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Mozilla signs fresh Google search deal (theregister.com)
365 points by teraku 44 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 325 comments



I just had a look at the financial documents for Mozilla, and I have to say that, for an organisation that promote transparency, their financial info are quite opaque, minimally detailed, and secretive.

https://foundation.mozilla.org/fr/about/public-records/

Conveniently for them and curiously, they are only publishing the "consolidated" statements for the Moz Foundation.

But, for example, it looks like that the individual statements for the Mozilla Corp are never published or disclosed. That is very annoying as it is the main "entity" of the organization.

There is also no details about the split of costs and revenues associated with each main projects / services products / groups that are worked on for a given year.

So, for example, no one can have a clear idea of how much money is spent on dev, marketing or administration of Firefox versus Pocket versus VPN versus charities versus fellowships, etc...

If you look at the content of the limited financial documents, you can even have the impression that the foundation has no interest for the development of Firefox itself, and that they are just interested by it as a cash cow that generates (with the search deals) huge funds to give to whatever charities that Mozilla leaders are interested in.


You can't get at how much is spent on development for each product, but you do get some information: (below all 2018 figures)

They took in ~$430M from, primarily, the search deals, plus a couple million each from some other sources like subscriptions is in there as income too.

They spent ~$280M on software development, $52M on marketing, $86M on administration and "general." With 1,000 (okay, 750) employees you're going to have some administrative costs. So it's mostly going to software development writ large, though you don't have reported the breakout of what's being spent on what projects.

As for the charitable stuff: the foundation took in $13M in contributions, and also about $13M from the corporation paying the foundation for the use of the trademarks (the foundation owns them). The foundation spent $18M on its charitable programs. Presumably this $18M is part of the $33M total consolidated spending on "other program services."

There's truth in the statement that a portion of Firefox's revenue is paying for some of Mozilla's charitable programs, but it's a very small amount relative to the amounts spent on development.


Your analysis is the only one that we can do currently.

But it is really too limited because even if you know the overall 'spendings' for software dev, you don't know how much is used for Firefox, Thunderbird, pocket, random side projects, by dev for the foundation activities, by dev for charities on the Corp side.

And how the split is evolving years after years.

Also, you can't compare the administrative and marketing costs of the 2 structures to see if they are adequate.

And even the 'Foundation' budget might not be so much relevant as there is no assurance that the 'Corporation' is not funding some charities or fellowships requested by the 'Foundation'.


There are repeated comments in HN threads who purport to be Mozilla employees or ex-employees and lament that the organization(s) have become little more then a vessel to inflate the fame of those in the exec and advocacy portions of the mess.

That... Seems plausible given what departments were and weren't cut, and how opaque their spending is.


In some ways Mozilla reminds me of the "Public Interest Registry (PIR)" that controls .org. While it may symbolise some high integrity, non-commercial ideals to many people, unbeknownst to them, the people who are actually running the organisation have very different ideas of their own. Money on their minds and minds on their money.


This is why I've switched to Chromium Edge on Macos and Windows 10.

With Edge, I'm under no illusions with regard to what I'm getting myself into.


Seems like you're jumping out of the frying pan into the fire, no? Mozilla might be obscuring their financial details, but on balance they are one of the most ethical entities on the internet.

Google and Microsoft both have the corporate predator instinct in their DNA.


I'm already running Windows on three of the PCs I run, so I'm fucked there anyway.


You aren't being serious.


Edge has more aggressive and persistent tracking identifiers then Google Chrome


If you want Chromium and care about ad-blocking and privacy, Brave might be preferable. It lets you disable the crypto features entirely if you don't care for that side of it.


Thunderbird is funded by users. There is currently no way to donate directly to Firefox separately of Mozilla general fund.

Can initial steps be taken to financially firewall Firefox development from the rest of Mozilla, as Thunderbird has done successfully? Start by moving the web standards advocacy brain trust to the separate org. Ask users to donate/subscribe. Begin the transition now, don't wait for the next negotiation with Alphabet/Google.

As donations grow, more Firefox teams can move to the independent legal org.


> Can initial steps be taken to financially firewall Firefox development from the rest of Mozilla, as Thunderbird has done successfully?

It would have to be a fork with user support. Mozilla doesn't have much incentive to distance itself from its core product and even less incentive to provide a means by which their users can dictate what policies and products their financial support is for.

Mozilla has too many individuals in its organization, including its executive, who are not so closely tied to Firefox for this idea to succeed.


In some organizations, 25% layoffs are not considered a sign of success. If Mozilla isn't tied to Firefox, yet has the ability to siphon from Firefox success or increase existential risk due to debatable roadmaps, new side effects of this principal-agent gap may appear.


I would definitely donate to a Gozilla fork.


I don’t think Gozilla is anything to do with Mozilla is it?


> The project took its name, "Mozilla", after the original code name of the Netscape Navigator browser — a portmanteau of "Mosaic and Godzilla".


Yeah I know that... but what does this have to do with Gozilla? I don’t think Gozilla has ever been a Mozilla or Netscape product. The names are similar but they’re unrelated.


The only relationship between "Godzilla" and "Mozilla" is that portmanteau.

I think the OP's sentiment was that the name "Godzilla," is awesome and it would elate him to donate for the name alone.


I think you’re possibly misreading - they said ‘Gozilla’ not ‘Godzilla’.

Gozilla is proprietary networking software, nothing to do with Mozilla. So Mozilla can’t fork Gozilla.

Godzilla is a monster character and where Mozilla gets its name.


Well, Mozilla did use a red tyrannosaurus rex logo for a while:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mozilla_(mascot)#/media/File:M...

I am not sure if that qualifies as an aspiration to be a predator.


> Can initial steps be taken to financially firewall Firefox development from the rest of Mozilla, as Thunderbird has done successfully? Start by moving the web standards advocacy brain trust to the separate org.

That's exactly how it's done for the past 15 years.

Mozilla Corporation is in charge of Firefox development. Mozilla Foundation is in charge of advocacy. Mozilla Corporation is fully owned by the Mozilla Foundation.

Thunderbird development is handled by a different subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation called MZLA Technologies Corporation.

Yes, their naming mechanism is awful.


>Mozilla Corporation is in charge of Firefox development. Mozilla Foundation is in charge of advocacy. Mozilla Corporation is fully owned by the Mozilla Foundation.

but the mozilla layoffs yesterday impacted both MDN and firefox. If the corp vs foundation is a distinction without a difference, why bother bringing it up?


Mozilla Corp does a lot more than Firefox development. All software development at Mozilla is under the purview of MozCorp.

It's also wholly under the oversight of Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Foundation has the ability to direct MozCorp to support its non-software development endeavours. Ie, by using Firefox push notifications to spread messages to users.


I donate to Mozilla every year. The changes you suggest would it make it less likely for me to continue, because I support Mozilla's overall mission of being a force for good, which is so rare in the technology world. Firefox is a part of that but Mozilla as a whole is a lot more important to me.


You could still donate to the Mozilla Foundation and not the hypothetical Firefox charity.


I use Firefox and Thunderbird all day, every day, and Thunderbird definitely feels like it's funded by users whereas Firefox feels like it is funded by an actual company lol. So.


In 2020, desktop email clients are also a smaller market by several orders of magnitude.


All the more reason to fund and support browser development, since it includes their mobile products?


For end users probably, for enterprise I doubt it.


But enterprise is going to default something with an enterprise license and support agreement (like Outlook). You might have some users who prefer Thunderbird but they’re going to be a much smaller audience.


