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Mozilla has laid off their dev tools people and the entire MDN team (twitter.com)
314 points by claviska 46 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 178 comments




Pardon my french but fuuuuuck. I switched to chrome back in the early 2010s after years of Firefox use because it was faster, and I stuck with it because the the devtools were better than firebug and later built-in FF tools. But always I told myself "next year, I'll switch back to Firefox" which I was much more comfortable with ideologically.

Eventually after years of waiting FF got fast enough and the devtools were good enough (and chrome got creepy enough: the automatic browser sign-in made clear chrome was tightening the noose of browser/web/google lock-in). So I switched back a year or two ago and have been quite happy with it! This news indicates it won't be long before I have to switch again.

Mozilla's strategy seems so incoherent, at least from the outside. Who is their target demographic? Perhaps "power users" & developers like me are too small a demographic to be worth competing for (see also: the toyification of the macbook pro). But I seriously wonder if Mozilla as a nonprofit has a path forward without keeping some of the "power users", (casual) privacy nerds, and FOSS folks in the fold. Are they planning to compete with Google for casual users as "just another browser"? I really don't see how they plan to beat google in this arena.

EDIT: In Mozilla's defense, no I have not donated anything to the organization to keep FF or MDN development running (though I have contributed to MDN & FF in small ways) so perhaps I share some of the blame here. TBH I'd donate if I knew it was going to FF & MDN and not one of the two thousand other little projects Mozilla keeps starting and killing.


Actually, if you donate, literally none of it will go to Firefox.

You'd be donating to the Mozilla foundation, not the Mozilla corporation, which develops Firefox.

P.s the Mozilla foundations CEO makes 2.5 million dollars a year, and said "it would be too much a financial burden to cut C suite salaries to 500k"

https://mobile.twitter.com/steveklabnik/status/1293233620711...


After link chasing from that Tweet, this appears to be the underlying quote:

> Here's what I mean by mitigate: we ask our executives to accept a discount from the market-based pay they could get elsewhere. But we don't ask for an 75-80% discount. I use that number because a few years ago when the then-ceo had our compensation structure examined, I learned that my pay was about an 80% discount to market. Meaning that competitive roles elsewhere were paying about 5 times as much. That's too big a discount to ask people and their families to commit to.

https://answers.thenextweb.com/s/mitchell-baker-aGY62z


> That's too big a discount to ask people and their families to commit to.

I'm aghast. How could anyone survive on $500k?! Everybody at the yacht club would laugh at you. It would be simply beastly.

I know they play this game against the likes of Google and Microsoft but they have favour with people because they're not Google or Microsoft, because their product is driven by engineering, not repeatedly tainted by management.

These job losses shouldn't be at product level, they should clean out management, restructure to bring engineering up to board level, kick out the suits that are only there for the cheque.


This quote would make sense if those executives ran a successful company with a lot of users, not a sinking ship almost solely propped by market gorilla in fear of becoming sanctioned monopoly.


But 100% for those made redundant is just fine.


I did not know that. Thanks for the information, as I can now cancel my donation and save a couple of bucks each month.


> You'd be donating to the Mozilla foundation, not the Mozilla corporation, which develops Firefox.

Do you know of a good source of neutral information on Mozilla's Foundation/Corporation split? I've heard claims everywhere from "it's an accounting thing with no practical implications" to "Mozilla is now 100% for-profit and evil", and have no idea who's right.


I don't think such a thing exists. It's a pretty niche topic.

The Mozilla foundation is a non profit which owns all of Mozilla corporation. Because foundation is a non profit, donations to it are tax deductible. They also cannot funnel money into corporation, either, as a result. It's not that easy to be a tax evasion vehicle.

It does mean that the corporation is not beholden to external equity owners; its just beholden to the foundation. But the corporation is also 100% for profit, although they evidently struggle to earn said profit.

Mozilla isn't quite a non profit nor a for profit company in aggregate as a result.


So how to donate to (or buy products from?) the Mozilla corporation that develops Firefox?


You can't donate. But you can purchase some of their paid products, like their upcoming VPN.


> Pardon my french but fuuuuuck.

Ditto. If Mozilla were on fire and I had time to save one thing, my selfish but unhesitating choice would be MDN.

I figured they'd shrink and, given their long-standing apparent mismanagement and bafflingly bad strategic choices, plus massive payroll/headcount bloat, eventually suffer a collapse, but I didn't expect it to be so fast. I hope something good survives this but is sure looks like they're rushing to destroy the good parts to save the bad, so, maybe not.


Despite thinking Mozilla has a bit of a branding problem, I think their strategy on paper is the right thing to do to make the Internet a better place.

A browser whos development costs are funded by privacy and security services. Partnering with the best of the best, throwing Firefox branding over the top of things, and creating a bundle/payment management for a bunch of services. HIBP, Mullvad. Even Pocket.

On the branding front they have a bit of a problem. It's just like Microsoft past troubles deciding if a product gets a Microsoft, Windows, or Office prefix. VPN is Mozilla, Pocket is Pocket, and Monitor Send and Lockwise are Firefox. They need to Creative Cloud or Office 365 this and make it simple for the consumer to dive right into the entire experience. They need more services in their bundle. The name Firefox needs to mean "we vetted the underlying provider and they meet our seal of approval." This dynamic can also function as consumer protection, in that, when they switch providers, for example from ProtonVPN to Mullvad, the user experience is a seamless transition.

