Mozilla and the Future

I am delighted that Brendan Eich has been named the new CEO of the Mozilla Corporation.

At this time of transition, I would like to encourage Mozilla community members to focus on, and to blog about, the future they’d like to see for the project. I’d love to read where others think we should be going, and I hope Brendan would too.

Here are my thoughts:

Strategy

  • We should make sure that our requirements on Firefox OS carriers and OEMs for openness, transparency and Mozilla-ness are stringent enough that least a few say “No, we can’t do that; we’ll go elsewhere”. If everyone agrees to your terms, you aren’t asking for enough.
  • We should have a community conversation about what those requirements should be. (Some of what I think is outlined by implication in my recent post Mozilla and Proprietary Software.) To that end, I’m delighted that today there’s a brown bag on the Firefox OS Brand Requirements, which is the document which defines them. (It’s not currently clear who can come to this brown bag; I’m trying to get clarity.)
  • We should get down to a price point for our lowest-end phone – say $25 – and then ride Moore’s Law up the hardware spec scale at that price point. That is to say, at some point we should stop trying to make Gecko smaller and focus on improving the capabilities without growing it faster than the hardware is growing at that price point. Let’s not bet against Moore’s Law.
  • We shouldn’t try and compete at the high end, but we do need to move into the mid market, because that’s where there’s both global volume and money. (At the low end there’s volume but little money, and at the high end there’s money but less volume.) If we can’t make our ecosystem pay for developers and operators, it won’t grow.

Technical

  • Brendan has talked about differentiating Firefox in the “trust” area. We should ship Collusion as part of Firefox for desktop, with surrounding explanation of what it means. We should build and ship Tor on Firefox OS (and find a way to extend the Tor network while doing so).
  • The average network connection of the average customer is getting worse, because more people are coming online in places where the networks suck – both in bandwidth and latency. We need to make that less painful. HTTP/2 is one way; perhaps there are others, in collaboration with operators and sites. And our offline app support needs to be awesome.
  • We’d probably need a consensus to do it, but we should try and build one, and make some new web features HTTPS-only.

Governance and Community

  • We need to figure out how our project should be governed, and how those governance structures mesh with the org chart of the Mozilla Corporation. Having clear community governance is vital if we want to grow the community and allow non-employees to take on positions of responsibility. You can’t take a position which doesn’t exist.
  • Our community governance structures need to cover all that we do, not just a portion as now, and they probably need to change to meet the needs of the Mozilla of 2014.
  • We need to help our new mobile partners live in our world and become fully-fledged participants and contributors. If we end up just being an upstream code source, that’s a loss for us.

8 thoughts on “Mozilla and the Future

  1. You mention Collusion – what I would love to see is an officially-supported equivalent of Ghostery (but properly FOSS and properly optimised). This does carry the risk of a) pissing off just about everyone who uses ads or trackers though, especially Google who (AIUI) is supporting Mozilla substantially, and b) giving a defined attack surface for tracker-builders to attempt to defeat.

    • We’ve been (famously) looking at 3rd party cookie issues, but have not yet found a way of doing it which doesn’t break unacceptably large portions of the web. I’ve not used Ghostery, but I suspect that people who understand this stuff could use it well, and people who don’t at all would either find it ineffective, or a footgun…

  2. ” If everyone agrees to your terms, you aren’t asking for enough. ”

    i think this is too confrontational and childish. i think we can define our terms based on mozilla principles, and if everyone agrees, we should be happy and professional about that, not keep shifting our requirements.

    but i agree about the rest of your post, especially on management and decision making outside the code modules.

    it may be idealistic, but the only thing that the Mozilla Corporation management (from the CEO down) should be able to govern _exclusively_ is what employees should work on. every other kind of decision in the Mozilla Organization should be made in a community-driven process. in practice, most of those decisions would still be made by Mozilla Corporation employees, but while wearing Community Governance hats.

    • I think the world where everyone in the mobile industry agrees to all that Mozilla would want is sufficiently far off that we don’t need to worry about it at the moment, and when and if it ever arrives, we can modify our stance accordingly then :-)

  3. Expanding on your last point, I wish Mozilla would be more open to third-party experimentation. At this point, I don’t believe there’s anything that parallels the Android NDK yet; I feel like there should be enough access so that people can duplicate Fennec if they really desired to. Otherwise, it’s sort of hypocritical compared to the arguments against iOS and WinRT.

    • The entire point of the Firefox OS phone is that it’s built on web standards. There’s not going to be a Native Development Kit. I’m not sure what you mean by “duplicate Fennec” – the “browser” on Firefox OS is just a shell on top of Gecko, which is a core part of the OS. I’m fairly sure it’s possible to write alternative browser UIs for Firefox OS (if it’s not, I agree it should be) – is that what you mean by “duplicate Fennec”? Fennec is the code name for Firefox for Android, which is a very different thing.

      • Right, I recognize that Mozilla doesn’t plan to do anything native at all. I don’t expect what I want to happen without something significant causing people to reconsider.

