Should Mozilla release a Linux?

Should Mozilla release a Linux?

Summary: The open source movement needs more than just good code to succeed.


Victor Keegan of The GuardianWriting in The Guardian in London today, Victor Keegan (right) bemoans the lack of open source activity in Great Britain, which he attributes in part to the geekiness of Linux.

He also notes the strong market share of Mozilla Firefox. Then he asks this question:

Maybe Mozilla's marketing skills should be harnessed by Linux to turn a wonderful product into something people actually want to use.

There is a lot in that one sentence.

First, is Mozilla's success all down to marketing skills?

Second, would better marketing make more people use Linux?

Third, can or should Mozilla get involved in operating systems?

My view is that Keegan is confusing marketing with usability. Firefox is a very usable browser. It installs as quickly as Internet Explorer, and it's intuitive. You don't need its manual.

Other Mozilla projects, like Thunderbird, are slightly less usable. (I like Thunderbird, but it takes a long time to get a summary file on sub-folders, for instance.) As I learned earlier this week other projects, like Sunbird, have even poorer usability reputations.

The Web site is slick, the logos for its products bright and vivid, but it's not an advertiser, and the Foundation's staff is fairly small. So are the staffs of Open Office and Ubuntu.

And this is basic problem. A free business model doesn't bring in the money needed for support, marketing, and usability a paid model delivers. These are elements the mass market expects in the products it uses.

The recent support given by IBM and Google to the open source movement, coupled with that of Sun and others, needs to be considered carefully, in other words.

The open source movement needs more than just good code to succeed.

Topics: Linux, Browser, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • yes a million time

    I dont know if mozilla should be IBM should open up there deep pocket and invest a large some of money into open source.

    A BSD based os could also be very nice PC-bsd is right now by far the best bsd version available
  • They should concentrate on getting Firefox right

    There are too many nagging issues with Firefox for them to be thinking about other projects. So unless they have a brilliant (and I mean REALLY brilliant) business plan in which they can generate loads of income by branching out like this and have a brilliant (and I mean REALLY brilliant) new direction in which to take Linux that will generate the necessary public interest, I say save your resources and get your house in order.
    Michael Kelly
    • Problems with Firefox

      I don't see any serious problems with Firefox. I continue to use IE (mainly to post blog items here) but Firefox has been my main browser for a year and it seems pretty good. In fact it's ability to save your collection of open tabs between sessions is downright nifty.

      Not that I doubt you at all. I'd just like to know more.
      • I'm thinking mainly of security issues

        Seems like at least once a week I'm reading about a FF security issue in Ryan Naraine's blog. I use FF myself as my primary browser (I'm using it now) however I don't fool myself into thinking it's as secure as it can be. They may not be as serious as they seem, however perception is everything, and right now I don't think FF's reputation as a secure browser is as strong as it should be. Especially now that IE has made improvements with 7.0. And yes, I know IE is far from perfect too, however it is much more competitive with FF nowadays in that regard and it has the advantage of being the default on most computers.
        Michael Kelly
        • Well on the lighter side they get fixed fast

          Seem I read one article on the security flaw and the next day it's patched. (purposeful exaggeration to emphasize the point)
          • Yes they do

            However in the meantime they take a public relations beating. Well, I say if they have the resources to start a new Linux distro then they should also have the resources to do a more thorough security audit of their primary existing product, and unless they have a compelling strategy to actually win new Linux users (not just fragment the existing Linux user base) and earn themselves some significant income for their efforts, that those resources would be better spent on an audit of their existing code.
            Michael Kelly
        • Yeah well...

          those security issues always seem to affect Windows 98% of the time and the rest of us 2% of the time. So maybe it's not all FireFox's fault? ]:)
          Linux User 147560
          • Maybe, maybe not their fault

            But either way it is their problem, and they have to do what it takes to remedy it.
            Michael Kelly
          • On this we can agree

            BUT, it's pretty hard without access to all the protocols and the source for them. Know whut I mean!? ]:)
            Linux User 147560
          • Puhleeze

            I love firefox, and we can argue about why MS has done certain things, but the bottom line is that most of the people using FF are on Windows, so it's up to them prevent these problems. I don't know the details of the latest bug (which I believe is courtesy of Apple's quicktime), but back in the summer, they had a bug that was caused by not doing parameter checking.

