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Mozilla, you screwed up

Mozilla, you screwed up A few interesting facts:
  • Firefox was the best browser in the world
  • It was created by some developers who saw that Mozilla Suite was slow and nasty to use, worse than IE6
  • Mozilla signed an advertising deal with Google for Firefox, bringing in $100 million per year
  • The early Firefox developers were hired away by Google, to write Google Chrome
  • Meanwhile, Mozilla did not invest much of the money into Firefox – they invested it externally, or they spent it on pet side projects (most of them bat-crazy, such as making a browser-based IDE, as if they were going to be the new Eclipse Foundation), or they just spent it on endless marketing-led iterations of the design of their own sprawling website
  • And rather than seeing what the Firefox team had done, the Mozilla guys let it drift slowly away from some of the original design goals of those early developers
  • Less inspired in-house developers made small improvements to Firefox for a number of years, including some horrible populist stuff like 'personas' that harked back to the bad days of Mozilla Suite (often regular users will see an idea as 'good' whilst serious designers or software developers can see very clearly that it shows a bad direction)
  • Meanwhile, there are bugs in basic standards compliance that had existed in their bug tracker (Bugzilla) for 10 years – all browsers have bugs, Firefox had fewer than IE, but they tended to be ignored for eternity too
  • And big usability gaffs like the list-based cookie management tool with a button that doesn't delete what cookies you've selected, but deletes all cookies and cannot be undone
  • Grade-A developers like our own Philip Withnall tried to help do bug triaging to guide the core Firefox developers, in the false belief that Mozilla had no money and it was important to help the great time-stricken developers (who had already left)
  • Recently Firefox has done a good job of playing catch-up with Google Chrome in terms of performance – but it should not have been necessary given this is what Firefox was when it was created
  • But now Google Chrome has surpassed it in market share, in a few short years
  • And as of this month, apparently the advertising deal with Google has expired, with 80% of Mozillas income
  • Will it get renewed at the last minute, or will Mozilla be forced to go crawling to Microsoft, to integrate Bing?

You can take these facts many ways. Here are a few theses you could claim:
  • Mozilla was mismanaged (not replacing good developers, not maintaining important design goals, not investing back into development in a properly focused and managed way, not seeing the obvious need to compete with Google Chrome until too late)
  • Google, as the new Microsoft, use anti-competitive tactics (funding Mozilla to kill IE, then hiring the developers, then cloning it under their own brand, then cutting off the air supply)
  • Mozilla kept a lot of their users in the dark (not by hiding things, but possibly by being intentionally non-explicit in what the true drivers behind the project has been – Google's money, and the original developers, and which people being on the payroll)

I say this…

Mozilla: a group of developers gave you something great that you'd never have achieved via your own Mozilla Suite, and then you let them go, failed to learn from what they did, failed to use the heaps of cash flying around to compete properly as a software developer, invested in lots of irrelevant pet-projects, and now you can see the result. You've lost your secure income, most developers see you as a joke, and you're now second to Google who aren't even primarily a browser company.

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