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Firefox Was Always Enough (ianbicking.org)
1000 points by adambyrtek 32 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 586 comments

Mozilla doesn't have a real sustainable business model right now.

FireFox OS could have provided such model, in fact, its successor kaios is doing very well and one can imagine that in the future, it will be the primary OS of half the mobile users on the planet. 'Feature phones' aren't dead. They provide a cheap alternative to touch phones, are usually more robust, and allowing them to run web apps instead of MIDP stuff is a giant opportunity for any web actor.

Ditching Rust as a core component of the future of Firefox is also a demonstration that Mozilla isn't a tech focused corp anymore. Rust is going to yield a lot of result when it comes to security, memory saftely and maintainability and firing Rust devs was terribly short sighted.

So yes Firefox was always enough. Leadership at Mozilla doesn't get it.

>Ditching Rust as a core component of the future of Firefox is also a demonstration that Mozilla isn't a tech focused corp anymore. Rust is going to yield a lot of result when it comes to security, memory saftely and maintainability and firing Rust devs was terribly short sighted.

Ugh, this is nonsense. Mozilla has not "ditched Rust as a core component of a tech focused corp". Mozilla has ditched the idea of developing entire components of Firefox in a silo for 5-8 years, and then spending 3 years trying to integrate that component back into the browser, the entire time trying to keep both components maintained and up-to-date with ridiculously fast changing web standards.

They want to continue using Rust, but it will be done more piecemeal and in-place, rather than trying to keep two entirely separate browser engines maintained and standards-compliant for the next 5+ years.

They did however ditch a lot of resources they were putting into Rust, and in particular making Rust a great language for making a secure browser.

Largely because Rust has grown massively and Mozilla isn’t even close to its biggest sponsor at this point.

Azure, AWS, Google Cloud are all major Rust sponsors at this point. It doesn’t make sense for Mozilla to remain a major sponsor for a product that almost certainly can and will exist, and likely flourish even more, as a more independent project.

At this point Mozilla’s ownership of Rust would likely only cost resources and serve to limit the growth and development of rust.

I can't understand how Mozilla failed to execute on Firefox OS.

From where I am at it was a massive opportunity for Mozilla and Web developers all round the world. They didn't have to take on Android and iOS directly, but may have gotten there eventually thru 'worse is better'.

Imagine a web developer learning just a few APIs and being being able to customize their web app for smart TVs

> Imagine a web developer learning just a few APIs and being being able to customize their web app for smart TVs

This was WebOS in 2009.

Windows Phone, WebOS, Meego and Ubuntu Phone all "failed" around the same time period as Firefox OS. I have a hard time laying blame solely on Mozilla there.

MeeGo was a bizarre affair. There was I think Maemo, Moblin, LImo, SLP, Bada, Leste, MeeGo, Mer, Tizen, Sailfish, Nemo... all forks, merges, reforks. They seemed to spend all their time and energy continually rebranding, forming and disbanding consortiums, creating new websites and logos. They never just got on with it.

> seemed to spend all their time and energy continually rebranding

So, what would have happened to Android, if Google didn't have the Maps / Play Store big stick?

Every device manufacturer wants to differentiate. None of them are good at it.

Except one time they did and it was wonderful - the N9. Then Elop came and canceled it, as ordered by the the Nokia board that hired him.

Well, wonderful... It was a huge mess. Maemo was gtk based until Nokia bought Qt. Guess there was some friction in the conversion. Maemo was deb based until Nokia management brought Intel into the boat for no technical reasons, then they switched to rpm. Well, the packaging is a relatively small detail, but many other parts of the distro saw similar switches from choice A to choice B for no real benefit. Friction after friction.

Elop was an incompetent leader, but he had not been involved in creating the mess. He went for a worse option, but that does not say that Meego would have ever succeeded.

Yes, I am stuck in the past myself, typing this on SailfishOS. But one has to see the realities.

The main problem with Meego etc was that they never released a damn phone. The N9 was both released and a very good phone. That was the "wonderful" part. I know that it was a bit of a mess technically behind the scenes. But it was also a mess that was possible to clean up.

What was the hard part that caused Android and iOS to win? Was it convincing manufacturers to ship with them? Or was it just the first mover advantage for iOS and the network effects of the Play Store with Android?

Some part of it was MS buying Nokia and killing Meego, just as the N9 won glowing praise and awards with it.


> The Nokia N9 was announced at Nokia's Connections event in Singapore, June 2011. The reception for the device has been very positive, citing the MeeGo v1.2 Harmattan UI, pseudo-buttonless design, polycarbonate unibody construction and its NFC capabilities. Still, many reviewers did not recommend to buy the N9 only because of Nokia's earlier decision to drop MeeGo for Windows Phone for future smartphones – often questioning this decision at the same time. Engadget's editor Vlad Savov said in June 2011 that "it's a terrific phone that's got me legitimately excited to use it, but its future is clouded by a parent that's investing its time and money into building up a whole other OS." In a later review, Engadget writes: "Love at first sight — this is possibly the most beautiful phone ever made," and "MeeGo 1.2 Harmattan is such a breath of fresh air it will leave you gasping — that is, until you remember that you're dealing with a dead man walking."

Yes. Mozilla couldn’t get the mobile operators to sell a phone pre-loaded with FirefoxOS. And no one is going to buy a phone and reimage it.

> I can't understand how Mozilla failed to execute on Firefox OS.

This is naive. They did execute, and failed. That’s different than not executing at all. You can’t break into this segment without cooperation from the mobile phone operators... even in India and Southeast Asia whom were the primary target markets (less disposable income than Americans)

I had a Firefox OS phone. There was nothing great about it. It was average (by intention in order to work on restricted devices). I never used it to make calls, I used it for development. And it only had a wifi connection because I did not buy service for it.

There was nothing really “disruptive” about it as I recall. $20 Android phones destroyed any hope after the mobile operators turned a blind eye.

p.s. I still have the phone.

> And no one is going to buy a phone and reimage it.

People do this all the time. I did it with my first android phone, a Nexus S, despite having bought the phone with no intention of doing so. The Chinese crapware it came loaded with didn't really leave any alternative.

So I guess the question is what made KaiOS able to succeed instead of fail if we're saying the problems FirefoxOS faced weren't execution? Was it simply different timing and now more operators are willing to partner?

The GP is mostly wrong. What killed FxOS in the market is the lack of official support for one extremely popular messaging application starting by W.

Then Mozilla's leadership didn't have the patience to wait for the right opportunity.

This doesn't really answer the question any it just adds more speculation in between again. But to rewrite the question with the new speculation - what made KaiOS able to succeed in starting without WhatsApp support and eventually getting it (last year) instead of failing on both counts like FirefoxOS did?

I.e. if you've got something to claim as the reason it can't also apply to KaiOS unless there was something KaiOS did right that Mozilla didn't.

KaiOS got enough users thanks to Jio Reliance in India. That convinced Whatsapp to build an app for it.

Lack of WhatsApp support did not kill FirefoxOS.

Commercially, it totally did. Without Whatsapp we could not sell enough devices, but without enough volume Whatsapp was not interested to build an official app. Chicken, meet egg!

If it was literally make-or-break for the entire platform, especially in the markets it was targeting, I’m surprised Mozilla never volunteered to subsidize or build a WhatsApp port.

Why do you assume didn't try anything?

We actually:

- have been friendly to 3rd party clients developers, like Loquim (https://loqui.im/). Once WA turned on e2e encryption, the situation for 3rd party clients changed from "difficult but fun" to "mostly impossible".

- wrote a JVM in JS to run the S40 version of WA (https://github.com/mozilla/pluotsorbet).

- partnered with a company specialized in bringing android apps to other OSes (they had Windows Phone support for instance).

I wonder what markets WhatsApp is important to. In the UK quite a few people used it while briefly lived there, but in the US, Thailand, Vietnam, et.al. I didn't see anyone using or ever talking about it.

In the Netherlands WhatsApp is so ubiquitous that it always surprises me to hear other countries are not 100% WA. (Besides China, for obvious reasons it doesn't surprise me China has their own app.)

The only people I know who don't use WhatsApp are very privacy focused and therefor use Signal.

Adding on to the other comments, I understand it is the default messaging app in Australia / New Zealand.

More roughly, my understanding of the messaging space was:

- USA: Facebook Messenger

- Japan, Taiwan: LINE

- China: WeChat

- Everywhere Else in the World: WhatsApp

And the comments here seem to basically bear that out.

I'm seeing a lot of push towards Discord in the USA as well; it's a bit awkward in that kind of usage, but when basically everyone is already using Discord on PC it's not hard to convince people to use the phone app.

Thailand is very much LINE and a close second is Messenger

I find it curious a lot of friends are getting back to Skype, for personal use, across continents, and not CorporateSkype/OC. Is this a huge selection bias thing? Don't know. Several have also recently deleted GMail.

it's huge in india. a phone that did not support it would definitely be a non-starter.

