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Browsers and Gstreamer plugins

From: Jack Hill
Subject: Browsers and Gstreamer plugins
Date: Wed, 22 Dec 2021 11:54:11 -0500 (EST)
User-agent: Alpine 2.21 (DEB 202 2017-01-01)

Hi Guix,

While we have made progress on #52375 [0], the way forward remains unclear. In summary, WebKitGTK expects certain GStreamer plugins to be available. Depending on which plugins are missing and the web page content, the process corresponding to a browser tab may even crash. Currently, we expect folks to manually install the necessary plugins into their profile/environment.

Complicating matters, it is not clear to me which plugins WebKitGTK needs or optionally makes use of. At least some of the needed plugins are from gst-plugins-bad, which upstream considers to be of lesser (code) quality [1]. gst-plugins-bad is also a large dependency. Adding it would increase the closure size of browsers by almost 1GiB!


I believe that what I have written above is more or less factual. Now for my opinion: I think that we should make browsers work out of the box on commonly-encountered web content. To that end, I propose that we wrap WebKitGTK-powered browsers so that they can find the necessary plugins. I have attached a proof-of-concept patch that does just that for Vimb. I used the gst-plugins/selection procedure [2] to to add just one plugin from gst-plugins-bad that fixed the crash I was seeing in #52374.

Size comparisons:

Existing Vimb: 1397.5 MiB
Vimb with my patch: 1409.9 MiB
Vimb with all of gst-plugins-bad: 2298.6 MiB

Of course this is just the bare-minimum set of plugins. We may want to work with WebKitGTK upstream to determine any additional ones that we should be including.

[2] The patch depends on the fix for gst-plugins/selection that I submitted in

A note on the approach of wrapping browsers rather than somehow including the plugins in WebKitGTK. It is much more obvious and straight forward (to me at least) to wrap the browser executable. Also WebKitGTK could in theory be used to render content that comes from a controlled environment, not the web, and therefore doesn't need the "web plugins". A downside to doing it this way is that each browser would need to be wrapped in the same set of plugins. Perhaps we can factor that out so that the plugin list only has to be maintained in one place.

Questions and comments? How shall we move forward? Is it ok to wrap browsers in this way?


Attachment: 0001-gnu-vimb-Wrap-with-required-gstreamer-plugins.patch
Description: Text Data

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