Archive for June, 2009

Firefox 3.5 Coming June 30

June 29th, 2009

Firefox 3.5: fonts, speed, privacy enhancements and much more.

Available tomorrow by download or by using Firefox’s “check for updates” feature, which is found in the “Help” menu.

Plus “Shirotoko Shock” — a fun, easy way to be part of the launch!

The Persona That Makes Chris Cringe (and source photo)

June 25th, 2009



And the source image:
Musical Notes

The persona is made from a photo of a page of a quilted book. (The colors in the persona are much closer to the original than the source photo here. Viewing the source photo in a full page gets more accurate colors.) I finally finished the book and gave it away a week or so ago. I miss seeing the book so I thought it’s a good excuse to make a few personas. Still need to work my way through the details of scaling and sizing and color matching and so on to get a persona where one actually sees the notes. Am about halfway there. If anyone has an easy system would love to have a pointer 🙂

Summary: Firefox in Context

June 25th, 2009

The role of Firefox:

Firefox enables the web and web applications to be ever more robust and exciting. The web enables Firefox to be more flexible, more agile and more responsive. Firefox builds an experience where the center of the entire system remains a person. Not a website, not a business, not a piece of software. The most important actor in the entire picture is a human being; an individual. You. Me. Each person living part of his or her life online.

That’s the last paragraph of my last post. A bunch of people said I should have put made it the first paragraph, so here it is.

Firefox in Context

June 24th, 2009

Mozilla’s mission is to build choice, innovation, participation and opportunity into the ways people interact with the Internet. The centerpiece is Firefox, because the browser is the lens through which people see and touch the Internet. Over time, people are doing an ever broader set of activities with the Internet. What does this mean for how we think about Firefox? Here’s what I see.

1. Firefox continues to be an exceptional platform for delivering web applications to people. Firefox should help each web applications be the best it can be. That means features such as web compatibility, performance, and security remain central to our work. It means continuing to make the entire web platform richer, as we are doing with video and our standards work in general; Firefox 3.5 shows our leadership in these areas. It means effective and innovative user experience and features that help people get the most from their interaction with a website.

2. Firefox helps people manage information across multiple web applications. We all visit a variety of sites. The combination of those activities makes up a set of information that isn’t well managed by any particular site. A good example of how Firefox helps with this is the Awesome Bar, which makes it easy to revisit, group, label and manage information from multiple websites. It updates automatically and creates a set of information that reflects an individual person. An earlier example is the password manager, which helps people manage their identity across multiple sites. These features are broader than any one website and reflects a much fuller picture of me than a single website can.

3. Firefox incorporates web capabilities into its feature set. We’ve been doing this for a while, and I believe we’ll be doing more of this. An early example was building search into the browser as a feature. We’ve also done this with anti-phishing and malware features, where Firefox uses constantly updated aggregated information to protect people. Another example are the search suggestions that are generated as one types a search query in the Search Box. These browser features all make use of data provided in real-time, not built into the bits of Firefox.

Another way of incorporating web capabilities into Firefox is the real-time updating of a feature itself. The Firefox Add-ons system is one step, allowing people to add new features to their browser as those features are developed. A new, experimental example is “Ubiquity” which allows people to control the browser by typing commands such as “map 650 Castro Street” into a browser text entry field and seeing the results. Ubiquity commands are provided to the user as one starts to type a command; they are not determined at the time Ubiquity is installed on your machine. This means new commands can be added at any time, and are instantly available to the user.

We’re already thinking about data, services and their relation to online life. Our 2010 goals explicitly call out data and its management. But this may suggest that these things are distinct rather than interwoven. Data and services may be separate from the product we call Firefox in an architectural or technical or intellectual property sense. But they are not separate in how people experience the web. And so I believe we must think of all of these things — software bits, “services,” “data” — as facets of the Firefox product itself.

In summary, I’d describe the ongoing role of Firefox as follows.

Firefox enables the web and web applications to be ever more robust and exciting. The web enables Firefox to be more flexible, more agile and more responsive. Firefox builds an experience where the center of the entire system remains a person. Not a website, not a business, not a piece of software. The most important actor in the entire picture is a human being; an individual. You. Me. Each person living part of his or her life online.