These answers have been insightful. Not sure why asking got me downvotes.

It is _the_ chat app in Brazil. Brazil is pretty big

India. I'm pretty sure they mean India.

European countries.

Firefox OS predates the 'F' acquisition of 'W' by about a year, right? Did that have anything to do with it, in your opinion?

No I don't think this is related in any way.

Apps. Google refused to build apps for Windows Phone. Microsoft even went as far as building a YouTube app for Windows Phone themselves (a very good one at the time) but Google quickly forced them to remove it.

> Windows Phone, WebOS, Meego and Ubuntu Phone all "failed" around the same time period as Firefox OS. I have a hard time laying blame solely on Mozilla there.

I've seen a number of comments on Windows Phone since then (on HN), and one and all they emphasize how much better and nicer Windows Phone was -- from a consumer perspective -- than any other phone.

What was the failure? This isn't a retrospective that makes any sense.

I feel the same way about webOS: it was better and nicer than Android or iOS, and we had to wait half of a decade before Android and iOS adopted some of the features it shipped with in 2009.

As of 2019, however, 52.4% of the mobile OS market belongs to iOS, and 47% to Android[1]. Neither of our favorite mobile phone OSes have succeeded in comparison.

[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/266572/market-share-held...

> As of 2019, however, 52.4% of the mobile OS market belongs to iOS, and 47% to Android.

This doesn't pass the sniff test, unless you're doing something weird like measuring the mobile OS market in dollars spent on phones.

> Neither of our favorite mobile phone OSes have succeeded in comparison.

To be clear, I have no experience of Windows Phone. I'm just bemused that 100% of comments about what it was like are so glowing. For some other product, you'd expect to see some comments saying "this was the greatest product ever to be commercially available" and some others saying "no, I had one of those, and it sucked". That doesn't seem to happen for Windows Phone.

The source is for the US, where it's at least plausible.

Google forced Microsoft to remove Youtube and other apps. Also Microsoft kept 're-inventing' the phone OS multiple times requiring app authors to keep rewriting the app to new API's.

A lot of patent fees paid to Apple and Google for every phone sold.

Windows Phone was really good and it had millions of fans. It would probably do well in today's duopoly market if relaunched but MS has lost interest in phones presently.

WebOS wasn’t tried in any meaningful sense. It was abandoned within less than a single product lifecycle by the various companies under which it operated.

Windows Phone was an epic disaster in how badly it was rolled out. It was Ballmer at his worst. MS kept oscillating between whether they wanted Windows Phone to be an iPhone competitor or an Android competitor. They picked the worst of all worlds, by choosing to focus on distributing through 3rd party vendors, but refusing to allow them to make any changes to the interface, therefore basically eliminating any major vendors from adopting and promoting Windows Phone. It’s still amazing that MS was unable to unseat Android at a time OEMs were desperate for an Android alternative thanks to the uncertainty around the Oracle lawsuits (and were already paying more to MS than Google for Android! thanks to MS’s OS related patent portfolio).

Ubuntu Phone never made any sense, targeting the most expensive niche of the market as it did.

>What was the failure? This isn't a retrospective that makes any sense.

Windows Phone had great, snappy, intuitive UI (which was really surprising coming from Microsoft). However it had no apps. If you look at the top 10 iPhone apps in the app store, only Facebook and Netflix were officially supported on the platform. I recall there being (great) 3rd party apps for apps like Instagram, but there was a dearth of anything else.

Windows Phones biggest problem was a lack of major OEM support.

They needed Samsung and HTC to have adopted them at the time.

> What was the failure? This isn't a retrospective that makes any sense.

People didn't buy it. Simple as that.

Doesn't matter how much better people think the consumer experience is if nobody's buying it.

Except that, again, that makes for a completely nonsensical theory of what happened. You can't just say "it was vastly superior to everything else, so it failed because no one would buy it". You need to explain why no one would buy it, because the only data in your model says that people should be buying it in droves.

> You need to explain why no one would buy it

I don’t need to do anything!

The only thing that matters is people didn’t buy it. It wasn’t a success.

> What was the failure? This isn't a retrospective that makes any sense.

No YouTube, no Snapchat etc.

With YouTube Google used their position to keep it that way.

It also wouldn't surprise me if someone told certain app developers that "that's a nice app you have there, it would be shame if there was a bug in the Play store that made it hard ro find".

When it comes to App Store I have heard it is pretty well established that you won't get featured, no matter how great your app is if it is available on other platforms.

> No YouTube, no Snapchat etc.

> With YouTube Google used their position to keep it that way.

YouTube is available to anyone with a web browser, such as people using a smartphone.

Yes, but YouTube on mobile (in Firefox at least) is crippled in comparison to the mobile app or the desktop site, probably intentionally.

FWIW webOS is still alive and well.



LG also has it running on smart TVs. I had the Pre over a decade ago, and having webOS in my pocket was great.

Hey, thanks for this link. I was a huge fan of webOS since the days of the Palm Pre. I noticed that this runs on the Raspberry Pi 4. Do you know what the use case for this is? Store displays?

The lg smart TVs use webOS as their OS. So I guess everything you do with the TV uses it

Also see Enact, the Enyo framework's sucessor.


Bill Gates explained why everybody but Google and Apple failed at mobile OSes:

> “In the software world, particularly for platforms, these are winner-take-all markets. So the greatest mistake ever is whatever mismanagement I engaged in that caused Microsoft not to be what Android is. That is, Android is the standard non-Apple phone platform. That was a natural thing for Microsoft to win. It really is winner take all. If you’re there with half as many apps or 90 percent as many apps, you’re on your way to complete doom. There’s room for exactly one non-Apple operating system."


Looking at wikipedia KaiOS seems to be the second mobile OS in India now, ahead of the iPhone. I don’t think those rules apply to a system which relies of web technologies, because you have such an enormous base of developers and development infrastructure.

KaiOS is a joke though... More akin to your desk calculator than a phone that we have become accustomed to. They sell because they are cheap, not on any other merit.

Being cheap is the greatest merit of any consumer tech.

you'll never convince apple of that.

Was he implying that a duopoly in the mobile space was a foregone conclusion?

> I can't understand how Mozilla failed to execute on Firefox OS.

Because this product could only be sold to a hardware maker. It doesn't matter how good it was/is, because hardware makers are smart enough now not to rely on a 3rd party supplier of an OS, in fact they've been working hard on degoogling Android as much as possible.

Another failed alternative that comes to mind is WebOS, and yes indeed, it got acquired by LG for the reasons above.

Well you know what's really tragic: FFOS is a pretty big success. It was forked and became KaiOS, which has decent market-share in India.

It didn't need to be KaiOS. The OS on jio phones is severely crippled and it could be any OS with a webview. I don't count it as success of FFOS, at least on technical merits.

Remember launching a phone just isn’t FirefoxOS: you need a device to load it on, a carrier willing to support it (this is the biggest hurdle by far), and to negotiate the baseband blob that you have absolutely no reason idea what it does and has DMA.

I have personally gone through carrier negotiations and they’re the reason why Android phones come with bloat ware and people go to such lengths to build and distribute minimalistic Android systems.

When the pandemic is over and the world opens again go visit Mobile World Congress. Bring a tissue because the industry might make you cry.

They just needed a bit of persistence. In a 5K run, they sprinted for 2K and then gave up and threw away the baton. Other companies picked what they ditched and profit now. Deeply irritating.

> I can't understand how Mozilla failed to execute on Firefox OS.

Wasn't it initially too slow and bloated for the hardware they released it on?

I didn't pay much attention to the project at the time, but:

Might it have something to do with the word "OS" in the title? It's never worked except for Apple, but because Apple is selling a whole product, not an OS, it doesn't seem to hit in the same way.

Marketing something as "____ OS" appears to more or less guarantee a marketing failure.

A lot of smart TV apps are already HTML and JavaScript webviews. You can create a webview app on Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, a ton of proprietary devices like cars or TVs. What benefit would Firefox OS bring here, besides creating another kludgy abstraction layer over the vendor hardware?

For some reason, yesterday's HN post "I can't keep up with React" came to mind :)

Out of curiosity, which post is that? I cannot find it.

The techAltar youtube channel might have some useful content on the subject.

The short answer, they were too late.

> Mozilla doesn't have a real sustainable business model right now.

This is the meat of my problem with Firefox as it stands. I've not stopped using Firefox since the mid 2000's but come on, you need something more than just checks from Google. Charge me for a commercial version of FireFox that includes a VPN subscription and funds its development. Just do it ten years ago.

Honestly, if they're not going to embrace Rust and Servo becomes completely usable I may just jump ship eventually. My hope for Servo is that it becomes 100% Rust as much as sustainably possible (I understand for codecs and some things recreating them in Rust might be overkill when there's standardized libraries just use them), even the JS engine.

This most common thing I write on HN is that I can’t believe I can’t pay to use Firefox.

