By focusing on low-end phones and not Nexus- or Galaxy-class handsets, they lost sight of the fact that smartphones are aspirational devices. People want the best phones they can get, with high performance and high-resolution screens. They don't care about libre software or the Open Web if the devices on which it runs are perceived as inferior. (Everyone I know uses either an iPhone or a reasonably performant Android phone, and I don't run in wealthy or tech circles much these days.)
Look at the runaway success of the iPhone. It wasn't cheap, but because it was clearly a quality device, both regular people and developers clamored for them. (Remember the hue and cry when Apple initially said they wouldn't provide a market for third-party apps?)
If Mozilla really wanted to spur interest in FirefoxOS among developers, they should have set up kiosks at every Fry's Electronics in the greater S.F. Bay area (on the doorsteps of Apple, Google, Facebook) to sell decent, unlocked phones directly. People would have lined up to buy them just to hack on them. I would have seriously considered buying one as an alternative to a Nexus phone, if one had been available.
1: Ars Technical eviscerates a $35 FirefoxOS phone: http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2014/10/testing-a-3
EDIT: I just read that review you linked and it suffers the same problem - a total lack of perspective. The only critical error I can see is the lack of internal battery to keep time synced, which will be a major setback for browsing because of authentication and whatnot. Other than that, the sorts of people spending 35$ on a phone do not care about the three different materials, the thickness, the shitty camera, etc. I've seen the most horrifying, hackneyed together internet connectivity solutions in China that to mock a 35$ phone for being "too thick" is to be just... out of touch.
The lesson here, and where we failed, is that if you don't have control over the full stack you're shipping (hardware and software) and can't manage the QA and sign off process before shipping, you expose yourself to bad surprises.
Anyway, crappy hardware cares more about software efficiency. Firefox OS struggled massively with performance, to the point of absurdity; targeting low-end hardware with that is an idea that only ever made sense on paper. Supposedly it was just a temporary problem, optimizations were coming… eventually...
It does when those Bay Area hackers are the ones who decide whether or not they will port their app to your phone.
The mistake is rather that for closed protocols you are dependent on the Bay Area hacker to port the apps instead of "everyone can implement the open protocol".
GP's point is that targeting these markets was a mistake. Their strategy was fundamentally flawed from the start.
> Other than that, the sorts of people spending 35$ on a phone do not care about the three different materials, the thickness, the shitty camera, etc. I've seen the most horrifying, hackneyed together internet connectivity solutions in China that to mock a 35$ phone for being "too thick" is to be just... out of touch.
Again, GP's point was that the idea of selling a $35 phone to China was what killed Firefox OS in the first place.
If Mozilla was targeting the market for cheap, crappy phones, they were also targeting the search market on cheap, crappy phones. Unfortunately Yahoo, Bing and Google, the companies who comprise nearly all of Mozilla's revenues, need access to extraordinarily rich markets to justify their bids. It's not clear to me that they'd be substantially better off if the Mozilla phone was considered a success.
There's also government social welfare contracts to consider, or good faith agreements with a government that allows you to corner a more profitable market (you provided five hundred thousand affordable phones to our people, so we'll let you lay fiber through our country / get through our Great Firewall / whatever).
Yea, but you don't "bet the company" on it if the opportunity is smaller.
> Mayo says it took the focus off of Firefox. “It was close to a bet-the-farm effort,” he said.
Not so. Android decided to do cheap and lean, too. I did some price comparisons in emerging markets back in 2015, and everywhere that Firefox OS tried to play, there was an Android alternative available at a comparable price. More details are here:
Firefox OS was doomed the day they partnered with Telefónica. It's a massive juggernaut which phagocytes every startup they touch, assimilate their talent, then destroy the rest.
For those who don't know Telefónica, it's something akin to T-Mobile or AT&T (maybe even bigger, not sure). They had to change the name and branding of their phone division, a massive feat in both cash and brand recognition a few years ago to clean up their shitty reputation because people hated them so much.
In the tech side that HN may be interested in, they earn money by winning government contracts and developing crappy tech like a regular consultancy. They have a very high tech R+D division which I'm sure does wonderful work but their projects don't seem to surface.
In summary, if you see something "developed by Telefonica" it should turn your alarms on.
It does make it hard to learn from the experience though. Maybe the lesson is about learning how to quit at the right time.
I'm a Mozilla employee and I was very deeply involved in Firefox OS work.
On the engineering level, Telefonica was very helpful and working with them was actually a good experience. (can't say the same about all partners :().
Hindsight 20/20 is a powerful bias and it's easy now to talk about why FxOS wasn't meant to be.
All I can say, is that we tried our best and designed a pretty usable device in the end - just week ago I launched my Z3 with latest nightly of Firefox OS 3.0 (from April 2016) and damn, it's actually pretty nice and super smooth, and I'm speaking as a user of the Pixel.
I deeply believe that there's room for an open source operating system and that web stack is a good platform to base it on.
The legacy of Firefox OS in form of tons of spec work and engine improvements (Firefox memory usage!) makes it much easier to do this now and I hope someone will.
