sandboxed context is desired on the landing page. In order to handle this use case, a new allow-popups-to-escape-sandbox value has been introduced. The value is now supported in Safari Technology Preview 34.

While performing that work, it was noticed that some WPT tests for the sandbox attribute were still failing. It turns out that WebKit does not really follow the rules to allow navigation. More specifically, navigating a top context is never allowed when such context corresponds to an opened popup. We have made some changes to WebKit so that it behaves more closely to the specification. This is integrated into Safari Technology Preview 35 and you can for example try this W3C test. Note that this test requires to change preferences to allow popups.

It is worth noting that web engines may slightly depart from the specification regarding the previously mentioned rules. In particular, WebKit checks a same-origin condition to be sure that one frame is allowed to navigate another one. WebKit always has contained a special case to ignore this condition when a sandboxed frame with the allow-top-navigation flag tries and navigate its top frame. This feature, sometimes known as “frame busting,” has been used by third-party resources to perform malicious auto-redirecting. As a consequence, Chromium developers proposed to restrict frame busting to the case where the navigation is triggered by a user gesture.

According to Chromium’s telemetry frame busting without a user gesture is very rare. But when experimenting with the behavior change of allow-top-navigation several regressions were reported. Hence it was instead decided to introduce the allow-top-navigation-by-user-activation flag in order to provide this improved safety context while still preserving backward compatibility. We implemented this feature in WebKit and it is now available in Safari Technology Preview 37.

Finally, another proposed security improvement is to use an allow-modals flag to explicitly allow sandboxed frames to display modal dialogs (with alert, prompt, etc). That is, the default behavior for sandboxed frames will be to forbid such modal dialogs. Again, such a change of behavior must be done with care. Experiments in Chromium showed that the usage of modal dialogs in sandboxed frames is very low and no users complained. Hence we implemented that behavior in WebKit and the feature should arrive in Safari Technology Preview soon.

Check out the frame sandboxing demos if if you want to test the new allow-popup-to-escape-sandbox, allow-top-navigation-without-user-activation and allow-modals flags.

Frame scrolling on iOS

Apple’s UI choice was to (almost) always “flatten” (expand) frames so that users do not require to scroll them. The rationale for this is that it avoids to be trapped into hierarchy of nested frames. Changing that behavior is likely to cause a big backward compatibility issue on iOS so for now we proposed a less radical solution: Add a heuristic to support the case of “fullscreen” iframes used by the AMP Project. Note that such exceptions already exist in WebKit, e.g. to avoid making offscreen content visible.

We thus added the following heuristic into WebKit Nightly: do not flatten out-of-flow iframes (e.g. position: absolute) that have viewport units (e.g. vw and vh). This includes the case of the “fullscreen” iframe previously mentioned. For now it is still under a developer flag so that WebKit developers can control when they want to enable it. Of course, if this is successful we might consider more advanced heuristics.

The fact that frames are never scrollable in iOS is an obvious interoperability issue. As a workaround, it is possible to emulate such “scrollable nodes” behavior using overflow: scroll nodes with the -webkit-overflow-scrolling: touch property set. This is not really ideal for our Web Predictability goal as we would like to get rid of browser vendor prefixes. Also, in practice such workarounds lead to even more problems in AMP as explained in these blog posts. That’s why implementing scrolling of frames is one of the main goals of this project and significant steps have already been made in that direction.

Class Hierarchy
Figure 2: C++ classes involved in frame scrolling

The (relatively complex) class hierarchy involved in frame scrolling is summarized in Figure 2. The frame flattening heuristic mentioned above is handled in the WebCore::RenderIFrame class (in purple). The WebCore::ScrollingTreeFrameScrollingNodeIOS and WebCore::ScrollingTreeOverflowScrollingNodeIOS classes from the scrolling tree (in blue) are used to scroll, respectively, the main frame and overflow nodes on iOS. Scrolling of non-main frames will obviously have some code to share with the former, but it will also have some parts in common with the latter. For example, passing an extra UIScrollView layer is needed instead of relying on the one contained in the WKWebView of the main frame. An important step is thus to introduce a special class for scrolling inner frames that would share some logic from the two other classes and some refactoring to ensure optimal code reuse. Similar refactoring has been done for scrolling node states (in red) to move the scrolling layer parameter into WebCore::ScrollingStateNode instead of having separate members for WebCore::ScrollingStateOverflowScrollingNode and WebCore::ScrollingStateFrameScrollingNode.