Their target market should be "people who want a first class internet experience, but dont have the time or understanding to research the litany of tools they would need to employ to get it.


> Their target market should be "people who want a first class internet experience, but dont have the time or understanding to research the litany of tools they would need to employ to get it.

Why wouldn't these people just use google? If privacy and/or "freedom" aren't part of your requirements, you'd be crazy to choose FF/Moz over google. What am I missing?


The Chrome team could stumble. They could for example be too hasty in their plan to remove extension manifest v2 with the result that many ordinary user switch to Firefox to continue to get good ad blocking.


Or their CEO's pocket.


there is a pocket joke here, I can smell it


If you think of it, post it... so we can all Read It Later


Mozilla MDN docs are my go-to resource for js related stuff, does this mean they won't be maintained and updated anymore?

To be honest, I would be more than willing to pay a reasonable monthly subscription fee to access their docs.


It’s not only them anymore: "Mozilla brings Microsoft, Google, the W3C, Samsung together to create cross-browser documentation on MDN"

-- https://blog.mozilla.org/blog/2017/10/18/mozilla-brings-micr...


That’s a blog post from 2017. I wouldn’t be so sure it will continue under the Mozilla umbrella without them dedicating any people to it.


That's at least a tiny bit of good news then. Thanks for clarifying that!


The blog is from 2017!


That is good news. Do any of the other companies have people working on MDN?


I agree, these are the best JS docs around. I hope they continue maintaining them. The main alternative is W3 Schools, which is substantially worse (I blame their for-profit ad-supported business model, which doesn't necessarily incentivize thoroughness and depth)


I am constantly surprised to see Google ranking W3 Schools so highly. Does anyone know how they have managed to be ranked so high up?


It’s decent for beginners with easy to follow tutorials and examples, but once you start getting in the weeds of JS, it’s not as useful I feel like.


Domain Age - They've been around forever with tons of materials.

Quality - good enough for most things. The newer stuff is not that bad and usually more practical(read quicker to grok for someone in a hurry) that the more thorough MDN docs.

Dirty trick - association with w3 standards body (none in reality)


They used to be really bad. Their quality has significantly increased over the past years. I will use w3schools for quick info, but MDN when I really want in-depth information.


https://www.ecma-international.org/ecma-262/ is much more comprehensive, and sadly very few ever read it.

Lots of functionality in the spec that isn't even possible to find on MDN or W3 Schools.


Not sure whether it's fair to compare them. Specifications are usually written using a format language for the ones who implement them and not designed to be a learning material, so many things which are not necessary for this goal are omitted. On the other hand references like MDN are dedicated to the end user, written with a regular language and unnecessary details removed but also with additional explanations and usage examples which are really helpful. So one usually doesn't need to refer to the specification unless there are reasons to do it(e.g. need to understand all the aspects of a feature). It's pretty hard to understand what's written there for a beginner without some context which provided by manuals like MDN.


Be sure to read https://tc39.es/ecma262/ instead of the one hosted on ecma-international.org that has up to a year's worth of unfixed bugs.


A while ago they established an advisory board with members from institutions with deep pockets so if Mozilla were to abandon MDN entirely, chances are we might see a more democratized version emerge, which is a good thing. I'd wait till the board meets again this month. But hey if that didn't happen, MDN content so far is fairly open - CC-BY-SA, public domain and MIT, so some kinda fork is bound to popup.


MDN is a Wiki. Everybody can contribute.


Doesn't mean everybody will. Wikipedia is a weird special-case. I've contributed once to MDN, ever, and I use it all the time.


Also if the team that was supporting it is gone, will the deployment just bit rot and die?


I'm not even sure I want everyone contributing, at least not without some pruning.


Sparse documentation is better than wrong documentation.


I've never come across a page on MDN I felt I could contribute to since it's so complete, but if I were to come across out of date docs I absolutely would. I imagine it's similar for a lot of folks.


MDN has some Python tutorials that are of lesser quality than HTML,CSS,JS MDN docs.

Those could use some work.


Usually there are only a handful percents of overall users who actually create content compared to "read-only" users. There is nothing special about wikipedia, the same thing applies for sites like youtube,reddit, etc. The same will apply for MDN as well, so if you haven't contributed there, this doesn't mean that nobody will.


>Wikipedia is a weird special-case.

Is it?

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/7x47bb/wikipedia-editors-...


This is the nature of any community platform [0]. Most people will just fix small issues they see or contribute a little in an area that appeals to them, and aren't interested in becoming heavily active. I don't see Wikipedia as special in this case, it's just so large that the 1% has enough critical mass to maintain it (well, mostly).

