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MDN Plus (developer.mozilla.org)
529 points by bpierre on May 27, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 213 comments

A few random thoughts here:

* some better tools for searching, tagging, tracking my history, etc to allow me to better use and self organize their docs on 'mdn plus' would be a useful service. it may also give them some more insight on how people are using it and what areas are of bigger utilization.

* tools to allow me to ask private questions in areas of their docs, with some prioritization for answers/responses.

* IDE plugins - I think there's one for IntelliJ Ultimate, but not specifically from MDN. Having more direct access to MDN info while inside my IDEs would be something probably worth paying for. I suspect they may get some useful data on when/where people are having trouble. I wouldn't even mind contributing some of my source code snippets back from within the IDE if it would help give more examples to MDN.

* a couple years back, a friend started a podcast experiment of just reading MDN docs for javascript. It was... a bit different, but trying out some other formats for their docs. perhaps a Q&A podcast where mdn folks answer some of the answers (taken from the paid-Q&A bullet point above). (but yeah, they fired a bunch of people last year, no?)

$2-$3/month, if there were/are nicer tools to help me track what I've seen, perhaps letting me add private annotations so when I come back I can jog my own memory... I would try that, at least for a while (I think I'd get use out of that). $10/month - for just some 'premium' content? Probably not. $50/year would, for me, probably be an upper bound (unless/until I see more potential benefits).

EDIT: had not seen 'down below' - they have 'Bookmark and annotate free and paid content for reference across devices.' as a feature - possibly along the lines of what I was thinking above. Signed up for waitlist.

Thanks for this, it is very insightful. We have considered part of them. Glad to hear you signed up to the waitlist:)

I wish they’d clarify if the money is used to support MDN or not. I wouldn’t be opposed to supporting MDN patreon style, and if it comes with “perks” like articles, sure, why not. But I would do this to support MDNs core documentation, not because I’m dying for technical deep dives.

That said $10/mo is a bit steep for me. And in any event, if they don’t make explicit that the money goes to support MDN upkeep and development then it’s a nonstarter. I’m not giving Mozilla money to fritter away on another rebrand or whatever else they want to use it for.

They do clarify that with the following sentence:

"We want to provide extra value through premium content and features to help make MDN self-sustaining, on a completely opt-in basis."

But then again, once they have the money, they are free to do what they want with it. Marketing is not binding. It all comes down to this: Do you trust Mozilla?

That’s too vague. That could mean some money goes to MDN (enough “to make it self-sustaining”) and the rest goes to other Mozilla stuff.

I would believe Mozilla if they said “100% of the funds will go to MDN” but they don’t say that.

On one of my devices it lists $5/month so they seem to be testing different amounts.

I’m fully alright with $5 - I saw $10 and immediately thought $5 would be reasonable. If any MDN folks are reading - $10 seems a bit too steep. Especially since this is in US $, it would seemingly put this service out of reach for a lot of people. Perhaps that’s not a concern to the foundation, but works against the principles of the open web in my mind.

We are indeed reading this feedback. And I get your point - thanks!

Yeah, I have little interest in any of the listed services. But, I'd be happy to contribute a couple dollars a month to a "pay what you like to support us" tier. Either way I'll probably sign up if it's priced reasonably (or tiered), but imo it's definitely worth marketing "support MDN" prominently for this.

Two issues I found:

1) I had no idea there was a waitlist til I read another comment here; I wasn't going to expand the article, and the signup CTA is gated behind doing that 2) the signup button seems to do nothing? I even tried opening it in Chrome (Firefox is my primary browser)

When you tried it, we've probably had it already closed. We have removed the sign-up to waitlist option yesterday evening.

Five bucks would be a no brainer amount for me. Ten would make me pause and consider if I really needed it.

That’s awesome - I’ll keep my eye on pricing. I’d be glad to support you.

Obviously it would be nice if everything everywhere was always free, but docs and opensource suffer a lot from lack of sustainability when based on voluntary donations. Companies simply have no incentives to pay for anything.

There are surely tens of thousands of companies worldwide, whose employees rely on MDN on a daily basis. There are poor startups among them, but many of those companies have pretty deep pockets. If just a small percentage of those employees ask their bosses for this $5/mo. sub, this can improve things considerably. For now everything is free, so no one has an incentive, or a way, to pay.

As developers, we are collectively guilty for never asking our employees for anything which costs $$$. Many of us (me including) assume that asking for a few bucks sub is almost a crime. Or we don't want to deal with stupid bureaucracy and an arcane process to set up the sub.

Personally I hope the experiment will work. Let's see in a few months.

I think the best model would be something like: subscribers get the premium content immediately, other people with a few weeks/months delay. This would keep a healthy balance and keep the incentives in place for people to pay.

> Or we don't want to deal with stupid bureaucracy and an arcane process to set up the sub.

More like this IMO. There tends to be a lot of process with this sort of thing, which makes me reluctant to bother. Especially if I'll have to do it over and over again.

Everyone's suggesting lower price levels, but I'd suggest they have a higher enterprise price level. I bet a lot of medium-large corporations would pay a few thousand a year for all of their employees to have access to this new top-tier MDN plus. Would probably have to support the usual rigamarole of corporate POs and billing and tools to administer accounts with large numbers of users.

Yep, site-wide corporate pricing is a good idea.

The $10/m right now seems on the high side.

Even the copy suggests you're better off not getting this, waiting at least a year for the content to be posted "every month," then subbing for a single month to read it all.

Maybe the Wikipedia/donation model would have been a better play for MDN then this, particularly as freemium was originally about micro-transactions, not $2 more than the cost of Netflix's Basic tier.

Now it falls into the uncanny valley of: Too "product" to be a donation, and not really enough of a product to be a real product.

It seems to be an A/B test, it's $5/m on my side. Which seems fair to me, although I agree about the product angle; I don't care at all about extra content or features, I'd rather just pay to keep MDN going and have everything available to everyone.

You're right, looks like an A/B test. You can see it here:


If you nuke the sessionid cookie and reload you'll either get "$5 a month or $50 a year" (variant 1) or "$10 a month or $100 a year" (variant 2).