The scrolling coordinator classes (in green) are also important, for example to handle hit testing. At the moment, this is not really implemented for overflow nodes but it might be important to have it for scrollable frames. Again, one sees that some logic is shared for asynchronous scrolling on macOS (WebCore::ScrollingCoordinatorMac) and iOS (WebCore::ScrollingCoordinatorIOS) in ancestor classes. Indeed, our effort to make frames scrollable on iOS is also opening the possibility of asynchronous scrolling of frames on macOS, something that is currently not implemented.

Class Hierarchy
Figure 4: Video of this demo page on WebKit iOS with experimental patches to make frame scrollables (2017/07/10)

Finally, some more work is necessary in the render classes (purple) to ensure that the layer hierarchies are correctly built. Patches have been uploaded and you can view the result on the video of Figure 4. Notice that this work has not been reviewed yet and there are known bugs, for example with overlapping elements (hit testing not implemented) or position: fixed elements.

Various other scrolling bugs were reported, analyzed and sometimes fixed by Apple. The switch from overflow nodes to scrollable iframes is unlikely to address them. For example, the “Find Text” operation in iOS has advanced features done by the UI process (highlight, smart magnification) but the scrolling operation needed only works for the main frame. It looks like this could be fixed by unifying a bit the scrolling code path with macOS. There are also several jump and flickering bugs with position: fixed nodes. Finally, Apple fixed inconsistent scrolling inertia used for the main frame and the one used for inner scrollable nodes by making the former the same as the latter.

Root Scroller

The CSSOM View specification extends the DOM element with some scrolling properties. That specification indicates that the element to consider to scroll the main view is document.body in quirks mode while it is document.documentElement in no-quirks mode. This is the behavior that has always been followed by browsers like Firefox or Interner Explorer. However, WebKit-based browsers always treat document.body as the root scroller. This interoperability issue has been a big problem for web developers. One convenient workaround was to introduce the document.scrollingElement which returns the element to use for scrolling the main view (document.body or document.documentElement) and was recently implemented in WebKit. Use this test page to verify whether your browser supports the document.scrollingElement property and which DOM element is used to scroll the main view in no-quirks mode.

Nevertheless, this does not solve the issue with existing web pages. Chromium’s Web Platform Predictability team has made a huge communication effort with Web authors and developers which has drastically reduced the use of document.body in no-quirks mode. For instance, Chromium’s telemetry on Figure 3 indicates that the percentage of document.body.scrollTop in no-quirks pages has gone from 18% down to 0.0003% during the past three years. Hence the Chromium team is now considering shipping the standard behavior.

UseCounter for ScrollTopBodyNotQuirksMode
Figure 3: Use of document.body.scrollTop in no-quirks mode over time (Chromium's UseCounter)

In WebKit, the issue has been known for a long time and an old attempt to fix it was reverted for causing regressions. For now, we imported the CSSOM View tests and just marked the one related to the scrolling element as failing. An analysis of the situation has been left on WebKit’s bug; Depending on how things evolve on Chromium’s side we could consider the discussion and implementation work in WebKit.

Related to that work, a new API is being proposed to set the root scroller to an arbitrary scrolling element, giving more flexibility to authors of Web applications. Today, this is unfortunately not possible without losing some of the special features of the main view (e.g. on iOS, Safari’s URL bar is hidden when scrolling the main view to maximize the screen space). Such API is currently being experimented in Chromium and we plan to investigate whether this can be implemented in WebKit too.

