1. 50

  2. 37

    The best thing Mozilla can do if they really care about the web is to make Firefox amazing, because most people aren’t going to use an inferior (in their estimation, look at the stats) browser just based on principles. Let’s remember that no one forced us to start using IE, we chose to use IE because Netscape turned into a mess and IE 4 was actually a really great browser in its day.

    But that’s not what Mozilla have been doing. They’ve been working on a phone operating system (even after there was a clear duopoly), and a video chat client no one asked for, and an identity solution that could only work if it was widely adopted and had no hope of being widely adopted, and weird integration with a proprietary bookmarking “thing”, and seemingly a million other things that aren’t Firefox.

    I badly want to love Firefox. I go back to it for at least a month every year or so just to see if it has gotten to a point where I can stand to use it and I end up going back to Chromium every single time.

    1. 26

      It isn’t always easy to determine what to do next. When FxOS was started, the general consensus in the industry (not just browsers) was that if you didn’t have a mobile presence, you’d become irrelevant. This obviously didn’t end up being true, but it was a large concern for many companies. At the time FxOS was a really tantalizing idea, with potentially huge ramifications if it became successful. But it was also a large gamble.

      Every thing you’ve listed (FxOS, hello, pocket, persona) has either been axed completely, or massively de-prioritized. They were all experiments, some bigger failures than others, but all valuable nonetheless. There were also many successful experiments, though because you only tend to hear about things when people complain, they landed (relatively) unnoticed. From these experiments we can learn what works and what doesn’t, and use that information to help inform future decisions.

      One thing we learned, is that users don’t like when we experiment by “baking stuff in”. Which is where Test Pilot comes in, and why the concept of system addons was invented (basically bundled addons) where more controversial experiments can be moved.

      I understand from the outside it looks like Mozilla is flopping around without a direction, but each of these things is a calculated risk, a large number of which we expect will fail. But every failure is a lesson learned and helps guide us in the right direction. I’ll admit that for awhile FxOS was taking resources away from Firefox, but that is no longer the case. Making Firefox awesome is by far our biggest priority. Expect it to get more and more awesome into 2017.

      1. 8

        I understand from the outside it looks like Mozilla is flopping around without a direction, but each of these things is a calculated risk, a large number of which we expect will fail. But every failure is a lesson learned and helps guide us in the right direction.

        That’s a good point and it’s valuable to hear from someone on the inside.

        Hearing this, and having used FF on and off since the early days (and currently typing this on FF for Android), I feel like Mozilla would be better off focusing on the Firefox core experience and existing features, rather than bring new ones in. As a user it feels like the push has been to find the next big thing and do that really well before everyone else catches on. It’s not really what I want, because then FF starts to feel too much like Opera did back when I used it. Fun but not that good for day to day.

        1. 5

          Well you’ll be happy to know that the main goal for 2016 has been “build core strength”. The major efforts have been reducing crashes and getting e10s landed. Also keep in mind that many of these new features only have dev teams of about 2-4 people. So it’s not like working on them is a huge distraction to the rest of the company.

      2. 16

        Let’s remember that no one forced us to start using IE

        Um, that’s note quite how it went down.

        1. 11

          I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t duped into using IE, I chose to, because it was a better experience (at the time). Sure, MS used dirty tricks to inflate their market share, but they still bundle IE and it is clearly no longer dominant in the way that it once was. If IE 4 had been terrible I believe that a majority (or at least a much more significant minority) of people would have continued to use Netscape despite the bundling and forced installs.

          1. 6

            And Netscape 4 was pretty damn terrible then. IE had the better and faster implementation of standards.

            What killed IE6 was stagnation and being hoist by its own lock-in petard of ActiveX, via malware.

            1. 3

              But is it any better to have people automatically indoctrinated into making the first thing they do when they get their computer to install Chrome? That’s just as bad as using the default browser that comes with the OS.

              1. 1

                Imagine how much better the world could have been if Microsoft didn’t create a browser at all and just bundled Netscape/FireFox/Opera/Chrome. The problem is which one? How much would Microsoft have malformed it to suit their will? And if Netscape was originally chosen, would they have swapped it out when something better came along, doggedly stuck with it, or put the money in to fix it?

                1. 1

                  That’s just my point. It doesn’t make a difference whether it’s bundled so long as it’s the only thing people are aware of. (And no, that doesn’t include the things that Lobsters-type geeks are aware of.) Bundling a different browser would have been neither better nor worse. Informing people about the alternatives would have been better.

          2. [Comment removed by author]

            1. 3

              Firefox also seems to lack standards compliance in comparison to Chrome.

              Just curious, how so? I’ve found Firefox to be the most standards-compliant of all the major browsers. Usually I need to do hacky stuff to get newer features to work in Chrome, but Firefox tends to just work.

              1. [Comment removed by author]

                1. 1

                  Interesting. I’m guessing Chrome must be getting more points for javascript standards compliance. I use more cutting edge CSS features than cutting edge JS, and Firefox is always a leader in that regard.

