Former Mozilla exec: Google has sabotaged Firefox for years

Former and current Mozilla engineers are reaching their boiling points.

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A former high-ranking Mozilla executive has accused Google of intentionally and systematically sabotaging Firefox over the past decade in order to boost Chrome's adoption.

He is not the first Firefox team member to come forward and make such accusations in the past eight months; however, his allegations span far beyond current events and accuse Google of carrying out a coordinated plan that involved introducing small bugs on its sites that would only manifest for Firefox users.

Oops after oops

Johnathan Nightingale, a former General Manager and Vice President of the Firefox group at Mozilla, described these issues as "oopses."

"When I started at Mozilla in 2007 there was no Google Chrome, and most folks we spoke with inside [Google] were Firefox fans," Nightingale recollected in a Twitter thread on Saturday.

"When Chrome launched things got complicated, but not in the way you might expect. They had a competing product now, but they didn't cut ties, break our search deal - nothing like that. In fact, the story we kept hearing was, 'We're on the same side. We want the same things'," the former Mozilla exec said.

"I think our friends inside Google genuinely believed that. At the individual level, their engineers cared about most of the same things we did. Their product and design folks made many decisions very similarly, and we learned from watching each other.

"But Google as a whole is very different than individual googlers," Nightingale said.

"Google Chrome ads started appearing next to Firefox search terms. Gmail & [Google] Docs started to experience selective performance issues and bugs on Firefox. Demo sites would falsely block Firefox as 'incompatible'," he said.

"All of this is stuff you're allowed to do to compete, of course. But we were still a search partner, so we'd say 'hey what gives?' And every time, they'd say, 'oops. That was accidental. We'll fix it in the next push in 2 weeks.'

"Over and over. Oops. Another accident. We'll fix it soon. We want the same things. We're on the same team. There were dozens of oopses. Hundreds maybe?"

"I'm all for 'don't attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence' but I don't believe Google is that incompetent. I think they were running out the clock. We lost users during every oops. And we spent effort and frustration every clock tick on that instead of improving our product. We got outfoxed for a while and by the time we started calling it what it was, a lot of damage had been done," Nightingale said.

Not the first accusations

And Nightingale is not the first Firefox team member to come forward and make such accusations. In July 2018, Mozilla Program Manager Chris Peterson accused Google of intentionally slowing down YouTube performance on Firefox.

He revealed that both Firefox and Edge were superior when loading YouTube content when compared to Chrome, and in order to counteract this performance issue, Google switched to using a JavaScript library for YouTube that they knew wasn't supported by Firefox.

At this point, it's very hard not to believe or take Nightingale's comments seriously. Slowly but surely, Google is becoming the new Microsoft, and Chrome is slowly turning into the new IE, an opinion that more and more users are starting to share [1, 2, 3].

A previous version of this article referenced a Firefox bug. It was not a bug and we removed it from the article.

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