Conclusion

In the past months, The AMP Project and Igalia have worked on analyzing some interoperability issue and fixing them in WebKit. Many improvements for frame sandboxing are going to be available soon. Significant progress has also been made for frame scrolling on iOS and collaboration continues with Apple reviewers to ensure that the work will be integrated in future versions of WebKit. Improvements to “root scrolling” are also being considered although they are pending on the evolution of the issues on Chromium’s side. All these efforts are expected to be useful for WebKit users and the Web platform in general.

Igalia Logo
AMP Logo

Last but not least, I would like to thank Apple engineers Simon Fraser, Chris Dumez, and Youenn Fablet for their reviews and help, as well as Google and the AMP team for supporting that project.

Rêve avec moi

Mon ami Rolando a récemment annoncé la sortie de l’album “Un poquito más”. J’ai apporté ma modeste contribution en écrivant les paroles du titre “Rêve avec moi”. Je vous invite d’ailleurs à visionner le clip de cette chanson ainsi que d’autres vidéos sur la chaine Youtube de Rolando Salsa & Orquesta. Pour les personnes intéressées, cet article contient le texte de la chanson ainsi que des informations complémentaires (mais probablement pas exhaustives… à vous de faire votre propre interprétation!).

Rêve avec moi

À mon ami péruvien.

(Premier couplet)

En sommeil onirique
Je prends mon essor,
Comme un icare mythique
Aux ailes du noir condor!

Les montagnes andines
Je peux survoler,
Machu picchu tes ruines
J'aperçois sous mes pieds!

(Refrain)

Rêve avec moi,
De ces paysages splendides!
Contemplons tels des rois
Suspendus dans le vide!

Rêve avec moi,
De ces beaux décors lointains!
Envolons-nous de joie
Vers l'azur péruvien!

Rêve avec moi!

(Deuxième couplet)

Un songe fantastique
S'élève de mon corps,
Je suis l'inca mystique
Veillant aux cités d'or!

L'amazonie dessine
Ses forêts sacrées,
À l'ouest la lave divine
Sort de lamas fâchés!

(Refrain × 2)

Genèse

Le 28 juillet 2015, Rolando m’envoya la mélodie de la chanson avec un arrangement de guitare. Il ne m’avait pas vraiment fixé de contraintes, si ce n’est un thème joyeux et un refrain facile à retenir. Pendant un mois, il m’a été difficile de trouver le temps et l’inspiration…

J’ai alors pensé à la fois où il avait voulu me dire “j’ai rêvé de toi” en traduisant de l’espagnol “he soñado contigo” (littéralement j’ai rêvé avec toi). Cela m’a donné l’idée d’un thème onirique et d’une invitation au voyage vers son pays, le Pérou. En outre, je me suis souvenu du poème Élévation des fleurs du mal où Baudelaire décrit une ascension de l’esprit Au-dessus des étangs, au-dessus des vallées, des montagnes, des bois, des nuages, des mers, ce qui allait bien avec la variété et beauté des paysages du Pérou.

Dans la nuit du 29 au 30 août, j’ai donc écrit les paroles en reprenant ces thèmes habituels mais en incluant les symboles et clichés du folklore péruvien (notez que je vous ai épargné le syrinx et le chullo) ! Le refrain à été écrit tout à la fin en quelques minutes, suivant les conseils de Rolando d’avoir quelque chose de simple.

Explication de texte

  • “sommeil onirique”: allusion aux différentes phases du sommeil, ici un état de rêve.

  • “Je prends mon essor”: cf le poème de Baudelaire: … Celui dont les pensers, … prennent un libre essor ….

  • “icare mythique”: Dans la mythologie grecque, Icare est connu pour avoir volé trop près du Soleil avec des ailes de cire. L’expression “rêve d’Icare” renvoie au désir de voler.

  • “noir condor”: Le condor des Andes, symbole du Pérou.

  • “montagnes andines”: référence à la cordillère des Andes qui traverse le Pérou.

