Mozilla Alienates Corporate Users

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Mozilla says it has no interest in attracting corporate users, as they don't represent a significant portion of the browser market.

Asa Dotzler, recently named product manager for Firefox, made a stunning statement that may not sit too well with many Firefox users. Reacting to complaints from the browser-man-in-charge at IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) , who said it's unreasonable for Mozilla to discontinue support for Firefox 4.01 already, Dotzler told him (I am paraphrasing here) to just deal with it.

It's rather unusual for Mozilla to make such a statement, even if we know that Dotzler is not the kind of person to sugarcoat his opinion. Dotzler's reply:

Mike, you do realize that we get about 2 million Firefox downloads per day from regular user types, right? Your "big numbers" here are really just a drop in the bucket, fractions of fractions of a percent of our user base.

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.

Sure, Dotzler may have a point as far as Mozilla's inside strategy is concerned, but the words were chosen poorly and may, in effect, damage trust in Mozilla and alienate those that deploy millions of corporate versions of Firefox. Mozilla's problem currently is that it struggles to imitate Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) success with a rapid release cycle program in terms of speed, completeness, and communication. While Mozilla is reducing efforts to support corporate compliance, and while it has issues with plug-in backwards compatibility, we are seeing Google implementing more and more support for Chrome in corporate environments with an increasing range of tools to support corporate policies.

We believe that a strong Mozilla across all browser environments is essential for a balance in the browser market, to maintain the traction of an open Web, as opposed to the trend toward closed platforms that we're seeing now. Dotzler may forget that those 2 million Firefox downloads per day are not additional Firefox users -- they are users who are likely to replace an older version of Firefox, and it's not even enough to currently stabilize Firefox's declining market share at this point. Those 2 million (mainstream) users are also users that are likely to use another browser on the side or easily switch their browser anytime they want to. If IBM switches, that means 500,000 users are lost permanently, without a reasonable opportunity for Mozilla to win them back.

If Mozilla can kick 500,000 users to the curb, it may be time to rethink the product strategy, as it may be sitting on a higher horse than it should. It's just the kind of arrogance you don't want to see, and certainly not the kind of arrogance Mozilla can afford. But it's exactly what Microsoft and Google are looking for -- a Mozilla that shoots itself in the foot.

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  • Report this Comment On June 25, 2011, at 3:59 PM, lucasmonger wrote:

    If Dotzler is using downloads as his metric, it's a flawed statistic. Every system administrator I know downloads a package and puts the download on their local server so they don't have to redownload it again for each installation. Then they run some automated script to deploy it across hundreds or thousands of computers. When those users go home, they have to redownload for their home machines because it's too much of a pain to try to download it from their company server, they might as well get get it from firefox mirrors.

  • Report this Comment On June 25, 2011, at 5:24 PM, doncoyoteok wrote:

    In our company we use essentially all Microsoft product where we can, by order of IT. It is forbidden to download Firefox, among other pieces of software. At home I use Firefox, and I don't hesitate to download the latest version.

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