from the state-of-the-art dept.
Co-founder of Netscape (formerly Mosaic Communications Corporation) and of Mozilla.org, Jamie Zawinski, has some brief comments about the current situation with Mozilla and its browser.
Back to Mozilla -- in my humble but correct opinion, Mozilla should be doing two things and two things only:
- Building THE reference implementation web browser, and
- Being a jugular-snapping attack dog on standards committees.
- There is no 3.
And they just completely threw in the towel on standards when they grabbed their ankles and allowed W3C to add DRM. At this point, I assume Mozilla's voice on the standards committees has all the world-trembling gravitas of "EFF writes amicus brief."
By the way, one dynamic that the cited article missed is that a huge part of the reason for Google's "investment" in Mozilla was not just to drive search traffic -- it was antitrust insurance. Mozilla continuing to exist made Chrome not be the only remaining web browser, and that kept certain wolves at bay.
Google has decided that they don't need to buy antitrust insurance any more. Wonder why.
Jamie is responding to the summary of the current situation with Mozilla outlined by software engineer Cal Paterson who points out that Firefox usage is down 85% despite Mozilla's top exec pay having gone up 400%.
One of the most popular and most intuitive ways to evaluate an NGO is to judge how much of their spending is on their programme of works (or "mission") and how much is on other things, like administration and fundraising. If you give money to a charity for feeding people in the third world you hope that most of the money you give them goes on food - and not, for example, on company cars for head office staff.
Mozilla looks bad when considered in this light. Fully 30% of all expenditure goes on administration. Charity Navigator, an organisation that measures NGO effectiveness, would give them zero out of ten on the relevant metric. For context, to achieve 5/10 on that measure Mozilla admin would need to be under 25% of spending and, for 10/10, under 15%.
(2020) Mozilla Lays Off 250, Including Entire Threat Management Team
(2020) Firefox Browser Use Drops as Mozilla's Worst Microsoft Edge Fears Come True
(2020) The Web Is Now Too Complex To Allow The Creation of New Browsers
(2019) The Future of Browsers
Despite sharing a common Chromium codebase, browser makers like Brave, Opera, and Vivaldi don't have plans on crippling support for ad blocker extensions in their products -- as Google is currently planning on doing within Chrome.
The three browsers makers have confirmed to ZDNet, or in public comments, of not intending to support a change to the extensions system that Google plans to add to Chromium, the open-source browser project on which Chrome, Brave, Opera, and Vivaldi are all based on.
A few hours after reading about Brave, Opera, and Vivaldi breaking with Google blocking ad-blockers, I find this story -
Firefox may introduce a paid version in order to reduce its reliance on Google revenue
Mozilla, the maker of open source browser Firefox, is by no means strapped for cash; although the said browser is offered free of charge, the foundation has a lucrative search deal with Google.
Some of the revenue also comes thanks to its controversially proprietary online bookmarking service Pocket, and some from sponsored content and donations.
But although the Google deal is sweet – Mozilla is very dependent on it and nervous about the prospect, however unlikely, of losing it. Therefore it always seems be on the lookout for new revenue streams.
In an interview with German media outlet T3N, the company's CEO, Chris Beard, said that it's aiming to launch the new version by October, with features like a VPN and secure cloud storage.
The company's already experimented with a VPN service by partnering up with ProtonVPN and offering a $10 subscription. Now, the company's thinking of offering some amount of free VPN bandwidth to get you started, and then charge a premium for metered access in the form of a monthly subscription.
So - what is the future? Are browsers to be divided between "free" browsers, that play games with Google, and paid browsers, which thumb their noses at Google?
And, how will all of that affect those of us who routinely modify their browsers? Will we have to work harder, for the same effect - or will we just be shot down in flames? Surrender to Google, or pay to browse?
Software developer Drew DeVault has written a post at his blog about the reckless, infinite scope of today's web browsers. His conclusion is that, given decades of feature creep, it is now impossible to build a new web browser due to the obscene complexity of the web.
I conclude that it is impossible to build a new web browser. The complexity of the web is obscene. The creation of a new web browser would be comparable in effort to the Apollo program or the Manhattan project.
It is impossible to:
- Implement the web correctly
- Implement the web securely
- Implement the web at all
Starting a bespoke browser engine with the intention of competing with Google or Mozilla is a fool's errand. The last serious attempt to make a new browser, Servo, has become one part incubator for Firefox refactoring, one part playground for bored Mozilla engineers to mess with technology no one wants, and zero parts viable modern web browser. But WebVR is cool, right? Right?
