Mozilla has recently (re)launched Firefox for Android, and is soon to launch Firefox OS. The success of these two products is key to our mission of keeping the web open.
However, both products are mobile products, and the mobile web is currently a WebKit-focussed semi-proprietary ecosystem.
It is vital to our success that the mobile web works well on Gecko. Much research has been done into how to do this. We control only half the experience. We can alter how we render the content we are sent, but not what content we are sent. So, we can make things a bit better by unprefixing CSS and DOM properties, fixing Gecko and User Agent string spoofing, but none of them is a silver bullet. Sometimes, the problem cannot be fixed on our side. The code uses too many WebKit-isms, or assumes it’s running on an iPhone. Just like we had to in 2000, we have to make the web better by helping developers to fix it.
We have some advantages over last time round. Not everyone has a mobile-specific website. Changing User Agent sniffing code is much easier than “rewrite your site to use neither document.layers nor document.all”. We have large desktop market share, a significant brand presence, and an enormous amount of goodwill from web developers who agree with our mission. And our community is much, much bigger.
However, we need to mobilize a significant tech evangelism effort. Currently, there are a few employees working part time on this problem. They have had some significant successes already – Google, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram – indicating that we can make a difference this way. We have tools and metrics so we can be encouraged by progress. But the web is big, the problem is very large and we need an army. My assertion is this: unless you are directly involved in the development of Firefox OS or Firefox for Android, or have managed to get a device to test it on,
Website evangelism is the most effective way you can contribute to the Mozilla mission between now and March 2013.
(Yes, tweet that.) If you have control over your own time, and you believe in the Mozilla mission, ask yourself whether what you are doing now will have as much long-term impact as time spent doing this. Then, get involved. Geeks and non-geeks alike can make a difference here. Any questions? Lawrence Mandel is your man.
‘We have large desktop market share, a significant brand presence, and an enormous amount of goodwill from web developers who agree with our mission.’
If only Mozilla had flexed it more for WebM and HTML5 video and pushed most video hosts to adopt something that doesn’t result in my browser often telling me I have to replace it with Chrome or download Flash. As now there’s shrinking desktop share and less goodwill :-\
What more flexing could we have done? We supported WebM in our products as soon as code was available. We did all sorts of behind-the-scenes encouragement of companies and partners to commit, or follow through on their commitments, to WebM. We shied away from H.264 support long after the point at which is started to be a net negative for Firefox adoption. Please don’t try and suggest we weren’t bleeding over this.
What would you have had us done differently?
And while we did all those things, Google completely dropped the ball on most of the things they’d promised to do.
When listing facebook as a success story, one needs a footnote :) facebook still uses broken CSS border declarations, leaving most of its pop ups with transparent borders (really confusing UX-wise). Recent additions on featured items in news feed also broken under firefox mobile.
Somewhat disgraceful of facebook considering it was pushing for a better cross browser mobile support not so long ago.
There will always be bugs; but the point is, the major problems were fixed by evangelism, not by tweaking Firefox in various ways, and the remaining problems need to be fixed the same way. So we need people :-)
There are a lot of bugs on Bugzilla for broken sites that work with webkit only, that are assigned “Evangelism”. What does this actually mean?
Does Mozilla have to convince the site’s developers to change their coding?
In many cases nothing happens after the bug is filed.
Sometimes Firefox gets enhanced to implement the necessary things, but yes, sometimes we need to convince them to change. That’s where you come in :-) If you see such a bug, start by trying to work out what the problem is (or set of problems are) – the Evangelism team has and is developing tools for that – and then get in touch with the site :-) Fixing the web, one site at a time…
My adventures in Mozilla tech evangelism began with Bug 213915. That bug is still open, and I’m pretty sure the only way it will ever be closed is if browsers totally stop putting any version-specific information in the UA string. (Note: I am not suggesting that this is a good idea.)
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