0: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1%25_rule_(Internet_culture)


>Most people will just fix small issues they see or contribute a little in an area that appeals to them

Wikipedia makes this very difficult as well. I had to submit a small update to sales numbers for the best-selling video game franchises of all time THREE times because two separate admins reverted my edits for the most stupid reasons possible. Then they had some hand-wringing about the lack of sources (even though most of the data there wasn't sourced any better) before they stubbornly decided to stop reverting my edits. A less stubborn person would've given up editing Wikipedia after the first or even the second reversion.


But e.g. Google teams working on web specs do at least. But I don't have data how the contributions are split, and maintenance is of course a concern.


Is the source data openly available, though? You can't exactly "fork" a wiki, normally. I'm concerned lots of crucial knowledge would be lost if Mozilla decided not to host it any more.


Many wikis, MDN included, have all content under an open license, and even run open-source software, and thus can be forked if necessary.


But is the content made readily available in the original markup (wiki markup, markdown, whatever), or would you have to scrape everything from the website? Wiki content is normally stored in a database, and presumably that database isn't just open to the world to query directly


Many wikis have open APIs (e.g. mediawiki instances typically do). Not sure about MDNs custom thing, but scraping is always an alternative - or even working off one of the HTML dumps available for offline use (although loosing history and original format sucks).


Theoretically since you can edit the original-format content from the website, you could scrape it from the website. I'm just wondering if this is something anybody is thinking about/working on.


Same here, W3 pales in comparison, which is not to denigrate their work. It's been helpful many times.

MDN just has more accessible writing and notes on best practice.


That's not an accident, IMO.

W3 docs started out, and I would argue, continues to be most relevant to people whose work it is to implement a browser.

Certainly, you can use them to learn how to use the various HTML, CSS, and JS standards, but this is where MDN - and even the Chromium and Webkit resources - are leaps ahead with practical examples you can use in your own code.


I think people are talking about w3schools, where you're talking about the specs that the W3 (in some cases) maintain.


Really, I wasn't sure when I wrote that. Refsnes Data, who owns/runs the site, isn't affiliated with the W3C in any official capacity that I know of.

I was thinking more of a story I heard on an old episode of Hypercritical where John described first learning HTML and the rest through a combination of (mostly) O'Reilly books and reading the specs themselves.

While I suppose this passed muster in the early/mid 90's, I would repeat my earlier claim that the specs nowadays are more for implementers, and not something really well suited to teach you how to use the various languages and tools.

Potentially losing what is perhaps the most approachable reference for this purpose would be terrible for everyone.


> I would repeat my earlier claim that the specs nowadays are more for implementers

Right... but that's not what anyone here means when they talk about the w3 compared to MDN. They mean w3schools.


Hope someone scrapes them and hosts them as a torrent now, I'm not sure where else to go for js documentation besides node.


yeah, i google my questions about js/hmtl/css and always look for MDN docs. would be a huge loss to lose that


Firefox Dev Tools were how I sold other devs on trying Firefox. I think the number of devs who liked the tools and stuck by them is the only reason why as much of the web renders well on Gecko as it does. Certainly, I've worked at small startups where no one used Firefox that turned out to have significant visual bugs on Firefox for months, because no one ever bothered to check it out.

I understand why Mozilla wants to make more money new ways. I think everyone does. I was going to get their VPN as soon as it became available on Mac. I also completely understand that they can't monetize Firefox, at least not in its current state. Users would obviously rebel against any kind of proprietary features that live behind a commercial license, and I don't think they can make any compelling hosted services that integrate with Firefox either. But I don't understand why Mozilla seems to be trying to speed along its death.


Firefox Dev Tools are the best around.


Uhhhhhh, maybe back when firebug was the only way to debug.

But this is all subjective anyway, huge fan of Chrome dev tools here.


It's been pretty obvious over the last 5 years or so that the Mozilla we once knew is dead and gone forever. The MBA types have completed their takeover of a once venerable engineering organization. I'm glad that Firefox still exists as an alternative to Chrome, but the differences between them from a privacy and freedom standpoint are increasingly negligible. And with this move it seems very obvious what management's sole focus is at this point: "trimming the fat" of what little community focused efforts they had left, and boosting revenue.


> The MBA types have completed their takeover of a once venerable engineering organization.

And yet, in the last 5 years we've seen some of the greatest leaps in Firefox in the form of adopting technologies in Servo. And that's ignoring the growth of Rust adoption and so forth.

But you're right. Obviously the problem is the technologists aren't in control.

It's definitely not monopoly abuse on dominant platforms, the fact that browsers don't make money (even Microsoft couldn't do it), the lack of diversification in their revenue models...

If they just got the tech right it'd solve everything!


Agreed.

The deeper reason why bundled IE was such an existential threat to Netscape, then to Mozilla, and, more generally, a Web that wasn't under the thumb of any one corporation, was that the surest way to squash your competitors is to take away their ability to make money.

With IE, the strategy was to make money on the OS and developer tools. You needed to buy a Microsoft IDE, which would run on a Microsoft operating system, in order to make those cool ActiveX controls that everyone was leaning on back when JavaScript couldn't quite hack it. Also Frontpage.

With Chrome, it's ads and Google One.

