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back to article Firefox: freedom's just another word for 'kerching!'

Apparently, one can have too much freedom. That's one takeaway from The Wall Street Journal's revelation that Mozilla killed a new Firefox tool, which would have limited advertisers' ability to track users across the web, allegedly under pressure from the advertising industry. Sure, Mozilla is a nonprofit and arguably not under …

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Hmmm

I don't mind installing unverified add-ons. Anyone happen to know the name of this tracker-tackling one that Mozilla supposedly canned?

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Anonymous Coward

re: Anyone happen to know

I do know that Mr. Simeonov's Better Advertising company provides a plugin for popular browsers that watches and optionally blocks trackers. It's called Ghostery, and if the published features and privacy policy are to be believed it looks like a useful tool. In fact I think I'll try it now.

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Bronze badge

Whose tool is Firefox?

Is the web browser my tool to use to view and interact with web sites? Or is it a web site's tool to use to present itself to me?

My take is that the interface between me and a web site operator is the HTML industry standard, JavaScript, and other such software standard interfaces, and Firefox is very much mine to use in those transactions. And who consents to Mozilla's licence terms when Firefox gets installed? I do. Mozilla is dealing with me.

On the other hand, they need to make some money somewhere, to stay in business.

Still, I think if I want to use Firefox with an anti-tracking tool, that is also up to me. And if web sites don't want to deal with me on that basis, that is up to them.

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Anonymous Coward

I *heart* FF plugins

Specifically Greasemonkey and AdBlock+, I did have NoScript installed but I found it kept on causing FF to randomly freeze from seconds to minutes to sometimes having to go into TaskManager and kill FF because it locked up completely.

It's really satisfying being able to change or (more often) remove elements of websites to suit your own wants/needs and take back control of what you view, notably removing adverts from websites for products I have absolutely no interest in and no desire to buy, but also when websites such as eBay change their layout unfavourably you can change things back or make enhancements with a Greasemonkey script or two.

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Bronze badge

Freezing a general FF issue

In my experience, the random freezing is a general Firefox issue, not a NoScript specific issue. I don't know what causes it, probably a corrupted preferences file as resetting your preferences usually fixes it. Either start Firefox in safe mode and choose "Reset all user preferences" or, in your Firefox profile directory, delete prefs.js and user.js if it exists (see http://kb.mozillazine.org/Resetting_preferences for details).

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Happy

Do remember about open source

It is allowed to make a fork of Firefox that will disable all tracking. Although what this add-on is, I don't know.

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Unhappy

Thanks Mr.Matt Asay

for explaining us how selling our freedoms away is beneficial for them. Especially the paragraph where you're telling us the mainstream users are delighted when web advertisers are paying to have our freedoms removed. Yes, that really is a fair deal in that I give them away my freedoms and they're taking away my personal info.

You know what Mr Asay ? Up to this day I've never blocked cookies, popups, javascript or any scripting in my browser but this will change radically. I have the technical skills to do it and I'll share my knowledge with anyone who'd care to listen.

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(Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

Re: Thanks Mr.Matt Asay

What a curious notion of "freedoms".

Websites have the "freedom" to erect paywalls. And the "freedom" to, say, block Firefox browsers. If browser suppliers and viewers exercise their freedom to block adverts and choke advertising revenues, then more websites will have the motivation to run up those paywalls.

As Matt says, there are trade-offs.

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Small picture Drew

Drew, are you REALLY that nieve?

Websites start blocking all faceless browsers, or those not running scripting = less people reading it = less traffic as people are going elsewhere = site going into history as a failure.

Effectively it's like putting up prices on a newspaper while the others are lowering theirs.. IT'S INSANITY!!

Not only that but the article is complete rubbish.

The people who are getting paid NOW, weren't always that way.

They were doing it in their free time, but are so valued that they are now paid to do that task by big players in the open-source community.

Redhat makes money from selling SUPPORT, not software. And the GPL doesn't say anything about making (or not making) money.

The GPL license issue, I can only just remember it, and it took a great number of revisions to try to get version 3 right, and I believe there were issues surrounding the wording... Although I cannot be certain.

But SaaS is definitely not what we are talking about here.