But anyone building a new mobile OS will be facing the elephant in the room: will you get the top 5 apps to run or be ported on your OS? Without that, no way you can succeed. For FxOS, the unwillingness of Whatsapp to build an official app was more damaging that all the other reasons I read about.
OSes are commodity vehicules for apps, which are rightly what users care about. This gives a lot of power to prominent apps, which are often silos themselves - so maybe the fight to give is to displace these!
I've also known Telefonica engineers and they are some of the best. Maybe my bitterness against the behemoth clouded my words and I apologize for that.
The problem, as Lance said, is their inability to execute anything that doesn't provide them a direct, noticeable impact on sales (said to me by a Telefonica exec)
What I'm truly sorry for is the fact that the Firefox OS flopped. As an engineer, I know that you can build an awesome product but the execs may trash it if it doesn't go in the expected direction. And, with Telefonica, that happens too often.
It does have it's glitches (TV guide screen UI is very unresponsive) but I have few complaints. The Youtube app probably gets some usage as well as screen mirroring from Android/Windows PC.
Comcast. The word you're looking for is Comcast.
A more recent example would be the merger of the despised Time Warner Cable with Charter, now renamed to Spectrum.
Yeah, I remember when Firefox OS first came out, and when I heard of Mozilla's strategy of starting in the third world and then moving up, I knew Firefox OS was doomed.
Why? Because it reminded me of something I heard about car platforms, years ago. Back in 2002, GM introduced a pair of cars in the European market both based on the same platform: the Vauxhall Vectra and the Saab 9-3 (not the first generation of either nameplate, but the first to share a platform). GM made sure to introduce the Saab first. Why? Because Saab was a premium brand and Vauxhall wasn't. GM knew that "Saab built on Vauxhall technology" wouldn't fly -- people would see it as Saab degrading themselves by raiding a mid-level car for parts. On the other hand, "Vauxhall built on Saab technology" would go over very well -- people would see it as Vauxhall incorporating elements of a premium car.
The moral of the story is: you don't release a budget model and work your way up; you release a premium model and then bring it downmarket to cultivate the image of bringing luxury technology to the masses.
Your comment actually reminded me of an old Top Gear episode  where they described how Saab were instructed by GM to change only the body and the badges of a Vauxhall Cavalier when producing the Saab 900, but they ignored them and modified so much that the two cars only shared 1/3rd of the parts [2, 03:59]. The same thing happened again with the Vauxhall Vectra and the Saab 9-3, but to an even greater extent.
It certainly sounds like Saab didn't want to be associated with GM or Vauxhall or use any of their inferior technology or parts.
80% as good for 20% of the cost wins. You just have to be willing to accept selling for 20% of the cost.
The problem Mozilla has is that their hardware is not going to be any better/cheaper than somebody else's because it is somebody else's, and they can't undercut Android on price because Android is free.
What might have been an interesting strategy is to create a Firefox-branded version of Android that ships Mozilla equivalents to the Google apps.
The main problem with Firefox OS and also Canonical's Ubuntu phone was that they treated the lowend market of certain countries like second or third class citizens, assuming the cheap price would make up for the fact that there were no apps and the performance was terrible. What those companies didn't count on (but frankly should have), was that Android would just get cheaper and cheaper and the those countries would be fine with running two or three year old hardware (especially since apps frequently support old versions), rather than running a second-class OS.
I would always ask Mozilla what they would do when Android simply got as cheap, and I never got an answer that was in any way encouraging. And the answer was, they would accept defeat and give up.
A friend of mine had a Firefox OS phone at one point that she got for free at a conference, and I just remember at the time it was very difficult to even purchase a low end model outside of Europe at the time.
Part of it is carrier lock-in, but another huge factor is that you can't just install Firefox OS onto any old mobile device. Back in the late 90s/early 2000s, you could install any Linux on any PC/x86 system. PC was and still is a solid standard. The mainline kernel does a really good job of supporting the PC, both old and new (with really old support getting dropped and forked into things like the Linux/386 project for people who still use 386/486 embedded systems).
There is nothing similar for the ARM market. There is no standard. Almost no phones support Device Tree config (and definitely none of the flagships). With Windows and Linux, you install your base, you might need to install some drivers/modules and then you're done. ARM is a spec sold to SoC manufactures and then vendors attach whatever the fuck they want to whatever random pins. There's no unified boot loader. No standard way of determining devices. No standard platform. ARM isn't a platform. It's just an architecture.
There are plenty of x86 chips out there that aren't in PCs (The Wonderswan and the PS4 are both great examples of totally-not-a-PC), but they are the exceptions.
Ubuntu Mobile could have changed all this with the Edge. We may have finally had some standardized phones for open source and alternative operating systems. As it stands, every rom you see out there has to be customized for the hacked-n-patched together kernels of each and every single phone. It's not always an issue of binary drivers and no standard Kernel ABI, as some of these vendors patch things deep in the kernel in totally hacky, non-upstreamble ways for their kludged together hardware. Combined with binary blobs, closed baseband firmware, etc. etc. it's just a mess.
Currently there is no, convenient hackable mobile device platform, and that's keeping us from the same Linux revolution on embedded devices.
I'm surprised that Google and in particular Apple aren't coming under scrutiny from competition watchdogs as Microsoft did with IE in the early 2000s.