“How will we ever earn money here at Mozilla? All we have is this world class web browser that provides massive value to millions of people, but we refuse to directly monetize. Oh whatever will we do?”

also completely baffled by this. i'd have happily paid $100/yr if it went directly to firefox dev, not their other marketing shenanigns.

they fired so much talent to focus on junk to drive revenue, that it's not something i can do anymore. very sad.

It's weird that when I tell my kids that when they want to help, but they won't help in the way that someone needs help, that they aren't actually helping, they understand it.

Mozilla has buckets of money, between the Corporation and the Foundation. They are separate, for good-ish reasons? But they are separate. If they start allowing customers or businesses to pay for Firefox, then they will have to provide an entirely different level of support. They will need a billing and support team that is beholden to those paying customers.

It will shift the focus that Firefox has on attracting and retaining users to attracting and retaining paying users.

It will mean they need to meet various warranty and regulatory requirements around the world, and potentially introduce new business risks and liabilities related to those requirements (e.g. non-compliance with specific regional legislation).

What you are asking for is to pay Mozilla for Firefox, and to get there you need a radical shift in the organization that supports and ships Firefox.

Or, you could do what the rest of folks who want to support Firefox do, and make a donation in the way that Mozilla is signalling is the best way to support Mozilla's mission and Firefox development.

If that isn't good enough for you, track down an OSS contributor to Firefox, and give them money. Direct action for the win!

> support Mozilla's mission and Firefox development.

That's the rub here. Mozilla's mission is a much larger scope than just Firefox. Some people want to support Firefox, but don't want to donate to Mozilla's mission. One such reason is because it's important to have more than one browser implementation. There's no way to support that without Mozilla allocating some portion of your donation to some unrelated part of their mission.

Ok but now you're asking for something weirder and more restrictive than "paying for firefox", right? If I buy a laptop from Lenovo I don't get to say oh I don't want to pay for tablet development, I just want all of this money to go to your laptop division.

I basically agree with you, but there is a difference too. When you buy a laptop you're not strictly dictating how the money is used, but you are signalling pretty clearly which product you actually wanted. Can you do that when you give a donation to the Mozilla Foundation?

(Maybe you can? I haven't donated to them...)

> If I buy a laptop from Lenovo I don't get to say oh I don't want to pay for tablet development, I just want all of this money to go to your laptop division.

9HZZRfNlpR is right. Not only do you get to say this, you have no other choice but to say this. Buying a laptop sends the strongest possible message that you're giving your money to the laptop division, and not to the tablet division. If you wanted to support the tablet division, you would have bought a tablet. And Lenovo will keep very careful track of this. They may choose to cross-subsidize, but your message will be received loud and clear.

But you do, you signal it with your money that you want tablet or laptop, it's very easy. FF is open source but you have to donate to some bizarre American social issues that you have no interest in or don't want to participate.

I feel like they would lose a lot of funding if they branch out Firefox's Non-Profit into its own thing because most people care more about Firefox than the kinds of things the EFF is already doing.

You can have a separate version of Firefox that is commercial and complies, and still have open source Firefox. Chromium is open source, but Google Chrome is proprietary.

People, at least here, want mainly to donate money directly FF development not their political junk. And it's not currently possible.

Charging money for the browser will quickly push them down to single-digit marketshare, and will make "works on Chrome, ship it" the only correct way to develop for the web.

If you want to pay for using their browser, you could always donate to them.

the donations never went to firefox. it was dispersed to many of their other misguided and failed revenue gen efforts. they redirected a ton of servo engineers to focus on VR/Magic leap, ffs.

Both of those projects were part of MoCo, not MoFo, and so your donations would not have gone to them either.

Yes. The money should gone towards dev, but also testing.

According to the author, the problem contributing to this misprioritization was that “Firefox exists just to give Mozilla a seat at the table when the web is defined,” such that they didn’t care if it was the best. I doubt that’s true. Few want second, third, or fourth place. So let’s assume they wanted it to be the best. Where did it go wrong?

As much as Rust is great and FF was a great project to try it out on, I’m not convinced that FF needed a full rewrite, and in my experience there were significant problems with performance as Rust wasn’t fully there and the developers didn’t test adequately on all platforms, which they should’ve pushed more for if the funds were there.

> they redirected a ton of servo engineers to focus on VR/Magic leap, ffs.

That was the straw that broke the camel's back for me.

The day I found out about that I stopped using Firefox and switched to qutebrowser.

Not with a freemium model, which is what would make the most sense for Mozilla, IMHO.

I might pay for Firefox now, but I wouldn't pay for Firefox 5 years ago, when I started using it. As a consumer, it's really hard to start paying for something that used to be free.

As a world-class browser, Opera did that route. Opera died. I believe that might be in thinking but far from an insider in either, simply a happy Firefox user since 0.7 and Netscape before that.

>Honestly, if they're not going to embrace Rust and Servo becomes completely usable I may just jump ship eventually. My hope for Servo is that it becomes 100% Rust as much as sustainably possible (I understand for codecs and some things recreating them in Rust might be overkill when there's standardized libraries just use them), even the JS engine.

Have you ever compiled and run servo? I have. It's really cool but nowhere remotely close to being ready for a full production browser.

Mozilla are embracing Rust, they are just no longer interested in the idea of developing entire components of Firefox in a silo, maintaining both at once during the entire process, and then spending multiple years trying to integrate it back into the browser.

Back when the Servo team was let go, what they basically said is that moving forwards things will be done more piecemeal and in-place, rather than hundreds of thousands of LoC at a time.

But then the VPN product is the revenue driver, not the browser. You still aren't making money off the browser. The whole point of the article is decrying the lack of focus on browser in order to focus on other revenue streams. I don't think one other other revenue stream is the solution.

The money would go towards the browser, just like the person suggested. How is that a bad thing? Maybe some nice mods like VPN, excellent RSS feeds, power user addons, etc for a couple bucks a month (or $5? )

> Mozilla doesn't have a real sustainable business model right now.

I've said this many times and I'm going to repeat it again; I wish Mozilla would offer me a way to purchase a monthly subscription for Firefox.

I want to support the open Web and I want to support FireFox development (but not any n+1 random Mozilla products / experiments) and I hate that they don't offer this.

You can donate to the foundation. I'm not sure why that would turn out any different -- even if you paid a subscription for Firefox directly, what would prevent Mozilla from using that money for their other products?

The problem with optional subscriptions is that most people will never opt-in. If subscriptions are made mandatory, the general public will be driven to one of the other major browsers.

The difference is that the Foundation legally cannot spend their tax-free money paying the salaries of employees of a for-profit entity, to develop a product that pulls in significant revenue.

It's a matter of "can't", not "won't". Subscription revenue would go to Mozilla Corp directly and therefore has no restrictions, because it's taxed as income. It at least has the possibility of being spent on Firefox development even if it actually goes to Rust maintainence or whatever else.

However, money can go the other way. Paying a subscription might end up just sending at least some of the money to the Foundation, rather than Firefox (or even Rust) development.

I actually love this concept.

Though would Mozilla grant some type of premium version of Firefox or premium support for your subscription monies?

I think they own pocket, which you can pay for.

I don't think very many people actually like Pocket. I wish it would die. It makes Firefox look like it's no better than any commercial browser -- not even Chrome installs that kind of stuff in my toolbar by default!

Pocket is easy to dislike before you start using it -- it's just UI bloat, as you point out.

But the feedback from people who do use it is overwhelmingly positive. A lot of people love Pocket. It's enormously popular, despite the impression you would get if you exclusively went by HN comments.

Personally, I've just recently started to try using it. It hasn't really captured my enthusiasm yet, despite addressing one of my larger pain points with a browser. I still think I'd prefer management capabilities that felt more built into the standard (well, Tree-Style Tabs) tabs/history experience. But it's early days, I'll have to see how my Pocket experiment goes.

They're certainly good at surfacing appealing-looking content that isn't vapid when I try reading it. That's worth something.

I love pocket. What do you use instead of pocket?

kaios is "doing well" in the sense that it is on a lot of phones.

It's execution is not actually very good, if "doing well" means quality. I was actually avoiding getting a smartphone for a while, but the rise of kaios-powered phones, at least the ones in the US, drove me to smartphones. Contrary to the promise of firefoxOS/kaiOS, there was no kind of "app store" or other way to install custom apps, it just had the usual featurephone features. What there was, was a phone where every keypress had like 750ms-2000ms of latency until it had an effect on screen, making it almost unusable. It ruined feature phones, at least for now. I tried a couple. It's a pretty terrible product on every US phone using it I have seen; whatever led to it being on those phones, it was not quality.

It may be that KaiOS phones available in other countries (always the target market) are better, and an improvement from what came before. (But why are phones available in the US using it for such awfulness worse than what came before?) I would like to think if Mozilla had stayed involved, it would be better.

The business question of course is how the current (Chinese?) company behind KaiOS found enough runway to get it to market when Mozilla did not. Lowered standards/expectations might be part of it though. But it may not at all, I have no idea the story behind what happened. This thread has people giving their reasons for why FirefoxOS failed... but most of their reasons fail to explain why someone else could somehow take the open source IP behind Firefox OS and have a succesful company which succesfully got it onto phones. What was the difference?

