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[personal profile] teradyneezeri
Today, while browsing through my usual news feeds, I came across this story in VentureBeat | Dev, titled "Mozilla’s plans for Firefox: More partnerships, better add-ons, and faster updates". I noticed the following section in the second of the two emails which the article linked to, titled "Revisiting how we build Firefox":

Firefox is built on web technologies*, but we could do a much better job of capitalizing on that. The first thread of discussion was around deployment: since Firefox began, the industry has continually evolved how it deploys code to users, and today it isn’t done on an 18-week cycle. We think there are big wins to be had in shortening the time that new features reaches users. Critical fixes should ship to users in minutes, not days. Individual features rolling out to small audiences for focused and multi-variate testing. As Laura Thomson put it in her Whistler presentation - “The trains have served us well, but it’s time to build a hyperloop.”

This is such a bad idea. Yes, shortening the time that critical fixes is nice, but if those fixes break functionality—or worse yet, users systems—then you have the same problem that Microsoft will face with the Windows 10 updates, and which Chrome sometimes has with its own forced updates. People will become angry, and it is not always good to ask forgiveness later instead of playing safe.

The next section that caught my attention was in the same email:

*The second thread was about removing that asterisk from “web technologies”. Back in the early Mozilla days, XUL was our attempt to fill the gaps HTML had at for building large-scale web applications. Over time, the web - and app development for the web - has evolved its own set of standards and technologies; we should follow it.

The web development community has addressed that need through HTML in a number of interesting and novel ways that don’t rely on Mozilla-specific technology. There’s a huge body of shared wisdom about how to build applications on the web. It’s time to go back and examine how we can bring that wisdom back into Firefox.

Because XUL and XBL aren’t web technologies, they don’t get the same platform attention that HTML does (for good reason!). Performance problems go unfixed and it creates a lot of unnecessary complexity within Gecko. It’s harder for even experienced web developers to get up to speed. It’s further from the web, and that doesn’t help anybody.

This is, in my honest opinion, a very good idea. Even former Opera developers are working on a new browser, Vivaldi, where the user interface code is based on ReactJS and raw JavaScript though Node.js. As much as I prefer XML-based languages, I realize they are not for everyone—despite that presentation for the web itself HTML, which is XML-based.

Now, the next item is from the first email that is linked to in the VentureBeat | Dev story, titled "Three Pillars":

* Best Of The Web

We can’t build Firefox alone. We’ve always relied on our addons community, and lately we’ve been working more with partners to help us build the parts of the browser we’re not equipped to build alone. We’ve worked with Telefonica to build Firefox Hello, we added integration with Pocket.

We’re not like most organizations, so we have to partner differently. We worked with Pocket to amend their Privacy Policy to be more in line with our principles. We made sure the code that shipped with Firefox was licensed appropriately. But folks raised objections, and we need to address that.

Some of the objections were about policy and strategy, and I’m not going to address those in this thread. But we did hear specific complaints about how the code was integrated. Folks said that Pocket should have been a bundled add-on that could have been more easily removed entirely from the browser. We tend to agree with that, and fixing that for Pocket and any future partner integrations is one concrete piece of engineering work we need to get done. Pocket was also given first billing on the main screen, and that may not be a scalable solution. We’re going to need to figure out how to best surface these things in our UI.

We intend to spend some significant effort making addons even more awesome by improving security and performance for users and a building a better API that increases x-platform compatibility for addon authors and partners. Most of this is just ideas right now, and we’re going to start posting those ideas for feedback here soon.
I must admit, I am extremely wary of this idea, as it means using third-party tools integrated with the core application. The primary goal of Firefox was originally to separate the browser component from Mozilla Web Suite (now the community-led SeaMonkey Project) into its own focused product, and make it just the web. This is taking that idea and trying to add functionality in which there are many competing products, some of which are used by more people than others.

Pocket was recently added, as they mention. I use Pocket myself, but there is also Readability and Instapaper, both of which do the same thing. If they were to integrate something like Feedly into the browser for RSS reading, that would anger anyone who prefers using "The Old Reader". These are best left as add-ons, not as integrated portions of the base application.
This is also infuriating for another reason: every time someone turns around, projects like Firefox start to change their path.
They seem to have shifted away from the Firefox Marketplace, as I hardly ever hear anything about it…or even about Firefox OS. Firefox Marketplace would be an excellent place for people to install such web applications—Pocket, Readability, Instapaper, Outlook Mail, Yahoo Mail, etc…—and integrate them with the operating system, rather than just the browser. Then, with the add-ons, they could easily add information through their browser, or even better, have the applications as part of the browser, effectively turning it into its own self-contained operating system—much like Chrome, but with more of a community-oriented twist.

It feels as if they start to have great ideas, and then a sudden reoginization and refocusing causes those great ideas to be put on the back burner, or given to the (arguably more competent) community. This is what has happened with Mozilla Persona, Thunderbird, SeaMonkey, and originally Sunbird (which is now just the Lightning extension for Thunderbird).
Google is guilty of the exact same thing, too. A sudden reorg causes several projects and acquisitions to simply disappear, with no say for the users. Of course, Mozilla does this better since they actually give the projects to the community, but the same issue is there: they drop the idea and move on to the next fad. There is no focus, only plan-and-drop.
I truly hope Mozilla actually sticks with their goals to focus themselves. Firefox and SeaMonkey are still my favourite browsers, but I hope that they do not continue down the path of the fad, as they have with several releases now.

August 2015

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