Gross. Even Amazon got slapped down and stopped A/B testing prices.

Delete the cookies for developer.mozilla.org (*) and refresh the page, with a bit of luck, you'll be in the $5 per month/$50 per year group ;)

(*) Keep in mind that this might have unwanted side effects.

I'm surprised by this model being so consumer focused. I think if they offered some kind of enterprise plan where my team could share and highlight critical sections, configure our official support matrix and such, I'd be willing to pony up a few hundred a year from my budget.

This really looks more like something to get companies to just shell out for. "Oh, you all already use MDN every day for your documentation? Sure, we'll pay for MDN Plus and get a nice bulk discount."

I think they're targeting this at the kind of people who are almost happy to donate money to MDN just to see it continue.

The exclusive content just seems like a way of pushing would-be donors over the edge.

It's sort of similar to LWN. The articles are top notch but available for free after a delay (likewise, anything truly useful on MDN+ will leak out on to other platforms). People who subscribe to LWN just want to support the efforts and make sure the content continues to flow, they're not really concerned with the exclusivity of getting it first.

Where does it say $10/mo? I see $5/mo or $50/yr.

I can't find any price or sign up for a waitlist or anything.

Reminder that Mozilla fired the people that wrote the content.

Mozilla fired the people working on this because it was not a revenue stream. How is that surprising?

The Mozilla Corporation exists to partially make money just like any other corporation. How can HN both complain when Mozilla sheds dead weight, but also diversifies revenue?

Mozilla shepherded MDN into the hands of the community quite well imo. They busted their butt to make the content easy to contribute to through GitHub.

Please have some perspective on situations instead of "Hur dur Mozilla fired these people".

> The Mozilla Foundation works to ensure the internet remains a public resource that is open and accessible to us all.

> The Mozilla Corporation is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation

> The Mozilla Corporation's stated aim is to work towards the Mozilla Foundation's public benefit to "promote choice and innovation on the Internet."

That's why; it's not so 1 + 1 = 2. There is a ton of discretion and leeway baked into their mission on matters like MDN.

I'm conducive to the possibility that Mozilla has, as another commenter has said, "lost its way".

And the CEO got another yearly raise.

Not just a raise, she got 3 million dollars.

Mozilla shipped closed source DRM and nonconsensual telemetry spyware, and the layoffs were the axe you chose to grind?

I wasn't totally against this until I discovered the A/B testing thing with the subscription costs. Something about that stinks. Just name your price and I'll think about it, don't be shady about it.

The price for every subscription you have was likely A/B tested. It's very standard and not shady.

Subscription prices vary by all types of audiences for subscription-based models, test segments are just one of them, and one of the least shady in my opinion. It's a brand new product and they're gauging the right price.

It is shady. I expect Amazon, Netflix and their like to do this. Mozilla is supposed to have more integrity, after all their mission is to "build a better internet" and "empower" people. Just because something is industry standard doesn't mean you have to do it as well, especially when you place yourself above others morally.


I mean..aren't they doing exactly that?

They are naming different prices for different people.

You walk into a bar and the guy in front of you orders a beer for $5. Looks good, so you order the same thing. The bartender says, "For you it's $10." Do you feel fairly treated?

They aren't charging people different amounts, they're testing waitlist signup interest at different amounts. Presumably once they gauge interest a single level will be applied to everyone.

In the mean time, people are being charged different amounts. They are literally charging different people different amounts. You might think that isn't a big deal, but how can you insist it isn't the case?

They're are not charging anything to anybody yet, you can get in the waitlist and answer a survey which explicitly asks if you think the price is to high, fair or to low.

Moreover next to the price there's a disclaimer that the "Price is subject to change".

To me it seems that they're just running an experiment to determine what's the price they should put to the service, which seems smart and correct.

How can I sign up for a subscription, then? I seem to have missed it on the page.

Except you're not ordering anything here,just looking at an ad mentioning the expected price, subject to change.

If you sold ice cream on the street and needed to figure out how to become profitable, would you be so opposed to trying out selling at $5 one day and $7 the next? Or would this be too unfair to the people that paid $5?

It's the intent I guess. The bartender story seems to imply a bad reason for the discrepancy (some type of unfair discrimination), while in this case it's to find out if you can charge more to eg capture back more of the value people are getting from you. Which doesn't seem so bad.

Testing different prices on different days doesn't give you as much confidence (price sensitivity can vary by day of the week, weather, etc.).

Then there are tests that would be hard to run even on different days, like doubling your nominal price and splashing a "today only 50% off" or "buy one get one free" offer.

Real-world price testing is so much harder to pull off, it isn't as common, which is part of the reason web A/B tests seem jarring when the curtain is pulled back.

You have the benefit with ice cream of a functioning market. You can look at hundreds of competitors across similar towns with a little research

This is already happening for literally everything that you buy. And no, I don't care whether someone else paid less or more than me for something or got it for free. If I don't think the price is fair then I'll say no and move on.

You want to find the price that fits the market. It's not shady, it's best practice!

I find hiding all of these articles behind a walled garden a little distasteful. I remember the times when I couldn't have afforded access to such information. Back then, this kind of stuff would have been published in a magazine, and that magazine would have been on the rack of my local bookstore, where I could have flipped through it to decide if it was worth my money.

That magazine would have charged a subscription fee right?

You can "flip" through MDN's other (free) articles, or the excerpts they've provided here to decide if it's worth your money.

How is reading free content on your phone harder than walking to a bookstore? (Also this seems like a paywall, not a walled garden.)

I remember those times too, but there were no magazines for me to flip through to learn CSS float-based/table-based layouts. I had to look at ::shudders:: W3Schools.

> I find hiding all of these articles behind a walled garden a little distasteful.

Did you click the link? The second blob of text, above the fold and not easy to miss:

> Nothing is changing with the existing MDN Web Docs content — this content will continue to be free and available to everyone. We want to provide extra value through premium content and features to help make MDN self-sustaining, on a completely opt-in basis. Again, nothing is changing with the existing MDN Web Docs!

