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posted by Fnord666 on Saturday September 26 2020, @08:41AM   Printer-friendly
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:

  1. Building THE reference implementation web browser, and
  2. Being a jugular-snapping attack dog on standards committees.
  3. 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%.

Previously:
(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


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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 26 2020, @09:30AM (8 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 26 2020, @09:30AM (#1057180)

    They're so bad at everything that it seems like they're actively trying to destroy Firefox. Take mobile browsing. I genuinely don't know why mobile Firefox hasn't been more popular, because of its ad-blocking ability. Nevertheless this is the only real reason to use Firefox on mobile. It's quite usable, but Chrome is better, except for this one killer feature.

    So Mozilla gets rid of it. Now I can't really upgrade Firefox on my phone, and will eventually have to stop using it.

    That's really been their main consistent behavior for a decade : figure out what their users like, and break it.

    I'm not a conspiracy theorist by nature, but it really seems to me that the only purpose of Mozilla is to provide antitrust insurance for Google. They need to have a browser to achieve that - but they want as few people to use it as possible.

    It's clear that they've reached a tipping point now, where Google doesn't need them any more, and there's not enough left to be worth saving.

    I'm not sure I agree with the article on overhead, though. In a traditional charity, the purpose is to give that money away (or buy things and give them away). Mozilla develops software. They give the software away, but the line between administration and product is very blurry in software development. The CEO is overpaid (unless you assume that the purpose is to self destruct, in which case their performance has been excellent) but I'm not sure if it's possible to accurately measure the line between overhead and mission in an organization like Mozilla. Wikimedia is another example - they have tremendous overhead, but most of their actual value comes from their volunteer writers, which can't even be measured. So that overhead fraction can't be right.

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 26 2020, @09:53AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 26 2020, @09:53AM (#1057189)

    Charity Navigator and the IRS has a definition of overhead and it works even for charities that produces tangible goods or directly provides services. How much money do you spend on things you need to produce product vs how much money do you spend on things that don't go to the product is the basic decision. The division is not foggy with that in mind and you can look it up yourself. Programmer or their managers payroll isn't admin; HR payroll or the receptionist are. Server time to host downloads or docs isn't admin; server time to host your compliance docs or fundraising is. Drawing pretty icons for the browser isn't; making a pretty press release for the public is admin. Etc. And in many cases, the non-profit gets to say what goes into each category anyway with no verification because almost none are audited unless malfeasance is suspected.

    Not that the browser is under Mozilla the charity anyway. The non-profit is mostly a grant organization anymore.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Rosco P. Coltrane on Saturday September 26 2020, @10:10AM

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (4757) on Saturday September 26 2020, @10:10AM (#1057190)

    It's quite usable, but Chrome is better, except for this one killer feature.

    Actually, its most interesting feature is that it's neither Google nor Microsoft. In other words, it's the only viable escape route from dataraping without consent.

    Same as Firefox for desktop. In fact, I suspect a sizeable part of the people who stick to Firefox do so for that very reason, and that's partly what keeps Mozilla afloat.

  • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 26 2020, @03:50PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 26 2020, @03:50PM (#1057286)

    PLEASE READ!

    I'm sorry to interrupt your thread, but if everyone who reads Soylent News donated only $3,298.72 each, the Wikimedia Foundation could purchase those Italian barista machines that we've been eyeing for a while. It is a small price to pay to allow us to maintain our $50M bank account and allowing us to drink lattes in the afternoon.

    THANK YOU!

  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 26 2020, @05:54PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 26 2020, @05:54PM (#1057327)

    Being completely serious, I'd bet it's just a leadership team trying to justify their existence. If they did the right thing, "Okay team, carry on working on the browser. Let me know if you need anything." They would feel useless and people might start asking for cuts to executive staff. So instead, "New user interface! New layout! Side project FirefoxOS! Another new layout! Publicity campaign! Acquire Pocket! Another new layout! Email spam! A different publicity campaign! File transfers! And another new layout! VPN! See, look at all of the initiatives we've been pushing! We're working hard!"

    And now we have an organization that run through a billion dollars with an ever-declining share of the browser market and favorable public opinion to show for it. The same thing happens all of the time inside big corporations, it's just usually less visible save for some high profile "do something for the sake of doing something" projects like Ubuntu Unity or Windows 8.

  • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Saturday September 26 2020, @07:31PM (1 child)

    by Grishnakh (2831) on Saturday September 26 2020, @07:31PM (#1057349)

    I genuinely don't know why mobile Firefox hasn't been more popular, because of its ad-blocking ability. Nevertheless this is the only real reason to use Firefox on mobile. It's quite usable, but Chrome is better, except for this one killer feature.

    So Mozilla gets rid of it. Now I can't really upgrade Firefox on my phone, and will eventually have to stop using it.

    What are you talking about? I just got a new phone about a month ago, installed Firefox on it from the Google Play Store (just like I always do), installed Ublock Origin on it (like I always do), and it works just fine. Am I missing something? The newest FF is a little odd in that the URL bar is at the bottom, but other than that it seems to be working like normal.

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 26 2020, @08:43PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 26 2020, @08:43PM (#1057371)

      New Firefox on mobile only allows nine explicitly whitelisted extensions, one of which is ublock origin. But immediately after this happened, ublock origin became "unmaintained." In a couple of months Mozilla will do something to break it, and then it will be gone for good.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 27 2020, @02:57AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 27 2020, @02:57AM (#1057491)

    In the new firefox for Android, bookmarks in the home screan are gone in the new version with some home screen icons replacing them, but they only appear on a brand new tab, so it is klunky and annoying to use now (back button / open new tab and close old one to get to the icons).

    uMatrix does not work anymore, and since uMatrix has been abandoned by its author, it isn't going to.

    You cannot resize in reader mode anymore. Someone at Mozilla decided that smaller fonts and white space at the margins is "better" than having legible text, and you have no choice.

    I tried to go to about:config to see if any of the above could be undone, but Mozilla is using some Android library that is missing from my phone to display the warning page, and firefox will not continue past the error. So, on some phones, no more about:config.

    This is what I've noticed in a few minutes of browsing after updating since there was an exploit announced in the old version.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 27 2020, @12:19PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 27 2020, @12:19PM (#1057602)

    IceCat is far better on Mobile. You can install Firefox plugins directly from the mozille addons site. What more could you want?