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Ask HN: What's it like to work at Mozilla these days?
71 points by throaway33121 on Aug 17, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 78 comments
They have an open position in my area but their Glassdoor reviews are really mixed. It seems like a great company with a great mission but I worry it's a sinking ship and I'm not interested in changing jobs too soon in the future.

I've been at Mozilla four years, working on operations security, and I still consider it the best job I've ever had.

I worked in banking and a few startups before joining Mozilla, and neither the culture or technology were ever great. Mozilla has both of these things, and a mission statement that still makes me want to get out of bed in the morning (work for mankind, not for the man).

Is it a sinking ship? Only if we're not up for the challenge of fighting back corporations that want to lock the web being walled gardens. Time will tell, but someone should fight the good fight, even if it's a lost cause.

Plus, you get cool t-shirts, and work from home, which is definitely a lifestyle improvement for me.

This is exactly what I was hoping to hear. I have frequently been looking at careers.mozilla.org

All this "we make the world a better place" is actually the most annoying thing for me as a user. Every time I open Firefox (not so often anymore), I get some "save the world"-spam on the frontpage.

When I open Chrome it sends me to google.com. How is that any different?

Either way I'm going to settings and making it reopen the tabs I last had open.

Have you tried changing your default start page? ;-)

I tried changing my default web browser. Worked.

So what's your default web browser and how does it greet you?

Not OP, but Safari. It greets me with a blank page, which is just how I like it.

Huh? Since when is the default start page of Safari not apple.com? Or did you change it manually?

I don't know what it was like before, but when I got my first MacBook Pro maybe 2 years ago, the default start page for Safari was blank.

Edit: Out of curiosity, I checked to see my defaults and the Homepage is still apple.com. However, the "opens with" settings are set to Favorites (top of the list, probably the default) which explains why it opens with a blank page. So the change was probably whenever they added the Favorites page feature; most likely to compete with Chrome/Firefox/Opera/etc.

I get some tiles with the most popular websites. So actually the same as the new tab page in Firefox.

A drastic solution!

Have you tried stop making the world a worse place? ;-)

Would you rather them throw in the towel?

poor little thing


> Is it a sinking ship? Only if we're not up for the challenge of fighting back corporations that want to lock the web being walled gardens. Time will tell, but someone should fight the good fight, even if it's a lost cause.

It definitely is a fight worth fighting. And most people will agree that having several good web-browser options is important.

What bothers me is the strategy that Mozilla used, to try and compete with Chrome by giving Firefox users a browser that looks like, and feeling like Chrome.

I wouldn't want to work for an organisation who makes such ill-advised choices.

giving Firefox users a browser that looks like, and feeling like Chrome.

Yawn. What did we do this time? Make it faster? Follow platform guidelines or modernize the design style? Adopt an extension model that can be combined with replacing the browser internals? Use rounded tabs? No wait, scratch that, they're square again.

Next time, avoid the whole problem and make the browser layout more user-configurable (in an easy way).

I think there should also be a switch to make it faster.

Sure, sarcasm helps.

I think he meant a few checkboxes, for choosing things like round corners etc. which should not be too hard. Really necessary?

Maybe not, but you should realize, that you have a shrinking core group of users, while liked Firefox because they could modify it the way they wanted - and therefore did not liked it, when frequently changes broke their setup.

> and therefore did not liked it, when frequently changes broke their setup.

Which is unfortunately an inherent problem with our legacy customization approach.

And it is clearly not something the vast majority of users want, if they left Firefox for another browser that appears to them less customizable but more stable. We have run numerous user studies about what users actually care for and they have all informed what Firefox is going to be in the future.

Sure, sarcasm helps.

So does not particularly well thought out criticism.

There's also shrinking core group of users, who liked Firefox before it fell back on many areas, crippled by having to maintain compatibility with add-ons that relied on internal workings. We realize that very well.

Configurability comes with an exponential testing and maintenance burden. So no, it's not just adding a few checkboxes. It's what happens with those afterwards.

Like that "turbo" switch on my 1990s PC!

Made it impossible to use add-ons like Tab Groups, making impossible to use the browser with many tabs open (just like Chrome, but you can't open many tabs in it anyway because it eats so much memory per tab).

