Firefox tries, and fails, to make business amends

Mozilla, sort of, backs away from its "Drop dead" approach to enterprise Web-browser users.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

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?

Editorial standards