back to article Mozilla needs to find alternatives to the Google umbilical

Mozilla doesn't get mentioned much in corporate earnings calls. General web interest seems to be sliding, too. Across social media the attitude toward Mozilla is generally positive, but it gets far less airtime than Google or Apple, the two companies doing more than anyone else to reshape the web in their respective images. And …

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Anonymous Coward

> Any ideas as to where it could come from?

Google only needs Firefox as long as it's market share is significant. If Chrome becomes dominant and Firefox drops to something small (say sub-10%) then why pay them $$$. Based on the uptake of Chrome that may well not be too far off (although most Chrome growth so far has come at the expense of IE, Firefox has dropped a little)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firefox#Market_adoption

> Any ideas as to where it could come from?

Make a better browser and drive up market share?

Many techies I know (myself included) are now advocating Chrome (or at least Chromium-based) browsers to friends and family, traditionally I would have been advocating Firefox. Why? Primarily browser speed. Two years ago FF was simply getting slower and slower, and it had a questionable security model FWICT. Chrome came along and was more responsive for "real uses" (who cares about Javascript benchmarks, fast DOM manipulation and page rendering is what matters most), and the one process per thing approach seems exceptionally sensible. Granted Chrome is not without its bugs, but then FF seemed to be on a downward slide at the time too ...

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Re: > Any ideas as to where it could come from?

"Google only needs Firefox as long as it's market share is significant. If Chrome becomes dominant and Firefox drops to something small (say sub-10%) then why pay them $$$. Based on the uptake of Chrome that may well not be too far off (although most Chrome growth so far has come at the expense of IE, Firefox has dropped a little)"

Broadly accurate, but Google do also make money from the advertising that Firefox sends their way. Google is the default search bar in Firefox as well as (last time I did a fresh install) being integrated into the default home page. If Chrome takes over (and I still rate Firefox as the better browser, but it is now the slowest of the big players (behind IE, Opera and Chrome), then it will still be worth some of Google's while for the ad revenues. But maybe not quite as much as before.

Firefox was backed by Google because they wanted to unseat IE and quite frankly, Firefox was much more capable than Chrome at doing that and was already in the fight at the time. The question is with so much money pouring in, could Mozilla foundation adapt to living like they used to, without the huge amount of resource and management that Google have paid for?

Firefox gained a lot of traction because it was (a) the Open Source champion and (b) had better developer tools than IE. IE9/10 has reached parity with Firefox for developer support (don't downvote me until you've actually tried them properly, thanks) and Chrome might try and usurp it's role as (a). Even though I think Mozilla has greater claim than Google in that regard.

Personally, I would choose Firefox over Chrome ten times over even though it is a bit slower, simply because I dislike the way Chrome's objective is getting advertising data on you. (Yes, there is Chromium, but that will always be second fiddle to Chrome so long as Google are at the steering wheel of development, for the same reason Mono on Linux will always be second fiddle to .NET on Windows).

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they realized it - but too late

Can we hope firefox-os can give us more freedom ?

dont think so ! too late ! ppl r locked-in to not one but two ecosytems.

The open firefox browser should never have put a google search box by default;

as if google is non-profit and it has the best interests of web consumers.

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Linux

Gotta say

I used to be a firefox user and proud of it. I got most of my family onto firefox, but it began to slow down, it was getting buggy, things would crash for no reason, it'd draw an insane amount of resources and I just wasn't happy using it anymore. Then along came chrome basically it was what firefox used to be.

Considering they both share the same goals, or similar goals. i'd like to see some more synergy between firefox and chrome. Perhaps work out a way that they can both use the same plugin API for a "write once, run anywhere" plugin infrastructure, rather than seeing all this "app for Firefox, app for Chrome" stuff.