IIRC, the author of Tab Groups threw their toys out of the pram when told the extension model was changing and that if they needed a feature, they should post on bugzilla. I don't know quite what's happened since then.

EDIT: Looking at bugzilla, looks like the author of Tab Groups decided he was going to put together a report about a year ago, and then never did, so Mozilla doesn't even have any documentation of what functionality would be necessary to implement it, and there's currently nobody interested in implementing it.

It's not "throwing toys out of the pram" when add-on developers are forced to rewrite their entire code every damn year, and this time using an incredibly limited API from goddamn Google Chrome of all places. There are a plenty of bugs open in Bugzilla to implement necessary APIs so the old add-ons can work. The problem? Mozilla devs are closing them as WONTFIX because they're lazy and don't want to implement any more functionality than Chrome feature parity.

Also, Mozilla knows perfectly well which functionality is needed to implement Tab Groups because it was an actual feature of a browser before they decided "it should be a plugin". And now it's impossible to even write a plugin for it.

It's not "throwing toys out of the pram" when add-on developers are forced to rewrite their entire code every damn year, and this time using an incredibly limited API from goddamn Google Chrome of all places.

It's one or the other.

Either the API gives very deep control, and it must evolve as the browser evolves, or it does not, and it can stay stable.

Experience says that Firefox was on the wrong side here by offering complete access, thereby either blocking the browser to evolve, or forcing add-on authors on a compatibility treadmill, effectively getting the worst of both worlds.

Maybe it's possible to do better. But we haven't managed to do so, and neither has our competition. So it's probably not easy.

To circle back to the original question (what's it like to work at mozilla), it is a pretty great place as long as you don't mind being the subject of uninformed and hostile comments such as the one above.

The New Firefox and Ridiculous Numbers of Tabs


They've made some bad decisions, but it seems that they've managed to right the ship again, with the latest releases of firefox getting rave reviews and some really exciting technologies slowly taking shape.

Firefox has been widely panned the last few years, but that may have been somewhat harsh, and ungrateful to Mozilla as an organisation.

Yes, Chrome has been running laps around them. But that's mostly the result of Google's willingness to outspend them.

There are currently two platforms that have/had the potential to significantly harm Google's cash cow of search ads: iOS and Facebook. A lot of the time that was previously spend on the "open web" suddenly moved into these platforms. Sometimes, apps replaced search, such as for purchase decisions, where people started searching in the Amazon app instead of google.com.

That made Chrome the single most important technology for Google: they needed to push the browser to be competitive with iOS and whatever Facebook was doing. Playing a game, or streaming movies needed to be as fast, easy-to-use, and safe as doing those things with native apps. Developing for the web needed to be as attractive as developing for native platforms.

In that situation, it's no wonder that Firefox lagged behind–the world's best, and richest, software company was developing a browser, with what is likely to be a budget limited only by the diminishing return of ever-larger teams.

There's really no guarantee that Google's incentives will forever remain to be aligned with the users' as they are now. To pour all this misguided disappointment on Mozilla and gleefully cheer their demise is foolish, because sooner or later, it will be important again to have an independent, open, OSS browser.

It's also somewhat illoyal, considering Mozilla's past accomplishments for the web.

I feel like Chrome has been getting consistently worse recently. For example there are some pretty rough video-related bugs - at least on macOS - that have been around for at least a year. I guess that's what happens when you're on top, you get complacent. Maybe Firefox has an opening.

Thanks. You're comment captured exactly why I browse with FF.

(only my opinion here, nothing provided from my employer yadda yadda disclaimer and whatnot)

I've been working at Mozilla for a few years now, although this is my first job I'd say this is really great already. One Venn diagram I saw in the past was about choosing your job and the title read: pick two among "interesting", "well-paid" and "ethical". Well, I think you can easily get all three when working at Mozilla, or at least that's my experience of it.

Also, I'd suggest that some people have very high expectations when they start at Mozilla, hoping it works like a perfect anarchist (in the actual political sense) and democratic organization. It's not the case: Mozilla Corporation is a company (duh!). So it's slightly less corporate than the regular public company (e.g. there are no shareholders), but it is still working like a regular company: vertical hierarchy, meritocratic do-ocracy, OKR, you name it. Some people don't like that and tend to be more virulent towards Mozilla than they would be towards any other corporation, hence the bad opinions on Glassdoor, in my opinion.

