Firefox tries, and fails, to make business amends

Firefox tries, and fails, to make business amends

Summary: Mozilla, sort of, backs away from its "Drop dead" approach to enterprise Web-browser users.

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TOPICS: Browser
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This was not one of Mozilla's most shining moments. In response to business complaints about Firefox's accelerating release schedule Firefox evangelist Asa Dotzler responded:

Enterprise has never been (and I'll argue, shouldn't be) a focus of ours. Until we run out of people who don't have sysadmins and enterprise deployment teams looking out for them, I can't imagine why we'd focus at all on the kinds of environments you care so much about.

Adding insult to injury, Dotzler followed up with:

Years ago, we [Mozilla] didn't have the resources. Today, I argue, we shouldn't care even if we do have the resources because of the cost benefit trade. A minute spent making a corporate user happy can better be spent making many regular users happy. I'd much rather Mozilla spending its limited resources looking out for the billions of users that don't have enterprise support systems already taking care of them.

Wow That's certainly not the way I learned to win friends and influence others.

Now, though, Jay Sullivan, Mozilla's vice president of products, is sort of, kind of, offering a peace-pipe to enterprise network administrators. Sullivan wrote on the Mozilla blog that:

Mozilla is committed to providing the best Web experience for people everywhere, for whom the Web has become such an important part of their daily lives. Providing updates to Firefox more frequently allows us to secure users against emerging threats and provide the platform for innovation that today's rich and compelling Web experiences demand.

The Mozilla Community has focused our efforts on the needs of the individual user, and prioritized the product roadmap and features accordingly. However, as is the case with many technologies, loyal Firefox users and their IT departments have sought to bring Firefox into their places of work.

A key challenge for enterprises is that they need to certify their websites, apps and add-ons each time Firefox is updated. This can take weeks or months. Security is also paramount, enterprises need access to a version that includes all known security fixes.

While I didn't expect Mozilla to disown Dotzler comments, I did expect better from them. I mean, besides the Mozilla Foundation, there is its wholly owned subsidary, the Mozilla Corp., which was meant to generate profits--one presumes from both end-users including businesses--that would then be funneled back into the non-profit Foundation.

Yes, it's great that Mozilla is focused on individual users, but really, what's so hard about working with enterprises as well? I'm not crazy about Firefox 5 or Firefox's manic "a new major release" every six-weeks plan. But, what I'd really like to see is Mozilla working at making Firefox easier to deploy and management in an enterprise. This isn't rocket science.

I also didn't care for the way Mozilla put the burden of working with Firefox on the enterprise. If Firefox really wants businesses to "certify their websites, apps and add-ons each time Firefox is updated," then they need to slow their major release schedule down so that business can keep in step.

Is that too much to ask for? I don't think so.

Otherwise, Firefox may actually increase the pace that users are turning to Google Chrome or, even, believe it or not, boost Internet Explorer's market share at Firefox's expense. Is ignoring enterprise concerns really a good plan? I don't think so.

Related Stories:

Is Mozilla artificially boosting Firefox's version number?

Will Mozilla's enterprise-hostile support policy boost IE's share?

Mozilla to enterprise customers: "Drop dead"

Attention Firefox 4.x users - Firefox 5.0 is your security update

Firefox 5: New, but improved?

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  • RE: Firefox tries, and fails, to make business amends

    Absolutely. A long term supported release every year or so would be a great strategy. That is what IE is also doing but that is another extreme as it extends the support up to 10 years, which drags the whole Web behind.
    algotechie
    • RE: Firefox tries, and fails, to make business amends

      @algotechie

      I agree, but the author missed a rather important point I think: In these modern times version numbers have little or nothing to do with the amount of change in the software.

      See these examples:

      1. Firefox 3.6 to 4.0 was a major update even though the version number stepped through a 0.4 increment or a 1.x major increment.

      2. Windows XP went from SP1 to SP2 - no real software version increment but it could be argued that Windows XP went from version 1.1 to version 2.0. It was a major change.

      3. Firefox 4.0 to Firefox 5.0 implemented virtually nothing new despite its major version number change.

      Version numbers have more to do with marketing than they do with software engineering.
      richard.e.morton9
      • RE: Firefox tries, and fails, to make business amends

        @richard.e.morton@... The problem is that they are lumping in security fixes along with other improvements and then denying those security fixes to previous versions. As an example let's say FF5 includes a rendering engine update that breaks a certain web application in your environment so you choose not to update yet. A few days later a security flaw is found in FF4 and FF5. Mozilla decided to patch the flaw in FF5 but they will not in FF4 because it will get not updates once FF5 is out. You are now stuck because you can't upgrade and break your application but you are open a known flaw in FF. What do you do? This is what the corporate backlash is about.

        At the minimum Mozilla should be patching security flaws in FF4 and FF3.
        mike.celone
  • RE: Firefox tries, and fails, to make business amends

    So it's okay for Google Chrome but not okay for Firefox?
    Aerowind
    • RE: Firefox tries, and fails, to make business amends

      @Aerowind

      no it isn't, whoever offers support for a major release over the long term (atleast a year) will pick up firefox's enterprise users.