Netscape/Mozilla/Firefox has no way to make money on the browser. There's passing a hat, but that was never going to make for a sustainable business. Not if the only people who really care enough to toss some money in, developers, are going to continue to stick with Chrome. Which they clearly are. So they need to pivot to survive. Even if they lose some goodwill with techies. Most employees won't accept simple gratitude as a form of payment.


> There's passing a hat

Frustratingly, Mozilla has made it all but impossible to contribute financially to the development of Firefox itself. You can donate to the Mozilla Organization but there's no guarantee any of that money will be spent on Firefox development.

I would absolutely pay for Firefox if they'd let me.


Seconding this for anyone reading!


IE was largely a defensive move to prevent Windows from becoming irrelevant as a developer platform. It served its purpose and then was left to languish.

Chrome was largely a defensive move to prevent Google's ads from being disintermediated. It continues to serve its purpose.


> But you're right. Obviously the problem is the technologists aren't in control.

Like, say, Brendan Eich? Is this a case of get woke, go broke?


> Is this a case of get woke, go broke?

Yes.


> It's definitely not monopoly abuse on dominant platforms

How is the Google monopoly forcing them to make developer experience worse?

> the fact that browsers don't make money (even Microsoft couldn't do it)

Microsoft didn't even try. Microsoft wanted control, not monetization of the Browser itself. I'm pretty sure that Browsers can make money, especially from developers. JetBrains makes money building developer products, and people pay them, because their products are that much better than e.g. vscode.

Turn Firefox into a great developer browser that saves developers time and annoyance, and they'll happily give you money. Turn developers away, and they'll use a Browser that saves them time and annoyance. And at some point they'll stop testing in Firefox, just like they don't test in IE6.


> How is the Google monopoly forcing them to make developer experience worse?

My statement was a broader one about Mozilla's overall struggles in the market, not about this specific decision.

> Turn Firefox into a great developer browser that saves developers time and annoyance, and they'll happily give you money.

Just to state the obvious: Developers are not any browser's primary target user base. Not by a longshot.

I agree that appealing to developers is important. Microsoft had to learn that the hard way through the early aughts.

But appealing to developers and power users isn't going to fill the gaping financial hole left behind after the Google deal got cancelled. Developers are notoriously cheap. If they have the option of Firefox with paid dev features, or a free Chrome, I'm pretty confident I know which one they'll choose.

> And at some point they'll stop testing in Firefox, just like they don't test in IE6.

And they'll do so because their users aren't using the browser and so it's not worth their time. For Firefox to remain relevant it needs marketshare. Heck, I'll bet the reason Google felt comfortable cancelling the search partnership is because Firefox' marketshare fell so far that the benefits were no longer worth the cost.

Hence my comments about monopoly abuse and so forth.


> If they have the option of Firefox with paid dev features, or a free Chrome, I'm pretty confident I know which one they'll choose.

I don't think that's obvious at all. JetBrains is making plenty of money ($230M in 2018 according to Wikipedia), even though there are free IDEs (one of them sponsored by Microsoft no less). Theirs are just that much better.

You're right that hobby developers are cheap, but the professional market is quite different, and even more so when you sell to enterprises. $100/yr is nothing compared to developer salaries and for all web developers, designers etc, the Browser is the major tool.

> For Firefox to remain relevant it needs marketshare.

My impression is that developers are pretty much the remaining users of Firefox. And they're kicking them out.


> JetBrains is making plenty of money ($230M in 2018 according to Wikipedia),

JetBrains isn't up against a monopolist who's willing to offer the same features for free to any comers.

Also, worth noting, the now-cancelled Google deal was worth $375M to their bottom line. So even if they could hit JetBrains' numbers (which I highly doubt), it still wouldn't fill the hole left behind.

If anything, what this says to me is that Mozilla shedding staff makes sense. If JetBrains can be profitable producing a complex IDE with half the spend (Mozilla 2018 spend was $451M), it makes me wonder just how efficient Mozilla is with their staffing.


> Developers are notoriously cheap. If they have the option of Firefox with paid dev features, or a free Chrome, I'm pretty confident I know which one they'll choose.

Exactly. Especially since Firefox is one of the only non-Chromium based browsers left. If you pivot towards only courting developers and make it a paid product, you now have a product that no longer at all represents the browsers (and rendering engines) that users are using. Why test on Gecko when (now that it's paywalled) no one is actually using Gecko?


It requires money to support developers. They aren't free nor do they grow on trees. If you don't have enough revenue you won't be able to pay for your development team.

Monopolies tend to suck the revenue streams from a market. While Google may not be directly responsible their market dominance does make it harder for other competitors to make money.


The problem is you need money to hire venerable engineers. And you need to hire a lot to maintain a modern browser. Yet every attempt by Mozilla to monetize and diversify has generally been met unfavorably here on Hackernews.


They have money. Their CEO gets paid 2.5 million per year. That one time windfall they made from the search bar deal would have funded FireFox development for a sizeable fraction of eternity.


That's the price of a CEO, just like salaries in the hundreds of thousands are the prices of software devs. Of all places I would expect Hacker News to get this.


> That's the price of a CEO

Can you explain why? What does this CEO do that is worth this much money? At the very least a CEO shouldn't be earning millions when the company is slowly dying. Have a sane base salary and give the CEO bonuses tied to the performance of the company if you must, anything else is plain ridiculous.


