Be thankful for Mozilla: The least evil tech company of them all?

Be thankful for Mozilla: The least evil tech company of them all?

Summary: With so many criticising Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft over the years, no longer favouring the old favourties like arms dealers, has Mozilla turned out to be the 'nicest' company in the world?

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This is my 666th post. But don't read too much into that.

Public perception is a commodity of which companies throw millions of dollars at a year, if not more. A company will have various sub-departments which handles their own perception in a different way, usually singing to the same finely tuned song of the directorship.

But over the years, instead of the more obvious targets being harassed as the "corporate bad guy" such as ammunition companies, licensed arms dealers and fossil fuel suppliers - those which have a wider cultural dent on society, the technology companies are getting the flak.

Why? Partly because of the social nature behind technology and the blurred lines between the open communications of the company, and the enthusiastic nature of followers which in turn take technology as their means of spreading their own views. But mostly, because everyone is involved.

Let's take four separate companies, all highly influential in modern culture and technological development - all of which thrive off rivalling one another, or allying with one to beat another. Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Apple. Seeing as they are Generation Y focused companies (on a good level), who really holds the evil hands of doom?

Apple

Apple CEO Steve Jobs poked fun at Gizmodo at his keynote speech at WWDC where he announced the new iPhone 4G, by asking viewers to "stop him if they've already seen this...". With lawsuits flying out to bloggers and journalists, arguably protected under constitutional law from freedom from harassment and suchlike, Apple still went in for the jugular to bring about restorative justice.

And the separate issue of Antennagate certainly caused some serious problems for the company; not only in public perception but equally in stock price.

Facebook

Privacy, privacy, privacy. Need I say more, really? Even Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the world wide web, is concerned over a 'fragmented web' with the might and power of Facebook forcing users into a 'data dead end'.

Data is hugely powerful to major companies like those included in this post. But only Google and Facebook rely on the collection of data as a primary principle, as without it they would not have a service. Transparency with data practices and

Google

"Don't be evil", the informal slogan of the company seemed to fall foul in recent months, especially since the Street View scandal, where cars 'accidentally' collected unencrypted data from wireless networks. That caused a massive stinker and even brought up the potential for fines and criminal investigations. The recent net neutrality co-ordination also caused a stir, favouring an opposition to a neutral, fair web.

Google should have heeded their own advice, or at least not created such a slogan in the first place, knowing that in business it's almost inevitable.

Microsoft

On the most part, I would argue that Microsoft gets most of the bullets from the firing squad. With an aggressive licencing system and genuine software validation, it has caused misery to so many people trying to pirate Windows and other software. But, they do a great deal for charities, non-government agencies and the wider third sector, including research to help those in most need.

But, on the evil scale, frankly there are too many possible things to dive into, so by all means just take my word for it.

Mozilla wins?

As a non-profit organisation which builds free and open-source products for hundreds of millions of people around the world, not only for the desktop but in the mobile space too, Mozilla is pretty kosher.

I do believe that the very vast majority of the negative press around Mozilla's work focuses on one (large, granted) aspect of their work and that product is Firefox. Users complain about security flaws and bugs, occasionally slowness compared to Chrome or IE9 perhaps, but on the whole the practices for dealing with these issues are vastly better than that of closed-source products.

From Bugzilla to community driven forums, and the very nature of open-source software so ordinary users can tweak the code to make it safer and more secure means an open community of feedback.

What do you think? (oh, and happy Thanksgiving. I still don't get it, but apparently it's bigger than Christmas over there. Fair 'enuf).

Topics: Google, Apple, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobility, Wi-Fi, Social Enterprise

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28 comments
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  • RE: Be thankful for Mozilla: The least evil tech company of them all?

    How does Mozilla make money? I don't get it.
    Droid101
    • RE: Be thankful for Mozilla: The least evil tech company of them all?

      @Droid101: They typically are paid by search companies. Every time you use the search box, for example, Google pays them a small royalty. They may have other arrangements that help them as well. To that, I'm not sure.
      Rob Oakes
      • Google pays Mozilla

        @Rob Oakes
        to use Google searh as the default and not use MS/Bing as a search option. There is no easy way to add Bing thanks to Google.