Application programmers often dream of writing some different layer when we're frustrated because it's not working as is. Sometimes it ends well, like git. Most times it's a huge waste of time. I don't really think of Firefox OS a an operating systems, more like a layer to connect the web with the phone, so not so megalomaniac, actually it would have been a practical idea if hardware wasn't involved.

Out of all internet users out there, how many would choose Firefox just because it's written in rust? An insignificant fraction.

That said. I've been using Firefox as my main browser for years. I only use chrome when a website needs it or works better in it.

If you stipulate that 'Rust is going to yield a lot of result when it comes to security, memory safety and maintainability' (see parent comment), then a great many Internet users out there would choose Firefox if as a result of being written in Rust it's more secure, memory-safe (less crashing/bugs) and maintainable (more and better features).

Neither Firefox or Chrome right now crash for me, they're actually both very stable and have been for a while, and memory consumption and performance bottlenecks seem to have largely moved from the browser engines themselves to the rich web applications.

I'm not convinced changes to the browsers themselves at this point is anything other than a very marginal improvement.

Maybe in the Hacker News bubble but that's not "a great many Internet users". People either use what is pre-installed, what they are used to or what their techy friend recommended them.

That "what their techy friend recommended them" does a hell of a lot of work. It pretty much drove Firefox up to 30% market share once, remember.

A counter point to that is that the impact of the tech sector on recommendations like that is ever shrinking - tech is normalized; everyday stuff where people feel comfortable making their own choices (and where the number of people that haven't made those choices pretty solidly yet is ever shrinking). The market is more mature, in essence.

Yap. People ask the internet now maybe more than their techie friends, and the marketers are probably as likely to be the ones amswering.

I think it's why Firefox's market share is declining too. I don't recommend firefox for non-technical users anymore because of its relative complexity and incompatibility with the modern web when compared to Chrome.

I switched my wife to FF from chrome and completely uninstalle chrome. She hates the inconvenience of any minor glitches or peculiarities - I hear a lot about it when she doesn't like something. I almost forgot she was switched over b.c. I didn't hear a thing about it from her.

What complexity are you referring to? And do you actually encounter issues while browsing using Firefox?

I am curious as I don't relate to this and recommend Firefox to friends and family.

I've seen things that don't work quite right in Firefox. The Zoom webapp doesn't recognize some of my audio devices, but Chrome does. The Citrix gateway also fails to log in on Firefox sometimes.

I don't know whether those are bugs in Firefox or if Chrome is doing something funky that causes it to work but not Firefox.

Zoom is using experimental API in production. Just another on a list of their cowboy tricks.

I haven’t tried using Citrix for years. It used to work fine in Firefox, but given the quality of it I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve broken something.

> Zoom is using experimental API in production. Just another on a list of their cowboy tricks.

My uncle (who clicks on popup ads, and installed spyware twice a day until he got a non-admin account on a non-Windows OS last year) doesn't care about that. He doesn't know what an experimental API is. He wants to click the thing and have a video call open with his coworkers, kid's teacher, and family. There are alternatives. None of those people use them.

This is how open standards die: by convenience and cowboy tricks. Get with it.

If you do this you run the risk of having the rug pulled out from under you.

All those LOB applications that were designed for IE only have basically been left high and dry. Nobody wants to support or use IE anymore, and the applications that require it don’t look so good any more.

Firefox is already sufficiently secure and low-crash for my tastes. I guess it's possible that more features would benefit me, but I'm not convinced.

Changing languages is not a magic bullet. Browsers written in C++ can be just as safe and maintainable -- especially with the resources of large companies behind them, with tons of engineers and testers etc.

If you read GP carefully, they're not making the argument that users will choose Firefox because it's written in Rust, but rather that the improved security and performance brought about by Rust would be what attracts and retains users.

Are users very worried about browser security nowadays? It was a major concern a few years back, but I seldom hear that kind of complaint. I do hear about surveilance and privacy, but not so much about catastrophic failures.

Sometimes you just need the differentiator in your feature set. Then you let your marketing team go to work.

> Ditching Rust as a core component of the future of Firefox is also a demonstration that Mozilla isn't a tech focused corp anymore. Rust is going to yield a lot of result when it comes to security, memory saftely and maintainability and firing Rust devs was terribly short sighted.

Mozilla was tired of getting smoked by Chrome, which actually invested in browser development using what the tools they already had ("engineering"), as opposed to subsidizing PhDs on programming language theory.

Now it's too little too late. They've passed the point where they could catch up on technical grounds, so they make appeals to morality to market their software. Yes, I agree it was bad leadership.

Even if Firefox does well on feature phones like you suggest they should, how would that give Mozilla a source of revenue other than the money from Google's search deal?

I was using Firefox on both mobile and desktop for a significant period of time.

I was little infuriated when they added pocket.

Google meet does work well on chrome only. (Not firefox's fault completely)

I didn't like how they suddenly changed layout on Android and made many extensions unusable.

I didn't like Mozilla the corp / foundation's political alignments, a personal opinion and actually I don't even care about politics. But we Indians (much like South America I guess), have an aversion to SJW virtue-signalling politics because we have seen how it brings too-much right leaning parties into power. Why would a tech company get into politics at all unless it's about some virtue signalling execs pushing their agenda?

They fired some actually talented programmers but kept the C-suite, with their non-technical CEO being paid big amounts despite company being in losing game. While I personally don't like some aspects of rust community, the language itself is solid and could be a differentiating point for firefox.

As soon as I have seen their management take such decisions and their pushing of political agenda, I can't trust these people to maintain a browser well. No offense to engineers I was telling about Mozilla itself. So I somehow migrated to chrome. I miss UBO on mobile but bromite is good enough. Google is not much better

They may not lose much from a middle-class Indian dude switching to other browser. But think about it. Bringing politics and favoring useless C suite execs is a great way to lose future donors. A company should not do politics. They say they do politics for open web, that's not what I am talking about. FSF has done much better than Mozilla foundation in this regard. Mozilla just favoured execs and their agendas before technology, and lost the market.

>So yes Firefox was always enough. Leadership at Mozilla doesn't get it.

that is why founder started brave.

We've all been curious how Brave would have panned out as a Firefox for instead of Chromium

Is there any background on that decision? I'd use Brave at the drop of a hat if it didn't involve giving yet more market-share to Google-based browsers.

yeah and we see how poorly that turned out

> Ditching Rust ...

have i missed something?

No, you haven't, because it's not happening.

They laid off their Rust and Servo developers.

They did lay off their Servo developers, and a few of their Rust developers.

They did not lay of all of their Rust developers, or even most of them. WebRender and Stylo are now integral parts of Firefox, and are actively maintained by teams of people, and a lot of new code continues being written in Rust.

The Servo DOM and HTML engine is massively complex - far moreso than Stylo or WebRender - and nowhere near ready for production use. Mozilla decided that rewriting the remaining parts (read: vast majority) of Firefox slowly, in-place, would be a better path forwards than maintaining two massively complex browser engines in parallel and trying to swap it out completely.

Mozilla business model :

1. Ask that the DOJ strips Chrome from Google. You can't make the browser, search, and ad platform. Monopoly power. Google needs to exit Chrome right now.

2. Ask the DOJ to force vendors like Apple to allow other browser engines. They can't lock down all "code execution" on generic computers they sell.

3. Integrate Ad Blocking in Firefox.

4. Collect money from advertisers willing to make non-invasive ads that want to be seen.

Brave's business model, but with much more badass tech.

After revenue comes back, make a mail service.

What isn’t bad ass about Brave’s Basic Attention Token initiative? At least it theory users and content creators get better compensated for their work/attention?

It seems to me that Mozilla isn't just technologically pessimistic, but they also just lack vision for the future of the web and what roles the browser could play in it. Right now, the only reason we're talking about them is that Firefox is sitting atop a sizable share of a practically impenetrable market. Very successful companies are being started around much less of a product, but Mozilla seems to genuinely have no idea what else can be done with a browser in the future. If they knew, they would become a proper browser as a platform company.

Maybe it's me being too naive, but if you had asked me 10 years ago to predict where they would be, I would've said that in the future Firefox would come in different versions. The main one, the flagship, would remain the general purpose browser that we know. But there would be some special editions custom tailored to specific markets. You'd have "Enterprise" editions, that facilitate internal app development for organizations. If your organization needed to quickly build internal tools, you wouldn't need to tussle with WebPack and all the other front-end nonsense. The browser would come already equipped with a development toolkit and environment, ready to connect to your db of choice, etc. I imagined that they could come up with other special versions of Firefox already customized to facilitate integration with popular platforms like Salesforce, Amazon, and others for people who work or develop for those.

A proper browser as a platform with an ecosystem. I still think it's possible.