Why is your 100-150k salary not ridiculous? You could be earning fraction of that in Poland. You of all people should understand this.

A salary of 2M is not even 1% when it comes to the labor costs of the people they fired.

Maybe they dont need the CEO in the first place but that's an entirely different discussion.


A salary of 2M could cover the salary of 5% of the employees that have been fired (assuming a 150k salary). I bet you their impact will be much bigger than a single CEOs.

I know of no country/city where someone needs 2M to live comfortably, but I haven't even called it ridiculous. What I called ridiculous is that seemingly this CEO does not have their salary tied to the performance of this company.


Usually the bonus is tied to the performance of the company. Also 150k salary != labor costs.

Anyway I find your analogy ridiculous. Lets just not hire CEOs or upper management at all. It will work for some and fail for some others but it does not prove your point.


> Lets just not hire CEOs or upper management at all.

Now that's ridiculous, it feels like you're misunderstanding me completely. I never suggested that CEOs or upper management shouldn't exist. I just think that in some cases they do not deserve the massive salary they are getting, millions per year is a crazy amount of money to earn anywhere, how can you possibly argue that it's not?


How can you argue that your salary is not crazy amount of money?


> That's the price of a CEO,

No it isn't. And maybe it's time for these executives at the top to take a pay cut given the state of their business, in order for the latter to survive.


> just like salaries in the hundreds of thousands are the prices of software devs

Only in very specific locations and roles.


Yes, and Mozilla is run out of Mountain View, California, so that's a very specific location where getting tech executives is expensive. Could they get someone cheaper elsewhere? Absolutely. Is it worth it to pay more to get a CEO that's well-connected or, at a minimum, knowledgeable about what's going on in that region? Absolutely.

I'm not saying I agree with it morally — I think CEO's are paid an insane wage and the wealth disparity in the United States is disgusting — but those are the unfortunate economics.



> That's the price of a CEO

Is it? I bet you'd get plenty of great candidates for a 250k salary.


I did not mean to imply that the CEO should cost less, simply that they are able to pay that much, conclusion is that they are not poor.


This is not a competitive amount to pay a CEO of a company that is pretty substantial and integral to the web as we know it today. Additionally, there is no comp related to a successful IPO or acquisition because Mozilla has no shareholders, which is how many CEO and C-suite executives are compensated.


It is for one that is laying of a quarter of its staff.


You have to pay extra to get a competent CEO to head a company that isn't expected to have big wins for a long time.


this sounds like a "nobody got fired for buying IBM."

there are plenty of capable people, but vetting those without experience is risky, and the wrong choice could be a death sentence. so everyone (except Kraft Heinz) chooses the safe low risk choice. what that risk calculation leaves out is the risk of buying an expensive ceo, having the company stagnate, and being irrelevant in a couple years.


Or you hire someone who cares about the mission and can settle for a pittance like $1 million per year.


Do you know what Mozilla Corp's 2018 revenue was? $451 million. Do you know what their gross spend was? $451 million.

So that CEO's salary represents half of one percent of their total spend.

They could cut exec salaries to zero and they'd still be bleeding to death.


> monetize and diversify has generally been met unfavorably here on Hackernews.

it's an entitled mentality i find exist here on HN about open source. It seems that there are many here who expect a high quality, free project. And apparently, the donations should be enough to sustain it.


It's not entitlement. Most people here simply don't like conflicts of interest.

It's not wise to assume a browser that's funded and developed by Google will respect the user's privacy. People who depend on advertising will never do or say anything that offends the advertisers. Scientific articles published by the pharmaceutical industry are regarded as suspect.

Open source developers on some corporation's payroll have the same problem. Are they adding this feature because it's good or because the company wants it? Why they're working on the project matters. What's their priority? Good technology above all else, or meeting the needs of their current employer?

If they're doing it for money, good technology will eventually be sacrificed in the name of profit. People will commit hacks that happen to work at their jobs and next thing we know we're stuck with them and have to maintain the stuff forever. And that's what happens when there's no malicious intent involved.

Donations are regarded favorably here precisely because they don't create any obligations for the developer who receives them. They don't create a conflict of interest.


Typical HN kneejerk emotional drivel. Might as well just say “Business people bad, engineers good” and save our eyes from having to read anymore.


"MBAs ruin everything" — HN's take on every business story.


With the caveat that the source is a Twitter thread, if this turns out to be true it is increasingly looking like the end of Firefox and Mozilla. Earlier today, a separate Twitter thread was posted that claimed the whole Servo team had been let go.

This is a massive blow to Internet as we know it. It will mean that WebKit / Blink will now be the de facto Internet standard. In about 5 years Blink-based browsers will be the only relevant target for web development and all remaining users will be urged to switch to Chrome/Edge/Safari or have to suffer broken sites.

With Google pushing Chromium to make life for ad blockers difficult, I would really hope an open source project for a new Blink-based privacy-respecting browser to emerge. (As far as I know the Brave Browser is financed by ads that are hard-coded in the browser.)