        I don't think Mozilla have any other source of revenue. If Chrome ever gets more market share, Google will stop handing out free money to Mozilla. At that point Mozilla will start acting evil.
        iPad-awan
      • RE: Be thankful for Mozilla: The least evil tech company of them all?

        @iPad-awan

        [i]If Chrome ever gets more market share, Google will stop handing out free money to Mozilla. At that point Mozilla will start acting evil.[/i]

        No, Google will still need to pay Mozilla even if Chrome gets significant market share. You see, it turns out that having significant global market share doesn't actually give you significant market access everywhere. All you have to do is take a look at the browser usage breakdown by country and you'll see what I mean.

        Browser usage patterns differs greatly from country to country. Don't be fooled by the impression given by the overall usage stats. Here's the reality. In many territories, Firefox is actually the #1 browser by a significant margin over IE. In many others, IE only barely edges out Firefox in usage. In Russia and some former Soviet states, Opera is either the #1 or 2 browser with IE in third place. China's huge Internet population (20% of the Internet) is the main reason for the big gap between IE and Firefox in the global browser usage figures - it accounts for about a third of the global IE user base, and IE gets over 90% usage there.

        This is the reason why Google pays both Firefox and Opera for search box preference. Even Opera, with its 2.5% global market share, plays an important role in some places that Google wants to maintain access to. And that's the point. It's all about access, not simply market share.
        eMJayy
      • RE: Be thankful for Mozilla: The least evil tech company of them all?

        @iPad-awan

        What do you mean there's no easy way to add Bing? It's as simple as downloading the search add on. Arguing that there's not an easy way is akin to arguing that it's hard to use noscript or cookie managers in FF.
        notsofast
      • RE: Be thankful for Mozilla: The least evil tech company of them all?

        @Rob Oakes
        exactly! Mozilla earnings in 2009 was $104 million. Pretty good for an open source company with no inventory, no advertising, and is really doing no evil.
        mookiemu
      • RE: Be thankful for Mozilla: The least evil tech company of them all?

        @iPad-awan bing is already installed in Firefox 4 betas, and it's not difficult to make it the default...

        Google is the default because that's what most Firefox users WANT as the default.

        Also Mozilla DOES have other sources of revenue. Google's not handing out free money, they are paying Mozilla for giving them the thing most valuable to Google, traffic, Google's entire business model is built on having lots of traffic, that's why Google is paying Mozilla for every time a someone uses the search box to get to Google.
        Spudd86
  • RE: Be thankful for Mozilla: The least evil tech company of them all?

    @iPad-awan, that's just not true. Firefox 4 will have Bing next to Google as an available search engine.

    And Google is not a non-profit, they are not handing out free money. Mozilla commands over the default options of 25% of the internet population, that's 400.000.000 users. So Mozilla is sending a lot of search-traffic to Google. What would MS pay Mozilla to change the default search engine to Bing?

    Why doesn't Mozilla cash in the billions from that deal? Right, because Google is still the better search option, and Mozilla is mission not profit-driven. Be thankful for Mozilla indeed.
    a.topal
  • Ignore this.

    Is there any way to delete a post?
    el-topo
    • RE: Be thankful for Mozilla: The least evil tech company of them all?

      @el-topo Usually if you just flag it (like I have) with a note to our content mods "to delete", that'll work. It recognises the post's username and the flagger's username as the same. :) -- I've flagged this post too.
      zwhittaker
  • I'm thankful for the Red Godzilla. No problem.

    Also, be thankful that AOL has been out of the limelight for some time now. Their idiotic 'walled garden' concept created the world's largest virtual baby crib, and many of their other foolish ideas, like charging by the minute, have fallen by the wayside. <br><br>Really, with microsoft being led today by the world's most obnoxious cross between a used car salesman and circus carny, Steve Ballmer, they really are less of a threat and more of a laugh.<br><br>I think that the term 'evil' now sits with dangerous demagogues like the ex-governor of Alaska. I hope that her web consciousness doesn't go any further than facebook or twitter.
    el-topo
  • Not *strictly* &quot;non-profit&quot;...

    Keep in mind that Mozilla is actually two groups, the non-profit organization which is responsible for producing software such as Firefox, Thunderbird, Lightning, SeaMonkey, etc.; and the owning corporation which supports and "owns" the non-profit using funds collected from Google and other sources. (This was perhaps necessitated when the great investments received from outside threatened Mozilla's non-profit status.) Thus, we should not count on one strictly non-evil Mozilla. Money has its motivations.
    fjpoblam
    • RE: Be thankful for Mozilla: The least evil tech company of them all?