Closed, Browser Specific Features

June 18th, 2009

In the so-called “browser wars” of the mid-1990s both Netscape and Microsoft waged campaigns to get websites to use features proprietary to their browser, hoping to boost market share for that browser by making it difficult for people using other browsers.

Today at Mozilla we work very hard not to do this.

  • We spend huge amounts of time figuring out how we can move the web forward by adding new features and NOT break the web for people using browsers that support fewer capabilities. This is often called “degrading gracefully” and it’s an important design criteria;
  • We work with other browser vendors in the standards groups to define capabilities shared among browsers;
  • We make all our work open source, available for anyone to use.

Microsoft’s marketing campaign brought this to mind — it’s a campaign to get people to use IE because the clues to a $10,000 prize aren’t visible unless you use IE 8. This is a small thing, undoubtedly not intended to represent any grand idea of vision of the Internet.

Even so, the campaign struck me. It reflects a mindset that is still at odds with the idea of making one Internet, accessible to all, open to all, cross-platform, cross-product and unified in its nature.

Participation Plus

June 18th, 2009

So far we’ve used the word “participate” as in: “Mozilla promotes choice, innovation and participation on the Internet.” That’s good, but it’s not enough. Many of us participate in closed systems where the rules are set for us and we don’t see them, certainly can’t change them, and aren’t permitted to “participate” in building the rules. This is true of very popular web services. For example, I “participate” in Flickr and Facebook, but within the system and rules that those organizations set up to meet their own goals. That’s fine; there’s no reason for those sites to change.

Mozilla is trying to build a layer of the Internet that’s different, where “participation” extends to the very core of what we build. I’m still struggling to find a crisp way to describe this. If you’ve got thoughts about how to do this — in any language — I would love to hear them.

Windows 7 Without IE

June 12th, 2009

Yesterday Microsoft announced that it is planning to ship Windows 7 without IE in Europe, and to offer IE separately.

It’s impossible to evaluate what this means until Microsoft describes — completely and with specificity — all the incentives and disincentives applicable to Windows OEMs. Without this it’s impossible to tell if Microsoft is giving something with one hand and taking it away with the other. For example, if Windows marketing dollars are tied to IE or browser-based programs, then the ties to Windows are still distorting the browser market. One could think of many other examples.

As a result it’s also impossible to tell whether this does anything more than change the technical installation process of the OEMs. It will certainly make life more difficult for people upgrading to Windows 7.


EC Principles: Synthesis

June 11th, 2009

UPDATE: In an odd coincidence, this post appeared just about the time Microsoft announced plans about shipping Windows 7 without Internet Explorer. This post is a synthesis of the public discussions within the Mozilla community over the past weeks. It is not intended — and certainly won’t serve — as a response to Microsoft announcements or plans.

Of the various principles I proposed, the ones that get the strongest positive response are those that protect the choices people have already made or are trying to make. These are outlined in principles 1: Respecting Previous Choice and 2: Windows Must Not Provide a Technical Advantage to IE.

Another set of principles generate a positive response, but feels much more low-key. This includes principles 5, Microsoft must educate people about other browsers and principle 6, Educating people about other browsers.

Principle 7, IE must support web standards, was controversial as a judicial / regulatory requirement. Many want IE to do this but are even very uncomfortable with a regulatory agency determining technical standards in a wildly changing setting such as today’s internet.

The more direct, product based Principle 3, Windows must enable people to choose other browsers, generated some very positive feedback and also some concerns. The positive response comes from the idea that one can’t address the problem without addressing the product. The concerns seem based in (a) complexity of user experience concerns; (b) concern over unintended consequences. The same is true of remedies that have direct effects on the OEM distribution channel. There’s a recognition the OEMs are third parties with their own goals, and an understanding of how hard it is to effectively change such relationships.

There are also people who argue that no one should be able to tell Microsoft anything about its products. People in this group may reject antitrust laws in general, or may reject their application to this kind of technology, or may not know of their existence. Probably all three play a part. Of those people who accept that antitrust law exists and might be applicable, there is a group that wonders if Firefox itself is solving the problem as its market share grows. In contrast, for many people Firefox is mitigating some of the effects of the tying of IE with Windows but does not change the distorted competitive setting that the tying creates.