Not always, we pay for a plugin for Thunderbird (ExQuilzilla) though. We're primarily working on Linux systems so it makes no sense to even have Outlook or Windows in our office. We don't make up a large demographic of our company (which is in the F500 range), but I wouldn't be surprised if there's other places that do the same.

It's a shame Firefox doesn't sell a developer ready IDE, I'd subscribe to that myself if it means better MDN and that the dev tools team is better funded, and Firefox in addition to other donations from elsewhere, throw in a VPN subscription to sweeten it for most people. I'm ready to pay for anything that funds Firefox directly.

I've even seen some in QA who do have Windows just installing Thunderbird.


You could always use Outlook Web App (even installing it as a PWA if desired); it's actually really polished.

Disclaimer: Microsoft employee unaffiliated with Outlook/Exchange :)


We use exchange, Apple Mail and Thunderbird can both be used. There are limitations but there are options beyond the status quo in enterprise. Its a protocol.


People don't just do email in business settings. The proposition with Exchange was that you had email and calendaring together. This combination likely predates Exchange, but it was the juggernaut that took over big companies.

Now you have GSuite and others copying that approach. In terms of clients, Outlook is probably a bigger Gmail client than Thunderbird within the enterprise due to the fact that business people in many places are only familiar with it. Yes, the protocols are supported in other clients, but going with something else is a in practice a peculiarity. I don't think that is healthy, but it's what's happening out there and impacting the potential of any other client.

In the early days, Phoenix knew what it was about and had a team driving a really focused product experience for what would become Firefox. This was a very important part of why Firefox had the impact it had.

Thunderbird always felt like a "me too" product focusing on email. In 2002, the set of criteria for global success (an integrated email and calendar experience) was already well defined. The product never got any razor sharp focus and an opportunity was squandered. It's hard to see how Thunderbird can ever achieve what it might have done.


Do you know of a single enterprise of any size (say > 30 employees) is using thunderbird as their default internal email client?


Our org of 50ish is.


We are (100ish employees, SW development, Finland).


OWA and G Suite gmail are pretty widespread.


The development team might all agree to leave the company en masse, foto Firefox and start working on the Firefox fork.

In six months to one year the fork will be in advantage over the original Firefox, and the new management will be able to focus on Firefox fork development.


At this point I kind of wish Firefox would get moved to the Apache foundation.


Why is Google even interested in Firefox users?

Presumably many/most of those users are not happy with Google/Chrome/advertising/tracking.

If there is some sort of "threat" to Google from Mozilla, this is like Google funding antitrust think tanks. It is difficult to take Mozilla, the organisation not necessarily the work product, seriously.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/30/us/politics/eric-schmidt-...

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/24/technology/global-antitru...

Neither the (NetBSD) OS nor the GCC compiler I am using, not to mention myriad other programs, needs to be supported by advertising. What makes the "web browser" different?

As the comments on the Register article point out, it seems $400 million/year is how much money it takes to develop/maintain a web browser.

https://forums.theregister.com/forum/all/2020/08/14/mozilla_...


Default settings are fairly lucrative - the reason why Bing and Edge are somehow viable search engines and browsers is purely because Microsoft ships them as default on Windows. Depending on who you ask, Firefox is either the same or double the browser marketshare of Edge, so that default search setting is still lucrative, if only so that Bing, Yahoo, or DuckDuckGo don't get any of that default search traffic.

Also, while lots of people gripe about Google adtech, they aren't angry about it enough to switch search engines. The company still has the best search in the business, specifically because they have a detailed profile on you. Furthermore, they're still moderately trustworthy by tech company standards. At least for me, I'd rather trust Google or Microsoft than, say, Facebook. My biggest concern with any new Google service is less "will I lose control of my data" and more "will this service stay live for longer than a year or two".


> Presumably many/most of those users are not happy with Google/Chrome/advertising/tracking.

I wouldn't bet on that. A lot of non-tech-savvy people use Firefox because it was recommended by their nerdy friends.

If funding Mozilla resulted in no return, Google would have realized it by now. They have been doing it for quite a long time.


> If funding Mozilla resulted in no return, Google would have realized it by now. They have been doing it for quite a long time.

Conspiracy theory: the return on investment is that the active development of Firefox defends Google against anti-trust accusations.


Is it really a conspiracy theory? It's almost certainly a significant portion of the equation.


You are not alone in this conspiracy theory. A significant portion of Google’s business right now is to fend of anti-trust accusations.


What does mozilla spend money on outside of personal costs?

Mozilla had approximately 1000 employees. If they are grossing 450M a year in revenue and 50% of their expenses are personal costs, tht means on average they are spending 225K per employee. for a non profit (even if its a non profit in the tech field and has to compete with tech firms for employees), that seems high. i.e. if one would compare them to Series A or B startups in SV, those would be reasonably high compensation packages (albiet without the stock option upside, but most stock options aren't worth the paper they are printed on, even for series A companies perhaps a bit more likelihood with series B).

Even if one says its 33%, that's still 150K per average employee expense. while that wouldn't result in a great SV salary, its would probably be competitive in most of the world.

just trying to understand where all the money goes?


Mozilla provides financial statements as recent as 2018 which will answer some of your questions. https://assets.mozilla.net/annualreport/2018/mozilla-fdn-201...

See page 5 for expenses.

There are several comments here about Mozilla needing to save cash. The balance sheet as of 2018 shows 100+ million in cash assets.


A quick google says Alphabet has $18,000 million in cash on hand and $101,000 million in marketable securities. But Mozilla was the one documenting standards while Alphabet is breaking them by doing whatever was in its interest. At best Alphabet might work with Apple ($200,000 million cash on hand) and Microsoft ($133,000 million cash on hand) to coordinate the way standards were going when that's in its interests.


Keep in mind that employee expense != employee salary since there are also taxes, insurances, pension contributions etc to be paid. Plus you need IT, office space, infrastructure.


yes, understood, but its a good chunk of it (probably 2/3). and for a non profit to be spending nearly $300K per employee seems problematic. (i.e. average salary is probably close to $200K.


> ...average salary is probably close to $200K.

Mozilla employs some of the world's best talent who could walk away any minute and double their salary. I'd even wager that it is a great service some of them do to stay where they are and not be lured by the big money they could be making literally anywhere else. The salaries they earn are more than fair, in my eyes.

I'm terribly disappointed that Mozilla lost so much talent not to attrition but to layoffs. Hopefully, they find newer sources of income and become financially strong again.


Yeah the "hello, I'm looking to hire Mozilla employees" on various places that I read about the layoffs (hn, reddit, twitter) is a telltale sign that Mozilla employees are highly wanted in the industry. Compare it to threads where recent grads (out of good institutions) complain that they can't find employment in CS. Nobody posts there.


Comparing employees from reputable companies with recent grads that have at best internship experience seems a bit silly no?

There are lots of companies I would take an employee from in a heartbeat. Taking a recent grad is a gamble in most cases.


It's comparable in so far that both are on the job market right now. From what I read, recent grads seem to have an extremely bad experience because of Corona. It seems that the virus has enlarged the gap in how people just starting their careers are treated vs people from a place like Mozilla, instead of treating both equally worse.


Why would you expect companies to take a risk on a new grad when they could instead hire someone who has already proven themselves at a different company? Especially during a pandemic where there's so much uncertainty. I'm not saying it's right but it makes sense.


Probably because they could hire about 2-4 recent grads for the price of someone that has proven themselves.