        And I meant “duplicate” as a verb, as in be able to ship a non-default rendering engine (Fennec on Android, and whatever on B2G). Bad choice of words :| Writing a different UI on top of the existing rendering engine would be like Chrome for iOS, which really isn’t the point (and among the reasons why Firefox on iOS isn’t shipping).

  4. I am delighted that Brendan Eich has decided to resign his position as CEO Mozilla, because “Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard”. So good riddance.

    Gerv, at least you have the guts to stand up for your hateful bigoted beliefs and attempt to justify them on your blog, instead of refusing to address the issue when asked in private or in public in interviews, and deleting blog comments, the way Brendan cowardly does. So I respect you for being a bigger man than Brendan, but I still disrespect you for being as bigoted a man as Brendan. But you’re the one who cast the first stone and disrespected gays first.

    But face it, Gerv, you really need to get a new Jesus. Because the one you have is wrong. The real Jesus wasn’t a bigot, and he was all about love, not hate. And no matter how you try to label it, sticking your nose into other people’s lives and trying to deny them the right to marry the one they love is hate, not love.

    Brendan Eich crossed the line and brought his hatred to work by donating his money to a cause that used it to produce TV commercials demonizing gays people with lies, and actually destroying the marriages of people he worked with. That was his intent, and those were his actions. It’s not just about free speech, and the boycotters have free speech too.

    Of course he has the right to free speech, and if he kept it just to speech, that might have been one thing, but it was his intent and the result of his ACTION to destroy other people’s families and prohibit other people from marrying the one they loved. And that’s wrong and hateful, no matter how he denies it while refusing to offer an justification of what he did, and it makes him unfit to serve as CEO. Janitor maybe, but certainly not CEO of a company that claims “Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard”. The boycotters did not force their standards on Mozilla, the way Brendan Eich tried to force his standards on gay families in California: Brendan Eich failed to live up to Mozilla’s own standards.

    The boycott is completely justified, and it worked: Brendan resigned, all by himself. He was not fired, he just finally realized he was not qualified for his job, because he stubbornly refused to evolve and change his hateful unjustifiable beliefs, or even explain his viewpoint in public. The free market worked as it’s supposed to, and the First Amendment doesn’t limit the free speech of people who protested and joined the boycott. If you don’t like how the free market and First Amendment work, then you can move to North Korea.

    But it’s not like religion is the only reason to hate people, and stick your nose into other people’s business, and tell people how to live their lives, you know.

    Some of his defenders speculate that he has valid “Libertarian” reasons for supporting Proposition 8. If Brendan actually believes that the government should get out of marriage, or opposes gay marriage because he believes nobody at all should be married, then he is an idiot and a hypocrite, because Proposition 8 was about DEFENDING government sponsored marriage, and he’s married.

    So as long as we’re all speculating on his motives in an attempt to justify his deplorable actions, in the absence of an explanation from the horse’s mouth, I’ll have a go at it too:

    Maybe he just hates gay people because they’re icky and scary and gross and they make him uncomfortable because he is secretly gay but repressing it, and it makes him feel angry and bad to see happy gay people getting married and not hating themselves like he does? Perhaps his wife is just a “beard” who he doesn’t really love, and his family life is a sham, and he secretly sneaks around and has sex with men on the “low down”, while fighting against gay marriage to make it seem like he’s straight.

    If that’s the situation, I have pity on him, but it still doesn’t justify what he did, and and I hope he works through his mental problems, but stops trying to take out his self hatred on the rest of the world.

    It’s a very common situation, especially among people into right wing anti-gay politics, you know. At least Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee and George W Bush’s campaign manager finally figured that out about himself, explained himself publicly, apologized for all the harm he caused, and now strongly supports gay marriage. Brendan Eich could be in the exact same boat, for all we know.

    So stop whining about how unfair it is that the boycotters are intolerant of hatred and bigotry, because you’re carrying the water for bullies, and that’s morally wrong. Our tolerant society has the right to protect itself from intolerant bigots like Brendan, so being intolerant of intolerance is ethical and just.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_tolerance

    The tolerance paradox arises from a problem that a tolerant person might be antagonistic toward intolerance, hence intolerant of it. The tolerant individual would then be by definition intolerant of intolerance.

    Michael Walzer asks “Should we tolerate the intolerant?”. He notes that most minority religious groups who are the beneficiaries of tolerance are themselves intolerant, at least in some respects. In a tolerant regime, such people may learn to tolerate, or at least to behave “as if they possessed this virtue”. Philosopher Karl Popper asserted, in The Open Society and Its Enemies Vol. 1, that we are warranted in refusing to tolerate intolerance. Philosopher John Rawls concludes in A Theory of Justice that a just society must tolerate the intolerant, for otherwise, the society would then itself be intolerant, and thus unjust. However, Rawls also insists, like Popper, that society has a reasonable right of self-preservation that supersedes the principle of tolerance: “While an intolerant sect does not itself have title to complain of intolerance, its freedom should be restricted only when the tolerant sincerely and with reason believe that their own security and that of the institutions of liberty are in danger.”