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The need for a more activist, integrated Mozilla

Mozilla helps to create great software. It's just terrible at telling the world how great the software is.

Matt Asay Contributing Writer
Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.
Matt Asay
3 min read

Mozilla writes and helps foster communities that assist in writing some of the best open-source code on the planet. Where Mozilla fails is as an activist voice, trumpeting to the world just how exceptional the products it builds can be. I'm not sure if this is a fault with the Mozilla Corporation or the Mozilla Foundation, but we need a more vocal Mozilla.

We also need a Mozilla that integrates much better with the existing software world. Read: the proprietary software world.

BusinessWeek notes that Mozilla is making efforts to improve upon its 2% market share in China. It's starting campus programs, among other things, to boost awareness of Firefox. But according to the article, most Chinese simply want their browser pre-bundled and pre-configured with a wide range of options. Microsoft and those companies building browsers based on the IE kernel are doing that. Mozilla? Not so much.

Back in the West, Linux Insider notes that Mozilla's biggest problem is its lack of corporate outreach:

Mozilla has thus far neglected to develop tools to help IT departments deploy and manage Firefox, and it doesn't offer paid technical support services to risk-averse corporate users. "The enterprise is looking for a neck to choke, and that is absolutely what is missing from Firefox," said Ebron, a former product manager for Firefox and its predecessor, Netscape Navigator.

Somewhat surprisingly, Mozilla apparently has little interest in catering to enterprise needs, needs that include integration with proprietary technology like Active Directory, as pooh-poohed by Mozilla's Chris Hoffman.

He dismissed Active Directory as a "proprietary technology" that would hurt rather than help Firefox administrators. "Multiple levels of permissions applied across different groups adds a lot of complexity," he said. "If you look at the track record for that feature, it's resulted in less security for IE."

Maybe, maybe not. The point is that so long as Mozilla remains committed to burrowing into its safe little bunker with little appreciation for the needs of real users, it will cram itself into the role of perennial also-ran. One need not give up the ideals of open source to integrate with the rest of the world.

I use Firefox, though I used to swear by Safari. (I've long despised IE as slow, clunky, and a security trap.) I started using it for only one reason: CNET requires it for its blogging tool. Over time (and once I had skinned it to look just like Safari and optimized it to run almost as fast as Safari), I've come to appreciate its adaptability and pluggability. But it took a forward-looking organization to force me into the change.

Most organizations don't have this attribute. They're conservative. For such, it's important to introduce a Firefox that appreciates and respects the old world while pulling users into the new world. Mozilla doesn't do this well.

But even if it did, we'd never know, since Mozilla isn't good about talking publicly about all the good it's doing. I hope it finds an executive director of the Mozilla Foundation who will bring the corporate perspective to bear on the organization. Not to drown out its existing voices, but to augment and amplify them.