Microsoft extends a helping hand to Firefox developers - but why?

Microsoft extends a helping hand to Firefox developers - but why?

Summary: It seems that Microsoft wants to help aid in the development of the Firefox browser and has extended an invitation to the Firefox and Thunderbird teams to visit with the right people to get Firefox running under Vista. The invitation came in the form of a message posted last Saturday by Sam Ramji, Director of Open Source Software Lab at Microsoft to the mozilla.dev.planning newsgroup. But why?

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TOPICS: Windows
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It seems that Microsoft wants to help aid in the development of the Firefox browser and has extended an invitation to the Firefox and Thunderbird teams to visit with the right people to get Firefox running under Vista.  Firefox is very well behaved under Vista, something which has been true since very early buildsThe invitation came in the form of a message posted last Saturday by Sam Ramji, Director of Open Source Software Lab at Microsoft to the mozilla.dev.planning newsgroup.

On the face of it, that sounds like a cool idea, but what's behind it?  After all, I've tested Firefox on Vista using a number of different hardware platforms, and I've not encountered any issues specific to the Vista platform.  In fact, Firefox is very well behaved under Vista, something which has been true since very early builds.  Everything that you have come to expect from Firefox on XP or Windows 2000 holds true under Vista.  Hardware requirements are the same and consumption of resources is about the same as under XP.  It's also just as stable under Vista as it is under XP.

So, what's behind the invitation?  Well, I think that Microsoft has to be looking at creating a bridges to open source communities as part of a corporate reorientation strategy.  Open source is growing and Microsoft doesn't want to be left behind.  Maybe Microsoft is interested in seeing Firefox and Thunderbird on Pocket PCs and SmartPhones and this is a way of opening the door.  I know of a lot of people who'd like the choice at least, and maybe that concept of choice is filtering down at Microsoft

Another possibility is that there's something critically wrong with the way Firefox works under Vista and Microsoft wants this fixed early to prevent any kind of fallout.  Maybe Microsoft is seeing that there is a growth of Mozilla users and wants to integrate the products into Vista in a deeper way (perhaps offering updates via Windows Update).  Maybe this has something to do with Microsoft getting the EU to call off their hounds.  Maybe ... maybe ... maybe ...

I'm also pretty sure that there's also a PR angle to all this.  It's certainly got people talking about Microsoft and Mozilla together and in a positive way.  Microsoft is seen as extending a helping hand to the open source community and this is going to be seen in a positive light by many.

However, there's a part of me that wonders whether there's a freak-out element to this invitation.  Nah, I don't really believe that Microsoft wants to freak out the Mozilla development team in any way, but it's interesting to speculate on how this might change things nonetheless.  Imagine a future where there are closer ties between Microsoft and the Firefox/Thunderbird team.  Imagine how this would affect the whole Microsoft vs. Open Source and Internet Explorer vs. Firefox holy wars.  After all, there might be no better way for Firefox to lose market traction than to make it seem like it's becoming another IE.  This invitation alone has thrown a hand grenade into many a Mozilla fanboy blog/forum/website.  I've already seen a number of people claiming that this is Microsoft's way of somehow assimilating Firefox into Microsoft or that it's some scheme to torpedo the project.  The funny thing is, there's no need for any kind of mass-scale assimilation; even the possibility of a limited amount of cooperation between Microsoft and Mozilla seems to already be aggravating some segments of the community and that could alienate some advocates. 

Should Mozilla accept the invite?  Sure, why not.  It could be a great opportunity.  If nothing else, it'll probably be fun.  I don't know how much of Microsoft's help they really need, if any, but it could be an interesting learning experience for all involved.

For me, it's just making me wonder if there is some reason why I shouldn't be running Firefox under Vista ...

Topic: Windows

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  • Actually, Firefox is a little buggy (2.0b1 beta)

    I keep sending bug reports via Firefox's Talkback add in but they never seem to get addressed. Things like the latency of ports opened by web pages in Firefox to stay open sucking up bandwidth after the web page is closed; or the right click menu which stays on (sometimes) in Firefox. Or the way Java stays resident after the page is closed until all the tabs and browser are turned off then on again.

    Firefox is damn outstanding, but there are definitely a few bumps in its potential smoothness yet to be delivered. Upgrades are offered before all the bugs are cleaned up, which I find irritating and indicative that Firefox coders don't know how to fix some things perhaps because of MS access. You would think they could get everything to work cleanly before the release. To a long time MS user, it feels like they just don't quite understand a few of the basics of making stuff work in Windows (XP in my case)--no offense, but I suspect that is what the opening is all about primarily.

    Microsoft always implements policy wrapped around a positive for us (the pr value of making other products work well on the OS) surrounded by more positives for them (a quality experience for users keeps customers using a closed source OS while tricking the open source community into thinking MS is changing).
    WinnebagoBoy
  • Microsoft's Helping Hand

    DON'T DO IT!!!! Microsoft never does anything unless they think they'll get something out of it, or they think that they can hurt the other party some way. DO NOT EVER TRUST MICROSOFT.
    dentate
  • MS is recruiting...

    They certainly need guys to fuel the features innovation they so desperately need to keep up with the developments of Open Source. What better way to find the creative talent that robs them of market shae and seduce those individuals to the dark side? This may be a trick that they learned, the hard way, from Google...
    msolgeek
  • I agree with Firefox

    There helping hand is devoted to helping them write Firefox for Vista.

    Firfox a browser that run's on almost every OS? Platform independace has been their platform. They definatly have the upperhand in that department.
    IceTheNet@...
  • Can you say "hostile takeover" ?

    M$ only wants to steal and Firefox as an M$ product to replace the swiss-cheese crap factory called Internet Explorer.

    That's it.
    Mr. Roboto
    • "Nurse, more meds required for Mr. Roberto"...

      NT.
      Scrat
  • Why the invite...

    Conspiracy theories and other such random speculation aside, there's a simple reason why Microsoft MIGHT extend the invitation...

    Consider the following theory - Firefox, while it works nicely enough on Vista, doesn't sandbox it's sessions the way IE7 on Vista does. That could be considered a security hole that could be exploited.

    Firefox has seen it's share of vulnerabilities. Didn't we just get a new build earlier this week?

    Maybe it's simply a matter of Microsoft realizing that there are plenty of people who, right or wrong, justified or not, feel that ANY flavor of IE, even if it IS vastly improved, is something to be avoided. And given that and the above, Vista's security and reputation is on the line and they need to do due diligence to make sure they plug up potential holes BEFORE Vista gets released.
    Wolfie2K3