I believe that the best way for them to make more money though, would be to get bought up by a parent company, maybe Apache who can give it funding and a push it needs to get back on top. (or maybe one of the linux distros like canonical)

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>>Perhaps work out a way that they can both use the same plugin API

They do; it's called NPAPI and is the standard API used by every browser except IE which uses ActiveX. Although maybe when you're talking about apps you don't mean quite the same thing... but I don't see why we need 'apps' in a browser - isn't that called a website?

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Re: both share the same goals, or similar goals.

Mozilla exists to make the Web a better and more open place. Google exists to make more money for Google.

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Re: >>Perhaps work out a way that they can both use the same plugin API

Google is already talking of doing away with or deprecating NPAPI for something called Pepper. Pepper is a more advanced plugin API to support some of the stuff Google are doing with NaCl / PNacCl. In particular it offers a retained graphics mode so that the browser doesn't have to call (cross-process) to ask the plugin to repaint itself when the view is invalidated.

Having worked with the NPAPI a lot I can understand why it's not fit for purpose for Google's intentions but if they're going to replace it they should get some kind of consensus amongst other other browser manufacturers first.

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Re: Gotta say

"I used to be a firefox user and proud of it. I got most of my family onto firefox, but it began to slow down, it was getting buggy, things would crash for no reason,"

This is true and it definitely got very slow and bloated at one point. It's still not the fastest, but I never stopped using it and it seems to have improved again. Anecdotal, but it gets almost daily use from me so I think there's something to my impression.

"Considering they both share the same goals, or similar goals. i'd like to see some more synergy between firefox and chrome."

I'm not sure that they do. Firefox's goal is the success of Firefox. Chrome's goal is the success of Chrome. Regarding shared APIs... I'm with others who want to see something truly cross-browser. I.e. build your app as a web-site and use the DB and advanced cache ideas in HTML5 plus a tonne of Javascript. That's as far as I want to go with apps in a browser. I dislike Browser as OS model for a long list of reasons.

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tfb
Devil

Re: Gotta say

"Firefox's goal is the success of Firefox. Chrome's goal is the success of Chrome. "

I don't think so: Chrome's goal is to help Google sell you advertising.

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Flame

Re: Gotta say

I can run chromium for weeks and not have it use lots of memory or spin the cpus. Or I can use Firefox, and watch it use all my RAM and all my swap space within 3 days, and start churning one of my cpus constantly - presumably trying to free memory.

If you shut down Firefox each day, it probably runs ok. If this was still the noughties, that might be acceptable. These days, if my machine isn't on then it's sleeping, I don't restart applications because its 9 am, they get restarted if they are buggy, leak memory or crash - which doesn't happen with chromium.

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FAIL

This has been covered before, if Google stopped paying them then Bing would happily pay them for their search traffic.

Mozilla make Google money via them using google search page as default. This isn't some sort of charity handout from Google, it's business.

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Really. I think its more likely Microsoft will let Mozilla die, one less competitor in the open source market, one less competitor to compete against to impose it vision on to the internet.

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that should be the browser market, not open source market.

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Microsoft isn't that stupid

A neutral browser that won't do trickery like "oops, sorry broke Bing/maps" matters to all. As they are so old fashioned, they will never do something like "internet explorer for Android" so that is where Firefox kicks in.

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"Really. I think its more likely Microsoft will let Mozilla die, one less competitor in the open source market, one less competitor to compete against to impose it vision on to the internet"

A browser that is making them money (i.e. Firefox working with Bing) is not a competitor in the same way. MS have actually been contributing quite a lot to open and free standards recently. Typescript is one instance (and Chrome, incidentally, has one of the most advanced ways of working with that as there is a plugin for debugging Typescript available for it). MS's contribution on handling video in HTML is far better than W3C's own that they've been tarrying over for ages, too.

Seriously - faced with a choice of A + B as their competitors vs. just A, where A is complete rival and B is a semi-rival that makes you money, they will choose A+B. Besides, it's not like Firefox is going anywhere anytime soon. This is just an opinion piece on El Reg.