                  1. [Comment removed by author]

                    1. 2

                      Maybe FF is just hungry and my aging MacBook Pro is getting too slow?

                      I wonder if Fx on Linux and Windows is snappier than on mac… I’ve been using firefox exclusively for years, and Chrome actually seems slow on my work computer (Thinkpad T540p), also Chrome has horrible rendering issues on Windows for me. Of course YMMV.

            2. 4

              This exactly. All I want is a standards-compliant web browser that’s lightweight. Firefox is simply not lightweight, so it’s fairly unusable for me. It just seems to be getting worse too :\

            3. 11

              let’s just hope servo takes off.. with less bullshit builtin.

              my points against ff:

              • eats cpu cycles
              • the sync thing is really fsckd up. i tried to setup a own sync server (the “new” model), but this would also need an auth server, and most of the software is nodejs stuff in alpha testing. with the condition this stuff is in, it could be more feasible to hack an own software to do this (or for the chromium sync protocol).
              • they aren’t really less evil.
              1. 3

                I subscribed to the main Servo repo on github and before I knew it I was drowned in hundreds of notifications over the course of a day or two. Sounds to me a lot like one of the first steps to “taking off”.

                1. 2

                  i still have the fear that it is a success from the technical pov, but unsuccessful because of marketing bs. “we don’t want to let gecko die”, “gecko is more widespread, let’s fix that instead”, “most websites are developed with gecko/blink/webkit in mind, it’s not feasible to have another engine”, etc.

                  sidenote: i still would love to see operas presto engine opensourced, though it is maybe too late for it to be modernized for current standards.

              2. 6

                I don’t care about the health of the web; when it collapses under the weight of its own hypocrisy, so be it. I was using the internet before the web; I’ll be using it afterwards.

                1. 2

                  it’s still no good if you use firefox to access gmail, google search, and other websites with google tracking code in them.

                  1. 5

                    Recaptcha is the most insidious of those since it’s unavoidable if you want to use whatever site is using it. uBlock can disable webfonts and block adsense and analytics, Privacy Badger replaces share buttons with local copies, and Decentraleyes does the same for javascript libraries.

                    e: oops, double-posted

                    1. 9

                      On a tangential remark, did anyone notice how Google took Recaptcha and re-purposed the idea by transitioning from deciphering words to helping Google Street View with corrections? I remember I used to have to decipher some obscure text back in ‘09, before Google bought Recaptcha. Now I have to choose “store fronts” from a bunch of photos, or identify which fixed width x height segments of a larger photo contain a street sign. We'VR become free workers to their product, and that really rubs me in the wrong way.

                      1. 2

                        I do most of this. My point is that the author seems to be implying using firefox will help stop google’s hold over the entire web, when it really will not. You need to be careful, avoid certain services and we be willing to live with the inconvenience. :-(

                        reCAPTCHA is driving me nuts though. Does anyone know of an alternative I could deploy which doesn’t depend on old php code?

                        1. 1

                          What are you trying to achieve with reCAPTCHA - prove the visitor is not a bot? Stop spamming?

                          1. 5

                            Both of those things, yes

                            1. 1

                              The latest version of reCaptcha is mostly JavaScript code with a thin server-side script for validation (which can easily be implemented in any language).

                              1. 3

                                You’d still have to connect to Google to receive the challenge (and you’d still be helping to build their AI)

                        2. -2

                          Let’s not forget Mozilla is a private corporation that’s incentivized to harm their users if you consider invasive surveillance for an ad industry and theoretically a police state to be harmful. They also have pulled their own BS in terms of browser features and business ventures. They’re not as bad as Microsoft or as powerful as Google yet but they might pull same stuff if they get dominant. Perhaps use Mozilla for now while encouraging them or another vendor forking them to run a non-profit or public benefit company whose charter maintains some basic commitments that knock out tons of risk. Moreover, the management and developers all work under such organizations bound by their fixed rules/policies where legal action could be taken if they try to abuse users.

                          Also considered contracts with third-party organizations like the EFF on specific things for specific products but I’m not a lawyer who could tell you how viable that path might be. Idea being they use the contracts for certain commitments the trusted, third party can audit and/or enforce.

                          1. 18

                            This post is pretty badly misrepresenting Mozilla.

                            Mozilla Corp is a corporation owned by a non-profit foundation and is governed by their bylaws, especially for spreading IT knowledge around the world. For example, said foundation currently runs a large campaign against the antiquated copyright laws in the EU.

                            Mozilla is not a profit-driven company, it is the company intended for building and developing Mozillas tech products (building FOSS software is not a non-profit goal). They do have to keep the lights on, though, as they employ people.

                            This setup is fairly standard for foundations that do engage in a lot of activities. They have a corporation around for legal reasons.

                            1. 1

                              Appreciate the counterpoints. I’ll do some research on the nonprofit and commericial pairing of Mozilla before making further statements sbout it.