The experience you describe at the bookstore mirrors the proposed experience for MDN Plus rather well, actually.

Should've done this before they slashed all the staff working on it. Seriously, what the hell is going on at Mozilla HQ - their CEO is a nutbar.

MDN Plus's plan to sell access to technical "deep dive" articles is not the right approach. (Can you think of anybody who makes real money selling deep dives on the web?)

We know how to do this "correctly." MDN Plus should be a VIP pass to access to the MDN team, via a private forum and/or chat room. Talk to (survey) the paying users for what new material they're interested in, and provide that.

This is how basically all Patreons work. People buy those subscriptions like hotcakes, they have excellent margins, and the subscribers are reliably very satisfied with the result.

Yeah, except didnt they just get rid of most of the team.

"Deep Dives" can be farmed out to contractors and you dont have to worry about paying employees.

Or keeping the free content up to date, since you're concerned about revenue streams now and that isn't one of them. "Nothing is changing," indeed...

Depends on what you mean by "real money."

On the fully indie side of things Michael Hartl has been doing it for a while with Ruby, front-end technologies, and seems to be doing OK for himself. I don't know what kind of profit we're talking about but it seems that it's enough to keep at it. https://www.learnenough.com/

Then there's Udemy. Max S. has 1.4 million "students" which I believe means his courses have been purchased a combined 1.4 million times. If we assume an average selling price of about $10 that's a lot of money even when we subtract Udemy's cut of the money. https://www.udemy.com/user/maximilian-schwarzmuller/

In general, be thoughtful when considering what you think "makes money" on the web. While not easy to achieve, there are a lot of folks making very good livings selling things on the web. But of course it's not going to make headlines if they are "only" making $100K or $500K. The press is only really interested in gaudy public stock offerings worth billions.

In the specific case of MDN, it certainly seems like they could sustain themselves using this model. If 10,000 people sign up and pay $10 a month that's $1.2 million/year in revenue. Certainly enough to pay for a rack of servers, some dedicated staff, and a rotating cast of outside contributors to write the articles.

Hartl sells books, not articles, which he sells as "tutorials" (classes). You're not meant to read and enjoy just one chapter of his book "Learn Enough Git to Be Dangerous" in isolation; he doesn't just send out a "deep dive" article each month on whatever he wants.

It is absolutely possible to make money selling classes/tutorials (e.g. via Udemy or any of a variety of other online class platform), but MDN is already committed to making its classes/tutorials available for free https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/Tutorials

It's an essential component of MDN Plus that they have to say exactly what they say in TFA: "Nothing is changing with the existing MDN Web Docs content — this content will continue to be free and available to everyone."

As a result, MDN can't practically sell books OR classes. What's left? VIP access.

In your parent post you suggested that nobody's making "real money" doing this. I provided counterexamples.

Yeah, sure, slightly different models. But plenty of people are selling this kind of content and achieving financial success -- and that's without the benefit of MDN's brand recognition. Clearly, it can be done.

What is your point now? That these counterexamples don't have the exact same % mix of free vs. VIP content as MDN is proposing, therefore MDN can't financially sustain itself? Seems like quite a supposition. I see a wide variety of free/VIP % mixes out there. Doesn't seem like there's one right answer or magic formula.

MDN may or may not succeed with this model. As with most things it comes down to execution. It's relatively new territory for Mozilla so I'm not convinced they'll pull it off. But it's not like some wild and untested/disproven model.

> MDN Plus's plan to sell access to technical "deep dive" articles is not the right approach. (Can you think of anybody who makes real money selling deep dives on the web?)

Sure. They're often called "ebooks".

Yeah.. If I were to throw down for something like this I would actually like for the content to be made available for free after a period. So, I would just be supporting.

However, back to the topic of corporate sponsors.. I see a distinct lack of calling out who the sponsors are? We all know a lot of VERY big companies shut down their own doc efforts to throw in with MDN; why not sell them call-out spots on a list of sponsors? Tiered even? Doesn't have to be super intrusive but would potentially open up funding channels within those large companies.

> Can you think of anybody who makes real money selling deep dives on the web?

It can be done on a small scale. The name escapes me but somebody big in the React world recently put out a course and made well over 5-6 figures in the first day of preorders alone.

Now whether that scales to fund an entire organization or corporation remains to be seen.

I feel like substack has proved that high quality writing can be monetized really well by providing contracts in the range of $200k/year for some of its writers.

> We know how to do this "correctly."

Charge for the "Pools, Hot Tubs, and Beaches" content?

This was my exact thought after seeing this. Selling Deep Dives? Who would pay for that?

I would always trust open, free deep dives under open scrutiny and criticism more than something behind a paywall.

Even if this is from Mozilla.

A premium chat room/forum would have been miles better.

A premium chat room or forum doesn't make more sense because the people Mozilla would be paying to staff that channel are already on several open forums and most are willing to answer questions (even if that answer is RTFM and a redirect to an MDN page).

Yes, they got rid of most of the team, bu the remaining team members that are there and pretty much all of the community contributors would quit if they were suddenly transitioned into paid tech support roles.

MDN should be a separate company. Personally, I'm no longer interested in supporting Mozilla in any capacity. Their management behaves in a way that's consistent with the idea that it's barely more than controlled opposition to Google's Chrome team.

I don't get how the company had the head-count it did for so long and didn't even manage to tread water in relation to other browsers, for about a decade, let alone do anything new or interesting. Which parts were valuable and interesting? Rust/Servo, and MDN. Which parts get cut? Those.

I'd love to see them make a come-back, but it's been so damn long and they're showing so many strongly negative signs that I think they're long since rotted beyond hope, organizationally. Better they're replaced. I don't think they're an organization capable of replacing themselves with a better upstart of their own making, as Phoenix/Firebird/Firefox did to the Mozilla browser, nor of innovating—Pocket and a VPN service are their innovative monetization and self-sufficiency efforts. Not leaping into any number of promising avenues for web services that would benefit from having an open-source-friendly but well-capitalized backer offering a paid version with a built-in audience to push the Web and potentially the Internet forward, but... Pocket and a VPN. How do you miss the boat that badly? How many teams building the sorts of things Firefox should have been (Signal, Matrix, Gemini, IPFS, various open-source social network efforts like Mastodon, et c.) are small enough to comfortably fit within the Firefox org? Several, I imagine.