Can be done with a browser in the future? There's no shortcoming of vision, the problem is monetizing it. A browser in the future is going to let me copy and paste seamless between mobile and desktop. What, are you going to charge 1 cent per completed copy and paste? Am I going to pay a dollar to get nightly builds of Firefox onto my device? If I have an Apple device that's not even possible!

I know this may sound like a blasphemy and anachronism rolled into one, but why can we not return to purchasing a copy of software? All of a sudden, the incentives to deliver 'monetizable' product are gone, because you already got your money. Or that does not jibe with continuous rent seeking?

> why can we not return to purchasing a copy of software?

Because your competitors are free and users expect free and we have a culture stuck in a rut of "everything is free" because ads don't have them taking money out of their wallet.

Not every software is in a niche where they can flip the switch back into a premium model and have a good outcome. If Firefox did it, most of us would stop using it.

Maybe Firefox is at a point where that's a boat worth rocking, but it certainly isn't obvious nor without fatal risk.

But, as we lament every time this topic comes up, it's not even possible to donate to Firefox. I don't know whether that would bring in significant cash, but it's frustrating that the option isn't there.

It would be possible, but it would involve some major legal wrangling, and there's a good chance that it wouldn't pay for itself and/or would tie Mozilla's hands in problematic ways.

The best route still appears to be paying for whatever paid services Mozilla comes out with (VPN, Pocket, ...?) even if you don't use them. I don't know if a "pay what you like" option would be problematic?

(Regulators watch pretty closely when you have 100s of millions of dollars of annual income.)

> The best route still appears to be paying for whatever paid services Mozilla comes out with (VPN, Pocket, ...?)

Maybe. There still doesn't seem to be any guarantee that money raised this way would go toward Firefox development. With zero pricing signals it's very hard to express the "you have one job" frustration that many of us are feeling about Mozilla these days.

Besides, privacy and safety online should be available to all, regardless of financial status.

Huge businesses are built on the freemium model. Firefox would only gain from embracing the same.

Though they have been trying to do that, freemium meaning the core product is free and they try to make ancillary features compelling enough for you to pay for them.

Examples: Pocket and their new VPN service.

> Examples: Pocket

Wait, pocket is a Mozilla thing? When that first popped up in Firefox, I just assumed they partnered with some business and sold out a little chunk of my data.

Now that I'm reading up on it, I see that it's more complicated. Apparently, Mozilla Corp _bought_ Pocket, which used to be Read It Later. Which I had been using at some point before. Wow. Some better communication around all that from Mozilla's side, and I might have given Pocket a chance when they rolled it out.

Certainly there is a lot of rent seeking going on but I don't think all subscription models fall into that category.

I think subscriptions to software can do a lot to bring in line users needs with company needs. Especially around security of purchased software - if there are no profits to be made as the software is already sold why patch security issues or bug fixes, your only goal is to sell the next one.

Not with the browser -- those have to constantly evolve, both for the security fixes as well as for the new web features.

Plus, as the other commenter says, I am not going to recommend Firefox to my non-technical friends if it requires non-trivial amount of money.

The math of free vs paid has been long settled. If a product can get hundreds of millions of free users from "Western" countries, free trumps any paid model. Firefox still has 250 million users, so free still makes the most sense.

Also because many things that people want require a cloud and clouds are ongoing expenses not one time expenses.

Eh, computingwise, the things that people want used to "require" a floppy or CDROM drive. The Cloud isn't a natural law, it's a stepping stone to a future which may be more service based, or more, say, appliance-based. We don't know which.

Sure, people with business interests will try to push the idea of what constitutes a valid option in various directions, but as someone more thoughtful than me once said, "prediction is hard, especially if it's about the future," and as another thoughtful person said, "even The Future has a future."

Businesses that sold software as opposed to subscriptions also had ongoing expenses. Employees, office space, etc. That seems like a cop-out.

What you're thinking of is selling the browser as a product, but what about the browser as a platform? In the former the browser is considered the end product, in the latter it's only the starting point. You must create an ecosystem around it by making it easy for people and organizations to augment it beyond its simple browsing functions. When I say "augment it" a few of us may be tempted to point at HTML/CSS/JavaScript. That's pretty much Mozilla's position as well. Meanwhile others who get it come up with such things as Airtable and Retool. Is it hard to imagine versions of Firefox that cater to businesses and work like Visual Basic? Drag & drop buttons, scripting in Dart or TypeScript natively, can connect to various types of datasources. The possibilities are immense.

There clearly is value in using browser technology in business. If Mozilla was a browser company they would've pushed more aggressively to understand novel ways it can be leveraged in those environments (who are also generally willing to pay for such things). I can imagine business applications being developed in a marketplace and Mozilla at the center taking a cut somewhere.

Why do we have to deal with "tree-shaking" in 2020? That's because the browser makers have completely divorced themselves from the idea that they could be part of the app ecosystem. They just build a browser that abides by the standards and push it out the door with their foot. You guys out there figure it out.

Why don't they go with a membership or donation model like Wikipedia? Any kind of financial independence for them would be wonderful in my view.

I mean chrome already lets you copy and paste between devices https://www.popsci.com/story/diy/copy-paste-across-devices/ you just have to turn it on.

I think that a better "Enterprise" edition would be one that allows remote administrative control and centralized management, that's what large orgs would want out of something like that. That's why AD and Azure MDM are so popular because of the level of control they provide.

There more-or-less already is this, it's just not an entirely different release channel/product: https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/enterprise/

It’s like when Netscape Navigator became Netscape Communicator...

I mean, the whole thing was a disaster but at least we eventually ended up with Firefox out of the deal. Maybe the way out is the way through...

Edit: I enjoyed making this joke, but I think your ideas do have a lot of merit.

This sounds awesome. I've often thought the same - an enterprise version, even today with Chrome's ubiquity, could be a huge selling point for conservative organizations that want a signed support contract.

Even an Electron like package as well - but also sold with support contracts, and offered as FOSS to the community - would have lots of potential.

If I understand this correctly. Mozilla let the author go, and the author still went out of their way to write a comprehensive and clear minded article full of feedback and honest recommendations.

If I see one big problem with Mozilla, is that they chose to let go people like the author. Engineering & product culture only follows.

It's rare to find someone who worked for them that's dissatisfied with the experience. They employ nowhere near the amount of people that FAANG employs, but people that work there are usually really passionate about their work and receive good benefits in return.

Point being that the author is more of a rule than an exception.

Disclaimer: Was a Mozilla fellow a few years back.

Mozilla was both an amazing and a highly frustrating company to work for, when I was there from 2010 to 2015.

It was also a very different place when I started (before Fx4) from when I ended (just before FxOS was killed).

When I started it was a place full of passion, with a lot of technical vision going on (Fx4 was a major reboot and there were a number of side projects going on that showed promise), albeit not necessarily a lot of obvious strategic vision. I'm sure there was more behind the scenes with John Lilly, whose leadership I hired into, but I lost confidence after he left and suddenly it seemed like the message was "desktop is dying, mobile is everything."

Wasn't our mission success based on having enough market share to win a seat at the standards tables and win a place on the "supported browsers" test plan for major websites? Getting a significant part of the shrinking desktop market we'd already executed well on in the past and that competitors were idling on might be better than getting a little of the mobile market that companies with greater resources were bouncing off of left and right, no?

Intranets and SaaS apps are still a thing, and offices still use desktop, so there'd still be a core audience right? Maybe mobile browsers can be different and less standardized than desktop browsers and that's OK? Maybe it has to be? Maybe it even should be while mobile browsing incubates? Maybe browsers won't even be the primary way websites interact on mobile and they'll use client apps instead?

That was a confusing pivot for me at the time, and Mozilla's strategy was to both put all the momentum on mobile and to kneejerk to a rapid update model for the desktop browser, inspired by Chrome. Problem was that destroyed the desktop add-ons community because it turns out you can't do that when you have a monkeypatch/binary extension model with high coupling, and Jetpack/Add-Ons SDK wasn't mature enough or powerful enough yet to replicate most existing add-ons.

It also exhausted the users because the existing flow of having to explicitly approve updates on launch still remained, only now it was frequent enough to disrupt workflows--you never knew when launching a web page meant having to navigate the updates dialog first. Google had designed their browser ecosystem and usability around that update model, it wasn't something you could just graft on. By the time we figured it out Chrome had picked up a decent chunk of the community.

The company then more or less doubled in size, in no small part bringing in a bunch of people from mobile and related sectors that didn't have the FOSS culture in their backgrounds. That culminated in the development of FxOS, which I always felt like was treated as an unwelcome fork by the platform team. Maybe it was because of the need to support two fundamentally different forms of interaction, two different models of security, two different distribution and update models, two different lots of things in wrapping Gecko with an application vs. wrapping it with an OS. That also divided the company, since there were now two broadly different technical missions going on, albeit sharing code.