Competition watchdogs in almost every other first world country, however, are investigating Google for various antitrust claims.
Apple doesn't get a lot of scrutiny from competition watchdogs because they aren't a monopoly anywhere. Heck, outside the US, the iPhone has a pretty tiny market share.
I don't find patents or lobbyists particularly agreeable - but for an organization of a certain size to go without them in the 21st century is likely a very expensive strategic error.
In 2001 if you wanted to switch off Windows you could buy BeOS, Linux, or OS2 and run it on the same computer that you had windows on. Back then I did just that, switching from Windows to BeOS when BeOS was made free, I did my university work on BeOS running on a Toshiba laptop that came with Windows.
Right now if you have an iPhone or Android phone you have very little option to switch operating system on your device.
Also, what got MS in trouble was their contracts with hardware vendors. Companies like Compaq were required to pay MS for a Windows license even on computers they sold without Windows installed, and that was an abuse of MS' power. If Google is charging companies for Android even for phone they sell without Android installed, that would be analogous.
 "While Android continues to grow its share of the global smartphone market, it is actually losing share in the U.S. Kantar’s data shows Android phones making up 55 percent of U.S. smartphone sales compared with more than 60 percent in the same period a year ago." http://www.recode.net/2017/1/11/14239038/iphone-apple-androi...
And yeah, sure, you could run OS/2 or even BeOS, but these never reached statistically significant penetration.
Just as today you can run Sailfish, or Cyanogen/Lineage, etc... the latter supposedly has a market share of 3% or so. Better than BeOS, Linux, etc... in 2001.
> Thank God we nipped that in the bud.
Alternatively, ƒacebook, but that's probably too subtle (and a minor currency anyway).
Furthermore, many exploits don't care if their running on a JIT or on a scripting engine - that's an implementation detail. And if you really cared about security, you could design a verifiable native subset (as several systems have done) - webassembly shows that even slow standardization processes that need much more complicated cross-device compatibility can move meaningfully in that direction.
Disallowing non-first party JITs completely for security reasons is at best delusional, but more likely intentionally anti-competitive. Minor security bonuses are just gravy.
I imagine you never used a mainframe OS.
No, I don't. But all my friends wanted an iPhone and they're not programmers.
I think most people didn't know or even consider one could develop apps for phones at the time. Or why would someone want apps on a phone. Or even what an "app" is. They only knew "programs" on Windows.
People bought what was available. There were starting to appear some apps for Nokia phones but it wasn't widely popular. It was also a hassle to download / update.
The wow factor of the UI and interface design more than made up for it though, but there is a famous interview where Balmer laughs at the iPhone because it was expensive, had no keyboard, and no applications whereas Microsoft was selling millions of Windows phones a year with all of those.
And to counter your anectode - pretty much none of my friends wanted an iPhone and they're not programmers either ;P
In fact people wrote apps for rooted iPhones before iOS came out with official app support and an Appstore.
It was crazy how after apps came to the iphone suddenly people did know and there was even a little cachet to it.
Because what the globe needs is yet another company pandering to tech elites and ignoring the huge numbers of people out there of modest means? I mean seriously, Apple does all this stuff you're saying, pulling in devs with the shiny stuff, and targeting the SF yuppie... and this helps the people in Spain and India how? Not to mention that you're talking about the market segment already occupied by Android. Mozilla was trying to cater to those left behind.
Mozilla's raison d'etre isn't to push libre software per se. It's to enable the masses; libre software is merely an asset in that mission.
Read again what I wrote: the point was to get the phones into the hands of hackers, so they would write apps and create that ecosystem to ultimately benefit people elsewhere. (If there's a place with a more active hacker culture than the Bay Area, let's bring the phones there.)
I agree with amyjess' point made elsewhere. A quality phone is the means by which you get people interested in a platform, particularly developers. I think that's what's happening with Android and iPhone, in that the first phones are expensive, but the cost is spiraling ever downward. I just would rather see a freer alternative succeed, and hoped FirefoxOS would be it.
> iPhone ... but the cost is spiraling ever downward
The iPhone 1, the one that got people excited, was US$400. The iPhone 7 is US$650 (for the bottom model). Inflation in the US has not been 50%+ for the intervening decade.
You misunderstand--I desperately wanted FirefoxOS phones to succeed, precisely because an Open Web and free software is important, and ultimately a phone that can run any arbitrary software or OS. I know FirefoxOS wasn't that, but it seemed to be a step in the right direction. But if a phone is a lousy application platform and if developers can't be enticed to hack on them, then the question of freedom is moot.
One could argue which browser is a little ahead in any area, and which one needs "revitalization", to use a word from the article, but Firefox would have to seriously fall behind before I would switch browsers. Do you think ad-blockers would be a thing if it was between Chrome, Safari and IE? A lot depends on a single number: Firefox' market share.
Browsing with a Google browser make me feel like riding an Exxon car.
They changed Firefox users' default search engine to Yahoo, not only in new installations but overriding existing settings, after Mozilla cut a deal with Yahoo.
Mozilla also backed EME, eventually, a big threat to free internet as we knew it, among many other things.