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@Drewc

What's wrong with paywalls?

Some sites I do not visit often enough to subscribe to. I would not mind viewing (non-tracking) advertisements in order to access their services. If only tracking advertisements would allow access to these services then I feel there should be a big fat “tracking advertisements are employed on this website: agree to use them or bugger off” button. I will choose to go elsewhere.

Other sites, (El Reg, Ars, a handful of webcomics I read religiously) I would cheerfully pay for. Why not? As far as I am concerned, El Reg and Ars are my daily newspapers. In fact they’re worth more to me than I used to pay for my local dead-tree rag. They contain not only great articles but excellent comments in which to participate. Both offer up (well, El Reg more than Ars,) video sessions on various topics as well as whitepaper downloads and other neat things.

What this means to me is that I could cheerfully spend as much time on these two sites as I have free time in a day. They have not only come to replace my newspaper…but largely cable television as well. (Though I will admit to a Netflix subscription in order to keep abrest of a few series.)

Ars costs me, what…a hundred or so bucks a year? What if El Reg cost the same? Netflix is in that realm too. If I pay $125 a year (ish) per site for what are in essence my primary sources of entertainment that is still only $375. If I add in paying $50 a year for my favourite webcomics that’s another $350. Throw in the cost of my internet connection, ($25 a month) and you end up with $1025 a year to pay for all the digital entertainment I could ever ask for. That’s $85 and change a month…right about what my cable company is asking to provide me with a tier of service that isn’t complete ass.

Maybe subscriptions aren’t enough; it is entirely possible that you earn more revenue per subscriber through advertisement than you could reasonably charge for subscriptions. Can’t there be a happy medium? What about subscriptions buying us at least the right to not be tracked in the advertisements we’re delivered? If I am reading dead tree newspaper or watching TV then at least I’m not being tracked!

I am willing to pay for my entertainment…I think a lot of other people are too. We have proven this for the past several decades by paying for television, newspapers and the like. What makes the internet so different that we suddenly wouldn’t be willing to pay for quality? Why should we as users expect to surrender our privacy when we aren’t even being given the OPTION of a reasonable alternative?

This is what riles me…and I suspect it riles a great deal of other commenters here. We aren’t all “filthy freetards, unwilling to pay for anything and demanding that other people produce work for nothing.” Quite the opposite, I suspect the majority of readers – at least at El Reg – are thoughtful intelligent people who respond positively to bilateral communication and would like the option of CHOICE.

That’s the ticket here: choice. Regular people are a fickle bunch…we have diverse opinions and fall into many different groups as regards how we would like to consume our content. El Reg’s readership are the thin end of the wedge: we know damned well that the technology that exists today can be put to use in such a way as to give us many more options than we currently enjoy. Non-technical folks are starting to wake up to this too.

What this really boils down to is that people won’t accept having how they may pay for the content they wish to consume dictated to them. We know there are other options available and we see a refusal to provide these options as obstinance, arrogance or living in the past. I am not saying this is a correct interpretation of reality…but in the absence of real dialogue between the content providers and the use lowly consumers about the topic, we tend to assume that the content providers are perfectly aware of our willingness and desire to find a different compromise…they just don’t care.

This impasse is being seen everywhere that digital content provisioning exists. Customers want choice…more than anything we want to feel in CONTROL of our experience. We’ve had enough of crap like “cable tiers” and we quite frankly aren’t ever going back.

Why has this become détente between freetards and content providers when in reality people willing to PAY for content outnumber both groups by a huge margin? Who is going to break first? More importantly, how the hell did it the awesome promise of the internet turn into such a stalemate?

I don’t have answers. I only know two things: I don’t like being tracked and I am willing to pay for the sites I visit.

The next move is up to the content providers.

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Pirate

If they want the traffic

They need to make people want to come to the sites. I already avoid sites that use only flash as it provides nothing extra and uses more bandwidth. I use my freedom to go somewhere else, if they try to block me then somewhere else is where I go.

They need me more than I need them!

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@Drewc

I partially agree with you, except, it's not my consideration what Mozilla's position is, when I use FF for browsing. In fact all I care about is whether or not it performs how I want it to.

The trade offs are Mozillas' issues not mine and as such is a moot point.