And in the short term, the proven developer will be significantly more productive than the 2-4 recent grads and require much less work to manage.


How would a recent grad cope working fully remotely without any mentorship? I would much rather go with someone with more experience.

That being said, I have to admit that I was very impressed with the work done by the two interns that were on my team (at $BigTech) who are leaving next week. But they had their own projects and weren’t on critical paths.


We just had a fully remote intern because of corona. He was great.

The manager who puts an intern on the critical path is a very bad manager.


We have no idea how they - or any fresh grads would do as full time employees. I think they would do okay. But they are treated with kid gloves compared to FTE’s.


Why do you think they should be paying significantly less just because they are a non-profit? I'm sure they can pay a bit less because people join because of their values and not just because of the money but I suspect they still have to stay somewhat competitive. I can see people being okay with making 10-20% less working for a company whose values they really like, but 50% less? Doubt it.


When I worked for a non-profit, the rule was that salaries could be no more than 90% of the general going rate for the same job in the same location (we had offices across the country). I don't know if it was a rule specific to this organization, or if it's an industry-wide rule of thumb.

Because of this 90% rule, the company never set any salaries. After you passed the interview and they wanted to hire you, they sent your resume and job description to an outside consulting firm, which would then calculate what your salary would be. The consulting firm contacted you directly and let you know what your compensation would be if you accepted the job, and why.

It might be common, but it was very new for me.


For the quality of people that work at Mozilla, going rate for a senior dev is more like 350-400k in the SF Bay area. Mozilla pays well below 90% of going rate.


As a former Mozilla distinguished engineer, this is absolutely correct.


Seriously 350-400k? The SF Bay area is really ridiculously inflated even more than I had realized.


The way I think about it is the engineers Mozilla hires could almost all get cushy jobs at a FAANG, but it pays tier 2-3 salaries.

Mozilla doesn't just build CRUD apps. The problems its engineers have to solve are really hard ones, often completely novel.


Moz Corp is not a nonprofit


90% of going rate in bay is >>200k for senior dev. Check out levels.fyi


Maybe they should not be in SV then (especially if they expect to survive from donations from people from all over the world). You can find developers just as good all over for 1/4th the cost.


Google’s recruiters and their truckloads of money are happy to reach out regardless. You want the talent capable of building and maintaining a web engine? Be prepared to pay for it.


Even if they aren’t in the Bay , they still have to compete with Bay salaries. Especially, if more of BigTech starts allowing remote work.


Do they though? There are many good unemployed or poorly paid programmers all around the globe. Even if they do start allowing more remote work this will not change much as they will still have around the same number of employees.


What’s your definition of a “good developer”? I’m the first person to call out companies that think they need “ninja, rockstar developers” to build their Node CRUD app. But, how many developers are there that are out of work that could actually contribute meaningfully to Firefox? Writing a modern browser engine/Javascript engine and the related underpinnings is hard. Not even Microsoft - the third most valuable company in the US - wanted to keep taking that on. Every other company in the world besides Mozilla who wanted their own browser thought it was better just to use Webkit or Blink.

Even though I am a developer and work for Big Tech, I got in through the backdoor via cloud consultancy. I looked at what it would take to even be competitive to not embarrass myself during the interview process and decided I wasn’t interested. I’m assuming that Netscape has similar standards . I can’t imagine that anyone who is good enough and disciplined enough to get through the process can’t get a job.


> Why do you think they should be paying significantly less just because they are a non-profit? I'm sure they can pay a bit less because people join because of their values and not just because of the money but I suspect they still have to stay somewhat competitive.

I don't necessarily disagree with you about this, but the logic is kind of telling. If you're right, the only possible conclusion to draw is that non-profits shouldn't, and effectively don't exist in a modern capitalist economy. Why? Because a non-profit still has to compete on both the labor market and the commodities market, which means salaries about as high as their for-profit competitors, and making something they can sell (ideally to ad tech companies, since they have the real $, not ordinary people). Even if profiting off the business isn't supposed to be the motive, most people are going to be profiting. And perhaps it's no surprise that the people in charge of making these decisions are the ones who profit the most. Decisions are going to be made in almost exactly the same way as they would be made at a for-profit company. But this process of decision making is the thing we're trying to escape when we talk about something like Mozilla.

Maybe the problem is that we think of Mozilla as a typical case of non-profit organizational structure. Would an alternative structure be possible, for example Mozilla existing only to organize teams of volunteers, not to produce something that could be sold (i.e. to advertizers) but to make something good that people want? (Obviously, the people who run Mozilla have a strong material interest against ever finding this out.) I think we're imaginatively limited when we talk only about "businesses" as the fundamental actor in the modern world. Maybe being non-profit (even "anti-profit") should be about more than that.


I'm surprised people believe it is so bad to spend on salaries. Contrary to startups and traded companies, Mozilla has no stock to inflate compensation, so they have to pay large salaries.


Not at all bad to pay salaries but stock comp is used to tie pay to performance. Can't really do that if you've committed to paying a colossal salary.

Which is why Mozilla exec leadership is still in place after a decade of losing market share to Chrome and flailing about trying to find a business model that works. Firing 25% of your company is a huge sign you fucked up. No shareholders, and only vague accountability to stakeholders. Moz Foundation board should fire her, though since she's chairman she has absolutely zero oversight.


> Which is why Mozilla exec leadership is still in place after a decade of losing market share to Chrome and flailing about trying to find a business model that works.

In the 2+ years I've been at Mozilla, I think there's been almost complete turnover at the C-level.

For example, Chris Beard was CEO of Mozilla from 2014 through late 2019.

There's a frequent sentiment in these comment threads that Mozilla leadership is failing and facing no professional consequences, but I think that sentiment is misplaced.


If you think the same execs have been at mozilla for a decade, I have a bridge to sell you.


Who said that it’s all base salary? Ever heard of bonuses?


There is a famous Ted Talk arguing that non profits should pay competitive salaries with the market to get the best employees.

https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pallotta_the_way_we_think_abou...

And here is an article about the same thing for those who want to skim through it.

https://www.idealist.org/en/careers/rethinking-salaries-and-...


As if non profits are limited by talent and not capital.


How much more capital could they get if they had really talented fundraisers? Both for profit and non profit companies have the same goals - to make money. What they do with their money is different. Could Mozilla save money and be just as effective if they got a bunch of a boot camp grads?


It’s been a long time since anyone was candid with me, but at that point someone told me that all told, developers cost them about 2x my salary.

Say you have thirty six developers. You need one manager for each six, and another for those managers. You need an office administrator, and at some point that person gets an assistant. You need a few IT people and other forms of maintenance.

I never really understood how they called developers overhead, when there’s all this that actually is overhead. Not a one of those people has billable hours, for any definition of the term.


It is very simple, from the quality of the work you know that those people worth the price. If you are not paying that, they will leave and work for other companies that could afford them.


> (i.e. average salary is probably close to $200K.)

Two bedroom rents in the cities nearby Mozilla Corporation's HQ are about 4.5k a month. That's about 54k a year just in rent. But you still need to feed yourself and family, pay taxes, send your kids to school, buy health insurance and save for retirement. In that context, 200k a person is frankly cheap; their competitors pay 2x that.


That's about 54k a year just in rent.

The means, according to the standards set by the federal government, the employee should make at least $162,000 in take-home pay.

The fed (Department of Housing, maybe?) guideline is that you should pay no more than ⅓ of your salary in rent.