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Anonymous Coward

TTL: not long now

Google needs Mozilla only until Chrome is dominant, then it will pull the plug.

Why does Matt Asay think Google will continue to support Mozilla Did Father Christmas tell him everything would be all right?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Did Father Christmas tell him everything would be all right?

No, it was some anonymous internet dickhead, apparently.

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FAIL

Dear Matt,

We've been trying to build "portable" applications for decades, but it never truly works. UNIX, MSX, Java, .NET/Mono – you name it. We've tried it.

Christ, we've had that portable assembly language called "C" since the 1970s. We've invented a veritable Tower of Babel of "portable" programming languages, tools and technologies, but… nada.

If anything, it's only made things worse: the world is now dominated by the almost 40-year-old UNIX and its myriad clones, while the only remaining non-UNIX-derived OS kernel comes from Microsoft. If that's progress, I'm a banana. This is ironic when you consider all the FOSS community's talk of "choice" and "freedom". I had more choice and freedom in operating systems in the 1980s and 1990s.

For applications to be 100% portable over multiple devices, from 27" iMacs and Windows boxes with their (primarily WIMP-derived) mouse-centred GUIs, all the way down to 3.5" smartphones with their multi-touch screens, we need to invent some form of AI-driven GUI rendering technology that can take advantage of platform-specific features automatically. The alternative is the lowest common denominator design approach, and, frankly, thats sucks from a consumer perspective.

Standardised platforms are undesirable: it makes it next to impossible to make your own products stand out. What you end up with is a single, monolithic, point of failure. If a flaw is found in the underlying platform, everything that runs on it is vulnerable. Furthermore, good UI design is done from the platform up, not from the top down. iOS apps feel different to their Android counterparts because Android's gestural 'language' has diverged from iOS'. Similarly, Windows (Phone) 8 applications also need a very different look and feel.

What you are advocating, in fact, is the very antithesis of "choice" and "freedom". I can already choose between multiple ecosystems. The ecosystem is the "platform" of today, not the hardware that merely provides a component of it. I can choose Android and Google and GNU / Linux. I can choose Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. I can choose iOS and OS X. Or I can choose any mixture of the above.

What you propose would be no choice at all.

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Re: Dear Matt,

"I had more choice and freedom in operating systems in the 1980s and 1990s."

No you didn't. Even by the 80s, Microsoft DOS was the one single OS that mattered.. though you could use the mostly-perhaps-maybe-compatible DR DOS if you liked. Amigas, when they becamne available, were for playing games and occasionally making techno music in Modtracker or something. Your choice for big computer OSes was Unix, Unix or Unix, with that Linux thing not even written until 1991.

Sure, you had various odd manufacturers with odd operating systems and odd hardware. You still get that now. In fact I'd say you have radically more freedom now than at any time since Microsoft first got the contract to buy someone else's OS for a computer system that would become the defacto standard microcomputer.

Just got to keep the momentum up and make sure the bastards at Redmond don't do to mobile what they did to home and business machines.

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Re: Dear Matt,

"No you didn't"

Yes we did. You are simply not aware or have forgotten. For example, your comment about Amigas being something used for games or occasional techno music. There was a TV series called Babylon 5 which was pretty advanced for its day. The graphics and space scenes in it were all rendered on banks of Amigas for example. There were all those home PCs like Spectrums and Commodores. And your casual dismissal of things that sold in huge quantities because they weren't "big computer" is beside the point. They were there and in fact they were everywhere. There were multiple different types of UNIX, some quite different to each other. There was OS/2. Novell's stuff, BeOS... Most of the ones in the Eighties and Nineties were UNIX-like. But there were more active and popular than there are active and popular today.

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Re: Dear Matt,

"The graphics and space scenes in it were all rendered on banks of Amigas for example."

Ah, that myth.

