Posts Tagged with “Firefox”

Firefox Turns 5

November 9th, 2009

Five years ago a small-ish group of exhausted, wound-up but excited people began the final preparations for the launch of the Mozilla Firefox web browser. We gathered in many places; with a core of us in Mozilla’s Mountain View office. This was a small, funky room hidden away in the far corner of an office complex, leased to us by friends of the Mozilla project. Our website folks gathered 4000 miles away. Thousands of people joined us virtually. We knew this because we could see the number of pings to the download site going wild in the hours before the release, as people kept checking.

We knew we had something big in the works — bigger at least than anyone had expected from Mozilla in a long time. We knew we were coming out of the dark days of “failure” of the Mozilla project. We knew this because some 3 million people were already using the 0.9 version of Firefox, and the number of people paying attention to us in the 6 months before the release had been skyrocketing. We knew we were coming out of dark into a place with light. We had no idea just how bright it would be. Here’s a detailed description of the events of Nov. 9 2004, which I wrote shortly afterward.

I can still feel the knotted, sick-to-my-stomach feeling that was a constant part of life in the weeks leading up to the Firefox 1.0 launch. Today, Nov. 9 was no different. Most things were done, but critical pieces still remained. My personal last minute items were finishing our discussions with Yahoo and Google, which were on track but nerve-wracking in the extreme nevertheless.

The general stress went beyond the specific tasks, and beyond getting a product out the door. The period leading up to Firefox 1.0 was a time in which we had redefined ourselves, becoming a true consumer-facing organization for the first time. This was a big change. It was absolutely necessary, it was hard, and it was immensely stressful.

Today the world is different. Firefox has 25% world-wide market share, 330 million users, and a significant impact on the shape of the internet experience. The idea that a non-profit, public benefit organization like Mozilla can have such an impact on keeping the Internet open, participatory, and innovation still surprises people, but it’s not longer seen as naive and impossible.

Our core approach has not changed though. Now, as then, each individual person remains critical. Each person who contributes to Mozilla, each person who demands that Mozilla represent our hopes for the Internet, each person who helps others find the benefits of Firefox and understand the goals of Mozilla — each one of us is what makes the Mozilla mission successful.

Five years is a great marker. And equally important, the future calls. There is great potential for making Firefox and the Internet as a whole even better at empowering people. There are also many threats to the openness of the Internet.

Mozilla has a unique voice. We have a unique opportunity to build an Internet where the people using it — us — are safe, secure, in control of our experience, and excited by new possibilities.

That’s cause for celebration indeed.

Online Safety: Helping People Help Themselves

September 16th, 2009

The online world is new enough that many of us aren’t really sure how we can keep ourselves as safe as possible. In the physical world we have generations of experience about how to minimize risk (beware of dark “shortcuts” through unknown neighborhoods alone at night), and well-developed social institutions to mitigate risk (police forces, insured accounts at banks, etc.). In the online world most of us are still learning what we can do as individuals to improve our own safety. Sometimes it’s daunting.

It turns out that one important thing each of us can do is keep our software up-to-date.  By doing so we get a regular flow of security improvements. Firefox has a good update rate. But it’s easy for people to forget to update software that we don’t think about very often. One type of software that’s easy to forget about is a category known as “plugins.” Plugin software works with a browser to display additional types of content. Plugins are not created by the browser developers; they are separate teams and separate software. Because of the interaction with the browser, many people don’t know or forget about updating plugins. And a crash or security problem in a plugin often feels like a problem in the browser. So it’s easy for people to think that they’ve fixed the problem by updating the browser when in fact the plugin is still a problem.

Last week Mozilla tried something new to help people help themselves. The results so far have been encouraging. We realized that a lot of people are using old version of the “Flash” plugin. We suspected that this is because people didn’t know they should update or that updating is an important safety habit. Flash is not a Mozilla product — it’s  from Adobe — so updating the browser doesn’t update Flash. And nearly everyone uses Flash to view video. So we put a notice on the Firefox update page, letting people with old, less-secure versions of Flash know that Adobe offers an updated version with security fixes.