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TrackMeNot?...

...maybe not, but it sends out bogus search requests at preset intervals so that genuine queries are hidden in the mass of junk searches, i.e. in theory making it difficult/impossible for advertiser's algorithms to work out what my 'profile' is.

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Anonymous Coward

to the downvoter

Can you explain your reason for the downvote?

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Blame it on mass insanity

I'm not the person who downvoted, but it should be obvious from...

"... in the mass of junk searches, ..."

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a last-resort option?

the idea of increasing traffic (noise!) on the net to obscure your identify feels wrong to me.

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@Drewc: then tell users, and give them the choice?

I carried out a user survey recently (of normal non-techie users), and out of 35 people, *none* of them were OK with advertisers providing "better ad targeting" by collecting data on what people do across different sites.

In fact, it was almost impossible to write this question without it sounding like a leading question. Because Google, Rapleaf etc, *people you don't know*, are hoovering up everything you do, *behind your back*, to build a secret picture of your life. Of course no-one wants this! No-one! It's a privatised Big Brother, just in order that the ads you see are more relevant.

So ask people. Tell them the whole story, ask them to choose - "choose free services paid for by ads that can be targeted at you, because everything you do online is collated privately somewhere. Or a small expense to use many web services, but no-one is collecting what you do online?"

Sure, some people will say "well, ok..." when you point out it makes things free. But ask people. So many of them hate Big Brother. And currently you're complicit in allowing it, secretly, as if it's more important than what your users want.

In other words, you're part of Big Brother. Sleep easy.

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Grenade

Freedom

As Janis Joplin put it, "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.".

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What a curious notion of "freedoms".

Yes, like the NYT tried with their online newspaper - and promptly lost a vast majority or their readers. Freedom includes deciding not to pay for something freely available EVERYWHERE.

Advertisers have NO RIGHTS, the sooner they realize that the better. If a website can't survive on its own (ie It plasters ads on every available square inch of your screen), there is a strong likelihood that it shouldn't be running in the first place.

It's bad enough that people thought it would be a good idea to have banks become to big to fail, do we really need web sites to become the same way! Funk the advertisers, they have absolutely ZERO concern for YOU, so why should we concern ourselves with them.

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Thumb Down

Makes no sense!

There is no justification for stealing user information to enrich companies on the Internet. The Internet is paid for by users in their ISP fees. Companies should have business models that obtain revenues from users legitimately and above board, or they should fail.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: Makes no sense!

"The internet" is not paid for with ISP fees at all. ISPs are paid for with ISP fees, and that's it. The bandwidth used to deliver all that content to your ISP, and the servers used to host it all have to be paid for by somebody else.

Not that I'm for advertisers invading privacy, but let's be honest about who's paying for what, and exactly what your monthly subscription covers.

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Silver badge

ISP bandwidth

Sorry, but you're not making much sense either. Everyone who accesses the Internet is paying an ISP - therefor ISPs are the Internet.

And since everyone is paying them, everyone pays the Internet.

The only real problem is that ISPs are trying to equate the amount of data traveling through their pipes to a charge that needs to be paid for, which is patently ridiculous. You can make electricity go through a copper wire for decades, it won't be any worse for the wear afterwards.

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DR
FAIL

No, the internet is not paid for by your ISP fees

Your connection to the internet is paid for by your ISPs fees.

websites have hosting cost, hardware costs, possibly staff costs and their own ISP bills to pay for. that's why they need adverts, so that in the torrent of places that you can just go to and look at for free there is money coming from somewhere to pay the bills.

the choices are subscriptions. (-which some will pay for).

donations -unreliable funding model

advertisements - which scale well, (more visitors = more costs, but also = more ad revenue to fund the site).

Ads are far and away the easiest way to fund a site. targeted ads are the most likely to be clicked since they are most likely to be relevant.

Blocking an advert means that a site won't receive revenue.

a site not receiving revenue means it'd soon close down.

less sites = less freedom on the internet. or only those that can afford to "bank roll" their own site can get their sites out there.

so I'm one person who is glad that FF haven't gone ahead and blocked all tracking in their browser.

if I can see one small targeted possible useful advert on a page, (that pays the site well) then I'd prefer that to ten large and relatively useless ads on a page that pay the site relatively little (so they have to display more).