If you take this history into account, portraying Firefox as being unblemished by Mozilla Corporation's monetization schemes and guardian of the free internet is just romantic fiction.
No they didn't. They argued and fought against EME until it was clear that there was no way they would win. At that point they implemented it so that they could stay relevant, without it their market share would be even lower and they'd have zero chance of getting market share again.
And market share isn't a "corporate" concern, it is vital to their non-profit mission.
All that being said, that doesn't mean I'm happy with everything they do. Just arguing on that one point.
> At that point they implemented it so that they could stay relevant,
...instead of fighting it without giving up.
> And market share isn't a "corporate" concern
This literally makes 0 sense to me. Do you actually believe this?
Market share share is vital to Mozilla Corporation's business, which they have been using to cut million dollar deals with Yahoo, Google, etc. I don't wanna go all the want and say "you're the product", but they basically monetize their collective user base. So regardless of how they/you spin it, I don't buy that it's not a corporate concern.
"Bug 923590 - Pledge never to implement HTML5 DRM":
From 2013: https://brendaneich.com/2013/10/the-bridge-of-khazad-drm/
From 2014: https://blog.mozilla.org/blog/2014/05/14/drm-and-the-challen...
Seeing as Firefox has terrible market share on iOS, and Apple still offered Content blocking... I think it's clear Firefox has no impact on the matter.
I wouldn't say Firefox was leading the way or the biggest innovator in the last few years, but for me it's kept up-to-date enough not to feel at all neglected.
I honestly don't understand (from a consumer standpoint) why people complain about Firefox. I can understand devs having browser preferences, but to say that "time forgot" firefox is ridiculous as a general user.
I keep Chrome on Linux only for its developer tools, which are clearly more performant, and for its updated and sandboxed Flash.
But I only bring it up for those two features. Otherwise Firefox with a ton of extensions, including Tab Center, is my default choice. I don't see in what way it would be inferior to Chrome.
In fact, it has several user-level features that I miss in other browsers, such as column / rectangular selection of tables, automatic saving of form input, Ctrl+I dialog with a list of pictures in the current page, and so on. Don't tell me these are "power user" or developer features!
Firefox for Android is also very good, IMHO better than Chrome, and it supports uBlock, Stylish, and so on.
I do love FF, and it is the browser I use everyday. But it's not without it's own warts, which Chrome is much better at hiding.
Ultimately I prefer Firefox.
This browser is seriously fast now on Linux. I couldn't be happier with it. I've used it for weeks already, browsing a lot and it's still as snappy as when I installed it.
Good job. And soon we'll start getting the Servo stuff...
If you have any other suggestions for getting it going, I'd appreciate it.
One additional complaint I have about FF: It's hard to find out where to change the setting that I want. I constantly have to ddg for "How do I change $x" and I end up with 3 different answers for 3 different revisions. If anyone knows of a good resource for me to find this out, I would appreciate it.
I run this on Arch and Wayland, which might also add to the snappyness. What I kind of observed from all the comments was, that the OSX users were complaining the most about the slowness. Might be that the Linux version is faster then.
I'm probably going to hate myself for my blase attitude towards security when I inevitably end up on some massive dump of hacked accounts, but I've kind of given up on privacy/security. It's just so convenient to be able to pull up on my phone the tab I had open on my browser when I'm in the kitchen cooking, or whatever.
The reason we're in disagreement is we're picking different forms of comparison. You're looking at popularity, I'm looking at technology. I don't dispute more people use Chrome, but that doesn't make it automatically better from a technical point of view. As I said before, technically Firefox and Chrome are fairly equal, and there are benchmarks and feature comparisons that back this up.
FWIW, Firefox supports syncing tabs between devices as well.
Somehow I'm willing to sell most of the rest of my soul, but not my browsing history.
for the fact that it syncs with my google everything, across all devices, google accounts, etc.
This is true. Significantly more people use "Safari and Chrome" than "Firefox". However, significantly less people use "Safari" than "Firefox". Chrome is the gorilla, Safari is waaaaaaay back in the pack.
Then you must not value security at all.
Firefox is by far the worst of the modern browsers in how easy it's to exploit. Don't listen to me, listen to the experts   
I would go as far as to say that if Firefox is your main browser, odds are you're owned by multiple parties, and I don't mean nation states. This can not be fixed by iterative improvements, Firefox needs to die. By far the best thing you can do for your online peace of mind is to switch to Chromium/Chrome or (on Windows only) Edge.
My counterargument is that Firefox has always and continues to support tools such as NoScript and uBlock that prevent whole classes of attack. And Chrome, for example, is pwned like clockwork at every contest for exploitation. Behavior and not platform is the biggest determinant of security online.
"For the last decade, the Pwn2own hacking competition has pitted the world's best hackers against web browsers to try and find zero-day vulnerabilities in a live event. The contest, which is sponsored by HPE and TrendMicro this year, is offering over half a million dollars in prize money, but for the first time, not a penny of that will directed to Mozilla Firefox. While Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome and Apple Safari are targets, Firefox isn't because it's apparently too easy and not keeping up with modern security: "'We wanted to focus on the browsers that have made serious security improvements in the last year,' Brian Gorenc, manager of Vulnerability Research at HPE said."