When considering the success of FxOS vs. KaiOS, it's worth thinking about the drag having two competing priorities in the same company causes, and how that might clarify when the 3rd party is doing the fork instead. Conflicts like "how do you release a fix for Fx the browser when it'd zero-day FxOS the phone and you can't get an update through the carrier for two months" may not be so much of a problem to figure out without that tension. I'm extremely impressed with what Fabrice and co. have able to pull off with KaiOS, and I bet lightening that load helped a lot.

When I left, after it was plain FxOS was not going to succeed at that time, in that environment, it was still a place full of passion--but it was now also a place equally full of frustration, and not with a lot of strong leadership going on and a sharply muted FOSS culture. Seemed like there were a lot of missteps and platitudes, but not a ton of optimism. I was very happy to see Servo come to fruition and Quantum be released, because I honestly expected Mozilla to go down in flames before they could get the desktop browser to a state where people who'd defected would install it again.

I'll always treasure my experience with Mozilla--and having worked at two FAANGs now since, I agree the level of talent was equal or greater at Mozilla. But I do have to admit I wish I'd shifted that five year period about 2-3 years earlier across the board. I came in right after the really good part, I think.

And I do have to wonder if that talent would remain as good without the strong FOSS culture that incentivized me to be there. I worry when I see people like Ian getting laid off too, because there's simply no way that can be about talent. If he doesn't still fit there, that implies a level of change with which I'd have been deeply uncomfortable.

> Google had designed their browser ecosystem and usability around that update model

I don’t know why more Windows software doesn’t use Google’s approach. A low priority scheduled updater is more user friendly than update on launch, and it doesn’t kill boot times like an update on reboot.

Ian Bicking left Mozilla something like a year ago, if I'm not mistaken. Already in March he was talking about it in terms of "what I would have wanted to do but didn't get to". This post appeared last month in the context of the big layoff round.

From the post: “...I myself was part of 25% of the workforce laid off in August 2020”


I actually follow him on feedly, he's had a blog since forever. I read this back in November, I didn't reread it all today, forgot that detail.

Recently switched back to Firefox after meandering between Edge and Chrome on multiple platforms (Linux, macOS and Windows) for work and non-work purposes.

Firefox Dev Tools are fucking awesome. Firefox sync works great. All the extensions I want are here. It's fast enough in ways that microbenchmarks don't mean anything to me...and it's free as in Liberty (last but not least).

I've been looking for a VPN, and even though I find the features rather anemic - I've used mullvad before and I trust the infrastructure that Mozilla VPN is built on and it's a way to give money to them. I will probably also switch over from Raindrop to Pocket for the same purpose.

Raindrop looks nice. I've been using xBrowserSync to sync bookmarks on all devices, regardless of browser). Features: Open source. Run your own server. Encrypts on the device. No accounts. No ads.

Raindrop is the best bookmark extension/app I've ever used.

Since the desktop app has a reader view, it's great both for organizing things for classical bookmarking, and for maintaining a "live" set of things you need have at hand, such as documentation. It's very good for "read it later" use cases, too.

Pocket is a very good offline reader for having a queue of web articles (and only that; it does not do handle things like PDFs well) to read later, but not good for anything else.

Is Raindrop active? I can only find archived / discontinued stuff.

Never seen any indication that it isn't.

I use it for a few years already and never had any problem.

i like it more than pockets.


Ah ok, so this is not Mozilla Raindrop. Thanks for the clarification.

where have you been my whole life? Raindrop looks amazing. Thank you!

It's curious that the 4 bullet points in the final section don't make any mention of open source (in fact, the article doesn't at all).

I think Opera Software circa 2012 was doing all of the things we would hope for/expect from Mozilla & Firefox, and doing them much better than Mozilla could. Bar one: it was not open source.

When I made the switch to Firefox in 2012, it was my belief that I would not have been forced to switch browser had Opera originally been open source. I strongly believed in open source at the time; I used Opera in spite of that. When they shut down the Presto project, I lamented the loss due to the inability of the community to fork.

I'm wondering if Firefox went away, would a fork be likely to survive in any impactful way; browsers are massive, complex & enormously expensive to maintain, whether you have rights to the source or not. Maybe open source isn't the panacea we thought in this particular context.

I'm still on Firefox as I'm loathe to support any browsers built on Blink & contribute further to a monoculture, but the Vivaldi project have finally started to achieve similar things to what Opera was doing 8 years ago. It's notable that it's linked in blue in the section of this article headed "A better browser".

> I'm wondering if Firefox went away, would a fork be likely to survive in any impactful way; browsers are massive, complex & enormously expensive to maintain, whether you have rights to the source or not. Maybe open source isn't the panacea we thought in this particular context.

Even now Firefox doesn't feel like an open-source project in the traditional sense; it feels like its culture is still Netscape. It's still very much owned by a corporation that does most of the development.

Konqueror shows that a proper open-source browser is or at least was possible. It always had an order of magnitude fewer developers than the competition, but was able to keep up by using better tools and frameworks and relentlessly keeping the code clean. Even today I wouldn't be surprised if it received more outside contributions than Firefox.

I did exactly the same. I switched to Firefox after Opera changed direction, with Opera 13. It's incredible how much Opera 12 was advanced and snappy. It was 2012...

I used Firefox since then. And I never had an issue with it. But, especially at the beginning, I really felt it was an inferior browser. But still better than chrome for sure. Just because I don't want google to know all my chronology.

Opera Mobile worked great on Symbian smartphones with very limited screen resolution and system resources, too. Much better than the built-in Web browser from Nokia itself.

Often, Opera Mobile was your only chance to get something done online on such a device. For example, purchase a ticket.

Not to mention the reduced data usage (literally ~10 000 times more expensive than today!)

Yeah, Opera 12 is probably better than today's Firefox...

I felt the same way in 2002, and although I like opensource the reason I dropped opera was because it came with built in ads. I switched to phoenix, then firebird, then firefox, and have not looked back. Except for a year or so where i primarily used konqueror, but that was only because I was using kde and it was built in.

The one cool feature i considered going back to opera for was built in torrent support, I really thought that would catch on.

The problem with Opera torrent support was ironically that it came at a time when torrent was big, and people who were "into" torrenting at that time didn't want it as a side-feature, they wanted something dedicated: either highly featurful or highly targeted, which are niches a side-feature of a multi-feature app like a browser doesn't really fill.

Funnily enough I used Firebird/Firefox before Opera: I had avoided it because of the ads. It wasn't until they removed ads that I gave it a try.

> (Ironically [the Firefox UI bits] were called “chrome” before Chrome even existed.)

Not ironic, intentional. Chrome was made by former Firefox engineers, and the name was a joke about exactly this. I remember struggling to come up with a better name for the app other than this code name and then they eventually launched it with it anyway.

It's not even a codename.

> The visible graphical interface features of an application are sometimes referred to as chrome or GUI


I meant that the internal code name of the Google browser project was "chrome", under the assumption it would change when it was time to release.

I followed that lead and read into your chrome notes, narrowing down between "first post" 2008 and "the end" 2012 - .. massive. Thanks for chrome on linux!

I'm a happy Firefox user. IMHO the thing that needs sorting out is the relation between Mozilla the company and Mozilla the Foundation.

I just browsed the website of the Mozilla Foundation and to my surprise learned that Firefox development is not one of its responsibilities. I was assuming that that was in fact its primary mission. It's not apparently. Maybe I'm wrong and it's just a vague website but it reads to me like they are spending their time doing activism and marketing and that they do not employ any developers.

The reason the foundation leading product development would make sense to me is that having no commercial conflicts of interests are kind of a per-requisite to do what most users (including me) value in Firefox, is to protect their privacy, commit to open standards (over any competitive advantages that proprietary/exclusive features could bring), be as secure as they can be, etc.

Except it seems that Firefox development is currently not structured like that and Firefox is instead an OSS product developed by a commercial for profit business competing with other companies backing a different OSS product (i.e. chromium) where users have some concerns about the conflicts of interests of the companies backing that (e.g. Google and MS) with respect to exactly the things I value in Firefox.

So, given that, what's the point of having the foundation and what's the point of Firefox as a commercial product (other than guilt tripping Google into keeping the money coming)? I don't mean pretty words and mission statements of a commercial entity. But what's the point for users picking one company over another? They are both companies that ultimately are run by their share holders; not by their users. A foundation is different: it serves its members and its mission without a goal to enrich shareholders.

The Foundation owns the Corporation. MoFo is tiny, probably tens of people. MoCo was huge with over a 1000, now I’d guess it’s about 700. MoCo exists to write Firefox and various other Mozilla products. MoFo exists to give out grants and to own MoCo.

It’s a weird setup sure, but it wasn’t originally like this. Originally there was just the nonprofit Mozilla, but IRS rules got in the way. If I remember correctly, the IRS requires a certain amount percentage of income for a nonprofit to come from donations, and Mozilla was below that threshold because they were making too much money from the Google search deal (which legally is selling a product). Mozilla split themselves this way to get around the tax laws.