Yes, and take home pay is post-taxes. Which are not insubstantial, considering both state and federal (and potentially city). 200k is about on par for getting by, if not a bit below market rate.


> The fed (Department of Housing, maybe?) guideline is that you should pay no more than ⅓ of your salary in rent.

That value is absolutely absurd. It seems clearly intended to apply to those making under 100k a year in rent. Take the extreme case. If the highest paid employee of Mozilla makes $3M a year, does that mean their rent should cost "less than" $1M a year? What does that even mean?

Money has a decreasing marginal utility for individuals. When you talk about 54k a year in rent on a $162k salary, that's over $100k left over after you pay for rent. In other words, more than twice what I and my partner made together last year, before we had to pay rent. And we have the same expenses as anyone making that $100k after the rent is paid. Food, utilities, childcare, and so on.

One person having over a hundred thousand dollars to spend after rent has quite a lot of money and should become relatively wealthy relatively quickly. The 1/3 figure just serves to hide this basic fact.


Time to move the HQ then.


There are places where you can get a decent house for about $50k, total. Why the hell people remain in an area with that kind of rent is beyond comprehension. Nothing about the bay area is worth that.


Where are these places? How does the (pre-pandemic) quality of life compare to that of a metropolitan area?

At one point I joked that I could buy an entire block of houses in Detroit. It doesn't matter if there is nothing for me to do there, no schools for my family, or preferred entertainment options/venues.


How does non profit got anything to do with having have to pay less salaries? Are non profits meant to only hire average people?


Non-profits should hire people who personally care about the non-profit's mission. Paying less than average is a good way to filter out people who're only in it for the money.


Non-profits, like any company, should hire the best people who can help the company achieve its goals, preferably at the least expense. Having employees subsidize the company (via reduced salaries) simply because the employees care about the mission is a great way to lose out on good talent.

Pretty much everyone employed today is “in it for the money.” Whether for-profit or non-profit, we all want to maximize our income.


I think you are quite mistaken. I don't want to maximize my income, I want tom maximize my impact. There are some people in the world who care about things beyond themselves. Everyone should have some self interest but there are other things that matter besides maximizing income.


you should have use 1/2 to be more accurate. Employees are expensive, even in a country like the USA where taxes are later (but insurance is not)


same reason people take a huge paycut to work at startups, and its not for the equity (which more often than not is 0). Its because they are working on what they want to work on. It's not about maximizing their net worth, but working on what they want to work on.


Why do you think non-profits should pay lower salaries than for-profits? It's good for the world if non-profits can compete with corporations as they tend to act more ethically. Also, from a macro-economic point of view, wages are one of the best things a company can spend it's money on.


As an aside, there are some non-profits that are well funded but don't pay market rate for their talent, and I sadly see them falling behind.

If you want a non-profit that you donate to succeed, you should hope that they're attracting and retaining the skilled talent needed to achieve their goals efficiently.


If salaries are unlimited, there's no more motivation to act ethically than a for-profit concern has. Instead of taking the fruits of bad behavior as profits, you're just taking them as salaries. Upper management just takes the place of stockholders/investors.

Non-profits commonly warp to the point that they're spending virtually no money on their stated mission.

edit: It might be even worse if all salaries fall within a narrow range and all of the workers feel as if they are sharing in the success of the company: the economic motivation in that case would be to become a monoculture of revenue-maximizing behavior, where employees with opinions that threaten cashflow would quickly end up isolated and/or expelled. If everyone gets a salary bump after implementing a dark pattern, there will be a lot of people rationalizing the decision.


How does "paying market value" become "salaries are unlimited"?


> Upper management just takes the place of stockholders/investors.

Don't non-profits usually have board of trustees that takes the place of stockholders/investors? They ought to be able to stop this behaviour.


And legal obligations to conform to their mission or lose their non-profit status. That keeps most in line.


According to the article:

> Mozilla spends as much as it receives; its 2018 staffing bill was $286m with a headcount of about 1,000, or about $286,000 per person, on average.

Still doesn’t explain what they do with the rest. Presumably there are large infrastructure fees for things like Firefox Sync, which by the way just introduced storage limits:

https://blog.mozilla.org/addons/2020/07/09/changes-to-storag...

But come on, how about saving some for rainy days?


> Still doesn’t explain what they do with the rest.

https://foundation.mozilla.org/en/about/public-records/#tax-... has some of the information you seek; see the various "Audited financial statements" links. The 2019 one will presumably be available once the audit (which starts on the tax filing deadline, so in July this year) is done.

> But come on, how about saving some for rainy days?

The 2018 financials show ~$520 million in net assets (assets minus liabilities) at the end of the year. The vast majority if this is in "cash" and "investments".


CEO makes almost $3M if that's any sign


Precisely. Everyone fails to see what happen to Brendon was a coup: Not by equality-loving do-gooders, but by cynical MBA middle management who saw their opportunity to loot and plunder once the founders were out of the way.

Its pretty amazing they've been able to keep their street-cred alive this long.


> by cynical MBA middle management who saw their opportunity to loot and plunder once the founders were out of the way.

Mitchell Baker, current CEO, _is_ one of the founders. From wikipedioa[1]: "Baker was instrumental in the creation of the Mozilla Foundation"

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitchell_Baker


It doesn't really go deeply into how she was instrumental. A corporation can't be founded without a lawyer to file the paperwork, does that mean the lawyer that filed Uber's incorporation documents should be consider a "founder"?

Also, https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22060372

>[...] She was trained and worked as a lawyer. She went to Berkeley, not to study computer science or electrical engineering, but to study law. She graduated and went to a San Francisco law firm that specialized in intellectual property and had many clients in Silicon Valley. She eventually left and worked for Sun in the legal department. Netscape recruited her to help set up their legal department and that is how she became an executive at a technology company. She stayed at Netscape when it was bought by AOL to work on policy issues, but was eventually fired during a series of layoffs.

>The only "foundational" piece of Mozilla she authored was the Mozilla Public License.


Many organizations have non-technical founders in addition to the technical ones. IIRC, Mitchell has been the chairperson of the board for ages (if not the whole time) and has moved into and out of the CEO role as needs dictated, including being CEO for the first few years when Firefox was growing, in addition to the most recent year or two.


"“It has been a long-standing objective of the Mozilla team to create an independent organization so we can continue to lead and innovate,” said Mitchell Baker, Chief Lizard Wrangler at mozilla.org, who will become President of The Mozilla Foundation."

Just a lawyer. MBA middle management. Not a founder. Right.

https://blog.mozilla.org/press/2003/07/mozilla-org-announces...


Mitchell Baker, Chief Lizard Wrangler, President of the Mozilla Foundation on launch, and MBA middle manager and not a founder, apparently. =( How we like to rewrite history.

https://blog.mozilla.org/press/2003/07/mozilla-org-announces...


> cynical MBA middle management

Yeah, those cynical MBA guys who just couldn't stomach working for a homophobe... So what if he didn't want his gay employees to be able to marry?

/s, obviously.


Ahh the black and white vision i see....


Yes, LGBT+ rights are a black and white issue. How is that even controversial in 2020?


>LGBT+ rights are a black and white issue.

That's where you are wrong, i thinks that everyone has the right to marry anyone else (within limits) BUT i also think that everyone has the right to express his believes, and that is why the WORLD and the Peoples are NOT black or White...can you imagine that i met a Christian Gay who was absolute against Gay-Marriages? Yes that exists and i'm ok with his believes, and when i was 16 i got smashed by a Black Neonazi, i was NOT ok with that...funny eh? In fact that was one of my biggest life lessons ever.