Like any large company, your experience will vary depending on your manager.

I've been with Mozilla for five and a half years. It's not all been roses--I've weathered a team disbanding and a bad manager--but in the aftermath of each, I've ended up in a better place, and I feel like there are still ample opportunities for me to grow technically and inter-personally.

It feels good to work for a non-profit that's directly defending the neutrality and interoperability of the Web itself, both through advocacy and the direct action of building a modern browser that's competitive with products produced by, literally, the three largest publicly traded corporations (by market capitalization) in the world.

Not only does the mission feel good, the salary and benefits are competitive, and the remote / autonomous / trust-driven culture is worth its weight in gold. I don't feel like I'm sacrificing anything to work here, and it's fulfilling work.

Is the ship sinking? I don't think so. Our marketshare percentage has lagged behind market growth, but our absolute user numbers are stable and significant. We're back to focusing on core product improvements, and multi-year experiments like Rust and Servo are paying enormous dividends. If you've used Firefox, Visual Studio Code, Dropbox, or npm in the past year, you've hit code written in Rust. We're also racking up wins in other areas: LetsEncrypt started at Mozilla, and Google's recent abandonment of Native Client was a direct result of the work Mozilla put into asm.js. WebVR and A-Frame.io are taking on a life of their own after incubating at Mozilla. And I'm very, very encouraged by the improvements we're landing in Firefox 57 and beyond: there's plenty of room for growth, and we're aggressively pursuing it.

Mozilla was a turbulent place a few years ago, but the past two years have felt better than ever. Join us!

Come help us prevent the ship from sinking. :)

I've been at Mozilla for ~11 years, worked from home for many years, now splitting my time between the Berlin office and home. I feel good about the work I do and don't intend to change jobs anytime soon.

There have been some leadership / management issues but it's not all bad. Admittedly some people (e.g. those working on Firefox OS) were effected more than others.

> the Berlin office

There's a Berlin office? Wait, what am I saying, of course there's an office for an organisation like Mozilla in privacy-obsessed Germany.

... are they hiring? EDIT: Yes!


It's in Kreuzberg, close to Schlesisches Tor. We just moved there from the old Berlin office, which was an interim solution and too small.

It's really too bad about Firefox OS. My wife is really big on privacy and doesn't care about native apps- it would have been the perfect solution for her.

I think there's a certain psychic load to working at a mission-driven organization. Who are you working for? The mission? Who's interpretation of the mission? Your manager? The company? Yourself? And then at times when you don't feel like you are living up to your potential, or opportunity, or expectations, then there's a tendency to internalize that. Having internalized it, it can color how you look at the organization (and everything else), usually with general distaste and resentment.

Anyway, that's happened to me at times, and I've seen it happen to other people. I think the dynamics this creates inform a lot of the Glassdoor reviews. I think it's emotionally easier if you have a transactional job: the company pays you, you do something that makes the company money, or at least do what your boss says to do. The pros and cons of emotional detachment are beyond the scope of this comment.

Financially Mozilla is doing fine, and probably will continue doing fine. It's not on my list of worries.

I dreamed of working on Firefox in 2004, took some scenic detours, and got here in 2014. It’s absolutely amazing now. But my first year was extremely difficult, especially as a new remotee. The Brendan Eich thing happened on week 3. Chrome was eating our lunch, and Mozilla was focused on shipping a phone. The company was split along that fault line, with platform engineering straddling both sides. We were losing. We wondered if we’d survive. Some of the Glassdoor reviews reflect what was indeed a tumultuous and uncertain time.

The culture was in tumult too, “old guard” vs. new. Some reviews were written by people who made terrific contributions at one time, but couldn’t turn the corner and took that anger out the door with them.

We re-org’ed (so many re-org’s!). We have an amazing executive and director-level team. We’re well-run, in great financial shape. Our culture has changed (inevitable), and I like where we’re going together. We’re lined up behind Firefox, and we’re doing terrific work again.

