Is Firefox doomed?
Friday, January 22, 2010 3:46:59 PM
Why is it doomed?
It isn't entirely clear to me, really. His argument seems to be that the delay of Firefox 3.6 shows that Mozilla is in chaos, and that their talk about restructing their development process means that they are in real trouble. That they can no longer maintain their product. Shorter release cycles apparently means that Firefox won't be tested much anymore, as they are bypassing the lengthy testing process and releasing numerous small changes without testing them (sufficiently) first, like Microsoft. And even Microsoft can't pull it off, he says.
I find his argument to be rather weak.
First of all, this is certainly not the first version of Firefox which has been delayed. Indeed, delays are very common in the world of software. If delays were a recipe for disaster, I don't think there would be any software companies left! And how did Firefox grow to become the dominant "alternative browser" if delays automatically mean disaster?
I also don't see the logic in the claim that they will be in trouble after restructuring the development process. If Mozilla identified ways they could improve their development process in a way which leads to higher quality, how does that mean that they are in trouble now, as opposed to before the restructuring? Can he predict the future? Does changing something to address a problem automatically mean that you are in even more trouble after addressing any problems you identified earlier? I would have thought that being able to adapt to new situations and changing things when necessary is a positive sign.
And how does shorter release cycles with fewer changes mean that they won't be able to test Firefox anymore? Did they announce that there would be no more nightly Firefox builds? Are they going to prevent the community from testing Firefox while it's still work in progress? That seems to be the assumption since he mentions Microsoft's security patches.
Of course Mozilla isn't going to stop releasing test builds to the public. And even if there is less time to test things, won't fewer changes mean that there are fewer things to test, which means that testing will take a shorter amount of time anyway?
Furthermore, if shorter release cycles are such a disaster, then why isn't he also claiming that Chrome is in trouble? It seems to me that Mozilla's new development process is similar to Chrome's in many ways.
After all this speculation about Firefox's new release process, Mr. Kennedy claims that there will be no room for Firefox in the market in the future. Google and Microsoft will squeeze Firefox from above and below, he says.
Yes, I'm sure the competition will heat up, but so what? Why wouldn't there be room for several browsers in the market? There are hundreds of millions of people online, and even if only a small portion of those chose Firefox, Mozilla would still be able to make a comfortable living for themselves.
He also seems to forget about Mozilla being a non-profit organization. That means that a lot of people are likely to donate simply because they like what Mozilla is doing. In fact, they have this whole movement thing going for them.
In conclusion, I don't think Firefox is doomed at all. It might see some of its market share eroded to a certain degree by other browsers (or it might continue to steal users from IE), but I think it will definitely stick around.
In fact, I really hope Firefox will stick around and continue to be a force to be reckoned with on the Web. Recent developments in HTML5 VIDEO shows that we need someone else to help push for a free and open Web, rather than a Web based on closed, proprietary and patent-encumbered solutions. More browsers in the market also helps prevent a Web monoculture. We need more browsers out there, not fewer of them.
If Firefox is indeed doomed, then that's a big loss for the open Web. But I don't think that's the case at all, and Mr. Kennedy certainly wasn't able to convince me that this is the case.