How is that for a slap in the face?
Selectively reading what you like and ignoring the rest
[an entire section in the second link is devoted to Firefox issues that have nothing to do with TBB, including the conclusion] won't change the basic facts. Another point those not in the security domain miss, is that there are plenty of exploitable bugs that are deliberately kept private. Those who have visibility in these circles (such as thegrugq) are obviously in a much better position to appraise how secure a software system really is. Trying to determine how secure Firefox is just from CVEs and bugs that are made public will only lead you to a piece of the entire puzzle. In Firefox case, even that alone should be enough to trigger RED ALERT in somebody's mind.
we can all hope for is for people to stop using Firefox and flock to alternatives that raise the bar significantly.
> "Mozilla improved their security enough for us to warrant their re-inclusion in the contest," Gorenc said.
Firefox is fine. Like in every other browser, when security problems are found, they are fixed. There's a lot of work going into making Firefox a great and secure browser, and to call for abandoning it en masse is unwarranted IMO.
Edit: Heck, isn't it your own link that claims that one of the security problems with Tor is their homogeny, that they all use the same browser and version? By that logic, abandoning Firefox is a bad move for overall security.
TBB is routinely attacked by nation states and other government groups. In that context, homogeneity is an important factor since they only have one target to focus on and considerable resources to use. By the way this is also another point against someone using Firefox. By choosing Firefox, you are choosing a browser that __you know__ is actively targeted by nation states and government groups, because it's used in TBB. You can safely assume said groups have multiple Firefox 0days.
My original point however is not that Firefox is insecure vs nation-grade attackers. __Every browser is__
There are plenty of criminal groups (ever increasing) and actors with limited resources that will focus on Firefox because it's easy to exploit. The fricking FBI was owning people with a Firefox 0day. The same groups would find Chrome or Edge too hard. This is of course a personal evaluation, given what I know from conversations with people in the security domain.
Let me leave you with this piece of (anecdotal) information: In my last job, we used to have new hires for exploit development pick a browser to work on for the first few months. Expectation being remote exploits, lots of them.
Most of them picked Firefox.
In contrast, RCE's for Chrome and Safari require chaining together a number of exploits - the most valuable of which is the sandbox escape.
Firefox are years behind on security - and in the meantime large number of people have abandoned it and you have an entire security community openly advocating against using or deploying it.
Yes, the security model is improving now (thanks in large part to code from Chromium) - but it's improved in the same way Adobe Flash security has improved, or Java security has improved - it will always have that huge weight of a bad reputation to carry, and it is still a far way from catching up to the norm in browsers today (check the incomplete features, bugs and open issues of e10s)
Firefox missed a huge opportunity in becoming the defacto secure and private browser - I know I don't love running Chrome/Chromium but I kinda have to
This is false and misleading. The only bits Firefox plans to nick from Chromium are things like the C++ PDF reader which is a regression compared to pdf.js running in a nominally memory-safe runtime. The browser itself doesn't use code lifted from Chromium.
There is no improvement for Firefox, it will never amount to anything given how rotten the codebase is. Unless they plan to scrap it and rewrite everything from scratch, with an actual focus on security from the beginning, which of course they don't. Slowly rewriting small parts of Firefox in Rust will do nothing for security, it's just more smoke and mirrors from Mozilla.
On the other hand, we have Google who were really the pioneers when it comes to securing the browser since they spent millions of dollars doing just that. Mozilla didn't even bother. Even their current attempts are laughable really in terms of scope and actual impact, it's just shitty PR aimed at people without security experience.
That's not to say that Chrome is a secure browser, but it has raised the bar significantly and it deserves wider adoption. Finally, we also have Microsoft who have probably spent even more than Google on improving security on Windows and are doing a lot of innovative security-related work with Edge .
You can add espn.com, washingtonpost.com and nytimes.com to that list as well.
Your website doesn't have to have "shitty poor design" for it to lag FF. Compare scrubbing in this React player in Chrome and Firefox: https://hsreplay.net/replay/WpWzqzkCHTGdEmbguHUoiC
It comes down to issues in the Firefox JS/DOM engines.
In my experience, Twitter and ESPN can bring any browser to its knees
However, I routinely run with tens of tabs open - usually 40-50 - and love the 'tab groups' extension so I can semantically group them (I have more tabs overall, but they're not all actively loaded). It can get a little slow with 50 active tabs, yes, but what doesn't? Modern webpages suck CPU and RAM dry.
Which in this case means trashing all the shitty ads and plugins from 15 different sites and synchronous JS trackers, since that happens to be what's klunking up the web. Which, fortunately for the browsers, gives them cover to do this under the guise of working for the user, because there's a lot of truth there, but in some sense it's still just cover, too.
It is in some sense a change of an era; browsers are moving out of a phase of enabling and empowering content creators and slowly moving into active conflict with them. As slowly as possible in some sense, because it's scary for them, but it's something they're being forced to do. It's the same effect where computer users will blame "Microsoft" or "Dell" for the computer being slow, when the problem is actually a slow hard drive or something; eventually it stops mattering that it isn't "your" fault and you have to do something about it.