From this I can say the following about potential remedies, assuming the EC confirms its preliminary conclusion that Microsoft’s tying of IE with Windows violates EC law.

The most basic aspect of a remedy should be to stop Microsoft from subverting the choice to use a browser other than IE. I gave some examples of this in my earlier posts. This will be increasingly important as use of alternative browsers spreads from the early adopters who are more comfortable with their computers to those for whom making any choice that isn’t the default is a bit scary. Forcing those people to figure out and then choose an alternative browser over and over because Windows has somehow pulled them back into IE is a structural problem. Fixing this is an easy and obvious way to protect consumers.

A further remedy that has been publicly discussed is requiring Windows to enable people to choose other browsers, whether through a ballot or not allowing IE to be the automatic default. In other words, helping more people know they have a choice. The lack of knowledge of this choice and the effect it can make is of course a key problem with today’s competitive structure, and is closely related to the integration of IE into Windows. Enabling more people to understand the choices available to them can have some very beneficial results. It is also complex and this aspect of a remedy must be very carefully crafted. The chances for creating a difficult user experience or unintended consequences are real, and so there is a level of concern about the details of what a remedy would look like among even those who support the principle. This mirrors both the challenge and the opportunity of working to provide greater user choice. The reality of the challenges reflects the great importance of the goal.

Mozilla and Firefox have demonstrated that the piece of software known as the “browser” is critically important to each individual’s online experience and to the overall health of the Internet. Building a setting in which consumers and citizens understand they have a choice, realize they can demand better by changing browsers, and aren’t penalized for doing so is a fundamental step in building an internet that retains vibrancy, innovation and choice.

Commit Access Policy Revised

June 9th, 2009

Mozilla’s policy on obtaining commit access to our main mercurial and CVS repositories has been updated. The discussion leading to this can be found in mozilla.governance (via a newsgroup reader or via Google Groups). The revised policy has been posted and is official as of today. A log of the changes can be found in the appropriate Bugzilla bug, for those who follow Bugzilla.

More On 7 Years of Mozilla Releases

June 7th, 2009

Two artifacts from the Mozilla 1.0 release have got my mind spinning. They are the Mozilla press release for Mozilla 1.0, thoughtfully reprinted in part in an article by Glyn Moody at ComputerWorld, and the T-shirt Tristan posted.

First I noticed how consistent how core message has been. Here’s a couple of excerpts: is excited about releasing the Mozilla 1.0 code and development tools to the open source community, and providing developers with the resources they need to freely create and view the presentation of their content and data on the Web,” said Mitchell Baker, Chief Lizard Wrangler at “As the browser has become the main interface between users and the Web over the past several years, the goal of the Mozilla project is to innovate and enable the creation of standards-compliant technology to keep content on the Web open.”


Mozilla 1.0 will be available in the following languages (with more to follow): Asturian, Chinese, Dutch, Estonian, Galician, German,Georgian, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Malay, Polish, Slovak, Sorbian and Ukrainian.

The message from 7 years ago was focused at developers and not so much on consumers, but it’s the same message. Open content and data, standards, Mozilla as a platform enabling many people to innovate, the importance of the browser to the general state of the Web, and the importance of a multi-language Web — these are key themes today as then.

Second, I’m struck by how we have expanded our reach by reaching out to consumers as well as developers. In the early days, the idea was that Mozilla would build technology, and others (such as Netscape) would build products. In fact, in the the very early days some people felt that Mozilla would release only source code, that even releasing an executable version was beyond the scope of the project. Clearly we’ve come a long way.

Tristan’s shirt shows the developer focus. How does one announce the release of a product? By closing a bug, of course. How does one represent this on a t-shirt? By printing the URL of the bug-tracking system. Today we complement the developer focus with a consumer focus as well. That’s a big change.

Finally, I must have worked on that press release in the cold and funky downstairs computer zone in my house — 2002 was during the period in which I was a volunteer at Mozilla after being “laid off” by Netscape / AOL in the fall of 2001. Next week I’ll move to a new Mozilla office. It’s a long way from 2002.

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