Services & Software

Mozilla offers olive branch to Firefox business users

Following comments from Mozilla that Firefox isn't meant for the corporate world, the company is responding to the backlash, with a little nudge from Big Blue.

Mozilla today did its best impression of a mea culpa in response to the corporate backlash following recent comments that the company doesn't care about its enterprise customers.

In a blog post today, Mozilla tried to justify its recent fast-paced upgrade cycle by saying that such updates help secure users and provide a richer Web experience. The company once again explained that its focus has been on the individual user but admitted that Firefox has carved out a niche in the corporate world.

Mozilla also acknowledged the challenge for corporate IT, which has to test and certify their Web sites and Web-based apps whenever a new version of Firefox is released, a process that can take weeks or months.

While not yet totally embracing the enterprise, the company made it clear that it's now looking at ways to better help IT staffers who have faithfully adopted Firefox but have been thrown by the constant upgrades.

"We are exploring solutions that balance these needs, with active discussion in our community, including valuable input from IBM," Mozilla said on its blog. "Open source software is well-suited to these challenges, as interested parties can come together to build what is needed."

Mozilla recently released Firefox 5 only three months after Firefox 4 made its debut and announced that it would be cutting off support for version 4. That move threw IT departments and companies, which were unprepared for such a quick-change act.

Following complaints and criticism from the business world, Mozilla's Asa Dotzler fired back that enterprise has never been and shouldn't be a focus of the company. Mozilla has argued that it can't gear Firefox toward and offer support for both individuals and business customers. Of course, that and other comments combined with the quick upgrade cycle fueled the flames further.

The backlash gave Microsoft an opportunity to swoop in and declare Internet Explorer as the browser for all customers, including those in the enterprise arena. In a blog posted yesterday, Dean Hachamovitch, corporate vice president for IE, explained the upgrade process and tools that Microsoft makes available for its browser. He also touted the notion that unlike Mozilla, Microsoft can support both individuals and businesses that use IE.

"Making the Web better for large organizations (with managed IT) is just as important as making the Web better for consumers and developers," wrote Hachamovitch.

Mozilla's pledge that it will try to better help the corporate world seems to have come about through a nudge from a major corporate customer: IBM. Big Blue last year chose Firefox as its default browser. Although Mozilla didn't explain what "valuable input" it received from IBM, Big Blue clearly has a vested interest in making sure its more than 400,000 employees who rely on Firefox continue to be supported.