Yesterday I came across an interesting piece on AppleInsider which mentioned how Mozilla (and Skype) now supports the EFF's request for an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act related to iPhone jailbreaking. Is Mozilla after Apple's halo?
Now, let me be clear from the outset and say that I think that the EFF has a valid point. How Apple is controlling the iPhone is a great example of the company's iron-grip tactics that it uses to create and control an isolated ecosystem that generates revenue above and beyond the sale of the device. I agree with EFF's staff attorney Fred von Lohmann that Apple's arguments against an exemption amounts to little more than FUD. Apple's lock-in of users to the App Store through both technical and legal means is little more than a way of grabbing customers by the ankles, turning them upside down and shaking them until there's nothing in their pockets but lint - all of which is nothing less that I've come to expect from Apple.
OK, but what's Mozilla's interest in the iPhone? After all, Mozilla CEO John Lilly has already gone on the record as saying that even if the law allowed it, Mozilla would probably not develop a compatible browser for the platform. Seems like Mozilla is wading into this argument purely on principal. And this isn't the only argument that Mozilla has waded into recently. Mozilla is also getting involved with the EU in relation to Microsoft's bundling of IE with Windows. It seems that Mozilla are in the mood for picking fights, and given that it's taking on Microsoft and Apple, it's punching way above its weight.
Here's my take on things. Mozilla is getting involved in a PR offensive against both Microsoft and Apple. Microsoft is an easy target because, well, there are plenty of people who have strong negative feelings about that company. And Apple ... well ... that company has for years enjoyed good press. My guess is that Mozilla is wading into these issues in order to come across as a "people's champ," protecting user's freedoms from being taken away by large, monolithic, faceless corporations. There's an opportunity for a lot of PR and ink (both real and digital) from these kinds of involvements. Also, it's a chance to win more friends, both in the open source community and beyond. That said, it's likely to annoy some folks too.
Personally, I'd rather that Mozilla wasn't get caught up in politics and concentrate on developing a good product. When I last blogged about Mozilla getting involved in the whole IE bundling debate, some readers started joining the dots between these new political involvements and the continued delay of Firefox 3.1 beta 3. I don't know if there's any connection between the two events (personally I doubt it), but I'd still rather see Mozilla concentrating on software. There's still plenty to be done on Firefox.