      That may be IE, anyone know Opera's support statement
      the.nameless.drifter
    • no, its not ok for either

      @Aerowind ... heres a case in point... my major use for Firefox was to get away from IE ... my major use at home and on the road is for connecting to my Dish Sling Adapter .. it took 2 months for Dish & Widevine Media to support Firefox 4 .. only to have FF5 come out and blow out the plugins yet again. And this isn't a case of users being able to install the plugins anyway .. because by default it won't let you install a plugin, regardless of nothing changing with respect to the plugin other than version numbers supported.<br><br>So what happens in this case? I'm driven back to IE which I do not like just because people can't keep up in the RESIDENTIAL world with an every 6 week release mandate... <br><br>And again.. what the hell changed from FF4 to FF5? Layouts the same, some bug fixes, but because its a whole version number different that kills more than half of its use for me?<br><br>I can't believe FF/Mozilla are so stupid in that regard. Leave everyone else behind, even though its minor bug fixes, and you've effectively tied your shoes together and tripping over yourself as people leave you in droves..

      As for Chrome ... it doesn't have full support of MANY places ... so it changing like that really doesn't effect many people.. Chrome is an afterthought that's trying to take hold.. once it gets the bulk of its stuff right... then I'd expect it to slow down the versioning too ... and at THAT time to gain wider appeal in the business world.

      No one wants to re-do their work every 6 weeks... no one.
      TG2
      • This!

        @TG2: [i]So what happens in this case? I'm driven back to IE which I do not like just because people can't keep up in the RESIDENTIAL world with an every 6 week release mandate...[/i]

        The new release schedule targets enthusiasts, not consumers.
        ye
  • RE: Firefox tries, and fails, to make business amends

    the problem lies that fire fox was born after the death of Netscape and that one had a bissnes edition and its also hard to keep it of companys happy
    latis00
  • RE: Firefox tries, and fails, to make business amends

    tough one...
    dbaker6
  • RE: Firefox tries, and fails, to make business amends

    Where does Mozilla think these users are pointing their web browsers? Other non corporate user websites? How about Banks, Merchants and other content providers, all of whom need to have their websites interact predictably with people's browsers.
    read1
    • RE: Firefox tries, and fails, to make business amends

      @read@...

      Maybe they should have made their sites standards compliant to begin with...
      tkejlboom
      • Things can break even if they're standards compliant.

        @tkejlboom: [i]Maybe they should have made their sites standards compliant to begin with...[/i]

        Especially if one of the primary reasons for the fast release schedule is to add new features / functionality in the rendering engine itself.
        ye
      • RE: Firefox tries, and fails, to make business amends

        @tkejlboom

        As a person with some web dev skills I can tell you this is harder than it sounds. ON dynamic pages like PHP, or ASPX you have to write in special code to compensate for how each browser handles different code. And you literally have to write in code like "if this is firefox 4 do this". It's going to make it a nightmare for developers to keep things "standardized" when the rate of browser versions to compensate for is growing exponentially.
        APSDave
  • RE: Firefox tries, and fails, to make business amends

    I think the piece Firefox is overlooking is that those users who *do* use Firefox at home and wish to load it on their Enterprise system could be lost if/when they become familiar with whatever browser their employer uses ...

    If I *had* to use IE9 in the Enterprise, I would probably migrate to it at home as well because I'm more familiar and comfortable with IE9.

    Just my $.02
    woodp5
  • Some enterprises use Firefox

    And understand the updating process. It is not so hard with the right tools. The enterprise world should have moved on from a focus on stability, desktop applications are far more robust than they were 10 years ago.

    Indeed it is ironic that the other headlines are related to the consumerisation of IT and consumer products like the iPhone being railroaded into enterprises regardless of policies...
    putt1ck
  • RE: Firefox tries, and fails, to make business amends

    Yes you are asking too much for sure. It is the sub-standard code and bad development practices which make it hard for enterprise to test. How difficult will it be to have automated tests and run them ? Many enterprises who develop applications have not even heard of automated testing tools.
    The lethargic behavior of the enterprise is responsible for the survival of Dinosaurs like IE 6. Most enterprise treat software deployments like hardware. Where as software develops much faster. You can have new features and bug fixes on weekly basis if not daily. This is the software of modern times and enterprise should learn to adopt themselves to this fast changing world.
    hiddenharmony
    • RE: Firefox tries, and fails, to make business amends

      @hiddenharmony@...

      This is true, but Mozilla need to understand that that is the case and not just tell their potential corporate customers "this is your fault, you're doing it wrong".
      OffsideInVancouver
  • FireFox is bad for individual users too

    Frankly, I don't want to install frequent updates, even on my personal systems. I don't want to worry about whether my plugins will still work, or whether the interface will change, or whether there will be new bugs.

    The latest versions of IE are actually pretty good. Plus, there's Safari, Chrome, and even Opera.

    I think I'm going to skip FF5 and shop around for a new browser.
    wygk
    • Yeah updates are bad for users

      We only want bug fixes, improved security, and better features a couple times a year max! How dare they try to shove out more features faster?!

      edit: Btw, you won't like Opera much either. 11 was released in December 2010. 11.10 was released in April and 11.5 was released in June. They're speeding up their release cycles as well.
      Michael Alan Goff
      • RE: Firefox tries, and fails, to make business amends

        @goff256 and 11.5 broke what was a fairly good browser, instead of loading a clip it loads a start button which indicates there is something playable, you have to click to find out what the content actually is.
        Rndmacts