In the recent discussion about our iOS strategy, after a lot of exchanges, Asa and I finally found where we disagreed.
I said (lightly edited):
I think what is emerging here is a tension between two parts of the Mozilla mission.
Goal 1: at the bottom, we want the web to be an open platform, built on open standards, where anyone can innovate, where apps are portable. Manifesto points 2, 6 and 7. Locked-down OSes work directly against this in the long term, and we should do everything we can to minimise their impact and appeal.
Goal 2: higher up the stack, we want to give users control of their online lives – identity, privacy etc. Manifesto point 5, as you note. Making that happen requires having a presence on as many platforms as possible, and on making the experience as uniformly good as possible.
It seems that we have decided our iOS strategy by looking at goal 2. But what’s been missed is that you can’t achieve goal 2 in the long term if you decide to concede on goal 1 – which your words suggest you are. We are adopting a strategy which assumes we will not achieve goal 1 in the long term.
Bringing aspects of the Firefox experience to iOS benefits goal 2, but – I assert – works against goal 1. Whenever I make this point, you keep telling me “but it benefits goal 2!”. I know that – that’s not the point. Are you also saying that it has no effect at all on goal 1? And are you saying that if we win on goal 2, whether we win on goal 1 actually doesn’t matter? How do you see the relationship between the goals?
Ahhh. I think see where we disagree now.
I do not accept that working on goal 2 necessarily harms goal 1. If you think it does, I’d like to hear more about why.
(Also I absolutely do not think a “victory” on goal 2 negates the critical value of goal 1. I think both are very important and together make up the bulk of why Mozilla exists.)
Gecko is huge leverage in a lot of ways. The Firefox product, including Sync, an Open Web App marketplace, a great identity system for the Web, people and sharing in the browser, etc. — all of these not-Gecko features also offer huge leverage and have the ability to dramatically move our mission forward.
I want us to do both. Where we can take Gecko, we can do an amazing-awesome job. Where we cannot take Gecko, I think we can still do a solid job delivering the kinds of features and tools that users desperately need and which clearly move our mission forward.
We must do both. We have been ignoring a rapidly growing segment of users when it comes to goal 2 and I think that is simply unacceptable to continue doing that.
So, at Asa’s request:
Why Some Things Which Help Goal 2 Hurt Goal 1
Firefox Home on iOS (and perhaps other platforms soon?) is designed to help us with Goal 2 – giving people control of their online lives.
Marketing is all about persuading people that your product is the best thing since sliced bread. For a long time, marketing Firefox itself was relatively easy – we spread, mostly through word of mouth, to 400+ million desktops, because our product was the best thing since sliced bread. And we said so.
When we came to market Firefox Home, we’ve also been telling people that it’s similarly awesome. Check out that site – one could be forgiven for thinking that what you are getting with Firefox Home is pretty close to the full Firefox experience. And that, I suggest, is where we start hurting Goal 1.
If we tell people “use Firefox Home on iOS, you can’t have Firefox but this is nearly as good”, then we are effectively saying “use iOS or use Android, it doesn’t matter to us” – and I think it matters a great deal for Goal 1. Blurring the distinction between Firefox Home (no Gecko, no web platform leverage) and Firefox (Gecko, web platform leverage) hurts Goal 1. Obscuring the difference between iOS (closed platform) and Android (pretty open platform) hurts Goal 1.
Our marketing message needs to be more like: “Firefox Home is OK, I guess, but full Firefox would be much better”. Saying your product is not nearly as good as another possibility is really counter-cultural in marketing, but we aren’t about running with the crowd.
Of course, if that’s the message, we should provide a way of getting the better experience – which is why we should ship Firefox for iOS, apply to be in the Store, get rejected if that’s what Apple decide, upload to Cydia, and get on jailbroken iPhones. About 10% of iPhones are jailbroken, and Firefox could be the killer app for jailbreaking. And for those nervous about that, make it really clear who it is who is preventing them getting Firefox on their iPhone.