When I wrote my article The faster release process of Firefox, I did not expect so many reactions outside of the inner mozillian circles. I did not expect that Mike Kaply, who was thinking in the same terms and himself pondering an article, would jump on the bandwagon. I did not expect Asa's incredibly rough answers to his posts. In fact, I got many private messages thanking me for my article. I need to say it again here: I never said the faster release process is entirely bad. But that's another discussion.

I read things that really hurt the community and I think some conclusions have to be drawn, and some changes probably have to be applied.

  1. Mozilla is a lot of things. It's a Foundation, a Corporation, a large Community, millions of users, followers and evangelists. It's also a Manifesto, Products, Projects, Add-ons, Translations. For most of us in the Community, and for various reasons, Mozilla is also a very large part of our lives. We say "Mozilla should..." or "Mozilla should not..." because we do care about Mozilla, and we're not all nerds with only coding or localization abilities. We come from various landscapes, and if the coding skills of the community are used, the other skills are mostly ignored. The private comments on my blog post I received are very clear: some people did not want to express or delayed an opinion similar to mine in public (on a blog for instance) because they feared the reaction of Mozilla. Someone told me that "as soon as you start criticizing in public such high-profile decisions, you're tagged as a troll". I also got messages from add-on developers (XUL add-on developers I should say) saying they're fed up with the add-on update process, are afraid to have to do it now 10 times per year, and stating the new SDK supposed to resolve the issue does not offer them enough power for their extensions anyway. Like it or not, this is an indicator of a flakier relationship between the mothership and the community that has to be dealt with. Community does not need more goodies, it needs better integration and probably better support. Important detail: bugzilla and newsgroups are merely communication, and certainly not integration; and blogs sometimes, given the logorrhea of planet.mozilla.org, are a weak communication channel too.

  2. Freedom has many meanings, as we all know it. In the US, freedom of speech is almost total. Well, unless you start saying things that hurt your corporate employer for instance. In that case, freedom of speech often triggers the employer's freedom to let the employee go... Between the collapse of Netscape/the second birth of Mozilla and now, Mozillians (I mean employees here) have rarely, extremely rarely crossed the line. My old friend Tristan Nitot for instance always takes extreme attention to what he posts on his blog or even says in public because the distinction between perso and pro is never obvious. This is not easy to live like that when you work in a Free/OpenSource domain and I am the first one hit by the issue. My blog is my open diary, and I'm used to publish here exactly what's on my mind. But there's a big difference between my little, so little person and the Director of Firefox though: my visibility is low, very low. I don't represent officially an application used by hundreds of millions of people around the whole world and the whole world tech press is not all ears/eyes when I say or write something. Should the Director of Firefox be able to say in public, in the name of his personal freedom of speech, he/she finds brother product Thunderbird's UI offending and ugly and he/she stopped using it? Yes, he/she should be able to do it. But he/she should also be able to never forget again contributors are free to stop contributing. A balance of powers, clearly.

  3. Of course, given his visibility, his new position and the tone of his words, the whole world tech press has repeated ad nauseum Asa's words. Even if I think there's a serious strategic hole at the root of the problem, miscommunication did not help, to say the least. And miscommunication was created by misunderstanding and manichaeism. Nobody ever said Mozilla has to address all corporate needs, or has to provide ridiculous requests (Shaver said on his blog "one tab only", it's an excellent example) with a solution. As I said somewhere else, there is a large range of possibilities between "make corporations' lives easier" and "make corporations' lives harder". Given the world-wide reaction, I think it is now clear that the faster release process with fast EOLs causes the latter. Shaver and Sullivan said conversations with enterprises are ongoing. Better late than never. Don't forget governments, governmental or international orgs and military, please.

  4. The Community does not make any kind of difference between corporate and individual users. Their involvement in Mozilla is for all users, wherever they are, at work or not, in all countries, whatever the religion, race, colour, gender or opinions. It has to be understood that decisions that leave a given class of legitimate users on the side of the road - whatever the reason - are often seen as destructive by the Community. Hey, that's the weak side of OSS: you benefit from the good bits and have to live with the bad bits.

  5. The whole story reminds me of the "Get rid of the JS Console" frenzy a few years ago. The Community reacted loud and clear to that, and that decision was overturned. Now, a few years later, Firefox nightlies offers more and more developer tools and even more are coming. Firebug and the Developer panels of Chrome have shown that early adopters need web development environments that are not add-ons to the browser, maintained outside of the main stream, but built inside the main stream. Firebug is not distributed with Firefox probably because it induces footprint/performance hits but otherwise, it should be in. Please note this is why xulrunner-based app developers cry so much about Venkman: Chromebug has many issues in that environment and Venkman is most of the time broken, not really supported, and its feature set and severe bugs' list have not changed in years. Anyway, I wanted to mention the "Get rid of the JS Console" history because it seems to me (and it could be related to item 1 above and how the Community feels) that MoCo is more and more reacting as a microcosm. My discussions with the rest of community show an increasing number of "they're not listening, they say they are Mozilla and know" signals. MoCo, please, even if reading this you think this is a wrong reaction from the community, this is now far more than a few "trolls", it is factual and something must be done.

  6. There is a major difference of perception between Users/Community and MoCo about what is Mozilla and what should be its strategy. This is absolutely normal. MoCo has to deal with daily operations of a large and visible organization having a lot (yes, a lot, even if it's small compared to other big names of the industry) of employees distributed all around the planet. It has to secure revenue streams and make strategic choices. Even sometimes painful strategic choices. It's fighting for survival in a highly competitive landscape. Users and Community see Mozilla only as the browsing alternative, the freedom of browsing choice, the ability to get rid of IE handcuffs in corporate environments, and the cool kid around the block allowing a well-customized browser on all platforms. For them, Mozilla is the expression of its Manifesto, period.

  7. That feeling does not touch only the users or the Community. It apparently touches MoCo too. Reading #developers' monday IRC logs, the first word that came to my mind was "mutiny"...

  8. Users are versatile. Show them something cool and they'll adopt it. Both at work and at home. IE10 will be cool. Fast and reliable. Given the specs Microsoft is pushing inside the CSS Working Group (grid layout, templates, flexing, etc.), it is clear that standards-based apps and add-ons are in sight. Fear the revenge of the blue e... Those who think corporations will never have any incentive to go back to IE if they left it are in my opinion plain wrong. Those who think the only competitors to Firefox are now WebKit-based browsers are also plain wrong.

It's an old couple needing just a bit of couple therapy. Nothing more but nothing less. They still love each other, no worries.

Now, back to code.