I tell interviewees that working here can at times feel like living in a Reddit thread. There are amazingly thoughtful, generous, and mind-glowingly smart people working on the hardest problems across continents and time zones. Sometimes there’s acrimony or trolling. We’re all here because the things we create together can only be made here. We go head-to-head with competitors 50-100x our size. I could go to those companies, and I wouldn’t have a fraction of the impact and the responsibility I have at Mozilla. No company is a fit for everyone, but for someone like me, it’s hard to imagine being happy anywhere else.

Working for Mozilla would be a dream job IMO. Who cares what Glassdoor says? It's one of the few techie corporations out there actively working to make the world an eensy weensy bit a better place. Go work there. Go go go go.

I've been working, in various forms, on Mozilla for 17 years now. I've joined the project as a volunteer back in 2000, and ended up working full time since 2010. I worked in multiple roles during that time, mostly as an engineer, but spent some time working on contributor relationships, contributor tech and some market analysis even. I've worked remotely for most of that time from Europe, but am working from San Francisco for almost 4 years now.

My personal experience has been very positive. I'm working full time on projects that impact the shape of the Web, I have good work-life balance and incredible number of highly challenging problems to solve.

I've been with Mozilla since they were a 40 person startup, through the crazy days of releasing Firefox 1.0, sudden growth during Firefox OS days (I spent 2 years working on it!), and now I work on Firefox 57 and beyond. It's been a great, if bumpy, ride and I can't stop enjoying it :)

I've seen bad culture fits, I've seen clusters of bad management and projects that "felt weird". People who got into Mozilla through those usually ended up leaving, but I'd say it's a vast minority of cases.

And wrt. "sinkin ship" - It depends on us. Working for a non-profit has some downsides. We need to stay open, inclusive, some things happen slower, we get much more "negative feedback" from people who feel more entitled to judge our work etc. But it also comes with some huge benefits. I never optimized anything at Mozilla for profit, our leadership sees money as a tool, and we can focus on what we solve with the tool. Some of my long-standing projects are way too "altruistic" to ever exist at Google, Apple or Facebook, because they don't impact the revenue stream. We can and use the Mozilla Manifesto to reason about decisions all the time, and thanks to all of that - the Web community really supports us. So, if we can get amazing products, we may not have the marketing budget of big companies, but we have the support of the global community. And releasing amazing products is something that depends on us, not any external factor. Right now we're pushing for Firefox 57 and I do believe we're on the right track to succeed (yes, I disagree with Andreas :)).

My take is that if you have the "NGO" muscle in you, enjoy spending a lot of time on big problems, like the open-source community model of work (which we drift towards with most projects, although there are pockets that are slow to open up) and are not money-driven (not because they pay bad, just because you can get better money as a hired gun at some corpo ;)), Mozilla is worth giving a try :)

They advertise remote jobs but it is actually limited to several counties. Also, they differentiate salaries based on your location.

Getting hired directly by Mozilla requires them to have a (minimal) legal presence in your country. If that isn't there, you'll be hired through an intermediary, but that is - as far as I know - possible essentially worldwide.

No, that intermediary option is also limited to some particular countries.

AFAIK it's more correct to say that only some particular countries are excluded, but I'm not HR and I have no idea where your are getting that impression from, so I won't comment further.

I got this information from Mozilla HR who clarified this with the hiring manager, for the country in Europe.

Ok, so one country in Europe is excluded.

This is quite far removed from "remote hiring limited to some particular countries". A large part of Mozilla's workforce is spread out through Europe, so there can't be too many exceptions.

"... only available in particular countries which doesn't include your country, unfortunately..." was the message from HR.

That's true, we can't hire everywhere.

A very small shop in a very beaurocratic EU country receives the invoices in PDF at the end of the month, from another country far outside the EU, pays the bill through standard bank wire transfer. Why Mozilla can't do the same?

Legal requirements in a handful of countries make it really hard to hire, but the vast majority of the world is usually fair game.

I'm not sure what the industry standard is wrt adjusting salary based on location, but considering the cost of housing in the Bay area or NYC, it seems fair to pay the folks who live there more than, for example, me who lives in the boonies of Florida.

Extremes aside, one of the main reasons for working remotely is to escape the local [low wage] market, especially in developing countries.

Differentiated salary does not imply low wage. It means you don't get 150k USD/year for a Junior Software Engineer in rural India.

Neither 100K for a Senior Engineer...

