Mozilla

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.

Wow.

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

Persona-of-Doom

Persona-of-Doom

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 :-)

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