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.