I'd like a subscription option for *some* sites, as it'd be nice not to have adverts, but to be fair, on a daily basis the average person must follow the odd link, from one article of interest to another article of similar interest. I don't want to pay a subscription to view a site every time I go to a new site to see an interesting article -just because there are no adverts. -so subscription only sites aren't really an option either. -how would you ever find a new site, you can't browse articles to see if you like the content, you don't want to pay for content without knowing if you like it.

I also don't want to see 10 ads on the page to view a free version of the site, because someone gave the ad company lots of money to push (completely irrelevant to me) plumbing supplies, Basically sign me up for targeted tracked ads, they pay the sites better, so they need less ads, they are relevant to me, so they just aren't as annoying.

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when google no longer owns firefox

i'll be interested to hear what they have to say.

we know firefox wouldn't exist without googles funding and how much firefox has built google into the browser in return.

other than internet exploder for which seems to connect to nothing when it starts up for my blank page however it sure seems to be doing something firefox also seems to be in the same process.

Alot of something to load nothing.

There are some mozilla spinoffs out there that aren't as bad but since they are all under 'mozilla' im sure google still has a hand in it all.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What a curious notion of "freedoms".

Specifically: "If a website can't survive on its own (ie It plasters ads on every available square inch of your screen), there is a strong likelihood that it shouldn't be running in the first place."

I believe El Reg is neither a blog nor a charity.

I block the ads as I am a geeky freetard, believing (or hoping) that its good works succeed in pulling in money from sources other than the ones I'm blocking with plug-ins.

Naive? Moi? Sorry, Team El Reg...

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Silver badge
Stop

Maybe I'm missing something.

If I see a advertising poster in the street I might stop and read it if I have time. If someone stuffs a flyer under my nose then, without exception, I'll tell them I'm not interested (and might not be too polite about it).

Websites are the same. A discreet advertising strip down the side might get my attention if I'm not too engrossed. A popup or animated graphic is an instant NO. Because of the latter, it has become necessary for me to employ ad-blockers etc. if I am to have any hope of getting the information I want without being distracted and annoyed.

If I ever get the idea that anyone has been attempting to find out about me and my habits in order to sell me something then that is instant 100% hostility. I will indeed remember the company, but in the most negative terms possible.

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Anonymous Coward

Odd conception of "freedom"

I'd say anyone able to even use a browser & therefore a computer, has more freedom than a great deal of the planets population.

The notion that the web should be entirely "free" and that profits shouldn't be made by those offering "free" products, is entirely absurd.

Advertising, like it or not, is contributing to a richer web experience - without that revenue, we'd still be stuck at the starting post - in fact, the web would never have gone mainstream.

I'll take advertising *any* day over absurd government control of the web - this is what we have to fear, not firefox pandering to advertisers, but governments attempting to block our online freedom.

Ultimately, your in control of your browser - you can choose where to go, what data to accept, what browser to use. But not all of us have the freedom to roam where we will online - and that's where the real problem lies.

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Stop

And who do you think government is working for ?

You ? Don't be silly! It's working for those corporations you're gladly submitting to. Government will never have the resources to gather all that amount of info about you, it's Verizon, AT&T, Visa, Google, Yahoo and all others providing it.

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Silver badge

Odd conception of "freedom"

It's better then the idea that Corporations should have the freedom to do anything they want.

Yes governments wanting to control the web is a problem, but it's a DIFFERENT problem.

They wonder why ad rates are dropping? It's because there are too many ads. A site that used to have two ads now has 8, a 30 minute TV show now has about 8 minutes of Ads (and they want to show more of them). Saturday morning used to show cartoons for kids now it's all 30 minute ads for useless crap.

When people are willing to make an effort or even spend money just to avoid your ad you have a problem and the answer is not more ads.

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Silver badge
Paris Hilton

My brain's addblock

My brain has blanked advertising as long as I can remember. I know it was doing it back in my early 20's as my workplace got in two printed trade journals which were 100% adds (basically suppliers advertising their latest offerings). I had huge trouble even reading these! It took conscious effort to see anything on the page (obviously I was SEEING the ads, but my mind rebelled against registering them in any way other than as squiggly lines).