EDIT: And i don't say you have to accept those believe, but you have to accept the person who has those believes.


When you say black, do you mean skin color? Because that sounds unbelievable. If true, it would be a great story to elaborate on since that kind of self hate is rare.


>When you say black

The Neonazi? Yes he was black(skin), maybe it was self hate maybe not..i really don't know, but what i knew he was really aggressive and no one liked him, maybe he just wanted friend's...that's what i think.


Everyone has the right to express their beliefs, but I also have the right to think that they are awful people based on those beliefs, and not want to associate with them, do business with them, etc.

I'm not sure what you mean by "accept the person" with those beliefs. I don't have to accept anything. I must accept that they exist, obviously, but that doesn't really mean anything.


>I'm not sure what you mean by "accept the person" with those beliefs.

That you cannot kill him, mute him or trow him into a prison, that person has the same rights as you no matter what his believes are.


Sure, I agree with that, but I don't see how that's a useful argument. Accepting that someone exists and has particular beliefs does not mean I have to support their beliefs, give them a platform to spread them, or stand by quietly while they spew what I believe to be nonsense.


Because i said that the world is NOT Black or White.

>or stand by quietly

Sometimes you should, sometimes you dont.


Why would anyone at the talent level that I assume are on par with anyone working at the big tech companies accept the salaries of senior software as a service CRUD developer in any major metropolitan area in the US?

I’m not in any way throwing shade on CRUD developers, as a developer that’s what I was until a few months ago, but the minute I saw the opportunity to pivot to make more, I did.


You’ve never taken a job for a product you felt should exist in the world, even if the salary wasn’t the best?


No because I’ve got a family to feed and bills to pay. I don’t fall for the “We are family and we are trying to make the world a better place” bullshit. How did that work out for all the people who accepted less than half of what they could get at other tech companies and still got laid off?

While the CxOs are still living pretty.


It's a mistaken belief that "non-profit organization" somehow get to spend less on employees. They have to at least pay market rates like everyone else, or people won't show up, but they can also waste money on employees. After all, when there's no profit, what's the profit motive?


Which market are we talking about?

If we compare the 3 million ceo pay with a few different organizations we get wildly different rates. Compared to EFF CEO that get paid less than 300k, its an 10 times too high. Compared to the linux foundation, Torvald get a bit above 2 million so mozilla is still paying too much. Compared to IBM, and I would guess their CEO get way more than 3 millions.

What is the market rate for employees willing to work on free software and advocacy? What is the market rate of non-profit CEOs?


What a ridiculous comparison without context. In 2018, EFF's total support & revenue was 17.2M ($15M being public support) [0].

In 2019, the Linux foundation had $96 million in revenue and $71 million in assets [1].

In 2018, Mozilla's revenue was $450M [2].

So how could you possibly compare EFF CEO's pay to Mozilla's? If Mozilla's CEO performs 10% better than the market average CEO, that's significantly more valuable than if the same thing occurs at EFF.

The market rate of good CEO's doesn't simply decline because they work for a non-profit. It depends on the context.

[0] https://www.eff.org/files/annual-report/2018/#FinancialsModa...

[1] https://www.causeiq.com/organizations/the-linux-foundation,4...

[2] https://assets.mozilla.net/annualreport/2018/mozilla-fdn-201...


Is revenue * X a good formula to determine market rate, and if so, what should X be?


Guess what. Mozilla corp is not a nonprofit.


> 225K per employee

That is the cost of these employees to their employer ("fully loaded"). The fully loaded cost is typically about twice the employee's nominal compensation, which would be ~$113k. This is about 60% of entry level comp at a FAANG company and about 35% of mid-career comp. [1]

Mozilla employs a lot of people who are willing to work under market rate to do a job they believe in, but I doubt they would be able to get and retain the people they need if they offered substantially less.

[1] https://www.levels.fyi/?compare=Google,Facebook,Apple,Amazon...


My last company uses 1.35x salary as the fully loaded cost for engineers. Healthcare and office space costs don't scale linearly with salary, for example.


When you say "salary" here, are you using it as shorthand for total compensation? As in, including equity and bonus?


Just cash (so base + bonus).


> 1.35x salary as the fully loaded cost for engineers ... Just cash (so base + bonus)

That's going to depend a lot by how the company does comp. For example, equity was ~43% of my total comp last year, which means you'd need 1.75x just for for base+bonus+stock. And that's before considering taxes, healthcare, and office space.


For both the public companies and the startups I've worked for, equity comp comes out of a pool that directly dilutes the shareholders, whereas cash comp and bonuses are both operational expenses that impact EBITDA. Depending on how cynical you are, you might think that boards and shareholders look more carefully at EBITDA performance than the option pool so managers are more inclined to care about the former than the latter.


SV (and to a slightly lesser extent NY) compensation. not worldwide. Having worked in SV for the past few years and now earning a european salary, its no where near same ballpark.

and yes, I called it personnel cost vs salary, because I wasn't talking about the fully loaded cost.

if people are willing to work at startups in SV for $150-$180K salaries (with significant experience, and I had enough offers from my time in SV to get a good handle on the market) those same people if they wanted to work at mozilla would earn similar amounts. but these are higher end engineers earning the $180K at a startup. mozilla has a significant number (article I just read said about half) of its employees work remotely.


For what it's worth the levels.fyi number is ~10% low for me, and I'm in Boston (US East Coast).

I agree that outside the US comp is generally substantially lower. But given Mozilla's history and the people they would want to hire, I think it would be extremely difficult for them to move to a model where they primarily employ developers in cheaper countries.


Indeed. Those developers would just be picked up by FAANG instead.


What the hell, average mid-career software compensation for non-FAANG companies is ~$350k?!

Are you joking?


Parent's comment was explicitly about FAANG companies.

But similar numbers apply to companies that are competing for talent with the FAANGs.


> companies that are competing for talent with the FAANGs

Which I think solidly includes Mozilla.


Yes, that is rather the point. ;)


I don't believe in the term 'non-profit'. Behind any large project which receives a lot of money, there are always people who will find ways to profit from it. They will extract as much money from these projects as the government will allow... And it turns out the government will allow a lot.


Sounds like you've never worked for a non-profit. Or at least not for a good non-profit.

I have. Your blanket statement, like so many generalizations in life, is wrong.


Real estate?


Cynical me sees a company that laid off 25% of their workforce knowing full well they had another 3 years of funding in the bag. There is no way those lay-offs could not have waited until after the Google deal was inked (which was extremely likely to happen). But of course it is a lot harder to fire people after stuffing your piggy bank at that level. People might ask some pointed questions.


What makes you assume that the google deal will fund the previous burn rate for another 3 years?


A rough back of the envelope calculation. I could be off by a bit but regardless, you don't fire people in a situation like this. It is indecent. 400 to 450 million per year is what the article mentions. 400 million divided by the former 1000 employees leaves 400K / employee on average. That should be plenty.


The worker/company relationship is always transactional: As long as companies feel a worker generates (a certain proportion) more in value than their salary they will be retained. A workers value generation depends on both the effectiveness of that worker and the overall financial situation of the company (Eg total revenues).

They thought that they didn’t have that ratio right which is why any company makes layoffs. You might personally think that companies have some sort of moral obligation to retain as many of their staff as possible, but the law and economics don’t share those views out of the box.


It's not the law, it's not economics, it's ethics. I know that's a hard concept for some.


