10.17.20

The Sad Story of Mozilla Keeps Getting Sadder Because Mozilla’s Managers Abandoned Users and Chose Companies as Their Clients

Posted in DRM, Free/Libre Software, Standard at 5:47 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The most powerful and versatile Web browser ever to exist is becoming just an “app” with fewer compelling reasons to adopt it because today’s Firefox is less user-centric and more Mozilla-centric (with buzzwords, political pandering and marketing rather than technical substance)

Firefox: At the beginning...

Summary: Mozilla’s business model keeps changing for the worse, as the “app” mentality and/or the “social control media” mindset are chosen over the needs of actual (longtime) users, limiting the extensibility of the Firefox browser in the name of “performance” or “simplicity” (as if all that users need is “dark mode” and a choice of search engines)

OVER the years we wrote dozens of articles about Mozilla and Firefox, mostly congratulatory at the beginning (when releases were stable and infrequent), but in recent times we became more critical because Mozilla is no longer the same company. It’s vastly better than Microsoft, sure, but it’s getting worse — not better — over time. Long before the layoffs we already warned that the direction that had been taken was wrong. It served to alienate both developers and users — the very thing Mozilla relied on for over a decade. Even before DRM and ‘Eich-gate’ amongst other debacles there were issues associated with privacy, which is nowadays just empty rhetoric at Mozilla [1, 2] (or a form of marketing).

“Without momentum from outside the company Mozilla might not be financially viable; it has long relied on an army of volunteers, both developers and ‘marketers’ (or advocates).”Mozilla isn’t a GNU project; in fact, there are Firefox forks that are. We don’t suppose Mozilla will champion freedom to the extent GNU does, but that’s just not the point. Mozilla seems to have abandoned not only freedom but also developers and users. This is a suicidal path. Without momentum from outside the company Mozilla might not be financially viable; it has long relied on an army of volunteers, both developers and ‘marketers’ (or advocates). Losing them isn’t an option, but Mozilla seems to have overlooked what actually made Firefox so popular in the first place.

Firefox: I don't need third-party devs anyway

Daniel (‘Canta’) recently wrote a decent article on this subject, translated/curated from Spanish by both myself and him.

“Some things can be ‘fixed’ by altering the settings, but some are not fixable.”Earlier today I updated Mozilla Firefox, which I barely use anymore (I use a mix of Konqueror, Falkon and QupZilla on older machines). I am actually a bit horrified to find that this update or ‘upgrade’ (much newer version) made things worse in several ways.

Some things can be ‘fixed’ by altering the settings, but some are not fixable. “While some DRM-controlled content can be viewed using the Adobe Flash plugin, many services are moving towards HTML5 video that requires a different DRM mechanism called a Content Decryption Module (CDM),” says the page Firefox directs me to. Embracing DRM did not help or save Mozilla, did it? It likely just alienated many people like myself, who used to advocate and recommend Firefox to people.

Firefox: People are losing passion for Firefox and rapid version inflation doesn't inspire excitement

Several usability problems became apparent when the ‘upgrade’ was done this morning. But there’s even worse stuff. When it was ‘upgraded’ to the latest ESR, Mozilla (likely not the Debian packagers) had “Recommended by Pocket” toggled (on) by default, in effect spewing crap (mental noise/clutter) at me any time I opened a tab…

“Firefox had more useful extensions in 2005 than it has in 2020 (I should know having embraced Firefox in 2004; I had used Netscape and Mozilla before that).”It certainly feels like nowadays Mozilla treats Firefox like an extension of the social control media mindset. It should instead combat/fight back against it. But look who runs Mozilla now… Microsoft and Facebook executives.

Once upon a time Mozilla appealed to geeks, who then recommended Firefox to friends, colleagues, and especially family (like kids and parents who were not necessarily passionate about computers and just clicked “the Internet”, which is what they called a blue “E”). Nowadays Mozilla fosters planned obsolescence for developers (I’ve made some contributions to Firefox in the extensions/themes sense), or ‘digital rot’ for plug-ins/extensions that worked just fine at one point (or for over a decade!). Firefox had more useful extensions in 2005 than it has in 2020 (I should know having embraced Firefox in 2004; I had used Netscape and Mozilla before that). XUL, for example, should not have been abandoned, but then again they care about money (paying their CEO over $2,000,000 per year, plus bonuses) than users and volunteer developers.

“Monoculture that revolves around GAFAM would make the Web proprietary with DRM, necessitating a move to alternatives (to the Web itself, not just to Web browsers, as DRM is now incorporated into Web standards).”Mozilla may have worked fine for the bottom line of the current management team (millionaires), but it’s not working for many of us who need a “big browser” to challenge an increasingly proprietary monopoly/oligopoly in Web browsing. Other than Firefox, all the “big browsers” (that are widely supported and considered to be “must support”) are proprietary, usually with some openwashing slant.

If Mozilla can no longer champion a free and open Web, and if Waterfox became an extension of the surveillance industry (same owners as Startpage’s), then the whole Gecko family is becoming a lost cause or a losing strategy. Monoculture that revolves around GAFAM would make the Web proprietary with DRM, necessitating a move to alternatives (to the Web itself, not just to Web browsers, as DRM is now incorporated into Web standards).

Final note: while I agree with Mozilla’s political orientation on most issues, I’d appreciate not having Mozilla’s words shoved down my throat (or up my head) every time I open a new tab. This kind of “UX” (User eXperience) is a hallmark of non-free software and it’s a symptom of what Mozilla is fast becoming. The user of the Web browser should be in full control of the browser, not having to rely on any third party to assess or rank or censor pages while pushing somebody’s editorialised messages. The browser should render pages, not be somebody’s billboard. Respect people’s judgment, resist the temptation to become a ‘net nanny’ (even at the application level/layer).

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