Apple, Adobe, Macromedia, the Mozilla Foundation, Opera and Sun have formed an alliance to ensure that plug-ins work more seamlessly with Web browsers.

They have collaboratively developed a new plug-in API (application program interface) that will enable plug-ins to work on browsers and computing platforms, including Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. The enhanced plug-in API will be made available under an open source license.

The alliance is also looking at ways to improve the tools available to content developers, and at architectural improvements and performance optimizations that will make plug-in updating faster and more reliable.

The companies say that the changes are necessary to "allow Web developers to offer richer Web browsing experiences, helping to maintain innovation and standards on the Net".

President of the Mozilla Foundation Mitchell Baker said: "This initiative will significantly improve the Web experience for users of Firefox, the Mozilla 1.x Internet suite, Safari, and Opera browsers and will ultimately benefit the overall health of the Web. Plug-ins are a critical component of the Web experience and require ongoing enhancements and improvements.

"Without these improvements, enhanced interactivity could remain tied to a single, proprietary browser solution, which reduces choice and leads to monoculture on the Web. This new initiative makes enhanced interactivity available without locking users in to a specific computing platform or Web browser. This will allow users to choose among a range of browsers without sacrificing interactivity."

"In order to foster a richer experience on the web, we need to enable more dynamic and deep interaction between the browser, the plug-in, and Web content. This is the first step in that direction; it will give Web content developers new, portable options for creating innovative experiences and applications."

The new plug-in technologies will be implemented in upcoming versions of Mozilla's Firefox Web browser and the Mozilla 1.x Internet suite and in plug-ins and browsers developed by the other companies that are supporting this initiative.

Apple senior vice president of worldwide product marketing Philip Schiller said: "Apple is happy to have made a significant contribution to this next generation plug-in technology. Apple is a strong advocate for web standards and will ensure that Mac OS X Safari users have access to the latest standards-based Web technology."

While the cat's away
A recent report in the Sydney Morning Herald stated that Apple should take advantage of the lack of development to Internet Explorer over the next few years while Microsoft works on the next version of its operating system – due for release in 2006.

"In the meantime other innovators, like Apple, have the opportunity to develop Web standards," it says.

The report concludes: "We can only hope to see Safari for Windows, and maybe other platforms. And with it thriving browser innovation based on the open standards of the World Wide Web."