What a waste of potential.

Because the leadership (CEO) is ineffective at best. Poor leadership led to poor decision-making and lack of strategy and focus.

I was once a strong supporter of Mozilla but never again.

> didn't even manage to tread water in relation to other browsers

How do you figure?

Their last big performance breakthrough was, IIRC, "now merely wastes as much battery as Chrome, which is itself notoriously wasteful". That after years of eating battery like mad.

$5 a month when I'm using my regular web browser (chrome), $10 a month when I'm using private navigation. $10 a month on Firefox too. Maybe because I'm in Europe and it's adjusted to salaries/cost of living?

It's a random A/B test. If you clear your cookies, there is a 50% chance it'll change to the other.

India, with Firefox Focus here, seeing $10 per month/$100 per year. Clear cookies and repeat again a few times, and it’s $5 per month/$50 per year.

This has nothing to do with cost of living or purchasing power parity. It’s just random testing.

This isn't what is happening here which is a simple A/B test. But the adjustment you mention can be implemented utilizing the purchasing power parity. It'll be nice seeing projects taking this into consideration.

I see $5 a month on Firfox/Linux in the US.

I'd have been more open to this sort of change if Mozilla didn't gut the content team behind MDN last year.

I'm a long time MDN and Firefox user but I'm struggling to see the benefit of this beyond one free article a month? all of the other "features" are trivial without the subscription (bookmarks, save as pdf...). Seems like a very weak offering.

It feels like this could have landed with a bit more punch and a more compelling sell and it could very well evolve into something very valuable but I can't see the appeal right now.

Another commenter mentioned $10 a month but I'm seeing $5 at the moment. Right now there's just no features I'd consider paying anything for. I would happily pay $5-$10 a month though for something more fleshed out, more regular high quality technical deep dives and some other benefits that justify a regular subscription.

> save as pdf...

Unless they intentionally break it somehow, my print dialog can already do that to any page.

Actually it's even easier: "file -> export to PDF" is an option in Safari. Saves a couple clicks.

I get the idea, but including that on the list of premium features is really weird. Are they just not going to provide a print stylesheet at all, unless you pay? Maybe that's it.

At first glance, this feels a little distasteful. I've always thought of the MDN docs like Wikipedia; a non-profit public resource. Attempting to monetize it feels... wrong somehow.

So long as the docs themselves remain under CC-BY-SA though guess it's not really a problem. The premium features they currently offer seem reasonable, and if things ever get too out of hand the community could always just move to another site. It also doesn't sound like something I'd pay for though, so not sure how successful it'll be.

On the positive side, more funding to maintain MDN could turn out to be a good thing in the long term. I guess we'll have to see.

I don't really understand how offering better content against money is worse than asking for money regularly like Wikipedia does (especially when they seem to just consume more and more money).

Because there are tons of people who cannot pay for services like this (lower class, students, third-world countries, etc), and learning how to build and deploy technology is powerful leverage to improving their quality of life.

There's much more to technology than websites. Those people have more important issues to worry about than access to MDN and they're not the responsibility of Mozilla either.

I mean it's not like web development tutorials and blogs haven't filled the internet with free content for years to learn everything you could possibly want. freecodecamp will take you from nothing to hirable, for free.

Having a paid option disincentives improvement of the non-paid option.

As long as they're not using the donation money to fund the paid option (which, to be fair, Mozilla has an history of doing), I don't see how.

That's assuming that revenue from MDN plus will go only to fund more premium content.

I don't think that is true (maybe I missed something from their page?), which means they will always have the incentive to make more premium content in order to generate more revenue, especially if they need it to cover the expenses.

You're right, this is a assumption I made that may be wrong, and in that case my arguments don't hold.

This feels more like a service rather than it being a subscription-based donation. It's not called Wikipedia Plus.

If it's to pay technical writers I don't see the problem. Wikipedia on the other hand ask for donations that seems absorbed by some kind of administrative black hole. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Guy_Macon/Wikipedia_has_C... https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/foundation/f/f7/Wikim...

Thanks, I didn't know the phenomenon had a name.

A paywall shuts out financially disadvantaged groups and limits the circulation of knowledge. Donations don’t, however annoying the banners are.

Whether overly abundant donations are misallocated is a completely orthogonal issue.

Note that I’m not saying we are entitled to anything; but slapping the MDN brand on a premium subscription service does tarnish the original brand a little.

But as far as I understand the source article, MDN Plus is not a paywall to the type of content that is already on MDN. What's going to be behind a paywall are a kind of technical essays which are not currently on MDN and some convenience features.

Is my understanding incorrect?

That’s why I’m mainly taking issue with slapping the MDN brand over the seemingly not terribly related information service.

On the other hand a paywall may mean that people writing content are the one that gets the money, which creates an healthier ecosystem that doesn't depend on donation of money or time (as opposed to wikipedia).

Wikipedia misallocating funds does tarnish the original brand a lot, especially when most people that contribute content are doing it for free.

> Wikipedia misallocating funds does tarnish the original brand a lot

Which has nothing to do the donation model.

Wikimedia can pay full time content writers if they want to.

Mozilla can also use the subscription income to pay CEO comp if they want to.

Allocation of funds has close to nothing to do with the acquisition of funds, unless the acquisition comes with a specific mandate, which neither Wikipedia donations nor the subscription service here has.

You're right, I wrongly assumed that MDN Plus money would stay on MDN Plus or at leasat MDN, but they said nothing of the sort.

I think this is the right step to take for things like this. There are massive corporations with cash galore that use open source and publicly available resources and rarely give anything back. With MDN Plus, there's a chance now that devs at these companies will get their company to pay the subscription. We need more programs like this.