      @fjpoblam Actually, you may have mistyped one piece of your statement. Mozilla Foundation is the parent nonprofit who owns the subsidiary, Mozilla Corporation. MoCo is responsible for the software development of Firefox. (Thunderbird is managed by a separate entity called Mozilla Messaging. SeaMonkey and Lighting are 100% volunteer driven by the Mozilla community.) I believe it was the United States' IRS who instructed Mozilla to find a different organizational solution because the Foundation was profiting from its business relationships and could no longer claim nonprofit status within the U.S. tax code. If the IRS had not instructed Mozilla to change, the Foundation would probably still be the only entity. But, the larger point is that it is a mission-driven organization guided by a community of volunteers and a board of directors committed to its mission.
      @...
    • RE: Be thankful for Mozilla: The least evil tech company of them all?

      @fjpoblam ..
      Being a Mozilla contributor for quite a few years now, I have to remind you here that it's the company which is wholly owned by the non-profit organization and not vise-versa (the existence of the company is basically due to legal reasons). Mozilla is mission-driven, not money-driven, it was like that before the money started to flow in and it will be like that even if the money flow stops.
      sonickydon
  • RE: Be thankful for Mozilla: The least evil tech company of them all?

    Wait until Ellison gets his dirty hands on Mozilla.
    jgoode@...
    • RE: Be thankful for Mozilla: The least evil tech company of them all?

      @jgoode@... I doubt he will. Mozilla by nature of being not-for-profit makes it non-susceptible to takeover, on the most part. Think it through... :)
      zwhittaker
  • RE: Be thankful for Mozilla: The least evil tech company of them all?

    I think that I can not trust Mozilla. Not because they intend to to be harm, but because they are unreliable. I will use Firefox as a tool in my internet arsenal. However, as they have become larger and more pervasive, they (the progressive browser versions) have become less and less stable, at least since 3.5. I have been FORCED to switch to Chrome, as it is faster and more stable. Even with recent releases of Firefox becoming less unstable, I still can't forget how a simple update turned into a nightmare with the release of 3.5. No tech company is innocent of forgetting the customer.
    jacobdrj@...
    • RE: Be thankful for Mozilla: The least evil tech company of them all?

      Give Firefox 4 a try. It may show some improvement.
      @...
    • RE: Be thankful for Mozilla: The least evil tech company of them all?

      @jacobdrj@... Have you reported bugs? Mozilla CARES if you can report bugs (and respond to follow up questions) they WILL try to help (maybe not for a while, even with all the money they have they're still short on time)

      You know how Firefox sends crash reports? Mozilla looks at those, they prioritize fixing the ones that crop up most often, they're working on ways to improve their ability to tell which crashes are the same ones.

      Last point: Are you sure it's Firefox's fault? Lots of people have many plugins and addons they didn't install and often they don't even know they have, frequently these show up in the top crashers, and Mozilla can do nothing about them because it's not their software (well, they could have Firefox blacklist the addon/plugin, but they're not terribly willing to do that, someone might actually want the addon, they only do that for stuff that has a serious security vulnerability with a new version available, IE only for old versions of flash/silverlight/java since they know about those ones.) They ARE working on the problem of what to do about users whose browser is slow and unstable because of a whole slew of addons they don't use and are unaware of, but it's a hard UI problem (they have to ask the user a question, and it can be hard to find a way to ask it that everyone will understand well enough to make the choice they really want)

      To sum up, Mozilla want to know about your problems, and they'd like to fix them for you, they're working on making it easier for them to know about these things and fix them, but it's hard to do in a way that doesn't impose on your ability to customize and use Firefox, and that doesn't infringe on your privacy (complete crash dumps could contain stuff you'd rather not have disclosed, so the ones Firefox sends are stripped of a lot of information, this makes it harder to fix the problem).
      Spudd86
  • Thanks to Mozilla for working on Eudora OSE

    Any company that helps bring Eudora (email client) up to date after Qualcomm dropped the ball would get my vote. Eudora OSE is 90% of the way there - once the remaining 10% is added, it will (again) be by far the best email client (imo).
    jonc2011