No, Babylon 5 was not rendered using Amigas and video toasters. The Babylon 5 pilot movie was, and then they went to Pentium PCs, DEC Alpha workstations, a handful of Macs and some SGI equipment.

"There were all those home PCs like Spectrums and Commodores."

Which were okay as toys, but the only computer with any oomph even back then was the old IBM/PC compatible.

Thing is, Sean there was on about choice. Exactly what in, I'm not sure, as the modern wave of things such as the Beagle Board, Raspberry Pi, the forthcoming Via APC, the venerable Arduino, the Ouya games console and various other platforms seems to mean far more choice than back in the 80s, where a home computer had to be made by either Sinclair or Commodore, and business machines had to be either made by IBM or compatible with IBM plus Microsoft. Certainly more than the 90s, where the IBM/PC compatible got proper sound and graphics cards, came down (ish) in price and proceeded to wipe the floor with just about every other home computer format that wasn't a games console.

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Re: Dear Matt,

"Ah, that myth. No, Babylon 5 was not rendered using Amigas and video toasters. The Babylon 5 pilot movie was, and then they went to Pentium PCs, DEC Alpha workstations, a handful of Macs and some SGI equipment."

Not a total myth. I didn't know that they later on moved away from the Amigas, but your link actually just says later on they moved to those machiens "later". According to Wikipedia, not only the pilot episode, but all of Season One and some of Season Two were produced on Amigas. Also, a quick search turned up an interview with the visual effects director here where he talks about the use of Amigas notably dated during Season Two. In any case, it more than shows that Amigas were more than "toys".

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Linux

Re: Dear Matt,

With the exception of the Arduino, everything you just mentioned is an ARM system running Linux, possibly with Android on top. We have plenty of choice when it comes to form factor and packaging... but not quite so much choice when it comes to platforms.

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Re: Dear Matt,

So what? In the 80s, everything 16 bit was either Motorola based (Atari ST, Amiga, Apple Mac, workstations from Sun, NEXT, Silicon Graphics) or Intel + clones. The only significant difference was that you could get an Archimedes for some RISC lovin.

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Happy

Re: Dear Matt,

And now we have .NET MF running on Arm (netduino, various GHI products) as well. The Arduino Due uses an Arm Cortex M4 (I think) processor too.

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Devil

"less airtime than Google or Apple"

If Mozilla gets less coverage in the non-tech media then the answer is simple: put a stupid cartoon on their site and change it regularly (works for Google) or change the boss to a polo-necked plonker that thinks he's Jesus (still works for Apple).

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Re: "less airtime than Google or Apple"

What a useful and well-thought out comment. Thank you for taking the time to share with us your incredible foresight and business acumen.

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FAIL

Re: What a useful and well-thought out comment.

What part of the phrase "taking the piss" don't you understand?

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Anonymous Coward

Echoes of

"write once run anywhere"

[t&cs apply, subject to platform support/ versions/ hardware issues/ memory capacity/ processor speed, api versions, patent disputes, your virtual environment may vary, no money back, no guarantees...]

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Re: Echoes of

I really like that promise and gave all chance to Java for desktop. Hell,I even purchased thinkfree office.

The issue was always UI and UX. Now everyone is used to web, html5 for UI and C* for core makes sense. Stuff running on server is more possible since people lost their sense of privacy, unfortunate but true.

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Re: Echoes of

Still, as someone else has said, how do you reconcile the plethora of I/O devices still in use today? How can you have one application that runs the same on a 27" desktop monitor with mouse AND a 4" multi-touch smartphone?

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Re: Echoes of

Why the hell would you want to?

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Re: Echoes of

Like the register.I use opera to read the register, opera desktop and mobile. Different sites but same thing I expect.

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Anonymous Coward

"It remains a major frustration for me that my apps are locked to iTunes. The same is true of the Android or Windows stores."