> Attempting to monetize it feels... wrong

On a long enough timeline, all free and libre services done out of the good will and charitable efforts of contributors and maintainers, will eventually succumb to some sort of monetization strategy. I know in my case, and last time I checked, I don't work for free.

yeah a bit the same but if they need money to keep valuable operations like MDN going then making a way to get some cash this way doesn't bother me more than that

>Nothing is changing with the existing MDN Web Docs content — this content will continue to be free and available to everyone. We want to provide extra value through premium content and features to help make MDN self-sustaining, on a completely opt-in basis. Again, nothing is changing with the existing MDN Web Docs!

Sounds good.

I agree but I wish they wouldn't have attached the mdn name to it in the first place

Mozilla just let me donate directly to fund the projects I love.

instead of creating all these services that I’m not really sure if the money is going to the whole company or actually supporting development of these product I use

I would donate to MDN, I would donate to Firefox development

Nobody would donate to the CEO and board's salary though, and that's the unfortunate problem.

I strongly dislike the idea. It reduces deep knowledge to people who can pay for it. The web should be open for anyone. (yeah, Its already not like this, I know)

As far as I understand, the MDN documenting the standard (HTML5, CSS, etc.) will stay freely accessible as it is. I prefer this than having trackers & ads on the site... which would be completely contrary to their values anyway.

> As far as I understand, the MDN documenting the standard (HTML5, CSS, etc.) will stay freely accessible as it is.

For now. Once you let the monetization genie out of the bottle, Death by a Thousand MBA's is almost certain.

This false equivalence between MBA degrees and poor management really has to stop. It's a pretty bigoted take and I'm always disappointed to see that on HN, even though I half expect it coming into most threads these days.

Found the MBA!

In all seriousness though, the MBA in and of itself isn't necessarily "bad". However, the "maximize shareholder value" mantra and the sheer volume of MBA's invading a company are the problem. There are so many now, every one of them looking for a way to appear valuable. The training cements this ever-increasing desire to wring more productivity and efficiency from an organization; the long-term effects of which are usually user-hostile. But it's a slow strangulation, so it never appears immediately sinister to anybody unless they've seen it happen before.

People are starting to come around to this, and coupled with the sheer volume of MBA's it's become a meme of sorts. It seems to me these days that "not all MBAs are greedy pricks, but all greedy pricks are MBAs".

> Nothing is changing with the existing MDN Web Docs content — this content will continue to be free and available to everyone. We want to provide extra value through premium content and features to help make MDN self-sustaining, on a completely opt-in basis. Again, nothing is changing with the existing MDN Web Docs!

Are there any studies about how long the corporate “nothing is changing” line actually holds true? My gut says maybe 18-24 months? Perhaps I’m cynical but I see “nothing is changing” and I can’t help but assume a change is all but inevitable and they’re just going to slow walk me to it.

On the flip side, corporations that make a ton of money off of this information, rarely, if ever, voluntarily pay for it. It's a hard problem to solve.

Agreed. Normally I wouldn't be that surprised at this, but I thought of Mozilla as a nonprofit that wouldn't just gatekeep access to some information to those that have the money to pay for it (Could someone in Iran or Cuba even pay for this if they wanted?)

Your other option is W3 which fills their site with ads.

If I could, I'd pay Google 50$ a month directly to disable all of their advertising across all sites which use ad sense.

Nothing is stopping people from writing their own articles on other sites for free. Developers aren't owed free articles to read, and if people want to be compensated for the time spent writing articles, then they should be.

Here's the link of the opencollective of Open Web Docs, the organization financing MDN: https://opencollective.com/open-web-docs

Surprised at the focus on individual developers. That's a tough market.

Company teams where the buyer isn't also an user is the only way this is going to make any sustainable money. Sell an MDN Plus Teams and Enterprise flavors as upgrades to the free "hobby" variant, and market it as table-stakes that every valley dev team has an MDN Plus subscription, same as they have a paid GitHub account, because what kind of crappy outfit are you even running here if your devs don't have MDN Plus access day one? MSDN used to be 4-6 figures for teams of various sizes, so asking developers how much they'd be willing to pay doesn't really tell you anything, I'd be surprised if developers know what their GitHub hosting, CI, etc. is priced at.

Honestly blown away by all the comments being upset that a service with real costs is charging money to cover those costs. And the weak as shit excuses about why they won't pay money for this. It's like complaining that OnlyFans exists because pornhub is free.

It's $5/mo or $10/mo if you don't want to pay for it, there's the whole rest of the internet to get free web dev content from, not to mention the rest of MDN which they host and provide to you for free.

One of the depressing realities of software and the internet. It’s especially depressing that people that likely build and sell technology for a living think like this.

I’ve been thinking about donating to Mozilla for a while - even though I don’t use their browser, I think they’re an indispensable force of good on the internet -, but haven’t gotten around to it. This could prove like an excellent value proposition for me and if it’s any good they can count on my money.

I absolutely hope that this experiment works out for Mozilla. However, I think there is no need for such a service. The web is an open platform, there is no secret knowledge. As an advanced web developer you can find out everything on your own, as a beginner you can use free MDN tutorials (or other websites).

They could offer certificates for different levels of web-development skills. Based on the popularity of MDN this could work out well...

When they laid off a bunch of their technical writers, there was an outpouring of desire for a way to pay for MDN.

Let's hope those voices follow through!

I really like this. MDN can't be maintained for free after all, it's by far the best resource I've found for web development.

The next time I have a web dev job I'll buy this

I'm happy they are finding ways of monetising that don't rely on adtech

They should have been paid out of the advertising budget of Mozilla if someone there had the insight that no other campaign that they could have run with that money would have furthered the goodwill of web developers towards Mozilla/Firefox more than MDN did.

I like their approach. Out of all possible options for funding, they managed to keep the core available, independent of other commercial influences, and offer extra quality content to subscribers. This could've gone bad in so many ways, but I'm hopeful for the project's future.

Exactly. And hopefully, such a subscription should be pretty easy for web developers to ask their employers for.

Sorry, it's just really off-putting to me that software developers who get paid more than average laborers complain so much about paid offerings that cost them less than a single Starbucks drink. We don't know what the pricing is yet, but there are already people discussing what is too much.