Big changes in the browser space in the next five years here, I think. Content producers so far have only tepidly fired back at ad blockers and stuff because they're still very niche, but they are getting less niche very fast now.
That's what we said for years about computing power and the Moor law's : "transistor can't get tynier than xxx nm". It happened anyway because there used to be that much economic incensitive to improve computer. Now research in micro processor is so expensive that the gain in computationnal power are found elsewhere. But there is always ways to improve things. The question is : "is there people eager to fund research". As long as the answer is yes, we'll find ways to improve web browser.
In the web there is so much money involved that the answer will still be yes long after servo shipped.
That's the thing for me. Before Chrome, Firefox was the big innovator (trailing only behind Opera, and even then).
Then Chrome happened, Firefox took a bit of a backseat (not as bad as IE or Safari, but enough of one to let Chrome become the big innovator), and Opera became a reskinned Chrome.
It'll be interesting to see how Mozilla approaches the next few years. Firefox still offers features that the other major browsers do not (for example, and critically to my own use case, it's the only major browser that supports any semblance of an equivalent to Tree Style Tabs), and the emphasis on an open and standards-compliant web could reinforce the historical reason why practically every user agent under the sun includes the word "Mozilla".
> According to Tex Texin, the first numeronym of this kind was "S12n", the electronic mail account name given to Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) employee Jan Scherpenhuizen by a system administrator because his surname was too long to be an account name. By 1985, colleagues who found Jan's name unpronounceable often referred to him verbally as "S12n" (ess-twelve-en). The use of such numeronyms became part of DEC corporate culture.
My only hitch was needing to turn off some older add-ons. While Mozilla is still doing a slow roll-out, it disables E10s if it can't ensure your plugins will work. (One of mine was a HN add-on, amusingly.)
Most of the opoular add-ons are ready, though. To check, see: https://www.arewee10syet.com/
You can see 2011-2013 pause in the revision history of Mozilla's Electrolysis wiki page:
I made a burndown chart of the e10s bugs in Bugzilla that shows the development progress. The bug high water mark was in 2016 and today at least 2,495 bugs (specifically tagged as e10s related) have been fixed:
Chrome is not process-per-tab - it's process per domain. (Even that's not true - sometimes tabs from multiple domains will still share the same process).
Firefox currently uses two processes (one for the UI, and one for rendering pages), but from a technical standpoint, that's the hard part, and that's what took so many years to develop. Once you have separated UI and rendering processes, going from 1 rendering process to multiple is relatively easy - you can already configure Nightly to do this, and Mozilla is basically just waiting for (a) e10s itself to rolled out more broadly, and (b) empirical evidence on what the right number of processes is, as (a) happens.
There are some downsides to doing true process-per-tab (the main one is that it's absurdly inefficient with memory), so ultimately Firefox will probably land on something in between (like Chrome and IE do).
Apple should be legally stopped from doing this monopolistic garbage.
> In my experience, Firefox today is still only a meh product.
I wouldn't say that, but I do admit that Firefox on Linux is moving pretty slowly. Since it's not the highest priority for Mozilla in general I assume, it feels like it lags behind development wise.
IANAL but couldn't the MS case be relevant/provide precedent?
There is one thing that Apple does that Microsoft did not do: it prevents the user from designating a non-Safari default browser. Every link you open will open in Safari, unless you copy it and open paste it into another browser. Microsoft let users install other browsers and designate them as the default (I don't know if this was always the case, but it has been for a very long time.) I'm not sure if Apple has a technical argument for why this is necessary, but it probably won't ever need it because of the market share threshold.
FWIW, I am a recovering lawyer, and I spent a summer in antitrust law. So I'm not an expert, but I do know how to calculate a Herfindahl-Hirschman Index for the purpose of determining market concentration...
How does a strong alternative help solving the following problem. Let's say you are a video service provider, and want to offer MPEG-DASH based service which relies on browsers supporting Media Source Extensions.
Soon enough, you discover, that iOS users can't use your service, not only because iOS default browser doesn't support MSE, but because they can't even install any alternative that does (Apple doesn't let them).
You are literally forced to implement something in addition to MPEG-DASH to address a substantial amount of Apple users and in the process potentially pay Apple and Co. for implementing it because they own related patents, or you need to agree to ignore them (which means a loss of money for you).
TL;DR: Apple stifled adoption of MPEG-DASH, and forced you to do double work and in theory can force you to pay them money too. This is just one example, there can be many like that, another big one is video codecs and etc., but you get the idea. All that bottlenecks on the same restriction - ban on competing browsers.
Shouldn't this be a subject of anti-trust regulation? If they managed to do it, they have enough control over the market. But again, may be anti-trust law simply isn't equipped to address this? I see it as a major problem.
This doesn't hold true always, and certainly not in the short-run, but it's better than having every company with moderate market share being sued by any other company that wishes they had different features in their products.
I don't mean for this to sound harsh, and I wish iOS were more open in various ways that would make things easier for my startup, but I recognize that companies need to have autonomy to build products as they wish — except in rare cases.
Which is why I'm glad FirefoxOS failed.