> With the caveat that the source is a Twitter thread, if this turns out to be true it is increasingly looking like the end of Firefox and Mozilla. Earlier today, a separate Twitter thread was posted that claimed the whole Servo team had been let go.

It's pretty clear Mozilla was never planning to have Servo completely supplant Gecko. Their approach has been to treat Servo as a research project and then fold technologies (like Rust and Quantum) into Gecko as appropriate.

Through that lens, you should ask yourself if it makes sense for Mozilla to fund an R&D effort like that given they're operating on a shoestring (especially with at least 75% of their revenues about to evaporate thanks to the Google deal not getting renewed).

I think you could argue either way, and I don't think I have a strong opinion. But I think your framing is overly hyperbolic and doesn't reflect what Servo actually was and how it fit with Mozilla's overall strategy.


Even still, firing the DevTools team is equally as worrying as shuttering Servo.


Safari isn't Blink-based (though I suppose modern WebKit and Blink do share a common ancestor). I agree with the sentiment though; we're getting dangerously close to a browser engine monoculture. Not to mention Firefox is unique in that it's the only independent browser developed and controlled by a non-profit.


Because of their shared ancestry, I would assume replacing WebKit with Blink in Safari is quite easy. Once we start reaching Blink monoculture, expect Blink-only feature use on the web to sharply increase. This could mean Apple switching to use Blink for Safari as well, just like Microsoft did with IE Edge.

If we can learn anything from when IE6 reached monoculture in early 2000s (e.g. 96% market share in 2002), its development velocity sharply increased and the web site developers adopted the resulting IE-only features in abadon (stuff like XMLHttpRequest date from this era.) Some of these features were later standardized, but large swaths of the web remained IE-only for the next decade and more, even as competing browsers surpassed IE in performance and features.

I am afraid Blink development will likewise accelerate and web site developers will adopt these Blink-only features as if they were web standards. Only this time, building a competing web engine looks unlikely due to the sheer complexity to ever achieve feature parity with Blink.


I know the Mozilla layoffs aren't news, but 25% is a lot and I haven't seen any sources saying exactly what happened in terms of the reorg. The fact that both of these teams have vanished is a major gut punch to developers.


not to mention the ~70 employees laid off in January which brings that percentage of lay offs in 2020 to just under a third of the total workforce they started the year with.


I think part of the issue is that a huge chunk of Mozilla's revenue comes from their deal with Google, which expires in a few months is unlikely to be renewed with similar numbers, if at all.


Particularly MDN.

I remember the bad old days when you had to have a few huge O'Reilly books to write advanced HTML or program Javascript because Firefox and IE and other browsers were all so different -- you were lucky to have any official documentation at all, never mind something that looked at Javascript from a portable point of view.

MDN paved the way for having online developer info available for the web platform. I use it every day. In fact, I go out of way to look things up on MDN because if I just search "Google" I get spammy and sometimes wrong results that are crammed with ads, often poorly written, etc.

It is sad that good documentation can't pay for itself. It's like "the truth is paywalled but the lies are free".


> In fact, I go out of way to look things up on MDN because if I just search "Google" I get spammy and sometimes wrong results that are crammed with ads, often poorly written, etc.

Tip: use DuckDuckGo's searchbangs[0]. I reach for !mdn everyday.

[0] https://duckduckgo.com/bang?q=mdn


with ddg I don't even have to use the bang. Just mdn <whatever I need> gets me to it as the first result.


I liked the O'Reilly days.

MDN is good, especially as a reference to refresh something I once knew but haven't used in a while, or to deepen my knowledge of some part of something I do know fairly well.

But when it comes to learning something new and big, I often get lost on MDN. After I finish reading one page, it can be unclear what page I should read next. After I've made a few such choices and seem to have reached the end, it is often not clear if I've really covered the topic or there might be more if I go back several steps and make a different choice.

In the O'Reilly days, to learn topic X I could just get "Learning X" to get the basics, then "Programming X" to get a deeper understanding, "X Cookbook" for a ton of examples, "Advanced X" to go even farther, and maybe they would also have some more specialized books covering the use of X in specific applications. There might also be more books between beginner and advanced for some topics. And maybe an "X Reference". (There was also for some topics "X: The Definitive Guide" which tended to be a massive book that kind of tried to cover from beginner to advanced in one volume).

There would be an O'Reilly book aimed for people at whatever my current level of X understanding was, and reading that book would take me up a level.

There's no reason a website can't do that too, but it doesn't happen automatically. The website needs to provide guidance to lead the reader through in a page by page sequence that will take them through some topic in a way that makes sense and is complete. It's way too easy for a site to end up with a lot of ways to wander off such a path and end missing things or getting things in a confusing order.


Why can't good documentation pay for itself? Oldschool Runescape's wikipedia is arguably the best and most accurate and most thorough documentation of functionality and nuance I've ever seen. Not sure what the server costs are but if it was distributed as a torrent then I'm sure 99% of the information would still be correct.



That is from 3 years ago, I would love to see evidence that these other entities are major contributors to the MDN Wiki


Unfortunately 25% at mozilla, 25% at booking, 25% at uber, 20% at linkedin, more at airbnb (obviously) shows how internal management teams are seeing revenues HUGELY shrinking.