If Mozilla was founded today, they’d probably incorporate as a B corp, but those didn’t exist back in the early aughts, so they have this strange setup instead. They could always reincorporate as a B Corp, but there’s no benefit to do so.

Mozilla's setup is bog-standard for non profits with associated revenue-generating operations.

People thinking this is a strange setup usually just don't have much experience with non-profits with revenue.

The Mozilla foundation owns the corporation, so it's not 'run by shareholders' in the normal sense. Any profit it makes stays in Mozilla. I think they set it up like this because some things are legally easier to do as a for-profit corporation than as a non-profit.

That is true, however routing funds (donations) from foundation to corp is hard, thus only very little $, ¥, €, ... of the money donated go to browser development, while the brand is tightly tied to it. Browser development is funded out of corp budget, which mostly is Google's money for being default search engine. Thus I can't even donate to browser development ...

The donated money is complete peanuts compared to the search engine revenue, anyways.

Now we could speculate how much money they could collect with some Wikipedia-Luke banners in the browser and with the purpose of developing Firefox ... true, less than what Google pays, but how much do they need if they focus on browser (and maybe mail) instead of side projects?

Wikipedia is one of the most-used websites on the planet and they raise ~$90 million a year. That's still only like ~20% of what Mozilla brings in, and I find it unlikely that Mozilla could ever raise that much without driving away users with the annoying ads. That's not a problem for wikipedia because there's hardly a replacement for wikipedia, but there's tons of replacement browsers.

Did not work with Opera. I doubt ad banners would work in any modern software.

I think Safari is going to have the market cornered on technology pessimism (aka privacy features) and browser performance per watt on macOS and iOS.

Google is rapidly locking down enterprise by building in tight integrations with Google Workspace/G-Suite (see: context aware authentication).

In 10 - 15 years the web should be better than it is today. The first step in their recovery is to convey what their vision of the web looks like in 2035 and commit to Firefox being the first browser to make it a reality by 2025.

Firefox is a great deal more privacy focused than Safari when you start factoring in containers. I also wouldn’t trust Apple to stick to their privacy mission long term. It’s a marketing strategy that they seemingly care about at the moment but it’s supplementary to their core demographics so who’s to say they stick with this vision long term? I’m less concerned about the same happening with Firefox.

> In 10 - 15 years the web should be better than it is today.

That doesn’t align with the trends we’ve seen:

- tracking getting ever more sophisticated (like using WebRTC to probe open ports)

- large scale data mining sites like Facebook ignoring government regulations and getting away with it

- bloat getting worse. So many sites don’t even render without JS enabled. The fact that people have to run things like PiHole and browser plugins to filter out some of that crap is telling. And how long is that going to last? Some sites are now proxying that crap behind their own domain and DoH will prevent users from running PiHole

- The web slowly converting on a single rendering engine: Blink. It’s starting to feel a bit like the IE 5 days with everyone targeting the same browser. Just last week I couldn’t log into a pretty low tech website because their UA filtering said I was on an unsupported browser and greyed out the login button (I was on Firefox).

The problem with Firefox containers is that it requires micromanaging your web browsing.

I'm sure it's nice for people who obsess about privacy, but it's not something that the general user population is going to adopt.

I think the right approach, ultimately, would be compartmentalize all web sites, but that's not feasible right now.

> The problem with Firefox containers is that it requires micromanaging your web browsing. I'm sure it's nice for people who obsess about privacy, but it's not something that the general user population is going to adopt.

Yeah I completely agree. There are extensions that make managing containers easier but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I still run into regular problems.

That said, the Facebook and Google extensions don’t require micromanaging. They only cover those two respective clouds but it’s still a really strong starting point.

> I think the right approach, ultimately, would be compartmentalize all web sites, but that's not feasible right now

It is possible with the Temporary Containers extension in Firefox. In fact this is exactly how I’ve been browsing the web for around a year now.

It’s really liberating.

Why couldn't you compartmentalize all web sites? Seems like something that could be easily done.

There are a bunch of challenges with regard to what you allow a container to access. Here's one issue: https://github.com/mozilla/multi-account-containers/issues/4....

That issue genuinely doesn’t come up often. I’ve ran into it once in a year of using FF containers and even then, that was because of a weird DIY SSO solution I’m running on my home LAN (certainly not something most folk are going to run into).

Don’t get me wrong, the issue was highly annoying but it’s definitely not a frequent bug bare.

There are existing extensions for managing some popular cloud platforms and that goes a long way in terms of convenience.

The bigger annoyance is sites that intentionally cross talk (like “deploy stacks” buttons where 3rd party sites can run Cloudformation scripts against your AWS console). But in those cases it’s an annoyance I’m willing to manage considering they’re blocked by Temporary Containers doing exactly what it’s intended to do.

Does Alexa still maintain their list of categorizations of the top N million websites?

Apple can try to swing around the privacy bat right now because they have alternate revenue streams.

It will be interesting how long their shareholders will buy the premise that "we can earn more by using privacy to convince people to buy our high-margin kit and run Safari than we would by casting off the privacy mantle and getting deep into the data-grab business."

The other side of the coin is that I really believe there's a bubble waiting to burst in that exact industry. The price of building and feeding hyper-targeted, data-bloated marketing machines is far out of scale with their utility for most use cases, but people are throwing silly money at it right now. (Compare the Smart TV/IoT device model, where they believe that peddling usage data is enough to justify an increased BoM AND frequently selling the product near or under cost). If they expect the bubble to burst (either through marketers coming to their senses or heavy-duty GDPR style regulation), they might be just "passively" pushing the privacy angle-- don't bother building out an infrastructure that will be worthless as soon as the bubble bursts, and you come out of it with a huge branding/goodwill win when everyone else reinvents their business model and invents privacy.

I was surprised Chromium!Edge ended up being such a mess with privacy because, somewhat like Apple, MS has associated businesses that let them subsidize its development without having to leverage user data. They could have come out looking good-- weren't they the only ones who tried to make a go of Do Not Track headers?

Privacy focused people is a fringe market at best.

There's a world in which Apple views Mozilla as a potential ally in the whole "privacy" fight, but unfortunately I suspect it isn't the real one.

>In 10 - 15 years the web should be better than it is today.

Is the web better now than it was in 2005-2010? I don't think it is and I don't see the trend arbitrarily reversing. Tons of regular people (and even tech-savvy folks who should know better) voluntarily use, love, and advocate for using a browser (and email service!) made by the modern equivalent of DoubleClick.

modern equivalent of DoubleClick

Nitpick: they are DoubleClick:

> DoubleClick was a company acquired by Google in 2007


Were you actually alive in 2005-2010 or are you just guessing? Flash-based unskippable intros on fixed 640x480 centered viewports are the reality of the 2005 web, regardless of whatever nostalgia you suffer from.

Flash was easy to avoid unless you needed certain sites for work or for school; I kept it disabled by deleting some files starting about 2006 or 2007. HTML5 on the other hand is impossible to avoid unless you want to restrict yourself to a few familiar sites. And web fonts are getting harder to avoid because more and more sites are using them to draw icons and other small UI elements. For people whose tastes are sufficiently like my own, the web has been getting worse.

I used lynx as my daily driver for most of the 1990s and through 2005. In contrast, these days it is impractical for the average person to use a browser that is not maintained by an organization employing many hundreds of full-time developers. This dependency on money (to pay the developers) limits a person's options.

I never wanted to be able to replace my desktop apps with apps that run on the web, so I don't consider web apps to be compensation for the constant stream of annoyances (e.g., the moral equivalent of pop-up windows asking me to give the site my email address) that HTML5, web fonts, et cetera, enabled.

We've replaced "waiting for unskippable Flash intros" with:

- a web that is thoroughly unusable without an ad-blocker (ad-blocking was pretty optional in 2005)

- waiting for 20 megs of minified JS to load over 3G

- waiting for Google web fonts to load because apparently shipping more than 4 fonts in common is beyond the ability of plucky upstarts like Microsoft, Apple, and Google

- web "apps" with worse performance characteristics than programs that ran on 66 MHz machines

You have to look at the web's good and not just it's bad. It's kind of tiring to read comments that act like nobody else is capable of enumerating the downsides of something.

Why own a dog? You spend money on it, it shits, it makes noise, you have to find a caretaker when you go on vacation, it bites, it needs walks, it needs to go to the vet, your next girlfriend might be allergic to it, and after all that, it dies.

Do people who own dogs not know these things? Or is it that they own one despite those things and there's a more interesting conversation to be had?

Comments like this make me wonder if you, yourself, are capable of seeing anything that's improved about the web which is a much more illuminating exercise to do than enumerating just bad things, something anyone can do.

You're replying several comments deep in a chain where we've already discussed this. Sometimes things do in fact get worse over time and "look on the bright side" is not a universally useful strategy.

In fact, I submit blind optimism is in fact more tiring, look at any comment thread about Tesla or Bitcoin. It's as if these two things are perfect and you had better buckle up if you dare criticize either one.

> - waiting for 20 megs of minified JS to load over 3G

I don't use Slack.