I live in rural Pennsylvania and Mozilla pays me quite well as a staff engineer, FWIW.

If you are curious about the compensation model, I wrote about it some here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13881004 – I personally think it's pretty fair.

It's true we don't hire everywhere. Most people are from the EU, United States, and Canada. There is an office in Japan, China, Taiwan, and a small group in New Zealand, with some people scattered about in Australia. The timezones in Asia are really rough, so I believe there's reluctance to hire there for positions where the team is not already located in Asia.

Outside of those countries I think we've used Elance (which is Upwork now?), but I think that's discouraged for new hires.

I was a contributor 3 years ago and my experience with Mozilla was mixed.

On the one hand, the people are skilled and super nice and I think you do good stuff when working there.

On the other hand you work on big old software projects with all the tools that grew onto them over the years. So if you on the technical side of things, you better like maintenance work, hehe.

...and, yes there is a legacy problem with old code bases, but one trade-off for interns, contributors, junior developers is that you get to make an impact on a codebase used in a commercial project by hundreds of millions of people. Terrible tools written in anger in 2003 are still in use, sure, and terrible architectural decisions have been made, re-made, then made again over the years. It's the kind of messy any codebase eventually gets to.

This codebase still has life in it though, and the proof is in how far Gecko has come in the last year. Go run Nightly for a bit, compare it to Chrome or current Firefox. It's a big deal.

> Terrible tools written in anger in 2003


Seriously, what was happening in 2003 that made Mozilla employees angry?

Nothing specific. It is being used to convey that the code was written at an emotional high or low maybe when the author was tired or under time pressure to get something that worked.

So if you on the technical side of things, you better like maintenance work, hehe.

It depends on what you work on. The Servo people feel differently ;-)

Data Platform also disagrees.

Which, by the way, we are hiring for a remote position: https://careers.mozilla.org/position/gh/734415

On the flip side, there's plenty of room for writing lots of shiny new stuff in Rust, which is a pretty unique Mozilla opportunity. :)

I worry it's a sinking ship

The ship already sunk once, it just keeps resurfacing every time the water drops because the competition suffers from the CADT Model wrt their attitude towards the internet.

Wow. Glad Google kept that in it's cache, and even more impressively that JWZ kept those pages online.

From 2003: CADT == "cascade of attention-deficit teenagers"

> I report bugs; they go unread for a year, sometimes two; and then (surprise!) that module is rewritten from scratch -- and the new maintainer can't be bothered to check whether his new version has actually solved any of the known problems that existed in the previous version.


Surely it depends what you're working on there? There'll be projects that are mostly-ignored and slowly dying, and projects which are core to the organisation's goals.

I'm sure it also depends a lot on your manager. Like in any corporation, really.

We are getting better at killing projects more quickly if they aren't working.


Can you back up your opinion with links?

Main project is a sinking ship (cf. % of usage), most of their big projects have failed and closed in the last years (mobile, email client, persona, etc), they are caught in a major rewrite of their main project that may never end. It's a matter of time they stop getting funded.

This is my opinion; it is what I believe will happen, based on past and current events. Of course I might be wrong, or not.

With all due respect, I don't think it would be fair to call the quantum project a rewrite. They're incrementally replacing components, and it's not like the original code is abandoned in favour of Servo. It's borne fruit already and looks to allow some massive improvements going forward. Chrome is big, but so was IE back in the day and I still use FF. Not because of a moral attachment, but because it's the browser I like using the most.

Not to mention Rust is already successful, with several large companies using it in production. I expect it will continue to garner interest, especially if the fearless concurrency model keeps improving. Zero cost futures are pretty amazing.

Two things:

1. the largest part of the work on the "major rewrite" - do you mean quantum or servo? If the former, most of the bits we really care about will get shipped on Nov. 14th, and some other things like webrender will get shipped over the winter.

If you mean servo, you're right, that is a longer-term strategic project, but has recently provide useful as a source for innovation in Gecko with things like stylo and webrender, and especially Rust's capabilities as a language.

2. Mozilla is self-funded and has a very different governance model than perhaps you're used to - we are a US Corp ( and subsidiaries ) owned entirely by a US-based Not-for-profit.

( to be 100% crystal clear, I do think we'll ship things that use servo down the road )

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