Apple has a complete iOS / iTunes monopoly in the iPhone/iPad market, which is pretty big. And Microsoft wasn't preventing the existence of alternative browser engines or banning apps competing with them, whereas Apple does.
Microsoft didn't restrict what software you could install on Windows. That creates a different market.
Someone who is buying a phone can reasonably choose between iOS and Android. Someone who already has a phone and is buying an app can't reasonably choose between the iOS App Store and Google Play. And someone selling an app can't reach iOS customers via Google's or Amazon's store. They're different markets.
That's not the legal distinction. What got Microsoft in trouble is that they told PC OEMs that they would lose their volume discount for Windows if they shipped another browser alongside Internet Explorer. This was troublesome because, at the time, Windows had a 99% marketshare of PC operating systems, which was judged by the courts to be a monopoly.
Apple has nowhere near the same marketshare in phones. Therefore, Apple is free to do whatever it wants with regards to its OS, as consumers are free to switch to Android.
Market definition in antitrust?
> What got Microsoft in trouble is that they told PC OEMs that they would lose their volume discount for Windows if they shipped another browser alongside Internet Explorer.
What got Microsoft in trouble is that they had a monopoly in PC operating systems and tried to leverage it into a monopoly in browsers.
Apple doesn't have a monopoly in PC operating systems. They have a monopoly in iOS app stores. It's like having a retail monopoly for washing machines in the state of California. It doesn't matter how many retailers there are in Florida when nobody in California is going to drive to Florida to buy a washing machine.
It doesn't matter how many Android app stores there are when you can't buy an iOS app from them and you can't use Android apps on iOS.
Because it's illegal to use a dominant position in one market (desktop operating system in Microsft's case) to gain an unfair advantage in another market (browsers). Since Apple does not have a dominant position in any market so they're free to do as they please.
Note that the question what constitutes a market is not always easily defined. Apple obviously has a monopoly on iPhones or smartphones running iOS but I doubt you'll find a judge that sees that as a market distinct of the wider smartphone market.
You market it to the general public of non-tech people and no one cares. It looks fancy and shiny and you no longer need a stylus .. and doesn't crash twice a day like PalmOS.
I work for a large corporation and FF performs far and away better than Chrome. And I'm comparing Chrome Canary to FF stable build. You can probably say its not a fair comparison, but I do notice the performance difference when I'm testing our apps.
the exclusive possession or control of the supply or trade in a commodity or service.
What's the iPhone's marketshare compared to Android again? You can't just decide to define a monopoly as something that's inconvenient or even abhorrent to you - words (and the laws that use them) have real meanings.
As for it going beyond iOs, well, it's still not a monopoly, since those other options exist. They aren't buying out/shutting down competition, people are simply choosing to not use the competition. And you can't hold that against Apple.
Also, the money from software proportionately, but even as a software only company (services, $5 billion) they make enough money to be a Fortune 500 company in its own right. I don't think it's evident at all that their motives are straightforwardly devoted to hardware.
Side note: services ≠ software
Apple isn't even close* to a monopoly in phones. Regulators could come down on Microsoft for doing the same thing, because, at the time, Microsoft had a 99% share of the desktop OS market. Regulators said that Microsoft could not use this monopoly to suppress competition in a legally separate domain (market for browsers).
The difference is that Apple has, what, a 30% share of the phone market? All Apple has to say is that if a consumer wants a choice of browsers, they're free to switch to Android.
A situation that is much worse than the IE6 one - switching browsers on Windows of 2000s was significantly easier and cheaper than switching out of the Apple ecosystem.
Monopoly can be defined as however you fudge the numbers. Your way of counting is like we'd say "Hey, Microsoft doesn't have a monopoly, there's loads of Linux routers and servers out there, so it's fine!". It ignores important properties on how Apples actions hinder free market.
But that doesn't change the fact that there are now millions of people
pretty well locked into a platform (through iCloud, iMessage, proprietary
integration with Mac, etc.) which are limited to a single browser and are
forbidden to use another one.
Regarding a non-apple iOS SDK: "Apps may only use public APIs". this forbids anybody from making an alternative SDK.
What stops any alternative SDK from being public?
But as TD-Linux said, Apple simply will refuse to accept it anyway.
1) Performance (and by implication UX)
2) Battery life
These are exactly the points Steve Jobs raised in his "Thoughts on Flash" missive from 2010: http://www.apple.com/hotnews/thoughts-on-flash/. And this is the same issue: Flash was a runtime, just like third party JS runtimes.
Frankly, I'm with Apple on this one.
I can verify this myself. My 3 year old iPhone 5S equals or betters the performance of my one year old OnePlus Two, which I use for testing (and maybe I should blog on this topic). If you dig through Jeff's thread (warning: it's grown really long) you'll see that I wouldn't be having a much better time if I upgraded to a OnePlus Three.
So, do I want Google to be allowed to run a version of Chrome on iOS that uses other than Apple's JS runtime? No, not really.
Do I want Firefox to be allowed to do that? Hell no. There are bound to be data points that contradict this but my experience is that Firefox on the desktop lags Chrome, Safari (OSX, obviously), Internet Explorer 11 and Edge in terms of performance and framerate. (Again, I should post about this, with numbers.) My extremely limited exposure to Firefox OS back in 2013 suggested it was slow as hell and not worth the bother of developing applications for (too many compromises required) - doubtless not helped by low spec hardware.