This tells a lot about fact that stock prices are bad measurement of situation we're in. It's funny to observe that S&P and Nasdaq are at the February all time high, pre-covid levels. Let that thought sink in.


I think this will be written up in the history books, like in the fall of Rome: "stock market decoupled from the fundamentals".


>Unfortunately 25% at mozilla, 25% at booking, 25% at uber, 20% at linkedin, more at airbnb (obviously) shows how internal management teams are seeing revenues HUGELY shrinking.

Of course some companies will struggle during covid. There are others though that have grown and are beating their forecasts. The covid proof tech companies will absorb this talent and grow larger.


For me, trying to say, that total net economic impact of covid is _zero_, is like gross negligence in analytical thinking. Sorry for being strong here.

funny fact: I'm using (as we're hiring) 'What do you think of covid' as nice and quick question to judge reasoning ability.

Conspiracy? bam.

Flu like? bam.

ends in a month? bam.


The fact you’re using that question in what I’m presuming is a technical interview is odd and also potentially insensitive to the candidate.

I can’t imagine how I would respond if a family member or someone I’d known had just passed because of the virus.


That's quite weird, imagine: "Ohh well, my grapda passed in April. Personally, I spent 2 weeks puking.".


The stock market hit all time highs in the Great Depression, too, no?


This is sad. I remember back when Firebug came on the scene and all of a sudden it wasn't just possible it was easy to debug your website. That, more than anything, I think is why Firefox took off the way it did. Then Chrome came out with its developer tools which eventually, I thought, surpassed Firefox. But Firefox's native dev tools are quite good, too.

I switched back to Firefox as my personal browser a year or two ago when they had the big rendering overhaul (I think "Quantum" or something? when they included the rust code to do layout in parallel, or something like that). It seemed like Firefox was finally moving in the right direction!

But now with the news that they let go of the dev tools team and Servo, I worry about the future of Firefox. I, personally, don't care about Mozilla other than Firefox, so this seems bleak. I'll continue to use the browser because I like it so much, but I imagine eventually it will fall behind newfangled CSS/JS features that developers will use and I'll have to switch eventually.


MDN has such a large impact and influence on the web development community so it's baffling to me as to why this decision was made. I just hope there are plans in the work to at least preserve if not continue its operation eventually under a different organization perhaps.

Honestly, I just really don't want to think of the alternatives without MDN. I don't think ANYONE wants to go back to w3schools.


Related reading from QuirksMode about MDN: "the cult of the free must die" https://www.quirksmode.org/blog/archives/2020/08/the_cult_of...

I think a version of MDN that solicits donations from the companies and individual developers that make use of it could be great. Mozilla being propped up by money Google gave them from the search bar always felt fragile.


I will gladly donate money to them the whole year trough.

And I think a lot of people/businesses would as long as they market it well enough and make it easy enough.


> The excellent devtools were a good., non-ideological reason for developers to use Firefox as part of their daily work, & thus test in it & care about it. Moz had long given up on any other developer relations activities.

Pale Moon, Waterfox, SeaMonkey and IceWeasel to Firefox: "Your First Time?"

Economically, Mozilla never had stood a chance against the major browser competition given that it was also being 'kept alive' by its main competitor for decades. The open-source alternatives also had no chance of competing and are eternally relying on donations.

The moment Google entered with their own browser and Microsoft, Opera, Qt and Electron crowd all jumped into the Chromium boat, Mozilla only had 'Firefox' as the only reason why they are still relevant and that's it. Not even Mozilla cares about the greatness Rust brings. It's just another open source tool which everyone is saying: "tank u, gimme dat 4 free". Here's another way to make money: Mozilla could also easily have been the Rust equivalent of "Erlang Solutions Ltd.".

We all know that no-one would go for their non-competitive VPNs or premium bookmark service. The reality is, Mozilla has to stand on its own and pivot to something else other than Firefox to generate revenue if it wants to stay true to its mission statement which is essentially privacy. Not sure how they have the balls to support "privacy" (on their frontpage) [0][1] and then tell us that they have a contract with Google to fund them [2] as the default search engine choice at the same time.

[0] https://www.mozilla.org

[1] https://www.mozilla.org/firefox

[2] https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/foundation/annualreport/2018/


Not to derail this conversation, but I wonder how much this can be attributed to the ousting of Brendan Eich. Political views aside, Eich was a technologist first and foremost. His replacement, Chris Beard, is a business/marketing guy at heart. It's hardly surprising that Mozilla has since trended more towards business/marketing priorities, as opposed to engineering excellence.


This sucks, but it's not all that surprising given that their Google deal--90% of their revenue--is about to expire and won't be renewed.


> and won't be renewed.

Source?



That doesn’t say it won’t be renewed, just that it’s currently not renewed.


Doesn’t it seem a little late for them to be renewing a deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars?

At minimum, I think it spells trouble. Would love to be wrong.

Edit: Since anything can happen, I personally wouldn’t have written the sentence with as much certainty as the GP, but I don’t think they were far off.