Well ethics isn’t always a straightforward argument - you could argue that restructures strengthen the long term viability of a business, which can sometimes retain more jobs in the long term.

Additionally for not-for-profits the redirection of funds directly towards their ‘mission’ can again be argued as an ethical thing to do (eg for charities more money can go directly to whatever cause they are supporting) so ethics is never really a black/white thing.


Fair enough, but from the point of view of those just laid off it is probably a pretty clear cut case.


Where do you think the article got that number?

Hint:

They just made it up.


"However, our source told us Moz will likely pocket $400m to $450m a year between now and 2023 from the arrangement, citing internal discussions held earlier this year."

It is possible they made it up but that's entirely in line with the past deals they made. If this was a factor in the lay-offs then it should have been mentioned. No evidence from you, article claims a source told them this, for now I'll go with the article until other evidence pops up, after all it looks like they were spot on with regards to the timing of the deal.

Unless you are willing to tell us how much the deal is assuming you are privy to that info, then we'll use that figure instead.


Are people actually expecting revenue in 2020 to be the same as previous years? That seems naive.

Also: Why exactly do you believe this reporter who reported the previous day that the deal had fallen through?


Reporters report, they don't make shit up. They may occasionally get the details wrong but in general they have a source of some sort that will give them info which they then pass on if it is deemed credible. If the deal wasn't inked and rumored not to be passed then that was newsworthy because everybody expected it to go through. It is very well possible that the reporter was wrong-footed on purpose. Anyway, without any proof to the contrary I'll take his word over yours so unless you want to substantiate with a figure rather than vague suggestions then I suggest we let that stand. Good negotiations on FF behalf and Google's anti-trust woes in Europe could very well get a deal inked at the same level as before.

Finally, and this is reaching, it would be terrible if it ever came out that the reason the Google deal went through is because Mozilla let go of 25% of their employees, specifically the Servo team. Of course that's total speculation on my part but the optics here aren't good at all.

Oh, and thank you for all the hard work on my daily driver.


I hate to break it to you, but reporters lie all the time, and so do sources. Have you ever seen the Weekly World News?

I don't really have much to say about your speculation. You'll probably just have to wait until the next annual report.

The search engine deals are based on the amount of searches made by firefox users.

Many, many firefox users use firefox on a school or work computer.


Ok, so no info then. Sorry, but if you want to discredit that reporter you will have to do better than just a general statement about reporters 'lying all the time', that sounds just a bit too much like a certain politician. I've been on the receiving end of interviews and have had my words misunderstood and occasionally twisted in a way that did not align with my intended meaning but I've yet to meet a reporter who would make something up.

The 'Weekly World News' was fiction, I hold the register to a slightly higher standard.


Like I said, you'll just have to wait for the next financial report. It's odd you ignored the rest of my comment.


Now, this makes the reason for layoffs and the blame on COVID-19 much more suspicious. I thought Google had really shrunk the search engine deal, due to Ad revenue slow down[1] and may be the pandemic reason was indirectly true.

I just hope that the 're-structure' wasn't dictated by the Google itself.

[1]https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24141592


The new browser wars are weird. Google seems to be weaponizing its stack / fleet of products to make firefox less desireable. Firefox might not have much leverage when this deal comes up for renewal. Really hope they find a way to build some sustainable alternative business models during this timeline. I think thats more of a motivating factor in the recent layoffs + their incubator-ish strategy.


I really think Google simply keeps FF around just to help prevent anti-trust litigation. When viewed in that light, it's a bargain.


It also means that you can’t de-google while supporting Firefox since it’s pretty much their only source of income other than donations.


I don't give a damn, I degoogled anyway. As much as is technically possible without building Firefox myself anyway.


Set a different default search engine on Firefox.


This actually will hurt, because: "Firefox's revenue is subject to the overall trend of the search market and our product performance, versus a guaranteed payment." https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2020/08/firef...


You are missing the point it’s not that you physically can’t do that but you can’t do that while supporting (as indirectly financially) Firefox, it also ensures that Firefox doesn’t go out of their way to push people to de-google.


Mozilla Corp. need to recognize that running Google Docs better than Chrome is a battle they can't win. It will always be a catch-up game.

I believe that a viable strategy for them would be to instead focus on making Firefox better than Chrome on everything else but the Google Stack. If the Firefox experience is better on all other sites, Chrome will be gradually marginalized. It will be just a program that you keep open to do "work", similar to running MS-Office, while Firefox which will be considered the main web browser. This approach would keep the Google cash (from the default search engine deal) flowing.

But they should also work on alternative sources of income. A Firefox Account that syncs passwords (Lockwise), bookmarks (Sync) and provides file sharing capabilities (Firefox Send) is a service worth paying for. But they have to put some work on properly integrating all these features. And most importantly, they need to get rid from the lock-in mentality and support all the services tied to the Firefox Account on competing browsers by developing/porting the corresponding extensions.


>> I believe that a viable strategy for them would be to instead focus on making Firefox better than Chrome on everything else but the Google Stack. If the Firefox experience is better on all other sites, Chrome will be gradually marginalized.

Quite difficult when every developer I see is testing and verifying their product on chrome


Hi!

I use FF as my primary dev browser. The debugger lets it down and the JSON viewer in the network tab is annoying... but everything else is excellent. The CSS layout inspectors are particularly good.


On the JSON viewer being annoying: is the issue that it shows the information twice for all fields? That's what drives me crazy. I wonder how hard it would be for a newcomer to make a fix for this.


They just need a killer set of dev-tools.

What, of course, they've noticed and were working for already.


Good-quality dev tools seems to be one of the things they're abandoning in the recent layoffs: "In order to refocus the Firefox organization on core browser growth through differentiated user experiences, we are reducing investment in some areas such as developer tools, internal tooling, and platform feature development, and transitioning adjacent security/privacy products to our New Products and Operations team"


I always use Firefox personally during development, the dev tools are really great.

Our test suite uses Selenium with Chromium, which allows me to cover both browsers to some extent.


Firefox need to battle chrome and edge. Both come pre-installed in Android and Chromebook and Windows. Counting on Firefox to just be better to win against these two is naive at best.


"Firefox needs to battle Internet Explorer and Opera. Both come pre-installed in Windows and Macintosh and Blackberry. Counting on Firefox to just be better to win against these two is naive at best."

~ someone similar to randoramax circa 2003-2004.

Worth noting that Firefox has won this battle before, and paved the way for Chrome/WebKit/Edge while doing so.


As far as I can tell, Fifefox has never "won". The best they did was a strong second in ~2007-2010 with about 20-30% market share: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_web_browsers

Chrome and Safari are much stronger competitors than Internet Explorer was then, so its understandable why Firefox is struggling. Being locked out of iOS doesn't help either, though I'm not sure it would make much of a difference even if they weren't.


20/30% market share is a massive win for an ethically-led company in a market dominated by the richest companies in the world (literally).

They don’t need 51% and never will. What Mozilla needs is a solid 15/20% to buy a seat at the tables that matter (standards etc).

Btw, if iOS allowed any other browser, Safari’s numbers would go way down almost immediately. Way.


You downplay the fact that Firefox at the time had Google's backing to go after Microsoft. Opera was never a threat, it was the "token" choice for Microsoft to avoid further upsetting the antitrust agencies.

It's a whole different world today.


I don't think it is. Chrome these days feels like it's being maintained solely as a platform for running Google Docs. And Edge is based on Chromium, a good indication that Microsoft is not very interested in aggressively engaging in browser wars.