  • “Machu picchu”: la célèbre cité inca au sommet d’un mont de la Cordillère des Andes. Le site est aussi situé aux limites de la forêt amazonienne (cf second couplet).

  • “tels des rois”: idée des rois dominants le monde au haut de leur tours. Voir aussi “Inca” dans le second couplet.

  • “l’inca mystique”: Inca désigne à la fois une civilisation précolombienne des Andes et leur empereur. Les Incas vouaient un culte particulier à leur souverain, considéré comme le “fils du soleil”.

  • “cités d’or”: Allusion au mythe des cités d’or chez les conquistadors.

  • “amazonie”, “forêts”: référence à la forêt amazonienne qui s’étend sur une partie du Pérou.

  • “À l’ouest la lave”: La zone volcanique centrale des Andes est due à la subduction par l’ouest de la plaque de Nazca sous la plaque sud-américaine. Petit mea culpa: en réalité, à l’échelle du Pérou, les volcans sont plutôt situés au sud du pays…

  • “lave divine”, “lamas fâchés”: Référence au célèbre camélidé. Comme dirait l’indien quechua de Tintin et le Temple du Soleil, “quand lama fâché lui toujours faire ainsi”. De la même manière, on retrouve l’image usuelle des irruptions volcaniques comme manifestation de la colère des dieux, qui “crachent le feu”.

Analyse des paroles

Comme indiqué plus haut, le texte reprend les thèmes classiques (si j’ose dire) du courant romantique:

  • rêve, imaginaire…: “sommeil onirique”, “mythique”, “songe fantastique”, “cités d’or”, rêve d’“icare”, “rêve avec moi”

  • mysticisme, spiritualité…: “mystique”, “sacrées”, “divine”

  • mouvement ascentionel, hauteur…: “je prends mon essor”, “icare”, “ailes”, “condor”, “survoler”, “sous mes pieds”, “rois”, “suspendus dans le vide”, “envolons-nous”, “azur”, “s’élève”

  • goût de l’ailleurs, invitation au du voyage: “azur péruvien” et toutes les références au Pérou précédemment citées, “rêve avec moi”, “envolons-nous”, “décors lointains”

  • nature, paysages, beauté, contemplation, plaisir…: “condor”, “montagnes”, “Machu picchu”, “paysages splendides”, “Contemplons”, “J’aperçois”, “beaux décors lointains”, “azur”, “cité d’or”, “amazonie”, “forêts”, volcans (évoqués par la métaphore des lamas fachés), “lamas”, “joie”.

Les couplets sont construits de façon symétrique. Idée de l’état de rêve du narrateur (“sommeil onirique” / “songe onirique”) suivie d’une élévation (“prends son essor”, “S’élève de mon corps” puis d’une personnalisation avec “l’icare mythique aux ailes du noir condor” ou avec “l’inca mystique veillant aux cités d’or” et enfin une admiration des paysages (“montagnes”, “Machu picchu” / “amazonie”, volcans). On notera aussi la métaphore animalière (“condor”, “lamas”).

De la même façon, les deux strophes du refrain sont construites de façons parallèles: “paysages splendides” / “beaux décors”, “Contemplons” / “Envolons-nous”, “vide” / “azur péruvien”. Le refrain forme un condensé des thèmes mentionnés ci-dessus. Il reprend le titre expliqué plus haut, qui lui même contient le “rêve”, “l’invitation au voyage” et implicitement le Pérou (par l’erreur de traduction hispanique).

Comme indiqué plus haut, la chanson est inspirée du poème Élévation. Dans la notice de de la bibliothèque de la pléiade (p. 838-839) Claude Pichois suggère que la fin du poème renvoie au thème des correspondances baudelairiennes. On remarquera que dans la chanson, les métaphores et comparaisons de la nature andine correspondent en effet aux mythes, légendes et dieux de l’imaginaire inca et occidental.