                            2. 11

                              As skade pointed out, Mozilla Corporation is 100% owned by Mozilla Foundation (a non-profit). I have no idea how we are incentivized against our users, I believe the complete opposite to be true. I assume you are talking about directory tiles which was an experiment to see if we could make a prototype ad network that doesn’t track any data. It was (and still is) a good idea, but didn’t quite work out as well as we hoped and got removed from Firefox.

                              1. 7

                                I agree. IMO the only thing you can ding Firefox for legitimately is lack of creature comforts. Its performance footprint has improved dramatically over the last few years, and I’ve found that most things I missed from Chrome can be worked around with extensions.

                                (For instance, my work flow used to REALLY rely on Chrome’s multi-user feature, but you can get something similar to this with Firefox profiles and a couple of extensions to make using them more accessible (The Firefox UI around profiles could use some love :)

                                I switched back to Firefox last year and am very happy I did. Having an open web is worth supporting in my book.

                                1. 2

                                  Can you explain to me how does the money flow around there? I understand if I donate money to Mozilla, it’s going to go into advocacy and making cute Firefox videos, not to pay developers? I’ve asked other Mozilla Corp employees what the precise relationship between the non-profit and the corp are, and they don’t seem to really know either.

                                  1. 3

                                    All developers, marketing, legal, etc who work on anything related to Firefox are under MoCo (Mozilla Corporation). All our salaries and expenses related to that are paid using the revenue that MoCo is able to generate from things like search referrals.

                                    But MoCo is 100% owned by MoFo (Mozilla Foundation), and MoFo also employs people directly who are not under the MoCo umbrella. They do things like teaching web literacy, promoting programming to girls, advocating internet policy and trying to open up scientific research more. It’s often grassroots type events or marketing campaigns, though they also have a developer team that does stuff like webmaker or thimble.

                                    So donations all go towards MoFo. Of course as the single shareholder of MoCo, MoFo is partially funded by MoCo, but they have a budget. Which is why a lot of what they do is only possible through donations.

                                    1. 1

                                      Is their any auditing of Corporation’s expenses or initiatives by Foundation employees?

                                      1. 1

                                        There’s a board of directors that oversee expenses of both.

                                        1. 1

                                          From my interaction with Mozilla, they may be a little organised, but have a very sharp accounting and legal department. I’m very much comfortable in giving the Foundation my money, probably more then with every other of those organisations.

                                      2. 2

                                        “I’ve asked other Mozilla Corp employees what the precise relationship between the non-profit and the corp are, and they don’t seem to really know either”

                                        I’m interested in that too if anyone has it. Plus what specific restrictions or goals the bylaws place on it.

                                      3. 1

                                        “I have no idea how we are incentivized against our users”

                                        Relying on ad industry for revenue. This inmediately feeds data to surveillance industry while creating potential for harm down the line.

                                        1. 5

                                          Users are free to use DuckDuckGo with the search box if that’s what you mean. And while our revenue does largely come from search referrals, as a non-profit our goal is not to make money, so that doesn’t really factor in to decision making. If Mozilla went bankrupt because there was no longer a need due to the internet being 100% free, open and decentralized, I think every single one of us would be patting ourselves on the back and saying “mission accomplished”.

                                          Another way to look at it is, if people are going to be using Google search anyway, isn’t it better that some money gets sent over to a non-profit trying to protect privacy? Sort of like a carbon-emission tax for data collection.

                                          1. 2

                                            “And while our revenue does largely come from search referrals, as a non-profit our goal is not to make money, so that doesn’t really factor in to decision making.”

                                            Your revenue dropping 90% or some large amount due to a privacy-related technology couldn’t impact Mozilla’s decision-making? They’d consider doing something like that even if they lost most of their money and staff? I doubt it. That they keep Google or Yahoo the default for the money tells me the opposite.

                                            “if people are going to be using Google search anyway, isn’t it better that some money gets sent over to a non-profit trying to protect privacy? Sort of like a carbon-emission tax for data collection.”

                                            Now that’s a good, realistic way to look at it. It doesn’t really bother me as I just switch the default like you said. We have to be realistic, though, that the revenue and continued development of Firefox is tied to surveillance for ad industry. If Yahoo folds, Mozilla also will be dependent on its two competitors in browser space. Weird position to be in over long-term. It needs more sources of funding over time.

                                            1. 5

                                              You aren’t wrong, and you do have good points. But if you look at things like Tracking Protection, Mozilla is often the ones making those privacy-related technologies that could potentially hurt our own revenue streams. To me that is proof that the bottom line is pretty far down our priority list.

                                              But yes, it would be great to not depend on our competitors and alternate revenue streams would be welcomed (if they were the right fit). But that’s easier said than done.

                                              1. 2

                                                You make decent points on that. Part of why I stay with Firefox. :)

                                      4. 3

                                        I’d recommend sticking to Konqueror. A codebase that has always been open-source (and has the quality to show for it), very little corporate involvement (AIUI KDE is a foundation and most of their development is either volunteer or EU-funded - of course it’s an open question what incentives that creates, but I’m certainly not aware of them being funded to push advertising the way Mozilla has)