Archive for June 18th, 2009

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.

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