On the down side, I can't casually watch a TV weather report due to the same effect. Unless I glue my concentration to the screen, I get to the end with three minutes of conscious experience missing! :-/

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FAIL

Silly Matt

You can take the man out of Novell, but you can't take Novell out of the man. I've have not seen so much mirepresentation and bullshit outside of a Microsoft mouthpiece. Anyone who wants to know what Egan Moglen thinks about being tracked on the internet should visit <a href="http://wiki.debian.org/FreedomBox">the freedom box</a>. I'm sure the Mozilla people feel similarly abused. What's more, thanks to software freedom, it does not matter.

If Mozilla lets me down with Firefox, I expect other people to take care of themselves with Icecat, Konqueror, Websurf, Epiphany, and so on and so forth. That's what <a href="http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html">software freedom</a> is all about. Advertisers can howl all they like, I'm not really interested and get my news and entertainment from others who agree. People who don't get that are not going to be making much money in the immediate future. The folks at Canonical need to watch out for people who think the way Matt does.

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Anonymous Coward

Oh thats a great idea

The web was never designed to go 'mainstream' it was designed as a way of sharing information. The clue is the 'HTTP' bit.

Flash, Web 2.0, and scripting etc... are the bits that give us our 'richer web experience' , the bits incidentaly that create the very issues argued out here. Namely whether we want corporations 'enriching' our lives with their trackers and targetted advertising.

If you live in a country where the Government strictly controls you're access to the web, then surely its up to you to do something about it? If the grass is greener over the fence, perhaps you need to sack your gardener, or move.

Alternatively allow big corporations to enrich your web experience with their trackers, and still have a strictly controlled web. Perhaps they can share the data with your oppresive overlords? One thing you wont find from these corporations is a desire to change the status quo.

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Linux

Advertisements... are things I see work.

I am surprised at Mozilla for wimping out and it bears watching.

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Silver badge
Alert

Sorry, this is a whole heap of steaming turd.

Before you click "downvote", please read my post.

I get it. I really do. The free-for-all approach has its limitations. Specifically when you want to get accurate information for free. Well, it comes from somewhere, it is verified, it is put on-line. For a brilliant example, the next time you look up an address or plan a route on Google Maps, spare a thought for those who put the map together, made it match the satellite photography, added Streetview, made it into a simple web product, host billions of images... it's an insanely massive project and it isn't free... except to us. Their funding? No doubt advertising and paid links and such. The same could be said for many sites.

However, and this is the extremely crucial crux of the matter - it is a browser's duty to do what it can in a world stacked heavily against the end-user. WE have perceived freedoms. We can choose what sites we go to and whether or not we are willing to pay for content. But sites carry Ts&Cs, and for subscriptions (even free ones) you are expected to read and agree to those Ts&Cs. All content pasted up on The Wired has a copyright. Some is a free-for-all, but much useful content isn't. The law states that if it doesn't say, full copyright should be assumed. Look down and see "© Copyright 1998–2010".

Where is all of this for user tracking and profiling? For God's sake, we don't know who the hell is tracking us at any given time without clueing up and wading around the page sources. We all know Google. What about that damned Facebook "Like" button that is turning up everywhere? Yup... But who? And how? And how much data? And what rights of examination and/or correction? The law, if ones even exist, give us "opt-out" - which means unless we understand the system and opt out everywhere necessary, we'll be automatically opted in.

But it is worse. Very much worse. At exactly what point did these trackers enter into an arrangement with us? Oh, I see. To "use" a Google service we have to agree by their terms, but to profile us they have to agree to sod all with us. They'll just use our visits and browsing habits for... actually... I have no idea. There's a lot you can do beyond "more relevant ads".

Don't get me wrong. I'm not against reasonable advertising on a third-party site. I feel it it is pretty much a necessary evil, akin to adverts on TV. What I'm against is the mechanics of the profiling. It is too invasive with too little accountability.

THIS is why it is the duty of a modern browser to do what it can to look after what little privacy we have. If user profiling is something that needs to be kept a secret and requiring a little leaning on the Mozilla Foundation, one could rightly question the ethics of this behaviour and as a consequence perhaps we ought to consider carefully where we place our trust.