I know the demographics here aren't strictly American, but the currency conversion is hardly that impactful across major developed nations.

There are so many tools in our industry that help you do your job on a daily basis that we all pay nothing for.

But you know, have fun thinking you can do anything more than being an employee for the rest of your life if you decide you want to create a product and realize you're a part of an industry who's too cheap to pay $0.99 for an app.

If it helps you find this discussion more palatable, you might consider and even-further-left analysis.

You could look at how the laborers who you're writing about are often asked to create the conditions of their own labor.

While this traditionally might include all of the unpaid domestic work that goes into the creation of a working class, the work situation for employees here is that it'n not, at the end of the day, the employers who are paying for the app.

I like my employer and all, and maybe I could get them to fund things like this, but if I can make that happen, why would I care what it costs? I would probably want it to cost more ,because a $0.99 app is just going to come straight of my pocket rather than and expense for which I can be reimbursed.

I don't care if MDN charges, and I personally would pay for it.

But I also brought my own device to work for the first 5 years after I stopped being a 1099 employee... so I am a sucker. I get tired of paying for tools i need to make money for other people, even if I understand that money goes to other folks in similar situations.

Convincing an employer to pay expenses seems like a decent negotiating tactic, a way of charging more.

But it doesn’t seem like it should be treated as a moral issue? It’s just how you structure the transaction. You could also charge more by changing more and paying the expenses, which gives you more control over spending.

Huh, I will likely never read any of it, but it’s a simple way to give back a little bit to Mozilla.

This reminded me that I wanted to donate to MDN. And I just went on a quick journey through the MDN web site to find how and where you can do that. It's not clear to me at all how or even if you can donate to MDN.

Am I missing something?

Elsewhere in this thread is a link to a separate organization called "OpenWebDocs," which appears to be an outside consortium that contributes to MDN. So perhaps donating to them is approximately the same in that you're donating to a group who will then contribute time writing content.

Edit: Perhaps MDN is not a stand-along thing, and the way you help fund MDN directly is by donating to Mozilla? Can anyone clarify the relationship of these various parties?

> Elsewhere in this thread is a link to a separate organization called "OpenWebDocs," which appears to be an outside consortium that contributes to MDN.

Yes, that's what Open Web Docs is. It's funded by individual and corporate contributions, through https://opencollective.com/open-web-docs/. The money goes to pay writers (currently 2 full time, but we are hiring 2 more) to create and maintain independent open web documentation ("open" in the sense of accessible to everyone, "independent" in the sense that it shouldn't represent any one company's view). Currently our work is pretty much entirely focused on MDN, although that's not necessarily going to be the only thing we ever work on. Our 2021 high-level goals: https://github.com/openwebdocs/project/blob/main/2021-goals.... .

Afaik MDN maintainence is under the Mozilla Corporation (which also works on Firefox), the for-profit under the Mozilla Foundation (which primarily works on internet advocacy). You cannot directly donate to the Mozilla Corporation, and money donated to the Foundation can't be used in the Corporation (it's not that easy to avoid taxes).

For 100 USD a year, You could buy about 10 - 15 courses on Udemy.com

And compliment it with free resources on the web.

I don't see the attraction of what Mozilla is providing.

Perhaps companies can have bulk subscriptions or they have some sort of revenue sharing deals with authors.

Late comment but I don't understand why all of MDN, and this, can't be fully funded through corporate sponsors via Open Web Docs. There's already about ~750k in annual budget and there is nearly(I say nearly because I'm not sure but couldn't find it) zero reference to it from MDN; you know, the site people actually visit and know about.

I would imagine if sponsorships were more visible, and given the importance of MDN to the industry, there would be plenty of money available to operate the project both technically(servers etc) and managerially(staff writers/developers providing the framework for browser vendor and other contributions).

It's really baffling to try to pull these funds from individual developers' bottom line instead of companies; the entry point of the revenue stream generated with the benefit of these docs. It just doesn't quite feel right but I can't fully explain why. The move just feels off.

EDIT: Okay I think this might come close to conveying my sentiment. We are being asked to pay to support Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Mozilla's browser documentation.. Huh?

I'm very excited to see all the people who said they would pay for something like MDN find a reason why they won't pay for this.

I donate to my local NPR station. This feels very much along the same lines and I’m down.

Nothing is changing is bullshit. They will now have economic incentive NOT to include content in the free docs, but rather in the MDN Plus. As end-users, I'm sure we will soon see outdated articles in the free version.

Just for the purposes of N+1 feedback:

I agree with many other posters on here. I don't have much, if any, interest in the services mentioned, but I would happily sign up for $5/mo to support MDN which is the single most valuable dev resource I have available to me. At my experience level, much more useful that (for example) stackoverflow, which I rarely use.

Given that all of my income is indirectly derived from my ability to locate high quality documentation on HTML and JavaScript APIs, pitching in $5/mo would be a no-brainer for me to support the continued development of such high quality content without ads.

It would be nice if Mozilla used the LWN.net model for their premium content. That is, paying subscribers get the latest and most up-to-date content that took effort to write. A couple of weeks later that content is then made accessible to everyone else.

Following that model, students, hobbyists, people who are trying to break into the industry etc who may not be able to afford a subscription can still benefit from content. It also helps draw new customers. I would not have paid for my LWN subscription if I didn't already hold the content they published for free in high regard.

First and foremost: your employer should be expensing this, not you, individual developer.

In the advent you are paying yourself, imagine how much money you can make by spending less time trying to find answers to complex problems, particularly sifting through old StackOverflow answers that aren't always relevant anymore (or jQuery centric!)

As with all things, lets wait and see of course ! However, I think thoughtful monetization here can be reall good for the web, in the long run.

A little bit scary but also possibly cool. Scary because freemium and paywall go hand in hand; cool because "technical deep dives by experts" sounds good.

it's interesting where this is going especially after the layoffs a few months ago. The old HN discussion can be found here:

* https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24120336

* https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24132494

Awesome. I'm happy to support MDN.