            There's absolutely no way to blame that on MS. You write a method that takes parameters, you have to check them.

            Nevertheless, firefox is my browser of choice. I use IE to check a 2nd email account, certain websites that are coded for IE and if there's some flash page/video I want to watch (which is already one flash installation too many).
          • And...

            How could anyone complain that FF fixes newly discovered flaws too quickly? Is it better to rely on M$? They never admit to new flaws within a month, or never at all! They fix those they choose. I use FF on my workstation, have been for nearly 3 months now, Not one single problem, nothing! I use IE for M$ patches, once every other month. (This gives the M$ patch Tuesday guinea-pigs time to beta test all the broken patches before I download them...)

            How could anyone make such favorable claims about IE7? It wont even install on this computer! Nor on 3 other friends PC's
      • And besides

        Another "me too" Linux distro won't help anyone. If they are going to do one it had better be for a compelling reason, either a "can't miss" income generating opportunity or to bring Linux in a new direction that will win over users in mass quantities (and thus become an income generating opportunity). If they have either of those in works, then yes they should do it, but forgive me for being skeptical of that being the case.
        Michael Kelly
        • Skeptical?

          Did you even read the article? It said nothing about anything "in the works".
  • RE: Should Mozilla release a Linux?

    It depends on a lot of things. For instance are they going to ungeek Linux? By that I mean are they going to make easier to use. I've been using ubuntu for 7-8 months and there are still a lot of things I can't do, though it's not bad after a lot of learning time. If so, will that make it a retail item? A lot more questions besides this starter.
    • Learning Time

      Learning time was something people would tolerate from consumer applications 10 years ago, and from operating systems 15 years ago. Back then, finding features and bugs with Windows 3.1 was practically a cottage industry. Lots of fun was had by all.

      Today not so much.
      • I don't find

        A buggy, always locking up and crashing piece of software "fun"!

        Unless one has nothing better to do with his/her time... Myself, a malfunctioning or cryptic OS would put me right out of business! Some of us make our living with these machines. when they break, $ goes right in the bit-bucket.
    • Like anything else it becomes Second Nature...

      And like anything else, the time it takes is inversely proportional to interest and amount of time spent with it.

      At the turn of the century, I started to use Linux on the desktop, (started with RedHat & Mandrake) it took me about 6 months to feel comfortable and do most all the things I did with other systems..Another year and I had no personal need for the other systems for my home & businesses, and I actually work with and on those other systems.

      I think far to much (FUD) is made of the geeky quality, and the supposed learning curve, especially in todays world. if you become interested or involved in anything there are many details & particular nuances.

      Funny how they try and sell you the geekiness of one thing or another and then say this other thing is "too Geeky"..

      I think they sell the common man/average Joe short, even to the point of selling ignorance as a virtue. (and on a "tech site"?)
      I think the difference is trying to sell something rather than provide useful info....
  • Linux does need mega-corporate backing... be a serious threat to Windows on the desktop.

    If Mozilla or Google were to issue their own public Linux distro, many people would install it because these two organizations are highly reputable and trusted.

    How awesome would a "Mobuntu" or "Goobuntu" be?!?
  • Anything to take a stab at Linux...

    Rather than provide any useful info or insight...
    Guess it is just for the clicks....

    While he did say those silly things, the article was really about the slow uptake in the UK's of OpenSource in Government & Public Service Sector compared to other Countries, especially Europe.

    Have you actually ever used Linux?
    Linux is not a "product"
    It is a Technology, Resource, a real Innovation, (because of the GPL) available to anybody & everybody.

    Linux has no marketing agenda, it is there to use if aware & interested, and has many advantages, technical, philosophical & financial.

    It seems to me it is some (so-called) "tech journalists" are not doing their job or lack understanding.
    It also seems strange that so much effort is expended to FUD Linux, if no one is interested.
    • "tech journalists"

      Victor Keegan gets paid to write so he writes. I doubt if he
      knows the difference between 'open source' and 'free software'
      but he may have written an article he can get printed again
      next year without too many changes.
      He's therefore a smart writer.
      Caesar Tjalbo