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Bronze badge

Well said.

The solution seems simple, though - a button that says "allow tracking", off by default. Let the user decide.

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advertising...

I have NO PROBLEM with advertising, tracking, etc... BUT...

(hey I clear ALL this data regularly every few minutes, anyway...)

I dont use or put my details online!! It is the same as putting them on a billboard on the street!!

If admen put up decent ads, then I will not block them... this means..

NO flashy stuff!

NO noisy stuff!

NO garish pictures or colors!

Use a simple ad that would appear in 'paperware' and follows decent codes of practice, and it WILL NOT be blocked... :)

And please, **make it easy** for me to not block this!!! If you use the same 'agency' for your decent ads, as the totally unscrupulous ones, like a certain audiovisual forum, then no amount of load moaning about it will help... If you do not use this agency, or even use your detection script to put up a graphic instead instead of that 'moan', then It will allow me to use these ads to fund your site!!

to not do this is just lazy...

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Black Helicopters

The Dark Tower?

Mozilla are just doing what any other business will do. Protecting their business interests first. They've got such a huge number of users that they can afford to upset a few freetards.

This is a telling quote from the article,

"Some - including individuals within my own company, Canonical - call this "proprietary Linux." I call it smart business,........."

The cracks are starting to show and if we peek through them we can see what Saint Shuttleworth has planned all along.

Create the Linux distro to rule them all. Thereby creating a massive base of committed users who will then follow whatever the master does. Including swallowing the introduction, however tentative, of software you have to pay for.

He's a very wealthy businessman. Not as wealthy as Bill Gates, but no different in that respect. He's in it to make money, as we all are in our own way.

When Gates tries to present himself as a philanthropist he's treated by the freetard community as a charlatan.

Shuttleworth saw this and played the same card a different way. Like all good businessmen he knew success rarely comes overnight. He picked open source software/Linux for his long term business plan.

He's done a first rate job. No one questions how good Ubuntu is.

He's got them hooked and now will slowly begin to reel them in, and their money.

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Paris Hilton

Hmmm at "Freedom"

Just skimmed through most of the posts and the word "Freedom" seemed to feature quite a bit - or so it seemed.

Maybe a definition of "freedom" would be helpful and if so who has the freedom to freely define freedom?

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interesting...

http://www.ftc.gov/os/2010/12/101201privacyreport.pdf

(I think this was linked here @ The Register last week...)

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Stop

infection vectors

How long ago was thereg listed as an blocked (unsafe) site because the ad vendor you used had been hacked and you site was linked to a number of ad driven exploits.

There are some sensible reasons why some folks block third party ads from certain places.

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Chrome blocks trackers

Seems there is some confusion here. Chrome blocks this (recent versions) but Firefox does not. It cannot be a Google demand of Mozilla that has resulted in the refusal to block trackers. Who is getting to Mozilla?

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I am free to not give a title..

Matt 89: good points, BUT..

Read the post by 'Will Godfrey' - so, so true... Others please note that due to the time it takes for posts to become visible, I bet at least 4 other's posts above him were not visible at that time!!

Of course, you pay the ISP for your *access* to the Internet, like you pay your road tax, to use the road!

what car you use, is up to YOU - and if a good browser was as easy to make as a good car, there would be a LOT more than 5 or 6 models about!!

Just like you drive along the road, there are many shops, that have big displays to bring in customers, but there is a law against using giant displays, unlike the Internet... though cost may be a factor, unlike the net...

If you go back a few years, when flash was very young... the new version came out, heralded as a great invention, able to do fantastic things with graphics, etc, etc... BUT those with a good brain groaned... this would only make admen happy... cue sound of browser authors rushing to find how to stop it, while poor Joe public was assaulted with many ridiculous pop ups.... :( :(

oh, and something to scare Mozilla.. livejasmin is nowhere to be seen on opera... :) wonder if they will fix the hopeless 'popup blocker' in V4???

freedom, huh?? the only real freedom you can get, is a tiny island a mile across... freedom to freeze/ starve/ bore yourself to death... :P

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This topic is closed for new posts.