I didn't use pages with un-skippable Flash intros.

(ad-blocking was pretty optional in 2005)

It was still pretty sweet to run a transparent Squid proxy with an ads blacklist.

Just imagine how boring the web would have been without Flash - at that time. Or did you prefer crashing Java applets? Yes, you had the annoying unskippable intros, but some jaw dropping websites were made with Flash, something you barely see these days. I still remember sites like heavy.com, music bands and movies mini-sites, ...

Take a look at The Web Design Museum, Gallery of Flash Websites: https://www.webdesignmuseum.org/flash-websites/ . Beautiful visuals, terrible SEO.

I think you're right to push back on the association of Flash with just negativity.

Flash is an important quirk of internet history and a stepping stone that created expectations of what the web could one day be: a rich, open, cross-device application platform accessible by URL.

And that's what the web achieved with only a few exceptions.

Are there things that have gotten worse? Yes Are things way more complicated? Yes

But net overall? I believe it's better than 2005 and even 2010. Meaning, I would not want to revert back to 2010 and start building back up from there. There is too much good we would lose in the process.

I have no idea if my opinion is shared by the majority, but I am very optimistic about the future of the web.

I would not characterize people's choice of web browsers, or people's choice of which websites they want to interact with as "the web".

The characteristics of the web from 20+ years ago are still there. Many or most people just prefer not to use that type of web from 20+ years ago.

Everyone is still free to use whichever browser they want to access whichever website they want (in the US at least) in the same manner they did in the previous decades.

"Quantitative improvement" is table stakes that I worry have been abandoned with the jettisoning of the Servo team. "Technological pessimism" is a differentiating strategy, but ultimately dooms them to the small subset of users who understand and care about privacy at a deep level. "All encompassing" is a death march. All is infinite and Mozilla can't afford to implement everything hoping something turns out to be valuable (Google OTOH can bankrupt competition with this strategy). "A better browser" is where I think Mozilla should focus their attention. They were doing that with their lab experiments, but abandoned them before they could become valuable. Doing this approach well requires commitment to do enough of them that a vision coalesces and then more commitment to see it through. Mozilla used to be audacious enough to invent a new programming language in order to build a better browser. Now they seem to have turned their backs on that initiative and I'm left wondering if they have any guts left at all.

They didn't abandon the technological effort that went into Rust & Servo - they just decided to bring it into Firefox piece by piece under the name 'Quantum' rather than launching a brand new browser with a different name. Although there was a marketing push with Firefox 57 when the new code started to land.

They abandoned the parallel layout engine which was arguably the most important bottleneck that Servo was attempting to tackle.

> "Quantitative improvement" is table stakes that I worry have been abandoned with the jettisoning of the Servo team.

I can assure you that perf has not been abandoned.

> Remember what was really cool in Firefox? Tabs!

Ah how this resonates with me so much, I remember the difference of tabless IE and oh so magical Netscape / Firefox when those were new. I consider myself Mozilla fanboy to this days.

But alas, every time I try clean installation with default settings I cannot believe how … bad this became and how far it diverged from original experience: by now Firefox is browser with the WORST user experience regarding tabs usage, from my perspective.

Current defaults are: - Super slow Ctrl+Tab modal tab switcher, mimicking OS alt+tab app switching mechanic. But slow. And distracting. And not pretty. And considering tab bar, mostly redundant. - Ctrl+Tabbing order is, naturally, in most recently used order, so visual tab proximity means nothing. - Ctrl+Shift+Tab does mostly nothing [1]. No, it does not select the least recently used tab. No, it does not switch to tab to the left. When tabs don't fit the tabs bar width, Ctrl+Shift+Tab opens another (vertical) tabs list and lets you read titles and navigate with arrows. But usually you just instinctively press Ctrl+Tab to "undo" it, but now you stare on that Modal over the opened list and question your browser choice. From there Ctrl+Tab finally stops working predictably and whole experience breaks into horrible mess.

Don't get me wrong, Ctrl+PgUp/PgDown still operates well. You can still change some settings to get even Ctrl+Tab working the way original Firefox popularized. But still, this state of things makes me very sad. I'd really like to spread Firefox, but with such details that I cannot explain even to myself it is impossible.

[1] https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1576130

I've yet to be sold on tabs. I sometimes modify the user chrome to hide the tab bar - although it is problematic.

Currently, I have the hn comments in one window, and the article in another window, and hn front page in another window on a "smaller" 2K monitor. Customized for compact density, os tab bar moved to the right, menu bar off (the default) and still the 30 links on the hn front page don't fit on the page. Why can't the tab bar be hidden when there is only one tab? I don't need to see a tab with a truncated title that already appears in the title bar. I guess I am supposed to hide the title bar, and learn to love a Lotus Notes era "Tab" interface. In my opinion, tabs are not cool.

Have you tried vertical tabs like Tree Style Tab? https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/tree-style-ta...

The major issue I have with tabs is that there seems to be no way to tell Firefox to never ever, under any circumstance, create a new window for a profile. When switching tabs via mouse it is way too easy to accidently cause it to open a tab in a new window and I also occasionally accidently open a new window via the right click menu. Not once in at least 5 years (most likely longer) have I actually wanted more than one window for a profile.

I don't mind customizing things the way I want them, but it would be helpful if there was an easier way to share setting between profiles.

This is the Linux experience I find (running Ubuntu) and is also driving me crazy.

On my Windows7 installation Ctrl+Tab switches to the next tab and Ctrl+Shift+Tab switches to the previous tab. New tabs are open after the current tab.

This might be related to the window manager or the Linux build defaults?

It’s just a newer Firefox default that wasn’t applied to old installations, and you can turn it off right at the top of about:preferences (”Ctrl+Tab cycles through tabs in recently used order”). The first thing I turn off with every installation too.

> you can turn it off right at the top of about:preferences


Whoever though it's a good idea to make behaviour non-transparent to users -.-

Christ. I forgot about the default visual tab switcher. It's truly horrendous. That, and the "insert related tab after current" behaviour, are the first things I turn off. Horrible.

I've long wondered why Mozilla hasn't worked on a embeddable Gecko engine as an alternative to Electron. The Mozilla alternative could be promoted as a modular, cross-platform component but in a stripped-down, faster and less memory hungry form than Electron (assuming these features can be achieved).

The traction that Electron has gained as a cross-platform option for building apps is huge. It's only set to get bigger (whether for better or worse).

Imagine if Gecko was in this space competing with Electron. Imagine if thousands of developers place their trust in Mozilla because they have built their cross-platform apps using Gecko. They'd want to see Mozilla grow and succeed - they have a stake in seeing Gecko development continue. Is it too late (or too unrealistic) for this to happen?

A very long time ago, Mozilla did have the option to embed Gecko into apps. It was never well-documented and what remains of the documentation is out-of-date and untouched:


> I've long wondered why Mozilla hasn't worked on a embeddable Gecko engine as an alternative to Electron.

They have. Several times, in fact. There was the old embedding, then XULRunner, then Firefox apps (I'm not sure if that's the same as webapprt). But these efforts generally only lasts a couple of years before Mozilla decides it's the wrong approach and kills off the embedding.

Though it is embeddable on Android via GeckoView.

Although unfortunately at the same time increasing your app size by dozens of MBs just so you can use Gecko doesn't seem like an easy sell for mobile apps, especially when you have to compete with the Webview provided by the OS for free.

What I would like is to be able to use Firefox as a UI for my local projects. Now if I want to do it, I have to run a server and duplicate code.

The ability to create extensions for my personal use that can interact in local with my computer would be great.

I understand that a browser have to be sandboxed but there are ways that could work without being unsafe. Maybe even two separate downloads, one for people that want to use the browser UI capabilities but work in local.

This would not solve Mozilla problems, so it's a little tangent to the current discussion.

"This would not solve Mozilla problems"

I think it might lead to growth or "mind share" among app developers (and indirectly to end-users who use the apps built by devs).

The Chrome engine now powers the Edge and Brave browsers. Electron is used to built desktop apps by companies everyone recognises e.g. Microsoft, Slack, Figma. The appetite among companies and devs to build Electron apps shows no slowdown.

Mozilla is nowhere to been seen in ths important space. In my opinion, this is a missed opportunity.

Safari is definitely in the technological pessimism camp as that's Apple's party line on the open web.

Safari has continuously caused "headache" to businesses that rely on tracking user behavior for years now, as Apple is very bent on protecting your privacy from every other company outside or inside their walled garden.

They claim to be in the technological pessimism camp. I don't believe their poor support for progressive web apps is truly about privacy and security, but rather to force apps to go through their App Store so they get a cut of the revenue.

There are exceptions to that though. They did a lot of work to get Google Docs working well in Safari, even though Google has (bad) native apps.

These aren't mutually exclusive but rather well aligned goals.

I find it odd to ask whether any non-monetary goals are "truly" their goals. They are a listed company. Of course they want to make profit. But they do so in part by means of providing privacy and security.

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