The consequences of this are obvious. Browsers are the most expensive piece of software a typical consumer computer runs. They're infamous for using all of your RAM, pinning CPU and I/O, draining your battery, etc. Web browsers are responsible for more than 8,000 CVEs.3
The browser duopoly of Firefox and Chrome/Chromium has clearly harmed the World-Wide Web. However, a closer look at the membership of the W3C committes also reveals representation by classic villains which, perhaps coincidentally, showed up around the time the problems noted by Drew began to grow.
An Open Letter to Web Developers (2020)
Google Now Bans Some Linux Web Browsers from their Services (2019)
HTML is the Web (2019)
The Future of Browsers (2019)
One Year Since the W3C Sold Out the Web with EME (2018)
Back in April, we reported that the Edge browser is quickly gaining market share now that Microsoft has transitioned from the EdgeHTML engine to the more widely used Chromium engine (which also underpins Google's Chrome browser). At the time, Edge slipped into the second-place slot for desktop web browsers, with a 7.59 percent share of the market. This dropped Mozilla's Firefox – which has long been the second-place browser behind Chrome – into third place.
Now, at the start of August, we're getting some fresh numbers in for the desktop browser market, and things aren't looking good for Mozilla. Microsoft increased its share of the browser market from 8.07 percent in June to 8.46 percent in July. Likewise, Firefox fell from 7.58 percent to 7.27 percent according to NetMarketShare.
[...] As for Mozilla, the company wasn't too happy when Microsoft first announced that it was going to use Chromium for Edge way back in December 2018. Mozilla's Chris Beard at the time accused Microsoft of "giving up" by abandoning EdgeHTML in favor of Chromium. "Microsoft's decision gives Google more ability to single-handedly decide what possibilities are available to each one of us," said Beard at the time. "We compete with Google because the health of the internet and online life depend on competition and choice."
[...] Microsoft developer Kenneth Auchenberg fought back the following January, writing, "Thought: It's time for Mozilla to get down from their philosophical ivory tower. The web is dominated by Chromium, if they really *cared* about the web they would be contributing instead of building a parallel universe that's used by less than 5 percent."
Is the browser monoculture inevitable or will Firefox hang in there?
Mozilla Teases Chromium-Based Firefox, Then Pulls Back
Firefox Tops Microsoft Browser Market Share for First Time
Netmarketshare Claims Mozilla Firefox Usage Drops Below Ten Percent
Microsoft Intercepting Firefox, Chrome Installation on Windows 10 Insider Build
Microsoft Reportedly Building a Chromium-Based Web Browser to Replace Edge, and "Windows Lite" OS
Mozilla CEO Warns Microsoft's Switch to Chromium Will Give More Control of the Web to Google
Microsoft Employee Sparks Outrage by Suggesting Firefox Switch Browser Engine to Chromium
Mozilla Was "Outfoxed" by Google
Microsoft Edge Shares Privacy-Busting Telemetry, Research Alleges
The Mozilla Corporation announced today it was laying off approximately 250 staff members in a move to shore up the organization's financial future.
The layoffs were publicly announced in a blog post today. Employees were notified hours before, earlier this morning, via an email [PDF] sent by Mitchell Baker, Mozilla Corporation CEO and Mozilla Foundation Chairwoman.
Baker's message cited the organization's need to adapt its finances to a post-COVID-19 world and re-focus the organization on new commercial services.
[...] In 2018, the Mozilla Corporation said it had around 1,000 full-time employees worldwide. Mozilla previously laid off 70 employees in January. Several sources have told ZDNet that the recent layoffs accounted for nearly a quarter of the organization's workforce.
Main casualties of today's layoffs were the developers working on the company's experimental Servo browser engine and Mozilla's threat management security team. The latter is the security team that investigates security reports and performs incident response. The security team that fixes bugs in Mozilla products is still in place, according to sources and a Mozilla spokesperson.
Last year during the big round of layoffs at Mozilla the entire Mozilla Developer Network (MDN) writers team was laid off. That was a particularly sad blow considering how valuable the MDN documentation has been to web developers as a very useful resource. Today the Mozilla folks are announced Open Web Docs in seemingly looking to have the community take over.
Following those unfortunate layoffs last summer, they exposed all of the Mozilla Developer Network documentation to GitHub. Now they are announcing the Open Web Docs organization.
"Open Web Docs (OWD) is an open collective, created in collaboration between several key MDN partner organizations to ensure the long-term health of open web platform documentation on de facto standard resources like MDN Web Docs, independently of any single vendor or organization. It will do this by collecting funding to finance writing staff and helping manage the communities and processes that will deliver on present and future documentation needs," was written on the Mozilla Hacks blog.
Previously: Mozilla Lays Off 250, Including Entire Threat Management Team
Following Layoffs, Mozilla and Core Rust Developers Are Forming a Rust Foundation
A Pretty Dire Assessment of Mozilla
Firefox 83 Released; Mozilla Kicks Rusty "Servo" Web Engine to the Linux Foundation