Apple pour huge resources into making their iOS JIT run like the wind on a hardware platform that they know inside out. Nobody else is going to be able to do that.
IANAL but I don't think the monopoly argument (think it's in the parent post) holds water simply because Apple doesn't, and is never likely to have, a monopoly in the phone market. If people don't like Apple devices, or iOS as a platform, they have a choice: they can buy an Android or Windows Phone device, and run all the apps they need (particularly on the former).
That wasn't the case in the late 1990s with Microsoft and Windows. If you were a nerd you could run Linux, and you could tolerate the limitations of Star Office or KOffice compared with MS Office, and Apple were just getting back off the ropes, so maybe you'd run a Mac at home. But if you were a non-techy and/or you wanted to get serious work done and be able to easily collaborate and cooperate with other people you were probably running windows.
At one point Microsoft's market share was something like 97%. 97%! In Q2 2016 Apple's worldwide smartphone market share had fallen to 12.9% (source: https://9to5mac.com/2016/08/18/android-ios-smartphone-market...). That's not a monopoly. It's not even within hailing distance of a monopoly.
Going back to my original point, iDevices and iOS are Apple's platform, and I do not object to them restricting what can run on those devices in terms of runtimes and JITs because I care about performance, UX, and having a decent battery life. Some people aren't going to like, but then they can choose one of the alternatives.
I suppose the flipside to this argument is that you can at least offer users the option of alternative browsers without forcing them to take it, and then does it matter so much whether they're better or not?
This question can't be asked, when they forbid making one. So it doesn't even start.
It highlights the core of the problem. Anti-trust laws are supposed to preserve competition, because monopolies stifle progress and cause many other problems. This is exactly the case here. No one would make a better browser, because they are forbidden to.
The reason is that other manufacturers - Google, Samsung, LG, OnePlus, heck, even Microsoft, and a few others I've missed - are free to build, and have been investing heavily in building, better devices and OSs. Sooner or later they're going to start winning - Apple can't be top dog forever. Arguably they already are: Apple's share of the Smartphone market fell to 12.9% in Q2 2016, remember. Consumers have a lot of freedom of choice in the smartphone market and, again, it's arguable they're exercising it.
I just don't think there's an anti-trust or anti-competition argument to be had here. Now you may not like or agree with the way Apple are operating here but that doesn't mean there's a case to be answered.
I addressed this here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13484860
It's not about "monopoly in the phone market". It's about controlling the browser market (more precisely, development and adoption of HTML features) through monopolistic ban of competing browsers on iOS.
That's not to say Apple don't have influence, but do they have the kind of strong-arm leverage you seem to be implying?
What would help is: can you explain to us what HTML (CSS, JS, browser API) features you're talking about?
(1) I suppose some might argue they did that with Flash, and it turned out quite nicely for them. But was Flash, as closed, proprietary tech, really a good thing for the web? For users? For developers? For the web?
Enough of an influence to force many video providers to use non-free codecs and HLS. I find such influence to be very damaging for the whole Web.
HLS is just one example. I brought it, to demonstrate how such ban on competing browsers can cause bad effects to everyone else, even to those who have nothing to do with Apple and its products.
Here's what that will take:
- Make Firefox the best browser in the world at the fundamentals: speed, stability, standards support.
- Become the free, open, OS agnostic app platform of choice: don't cede this frontier to Chrome and Electron. Make the open web platform the best platform for more and more apps. (MAYBE take a shot at a phone OS after the Firefox App ecosystem rivals Android and iOS.)
- Following from the previous bullet, quit wasting resources on browser UX experiments - browser UX matters less every year as web apps get freed from the browser.
- Be the absolute gold standard in user privacy and freedom - the stuff Brave is doing is the trail Mozilla was supposed to blaze.
- Invest in Thunderbird again and fix the client side of email - because messaging is just as important as the web and we are losing to closed competitors hard and fast there.
Mozilla's supposed to be our champion of an open web client platform. For too long they've just been a browser in decline and a bunch of random side projects. Cleaning up the browser is a good start but we need more.
From a passionate Firefox user (even though Chrome runs faster on Linux).
I was right with you until Thunderbird. I look at Thunderbird as one of Mozilla's many distractions. We don't need another open source desktop email client at the expense of the browser.
So long as we have a secure browser, there are others who can provide secure email services with a web client.
No thanks. I will keep using Thunderbird as long as I can.
I do use it, so I do.
Not going to argue against a strawman. I've made my point clearly already.
I say working on the I-5 freeway is a waste of time, because I've never driven on it. But thousands of other people do. And they probably feel that it's an important road in their lives. It's not a straw man, it's the other side of your argument. You just disagree. That doesn't make it a straw man.
Why? Battery life and speed. Chrome is just a mess these days. Absolutely terrible on laptops.
This has been happening on Mac OS for about three years now for me, multiple devices: two macbook airs, and a 2016 5k imac.
I wish I could use Opera but it's been bought by a chinese company.
Well, there's Vivaldi.
I hope they just make it part of the standard release.