My only hope is that they make it a "pay what you wish" with $10/month as the minimum price.

Frankly I would be happy to support "regular" MDN in such a way as well. This is an important cornerstone for all front end developers. The promised "premium content" is a cherry on top, but is not necessary for them to have my support.

This is a neat idea, but unfortunately I'm not seeing anything super compelling in the premium features. Quality deep-dives exist elsewhere on the web. Browsers already have bookmarks. A customizable compatibility table just... doesn't sound useful.

I'll keep an eye on it, I hope they succeed, but I don't see many people paying for these features as they stand

> written by industry experts

And the featured post is by someone (RA) who is probably not going to contribute regularly to MDN Web Docs. I have plenty platforms to read RA's writings besides this service.

If this service is going to support the development of existing MDN Web Docs, I would pay for it. But i suspect most of the revenue will going to pay for these one-off experts.

> Take MDN with you: Download MDN documentation and deep dives for access offline.

(Don’t tell anyone about wget!)

Or httrack! It's old as fuck but it still works.

If they're going to start collecting/producing high level tech articles/content, they should just start a magazine like Stripe's Increment Magazine, put effort into the look of it etc and ride the subscription method off that.

Everyone in this thread complaining about the $10 cost is going to smoothly transition over to the thread about Facebook selling your data without batting an eyelash.

You want free without paying the cost of free. Grow up.

The waitlist deeplink doesn't seem to work. Has the link been removed?

I'll likely toss them the $10/month they are suggesting, MDN is priceless and helps me make an income daily/weekly!

Why is every paid for service called “Something Plus” these days? Who started this trend?

Is this Mozilla's first non-free (as in speech), non-open source product?

Imagine a dystopian future where you google something like "document queryselector API" and now have to ignore both of the top two hits from W3Schools _and_ MDN as useless spam-filled low content sites.


I hope we don't go down that road...

"waitlist" link doesn't work for me :(

Useful, and a handy way to support MDN. I like it.

So it's Microsoft Technet for the web?

Beyond the purely technical API documentation, I saw a (small) number of what looked like an article tying an entire API together and explaining how it works, or giving examples, like https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/API/WebRTC_API/...

Are those now going to be paywalled?

So happy MDN is doing this.

the offline thing kind of reminds me of MSDN back in those days

It looks like that it is the final straw to prove that Mozilla has completely lost its way...

For any startup or company it is normal to provide "premium" paid service and "advanced" content/knowledge to the subset of internet users that can afford it.

But ... this is the Mozilla foundation. Too much paid silicon valley executives transformed a structure dedicated to find funds to protect an "open internet" into a for profit structure that prostitute itself as much as needed to make money just for being profitable.

We saw it coming with Firefox evolution being neglected to instead waste money on numerous "outreachy" things.

Just for memo, here is one of the 10 points of the Mozilla manifesto:

"The internet is a global public resource that must remain open and accessible"

Looks like that a "premium paywalled content website" will have a hard time pretending to be "open".

Based on the upcoming posts they are announcing, it looks like MDN Plus is Mozilla Hacks under a paywall

These don’t seem like features that should be behind a paywall.

With all the uncountable billions of dollars in the banks of Apple, Microsoft, Google etc, none of them can manage to come up with documentation to compete with MDN which has to go freemium to be viable.

Presumably that’s because they can’t link your identity to it or something, making it nit worthwhile doing.

Apple: “we’re a hardware company, it’s not our job to document the web”

Microsoft: “Internet Explorer failed, it’s not our job to document the web”

Google : “we’re a advertising company, it’s not our job to document the web”.

Facebook... etc

Amazon ... etc

And so on ...

It was a concious decision in 2017 to close Google's and Microsoft's web documentation portals so that MDN can be a unified source of truth: https://www.zdnet.com/article/developers-rejoice-microsoft-g...

I wonder if MDN would be better served by branching out of Mozilla's grasp and becoming its own independent MDN Web Fondation or something. Mozilla seems to have a poor track record of maintaining anything as we saw when they fired most of the people working on MDN and other engineers despite being able to sell licenses to special editions of Firefox or other things like email, the whole non-profit Mozilla vs for profit Mozilla structure is just awful.

MDN is its only gem left outside of Firefox itself, it's good they're doing this though, but only if all proceeds go primarily towards MDN itself. I can foresee people unsubscribing over funding issues if they find out Mozilla foundation is just pocketing profits from this for things outside of MDN.

>despite being able to sell licenses to special editions of Firefox or other things like email

In 2021, there is not a chance in hell that any significant number of people are going to pay money for their web browser. At best (and this is very optimistic) it might make a few million dollars from dedicated HN-types, which is nowhere close to what Google gives them.

I actually would pay money for a Mozilla-branded email service, but running an email service isn't a walk in the park, and I expect all of the typical people would be complaining about Mozilla spending time and money on something that isn't Firefox, regardless of whether it's profitable (see also: all the complaining about Pocket).

Honestly, I wish that Mozilla had acquired Scroll (rather than Twitter) and started pushing it harder. That would be very in-line with their goals as an organization, and might eventually become a significant revenue source.

Scroll probably would have worked well with Pocket because the former could have increased user engagement (and, in turn, help better/newer stories end up in the top posts/popular category) while in the latter support for some paywalled content-providers could be added under a single subscription system.

> I wonder if MDN would be better served by branching out of Mozilla's grasp and becoming its own independent...

If https://servo.org/ is any measure. Probably not :(

People don't care about browsers until it's too late.

Weird idea - since these big companies all voluntarily stopped documenting in favor of MDN, perhaps they should pay Mozilla for this (it's saving them money, after all).

If Mozilla is still having to do a paid option - MDN Plus - they are obviously not getting enough. Looks like around the price of one employee for the top funders.

Unless Mozilla is suddenly operating for profit and following the ol' "why get some of the money when you can get all of the money" business model.

You're thinking of the Mozilla Foundation, which is not-for-profit. The Foundation owns the Mozilla Corporation, which is "for-profit" and develops Firefox and MDN.

Money flows from the Corporation to the Foundation every year.