So I believe that Firefox has a good chance to gain ground. And Firefox is already doing great and feels much fresher, at least from Chrome. More importantly, we are a far-cry from the crippling incompatibilities of previous browser wars, which essentially required you to replicate the bugs of your opponents.

Also, a "win" for Firefox wouldn't necessarily be toppling Chrome from #1. E.g. a healthy market share percentage + being the top self-installed browser would be a win. Dominating the browser market may even hurt Mozilla Corp., as it could force an aggressive reaction from Google (reduced funding, or even buying them if they can get around anti-monopoly regulations).


I don't think google -wants- them to use the chromium stack. Currently they can point and say they have a competitor, if gecko dies then they can't.


To me, Mozilla seems to be weaponizing its stack / fleet of products to make Firefox less desirable. “It's OK, only 1% used that thing we broke.” Sure, but you did it a hundred times.


Also: "1% of people used that thing that we broke" is often a willful misinterpretation of metrics where the actual situation is more like "100% of people used that thing that we broke, 1% of the time."

The real interpretation is going to be somewhere in between, but the people choosing the direction the want the project to go are going to choose the interpretation that supports the decision that has already been made.

edit: The best way to kill a train network is to tear up all of the least utilized track. The vast majority of that track consists of the last few miles of travel, and although only 1% of people use a particular piece, 80% of trips use one of the pieces. If people are going to have to buy a car to get to the heavily utilized backbone, they're going to ask themselves why they're driving to a train rather than just driving to the destination. This leads to a decay of the backbone.


It's OK though, the 36% of users who are left really love it.


FWIW... I work at a (~50 person) engineering design and fabrication firm. Our cost for Sr. scientist level folks is about ~300k USD fully burdened.

At a big pharma company in the bay area... that number was more like ~400k USD for a principle engineer.

So for Moz: ~286k USD per employee in the bay area is cheap, IMO... and I imagine their is a big distribution in that number across employee level and job descriptions.


More than half of Mozilla staff are remote , there are very very few companies outside big tech that can support 1,000 strength office in Bay Area, and it would be inefficient to do so.

It is true that for some skills Bay Area is the best and perhaps only available talent pool, even in high tech company like Mozilla that kind of talent is maybe 10-20 % of their overall workforce , for the rest there is cheaper and equally good alternatives available


Mozilla has a gold-plated healthcare plan for its US team. No co-pay at all. They cover absolutely everything.


Do they have 1000 senior employees and no one who earns less? Because that’s what you need to make that the average.


Mozilla has a great many employees, engineers even, who are not in the bay area.


You assume that every employee at Moz is a principal engineer or senior scientist. This is not the case.


Much of Mozilla was remote, at least based on the locations of laid off people on the Mozilla Lifeboat page shared yesterday.


So was it really necessary to lay-off the servo and wasm and security teams?


Yes, they need the money to build stuff that will provide them with a steady stream of income from other sources, like online collaborative code editors, a VPN solution, a new diesel powered truck, a Firefox branded amusement park and an adult streaming service.

I love you Mozilla, but please stop. Find a way to make money on what you do best: Firefox.


How? Their three main competitors: Chrome, Edge (if that even counts, being Chromium based), and Safari are completely free AND installed by default on their respective operating system(s). "Not being installed by default" is already a very high hurdle for mainstream acceptance. If you tack on some sort of cost, I can't see that working well for adoption.

Personally, I think they're on the right track with the VPN service. VPN services are already something people are used to paying for, and one of the biggest issues with VPN services are trying to figure out who you can trust out of all the nameless shell companies out there. Mozilla is a trusted brand.


What I don't get about the VPN thing is, that they're just a reseller of mullvad VPN. So, even if I trust Mozilla, that isn't of any help, if I don't trust mullvad.

And if I do trust mullvad, why wouldn't I buy access from them directly? The only reason to get the Mozilla VPN is, to help them to a little commission for ideological reasons.


I don't think the VPN is targeted to people like you or me, who know about them already and know how to research and trust them. It's targeted towards a more "everyday" user, which might not think to go to Mullvad to buy it, or necessarily worry about the privacy implications (personally, I've heard good things about Mullvad and switched over after PIA sold), and just like the ease of integration through buying it with Firefox.


FWIW, I heard good things about mullvad, too. Can't claim, that they didn't pick a reputable provider.


Mozilla famously signs contracts with firms that secure extra privacy protections for their customers. It's what they did with CloudFlare and Comcast.

If I were to use CloudFlare's VPN service of Comcast's DNS, I'd use it through Mozilla because their contracts stipulate extra protections.


And with Google, too: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20807600

"Mozilla has a legal contract with Google that prevents them from using our Google Analytics data for mining or from sharing it with third parties, among other privacy-protecting provisions."


Interesting... so Mozilla is kind of acting like a certification and licensing service for other privacy services


That's one way to look at it. The way I see it is that these partnerships prove that companies don't need to collect and share private data to make a buck.


Mozilla, Google, Microsoft and Apple collectively decide which SSL certificate authorities are trusted. The world would be a much worse place if Mozilla were not part of that process. Which organization would you rather trust to vet the security of every TLS connection your browser makes.


>why wouldn't I buy access from them directly?

Because far more people are familiar with Mozilla than Mullvad. Knowing they're the same service is just insight that can save a few euro.


It's not like they're hiding the fact that they utilize mullvad. The price doesn't differ that much also. Currently, it's even cheaper through Mozilla: 4,99$ < 5,00€.

You're right that they have indeed more brand recognition. Basically, the value proposition is: Out of all the VPN providers, we already did the research for you, to pick one that's trustworthy.


Yes, if the product picks up they can build it in-house anytime they want .

They have only spent effort on a reseller partnership till now, so if it fails to pickup not much Engg effort has been wasted either


I have no idea, but I'm also not head of Mozilla. If they can't make money on Firefox in the future, why even bother to build and maintain it. Then they just become a VPN resell who for some unknown reason keeps building a browser. That doesn't make any sense business wise.

If the management of Mozilla can't find a way to profit from Firefox, other than leaching on the goodwill and branding, then I don't think they're sufficiently competent to full fill their roles.


That's an argument to give up on Firefox and let the community take over, if winning the browser war was the only reason to exist.

If instead the opposite strategy is chosen, the one where Firefox is kept relevant, Servo and WASM would instead be strategically important.

This middle road is a risky one, which can lead to nowhere.


I agree. Use your brand and use Apple-like privacy oriented marketing.

Start with a VPN. Other products could be: password manager; secure storage like Dropbox; and one day even email. Anything which dovetails with the browser and includes privacy issues.

Having a well known browser brand is a huge asset to build upon.


It's right that people are paying for VPNs, but I'm wondering why. Most connections use TLS now, including DNS over HTTP. MITM attacks should not be much of an issue.

What's the use case for regular consumers? Is it about getting around geoblocking or using P2P file sharing without consequences?


>What's the use case for regular consumers? Is it about getting around geoblocking or using P2P file sharing without consequences?

It also makes you harder to track. If your ISP doesn't use CGNAT (ie. you have a dedicated ip), then your IP identifies you on a household level. Combine this with webrtc leaks or device fingerprinting and you can reliably identified at a device level. Compare this to a VPN server, which probably puts you in a pool of a few hundred/thousand people. If you rotate servers, it puts you in a pool of tens or hundreds of thousands of people.


>Is it about getting around geoblocking or using P2P file sharing without consequences?