Funny thing ;)

> Mozilla and Google are expected to extend their current search deal for another three years, multiple sources have told ZDNet.

https://www.zdnet.com/article/sources-mozilla-expected-to-ex...


Thanks—wonderful news, honestly. I was super concerned.


Really? Did they announce that somewhere?


It's mentioned in one of the articles about the whole mess [0]. It doesn't say it won't be renewed though, just that it has not been renewed yet.

> Furthermore, Mozilla's contract with Google to include Google as the default search provider inside Firefox is set to expire later this year, and the contract has not been renewed. The Google deal has historically accounted for around 90% of all of Mozilla's revenue, and without it experts see a dim future for Mozilla past 2021.

[0] https://www.zdnet.com/article/mozilla-lays-off-250-employees...


This seems short-sighted. As does firing the Servo team. Does anyone know which teams they have kept?


What? So is the project over? What about webrender and wasm-related stuff?


> So is the project over?

As an independent research project, more or less I think. I suppose it might continue as an open source project. We'll see.

> What about webrender and wasm-related stuff?

Webrender and related projects will continue as part of Firefox I think. But I guess Mozilla won't be doing any further experimental work.


Do you have a source for the Servo team claim?



This is absolutely bonkers - if the Firefox dev tools stagnate, then devs won't test their sites on Firefox, leading to even more users ditching the product for Chrome!


I'm a bit confused. It seems like not having great dev tool keeps developers using Chrome which hurts the adoption of Firefox. Do they not get that?


The MDN is such a great resource. It’s my primary source for looking up web standards documentation.

Does this imply that won’t be maintained anymore?


No. Mozilla is only one of multiple companies that work on MDN https://blog.mozilla.org/blog/2017/10/18/mozilla-brings-micr...


Thanks. Still feels like a pretty big loss from that.


This makes perfect MBA sense, why bother developing anything when you can transition to shipping Chrome skin with paid Google search bar?


Without MDN being actively maintained, the web just became a worse place.


> Without MDN being actively maintained, the web just became a worse place. We don't know that that's the case. There are multiple huge companies working on MDN

https://blog.mozilla.org/blog/2017/10/18/mozilla-brings-micr...

Please don't assume the worst by default.


How exactly?


It's a way better resource than w3school, would be a shame if it drifted out because of a lack of maintainers.


Recently migrated fully to Firefox at work and was really enjoying DevTools. While they still lack features in some places, but Inspector tool with flexbox and grid visualisation is very useful. Also little hints why some properties were not applied really helps. MDN is also one of my frequently visited websites with a lot of useful info.

Is there way open source community could save these projects? I would gladly sponsor further development of Firefox DevTools.


I dislike these tweet links with no context. I am supposed to know who the person tweeting this is and how reliable they are?


Their profile description says they are W3C staff, and this can easily be confirmed by googling their name.


From an outside perspective it seems like Mozilla has been spending the last few years trying to get traction with social justice and political issues while neglecting their core product.

Safari and Chrome are much faster, Mozilla should have shipped servo in a product by now instead of investing in legacy tech for a declining product.


As an on-again-off again user (currently on-again but today here I am googling WebKit-based Linux browsers) who hasn't loved FF since 2.0, it looks like they're spending a shitload on UI fiddling and marketing/messaging of dubious or negative value. Sometimes the UI fiddling and marketing are combined, for when they really want to make me like the product less.


Mozilla should have diversified into CDN static web app delivery/JAMStack or similar on top of existing clouds or something. Plus additional instrumentation tooling with backend services to monitor frontend performance etc could be an area which could bring decent amount of revenue.



MDN is extremely useful, something I cannot ascribe to Mozillas management. There seems to be some kind of ridiculous transformation in process. Maybe they know that Google will stop sending money?


Wait, so who did they keep on staff?


The opposite roles of what HN wanted in yesterday's thread ;)


That's a massive blow. Rust next?


The team these days is pretty small. Two folks have posted publicly about it, one was, one wasn’t. We’ll see, I guess.


At least two paid rust dev from the core team got fired.


What boggles my mind is why Microsoft just did not acquire Mozilla. They could be funding the project while owning the brand. Hell they could have made FF into the default browser and people would actually not associate it with Explorer or whatever.


As I understand, Mozilla is not for sale and can't be acquired.


Cant the for profit entity be acquired?


This is the eventuality that WebPlatform.org was supposed to prepare us for. But I think WebPlatform failed because most of the docs were upstream at MDN, and people never stopped looking there.


This is pretty bleak and sad news for future browser competition I guess


Really sad about this lay off, Mozilla does so much good stuff, not just Firefox.

https://donate.mozilla.org/


That money goes to the Foundation. The Corporation can't receive money from the Foundation. The Corporation makes Firefox.


Time to go back to Firebug? Well, except Firebug no longer exists.


This new world of safe, approved, and powerless browser extensions sure is great, isn't it?


Wow. Will others be looking at moving away from Firefox soon? I moved to Firefox because of the devtools! It sounds like they have leadership that’s out of touch with community.



Why throw money into this fire?


Huge fan of Firefox, this is unfortunate.

Noticed that this girl is helping them in some way. https://twitter.com/abinaya_rl/status/1293237589202178048




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