They may not be for profit, but they can be inefficient enough.

pretty sad state of things that the top 10 corporate contributors bottoms out at $25 in contributions.

The number 7 corporate donor is below the number 9 individual donor.

That's not the entire story. Google still has web.dev, which blurs the line between "web platform" features and Google-specific or "experimental" features. Neither of the two actively promote MDN either (web.dev doesn't mention it even where it would make sense).

This doesn't seem as much of an intentional decision of the two corporations to promote MDN as an independent resource but more likely the result of developers working for these companies refusing to compete with MDN.

>Apple: “we’re a hardware company, it’s not our job to document the web”

Or, as everyone who's ever had to look at Apple's developer documentation knows, to document their own operating system APIs.

I was using a WebRTC feature just yesterday that is listed as supported by Safari in modern versions of iOS all over the web. I can tell you for certain that it is 100% not.

Yes, there are bugs in it that I don’t think are documented anywhere. We do have working video calling on mSafari, but we’re actively trying to kill that dependency.

“As of February 2021, OWD top financial contributors are Microsoft, Google, Coil, and Igalia”

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MDN_Web_Docs

I believe they've also been contributing to the docs themselves since Google shut down their own effort (may have just been a section of web.dev?) a few years back.

Microsoft and Google are the top financial contributors to MDN: https://opencollective.com/open-web-docs

Btw, Google does create a lot of content on web development (ex on webrtc.org, web.dev, html5rocks.com etc) including on various youtube GDG channels and release quite a bit of OSS reference implementations too.

Google has great web documentation, I still have this tab open from earlier this week: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27233019

Having the browser vendors write documentation might be an issue because they will all write it for their own browser.

I don't think that's the negative you think it is. It would provide a lot more clarity on how the browsers differ.

I wouldn't be including Microsoft in that list. Microsoft's own documentation is excellent.

Microsoft shut off their documentation in favor of MDN.

Well, they also put a quarter mil into MDN.

So, one month of Mitchel Baker's salary.

Have you ever looked at MS documentation of the SharePoint REST API?

How's MDN's sharepoint documentation?

The point is that the MSDN documentation for HTML and IE was quite good, and then it was deprecated in favor of MDN's superior documentation.

That's assuming that those companies want outside developers to be knowledgeable. That's a questionable assumption. If anyone here remembers how old Microsoft used to operate and why people went to get MS-something certificates you know what I mean.

"Free" documentation is often designed to give you barely enough info to start using their products, but not much more. And we're kind of used to this by now. MDN, FreeBSD hanbook or the original set of Smalltalk books stand as exceptions and reminders what things could look like if motivations were different.

Glad to see they're including content and articles as well. I used to swear by MDN for HTML help, but ever since I bit the bullet and just read the HTML spec I find going directly to the (free) source a far better option. Not to mention there's a developer version of the spec that cuts out the implementor details and lets you focus on developer details.

But now they are competing with free content from Smashing and CSS-Tricks and lessons from a variety of free sources, including Google who has great course content.

I just don't see this saving Mozilla.

If EU really cared about privacy, EU would fully fund Mozilla.

If Mozilla was a european non-profit I would agree it would be great to have EU funding. But a foreign organization where the management are extracting millions and millions of dollars for questionable performance at best while firing vast amounts of employees? No way.

I agree. I'd like EU to sponsors Firefox development, but not by directly sponsoring Mozilla itself, especially not the Mozilla Foundation. Reducing reliance on Google and having people whose jobs is to challenge the hegemony of Google and Apple on web standards would be really nice.

EU should sponsor directly the contributors of open-source software without any middleman. A contributor can switch companies like socks, giving money to corporations is pointless. Also, contributors have to apply to be granted funds. The EU can't really babysit.

Sure, but it's not EU's _job_ to fully fund Mozilla. And since when the European Union has to give money to an American corporation? Last I checked the USA is the biggest economy in the world, and incidentally where Mozilla, inc. is legally based.

The EU should definitely contribute to the Open Web Docs org, which seems to be the financial body for the MDN Web Docs specifically. The EU has been paying grants for less useful projects than this.

Mozilla, though, not so much. Given the ridiculous paychecks its C-level management has been caching in the midst of the massive layouts that cannibalized most of its most promising projects (including MDN staff), I don't think funding is the primary problem holding them back right now.

Here are some news articles that might make you rethink that:

- https://calpaterson.com/mozilla.html

- https://www.techrepublic.com/article/why-mozillas-layoffs-an...

Help out, sure. To fully fund them would be taking it too far.

Fully funding means they can put better governance in and throw the captain overboard if need be.

Could would should. It'd be great, but there is zero indication that it would actually happen.

Should EU nationalize a company based in US? :)

Or should they buy it from a corrupt current management? :)

Another way would be to establish a EU-funded foundation that would fork Firefox. But EU has a poor track record for this. Anybody remember EU-backed Google killer? And forking major open source projects has a bunch of issues too.

Then Mozilla would need to move to the EU.

Mozilla's CEO would loooooove this

Why would you want the government deciding who gets funds?

"The government" isn't deciding who gets funds. The EU has public funding programmes and grants and you can apply to them if you meet the requirements:



I can't think of any programme that would work for Mozilla though, especially given they're a US-based for-profit company wrapped around a US-based non-profit.

The purpose of these programmes is typically to either contribute to regional development that is in the EU member states' interest, or to help implement policies the EU has passed. There are arguments to be made about how well the member states' (or their citizens') interests are represented in the EU's electoral structure, or how effective these programmes are in general, but saying this is "the government deciding who gets funds" is absurd.

> Nothing is changing

This phrase is used to direct attention away from something that is going to change in a big way. I read "we're not going to paywall existing content, but we'll be charging for future content."

Now that the competition for web documentation is gone, Mozilla looks to be moving to cash in on their new-found monopoly on web documentation. Ironic, given how Mozilla was started.

so the best way to come up with more money is to squeeze it out of devs ?

Oof, not a good look for Mozilla. Totally get the need for $ - but I don't know anybody who would pay for this, esp. with other companies like Google producing so much content around web technologies.

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