Yes


Also for privacy in general from the ISP you use. It's nice to decouple your traffic from what is happening in that traffic. Only facebook/amazon/etc need to know where I'm headed on their particular website.


SSL already does that for you.


Most of us prefer the isp not going which IPs are going through so they can't QoS the stuff we like to the lowest. Although I suppose they could they could do the same with any traffic they can't readily identify and just throttle anything that looks like a VPN.


But then it slows down my internet. Why pay for Gig E up/down just to have it throttled?


Here's a VPN idea for Mozilla: bundle your VPN with a PO box / mail forwarding service. Target it to all the FAANG developers who's trying to take advantage of the WFH situation by moving to a lower CoL area, but are hesitant due to their companies' aggressive geographic-based compensation adjustments and enforcement.

/s


Those FAANG developers have to use their employers laptops and VPN.


That's not a problem. For example, you could run the Mozilla VPN on your router, and your work VPN on your laptop.


I know would pay for Firefox if it helped keep them afloat. I doubt I'm alone. But, I also doubt there's enough of us to keep them afloat.


Actually, I would too, if that money is guaranteed to be used only for Firefox development. And only that. Not to pocket, not to an inept C-Suite, not to their political activism. Not to any experiments outside of the core browser.

But that's not even possible. You can only donate to the Mozilla Foundation, which uses the money for whatever they like.


there is always patreon, you could contribute to external developers who contribute to mainline , if they make enough money on patreon they could do it full time.


It won't because people that currently use firefox would definitely switch over to chrome/chrome-based browsers then.


> Find a way to make money on what you do best: Firefox.

They tried. Pocket and cliqz were attempts at that. Tell me if I'm wrong, but I feel like you weren't supportive of those efforts either.


How do you suggest they do that? As far as I can see, to make money from Firefox they need to either charge for the browser, start selling user data, or integrate 3rd party products. The first isn't commercially viable, the second fundamentally clashes with their principles and the third they have tried but gotten a lot of backlash and little success.


I mean, they currently make ~$450 million per year from Firefox due to their search deals (mainly Google but others in other countries). In the past I think they had Bing bidding for the deal as well. No reason for that to not continue if they maintain Firefox marketshare.


Exactly. While it's not ideal to be dependent on a competitor like that it has been a very robust stream on income: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mozilla_Corporation#Affiliatio... $300M+ for 8 years (and now 3 more years)


Had Mozilla invested 75% of it rather than spending 75% they would have probably had a guaranteed $100 million/year from their investments alone for the next century.


I have no idea how that would work.

Two ideas:

* Let us pay for Firefox development. I'm not sure how much that would bring in.

* Partnerships with news sites. You pay Mozilla, they keep 30% and use the rest to pay the news sites to not paywall Firefox.

Currently Firefox is basically funded by Google, how does that not clash with their principles? It's okay for take money from a company that directly profit from collection user data, just don't collect the data yourself?


Here we see Mozilla's dilemma: half the Internet calling for Mozilla to focus on Firefox, the other half calling for Mozilla to diversity away from Firefox (which is implicitly what people are calling for when they call for Mozilla to diversify revenue).


Well, they already make nearly all their money on Firefox, hundreds of millions of dollars a year worth.


You probably won't like what I'm saying: WASM and Rust are completely irrelevant for the vast majority of people. It's only HN and a couple other places where folks are obsessed with it. Far more important is having a browser that can decipher that laughable piece of shit we're calling the web, and have unleashed upon the world. It would be cool if we could focus on fixing it.


That makes no sense. People might not know about WASM or Rust, but people like fast browsers. Rust is what powers Servo, which in turn made performance of Firefox somewhat acceptable. Gutting both teams is extremely short-sighted.


I wasn't under the impression that Servo was completed or deployed fully in released Firefox. I believe only the CSS engine is?


And WebRender. And there were plans for more…


> You probably won't like what I'm saying: WASM and Rust are completely irrelevant for the vast majority of people

Gears and valves are completely irrelevant to the vast majority of car users.


Well a conspiracy theorist could assert that downsizing their development teams was part of the deal. :)


I'm not saying it was a good move, but they didn't let go all of the security people like that one tweet kinda implied.

https://twitter.com/arroway53c/status/1293867434374569985

https://twitter.com/jvehent/status/1293511397649854464


Were the layoffs a consideration for the new funding deal?


They clearly knew they were in the 11th hour for a big layoff before they would catch even more flack -after- the google deal because everyone would reading the news would also read the part about them still fire employee after a guaranteed 3 years of funding.


Sorry, what?


> As a non-profit open-source operation, Mozilla spends as much as it receives; its 2018 staffing bill was $286m

I'd sleep easier if Mozilla saved some cash for a rainy day. Is there really no way to maintain a browser with less than a quarter billion dollars a year?


In the comments of the article one person mentions that libre offices runs on a little less than a million a year.

I'd argue that Mozilla has a few more repos that need mending (i.e. Rust, Servo, MDN, ...) but if you pay an average of 100k$ salary and have like 10 techpeople per team plus some management/community management/project management you could do a rough estimate of <10 core teams * 15 people * 100k$/year + 5m$ for infrastructure/rent == 20m$>.

Even if you pay your CEO 2,5m$ afterwards, you'd still have loads of money left.

Not sure where all of it goes. And I'm a bit reluctant to just say "bad management" in terms of money allocation. Although I do hate this cut in workforce and feel like it's the worst management decision in tech in recent history.


> In the comments of the article one person mentions that libre offices runs on a little less than a million a year.

That's just the foundation budget.

It doesn't include all the salaries of people working on the project employed by commercial companies (Collabora etc.)


They have somewhere around 750 employees still after the layoffs; it's hard to understand your comment that that both says they should have 150 employees but reducing their teams is a bad decision.


single revenue stream gotta be the hallmark of bad magenement. Not just that, but tied to your direct competitor.


The Mars Pathfinder mission cost slightly less than that - so it costs more every year to develop/maintain/promote a web browser than it costs to go to another planet?


Comparisons across different environments are not always productive. Pathfinder has a well defined scope, a single platform to run on, no adversaries at runtime, full time hardware team to talk to, likely no interaction with third party software. It's pretty much the complete opposite of a browser.


If you start doing these sorts of comparisons between publicly-funded science and industry this isn't even in the same ballpark, or even league, of the most depressing comparisons you could make.


They could have bought Whatsapp and Instagram with their spend over the last few years.


Yeah, I was ready to donate out of a firm belief that multiple browsers and MDN are essential to the open web, but... what are they doing? That number is absolutely bonkers, and I don’t understand why they wouldn’t make a clear public statement about the future of Firefox given how much confusion there’s been.


Their financials are public and are a simple search away. They already have a 9 figure rainy day fund.


This week Google just brought this out, https://developers.googleblog.com/2020/08/introducing-chrome...

Now with Google and Microsoft collaborating even more with PWA friendly features, the cash for a rainy day might not be of much help.

Isn't ironic, that after loosing PNaCL vs asm.js battle, Google is actually the main driver on WebAssembly?


They had $500M in the bank. The whole "COVID affected our revenue" was a made up lie to save face. Every company has been using COVID as an excuse to do a lay off they've been meaning to do.

You can maintain a browser for that cash (or buy Instagram or Whatsapp). But you can't maintain a bunch of execs siphoning money into the pockets while the org runs like a headless chicken.


Apparently Mozilla has found a way, and is laying off a bunchy of people as a result


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