En guise de conclusion, notons que Claude Pichois cite aussi l’essai de Baudelaire sur Wagner où ce dernier raconte ses impressions à l’audition de Lohengrin:

Je me souviens que, dès les premières mesures, je subis une de ces impressions heureuses que presque tous les hommes imaginatifs ont connues, par le rêve, dans le sommeil. Je me sentis délivré des liens de la pesanteur, et je retrouvai par le souvenir l’extraordinaire volupté qui circule dans les lieux hauts

Est-ce qu’à son plus humble niveau, “rêve avec moi” permettra aux amateurs de musique latine d’être transportés vers l’“azur péruvien”… à vous de me le dire ;-)

MathZilla collection ported to WebExtensions

MathZilla is a collection of MathML-related add-ons for Mozilla applications. It provides nice features such as forcing native MathML rendering (e.g. on Wikipedia), using Web fonts to render MathML or providing a context menu item to copy math formulas into the clipboard.

Initially written as a single XUL overlay extension (with even binary code for the LaTeX-to-MathML converter) it grows up as a collection of restartless add-ons using bootstrapped or SDK-based extensions, following the evolution of Mozilla’s recommendations. Also, SDK-based extensions were first generated using a Python program called cfx before Mozilla recommended to switch to a JS-based replacement called jpm.

Mozilla announced some time ago that they will transition to the WebExtensions format. On the one hand this sounds bad because developers have to re-write their legacy add-ons again and actually be sure that the transition is even possible or does break anything. On the other hand it is good for long-term interoperability since e.g. Chromium browsers or Microsoft Edge support that format. My colleague Michael Catanzaro also mentioned in a recent blog post that WebExtensions are considered for Epiphany too. It is not clear what Mozilla’s plan is for Thunderbird or SeaMonkey but hopefully they will use that format too (in the past I was suggested to make the MathZilla add-ons compatible with SeaMonkey).

Recently, Mozilla announced their plans for Firefox 57 which is basically to allow only add-ons written as WebExtensions. This means I had to re-write the Mathzilla add-ons again or they will stop working at the end of the year. In general, I believe the features have been preserved although there might be some small behavior changes or minor bugs due to the WebExtensions format. Please check the GitHub bug trackers and release notes for known issues and report any other problems you find. Finally, I reorganized a bit the git repositories and add-on names. Here is the updated list (some add-ons are still being reviewed by Mozilla):

  • MathML Fonts (~2300 users) - Provide MathML fonts as Web fonts, which is useful when they can not be installed (e.g. Firefox for Android).
  • Native MathML (~1400 users) - Force MathJax/KaTeX/MediaWiki to use native MathML rendering.
  • MathML Copy (~500 users) - Add context menu items to copy a MathML formula or other annotations attached to it (e.g. LaTeX) into the clipboard.
  • TeXZilla (~500 users) - Add-on giving access to TeXZilla, a Unicode TeX-to-MathML converter.
  • MathML Font Settings (~300 users) - Add context menu items to configure MathML font settings. Note that in recent Mozilla versions the advanced font preferences menu allows to configure “Fonts for Mathematics”.
  • Presentation MathML Polyfill (~200 users) - Add support for some advanced presentation MathML features (currently using David Carlisle’s “mml3ff” XSLT stylesheet).
  • Content MathML Polyfill (~200 users) - Add support for some content MathML features (currently using David Carlisle’s “ctop” XSLT stylesheet).
  • MathML Zoom (~100 users) - Allow zooming of mathematical formulas.
  • MathML View Source (experimental) - This is a re-writing of Mozilla’s ‘view MathML source’ feature with better syntax highlighting and serialization. The idea originated from this thread.
  • Image To MathML (experimental) - Try and convert images of mathematical formulas into MathML. It has not been ported to WebExtensions yet and I do not plan to do it in the short term.

As a conclusion, I’d like to thank all the MathZilla users for their kind comments, bug reporting and financial support. The next step will probably be to ensure addons work in more browsers but that will be for another time ;-)