Huh? How many apps have you purchased that you feel indentured to Apple? I just looked at my Android phone receipts and see I spent a total of £22.73 over the eighteen month life of the phone. I cannot imagine the dreck you must have bought to feel you need to stay financially invested in one environment. If your iTunes investment is in music, there are converters out there or run doubleTwist on Android.

I have a choice of at least four apps stores or can go direct to the developer. Best of all, I choose what I want to buy. Anyone who says they cannot swap platforms because they spent too much on their phone needs to move out of their Mum's basement and get a life.

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It's easier to buy apps for Apple, with real money.

I might be out of touch on this, but my understanding is that Apple apps can be charged to your phone bill. Android apps generally can't, you have to put your credit card details into Google Play store or an equivalent, and casual users don't do that. So there are a lot more free Android software titles, sponsored by advertising, which means unfortunately that they have a slightly sleazy feel, at best, and a lack of the means of encouraging a developer to improve the product, by giving or offering money.

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Anonymous Coward

to summarise

I don't spend much on apps. If you do you're an idiot who live's in their mum's basement. I'm not, as you can clearly tell by the fact I post snarky comments on the internet and don't even create a handle to allow you to relate any of posts to each other. Definitely NOT POSTED FROM MY MUM'S BASEMENT! I have a very full life.

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"It remains a major frustration for me that my apps are locked to iTunes. The same is true of the Android or Windows stores."

Yes you and your family voluntarily shackled yourselves to Apple. However the situation is not quite as dire for Android or WinPhone users. If I decide I don't want another Samsung to replace my Galaxy I can buy a Sony, HTC or other Android to replace it. Yes it's still Android but it's not the same as being told there is only one phone that I can buy. Similarly there are multiple manufacturers for WinPhone.

You might think that's a subtle difference but it is very important.

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Anonymous Coward

The same is true of the Android or Windows stores

...you are free to download Android apps from Amazon or several other places. Or install from the makers site directly by side loading, so know you are not locked and as for Windows, excuse me? Unless you of course mean the RT version.

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Re: The same is true of the Android or Windows stores

"Unless you of course mean the RT version."

RT unfortunately is locked down. But at least an Enterprise customer can put their own stuff on it for their employees. That puts RT somewhere between Apple products (so far as I'm aware) and actual Windows 8.

Actually, genuine question - what is Apple like for rolling out corporate software / custom installs? I've never really heard anything significant about this for Apple, but if my above statement is wrong, please correct me.

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marketplace.firefox.com ??

Mozilla could be making money from JS apps right now. Unfortunately the effort is behind schedule. Wow, they finally opened it up to the public... but so far no desktop apps or paid apps.

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Re: marketplace.firefox.com ??

How do you go about stopping piracy from a purely HTML + JS based piece of software? Curious question.

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Holmes

It's the economic model, stupid!

I've said this before, but I'll waste a few keystrokes to say it again: There ARE alternatives to Microsoft and Apple, but the alternatives' economic models reek like the big dog's m0e. Superior software and a bad economic model does not reach a compromise in the middle. It just loses.

The alternative I'm still advocating would be kind of like a stock market, but for charity projects. The participants would donate to the parent organization, presumably the Mozilla Foundation in this case, and then their donation would magically reappear as credit in their charity share account. The donors would then shop around the available projects and buy (virtual) charity shares in the candidate projects. Only AFTER enough donors agreed that a particular project should be funded would the Mozilla people release the funds and start the work. I would NOT sign up for support of yet another trivial version number increment, but there are plenty of features that might actually be attractive, and it would be up to the Mozilla people to find out what we want and offer those features and projects--which could include things like extended support or upgrade paths. There's no real risk to the Mozilla people, since they'd already be holding the money, presumably with a timeout until they get to use it as they see fit.

This may remind you of the Kickstarter and IndyGoGo systems, though it's actually an older idea. The difference is that they don't (aFaIK) provide any meta-support for preparing good proposals and evaluating the results. Project life-cycle management is a REAL thing that needs to be part of any realistic model of software development.

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