The response to this notice has been very high. The percentage of people viewing this (in the English language, US version) and then following the link to update flash is about 30%. This is a very high response rate. A typical response rate for this page is around 5%. A more detailed analysis can be found at our metrics blog.

We’re very careful about putting anything on the Firefox update page, so asking people to deal with a different product is new. The response suggests that people are receptive to clear information about how to keep themselves safer. That’s encouraging. It benefits the individual doing the updating, and also provides a system wide “public health”- like benefit as well.

Online security is a tough problem. It will be with us constantly, just like questions of physical security never go away. There are things each one of us can do to improve our setting. At Mozilla we’ll keep thinking about how we can help people figure out and do these things. And hopefully we’ll be part of a growing community of people doing this.

1,000,000,000: That’s a Lot of Zeros!

July 31st, 2009

In the early 2000’s about a million people would download a release of the Mozilla Application Suite, which was our product offering before Firefox and Thunderbird. We were extremely proud of this number. For 2000 or 2001 it was a very surprising number, quite large for an open-source consumer product. It was a tiny number compared to IE of course, and that product never cracked the barrier into general consumer awareness or adoption. But everyone who heard that number was astonished. In fact, that million-a-release download number helped us obtain some early support when we formed the Mozilla Foundation a couple of years later.

With Firefox, we had a million downloads well before the product reached a 1.0 phase — something like 3 million people were using Firefox as we came up to the 1.0 release in the fall of 2004. That’s partly how we sensed we had something big on our hands during the long summer of 2004 trying to finish the 1.0 version.

Today we crossed the billion download mark for Firefox. That’s an astonishing number. It reflects both the popularity of Firefox and the enormous growth of the web. The latter — the growth of the Internet — is not so surprising. The Internet is a fundamental tool for human interaction, it will grow for a while yet. The Firefox number is something else. Born of the impossible, coming into existence because it had to be, from a small band of seemingly outdated browser-centric dreamers to hundreds of millions of people.


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.

EC Theme: Building Firefox is the only appropriate activity for Mozilla

February 11th, 2009

If we drop the word “only” out of this sentence I suspect we have 100% agreement. Building the Internet that we want to live in is the fundamental reality of Mozilla. This is our shared purpose, and it’s what makes us effective.

But is building Firefox the only appropriate response to problems in the market? The EC has initiated action that is intimately and directly related to the world we are building. I believe we must get involved; that ignoring this is like “putting our head in the sand.”

At the very least we should offer our expertise to the EC. Competition in the browser space is important because it is critical to building an innovative, open and participatory web. We have experience in this area that is unusual if not unique. We have a chance to bring this expertise to the EC as it moves forward. I would feel remiss if Mozilla were to let this opportunity go by.

Another (!!!) revision to Firefox 2010 goal

December 18th, 2008

When i went to finalize the Firefox goal for 2010 I realized it feels wrong, and in much the same way the “Mozilla as centerpiece” goal felt wrong.  (The current proposal is Reinforce Firefox mindshare and marketshare momentum). Mindshare and marketshare — and Firefox — are not ends in themselves. They are means to an end. So I’d like to restate this goal as:

Reinforce Firefox’s role as a driver of innovation, choice and great user experience

We probably need mindshare and marketshare momentum to accomplish  this. But having momentum isn’t the end goal. It’s what we do with that momentum that matters.

Let me know if this feels odd to you. This is a case where I’m going to take silence as a sign of agreement (or exhaustion 🙂 )

Slightly revised “Firefox” goal for 2010

December 15th, 2008

Goal: Reinforce Firefox mindshare and marketshare momentum

I think this goal stays as is, other than changing the verb from “continue” to “reinforce.” Today Firefox is by far the biggest lever we have to make our values and other goals real. If this were our only goal it would be a problem; Firefox is not an end in itself. Similarly leaving the health of our most powerful tool out of the goals would be odd.

If you feel the need for subpoints to parallel the other goals let me know and we can work on those.

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