New List: Market Insights

I had the great fortune to work with a remarkable community manager for a few years, Jim Grisanzio currently of Tokyo.  Jim has a knack of maintaining a constructive attitude, giving credibility to a project and bringing people together.  If you’ve attended a Linux or OpenSolaris User Group in Tokyo in the last 4 years, I think there’s every chance you’ve met Jim.  One of the things I learned from him was that you should not be afraid to invent and reinvent different community structures.  Communities change in size, interest and focus all the time.  If the bonds are meaningful, they will withstand the friction of a new mailing list, a new bookmark, a new IRC channel.

So, starting today, I’d like to announce the Mozilla Market Insights community list.  This list is for anyone with an interest in tracing market developments in Internet software, and especially the web browser market, for sharing of both  qualitative and quantitative data, and for getting access to the expertise of others in those activities.  In scope for discussion: demographics, market shares, product comparisons, methodologies for all of the above, and how they relate to Mozilla and open web projects.  Not in scope: marketing campaigns and events, changes to Mozilla (and especially Firefox) product road-map.

Why another list?

18 months ago, we dusted off the Marketing List which I think has become quite vibrant. At the same time, “marketing” is a rather broad term, from campaigns to product information to newsletters to events.  And while I think there is some level of interest in discuss market insights within the marketing list, I think we are at a a volume of traffic now where not all threads are getting followed up on.

A couple of folks, Bob Chao and Majken Connor both expressed concerns about creating a new list, concerns which I want to acknowledge. Bob’s point (at least, my paraphrasing, which Bob can correct if needed) was that my motivations of creating a “quieter” place for this kind of work might reduce participation and that we should, essentially, be loud and proud in everything we do.  He has an excellent point, but I still maintain that a specific list will increase participation amongst a few interested parties.  I think that Majken’s shared some of these concerns and was also bothered about potential fragmentation.  So, I think that sets the bar quite well – I’d like to get this list up and assess it by the end of the year.  If we feel that participation has declined or that we feel fragmented as a community, then I’ll happily kill the list and revert to the old state.  Of course, I will do whatever I can to make sure that doesn’t happen.

So, if you enjoy numbers that have been crunched, or have some of your own to crunch, if you have a view on just how many web-capable devices there are per person (and what it was 2 years ago and what it will be in 2 years’ time), or if you have an idea just how many browsers there are for Android right now, please join the list.  Right now, I’m putting together a forecast for adoption of Firefox 4, and I’ll be delighted to share and hear other perspectives.  So, if this is appealing to you, please sign up here Mozilla Market Insights community list or

See you on the Internet…

Still thinking about the Open Web

Earlier this week, Dria wrote about some ideas for articulating the Open Web.  It’s important because

  1. it’s important, and
  2. we (meaning the Mozilla project) need to articulate what sets us apart from other browser producers.

Let’s first assume one hurdle: the difference between the Internet and the Web.  I wonder how many people outside the industry understand that?   (I even wonder how many people in the tech sector do not.)  But let’s put that problem aside, and assume for a moment that net neutrality is a given, and not in grave danger.

We want rather to be able to articulate the importance of technology choices such as a preference for webm and Ogg Theora over the H.264 codec.  Mozilla (and, let’s remember, others) make these choices for a very clear set of reasons.  At least, they are clear to us.

While I like the commentator Tiago Sá’s comment about Firefox being fundamentally participatory, and that a small number of users who have internalised the proposition of the open web is preferable to a large number of users who haven’t, for me, whether or not an individual Firefox user cares is moot.  I think part of Firefox’s success and impact in the market was that you didn’t have to care about what it stood for to love it.  But of course, the more people who do understand, the better.

But what concerns me more is that within the industry, in my perception, the level of understanding of Mozilla could be better.   We need to be loud and unambiguous about why an Open Web matters.  We have to articulate why the ability for anyone to pick up a set of tools and go and build on the web without being beholden to anybody else is important,  what that means for both the capabilities of the tools the have, but even more importantly, the terms (yes, the licensing) by which they can do that.  And then, we need to articulate what the societal impact is – and there are in fact several: economic, social, cultural and so forth.  And that, in the parlance of our times, is a non-trivial task.

It’s already genuinely difficult to remember life before the Web.  I say Web, and not Internet, because Web is how almost all of us first experienced the incredible power of the Internet to connect people and ideas in ways we had not envisaged before.  Sure, I used email first, and yes, it was amazing, but it did not open up the world, it merely made it more efficient.

The Web’s virtue isn’t contingent upon the specific technologies that make it, another set of technologies with the same properties and freedoms would do the job, but if we didn’t have the Web, we’d have to invent it.

Dria sets out of set of possible and useful analogies for explaining the web as a public resource.  Some of them are very good, some might suffer slightly from some culture-specificity (e.g. volunteering in a public library), and she starts to address the point of the web as a public good.  One analogy I especially like is considering the public road network.  The road network is something that is almost entirely subject to public provision and regulation (let’s not shy away from it), and the cars that drive on it – although subject to stringent regulation – are privately provided and serve primarily private objectives.    Now, imagine for a moment a road network which was run on a commercial basis, where the main interests represented were the car manufacturers.  Unless you’re an Ayn Rand acolyte (and maybe even then) it’s a much bleaker picture.

But let’s also try another tack – I am not in all cases a fan of argument by analogy (to refute argument by analogy with an analogy, one often ends up comparing apples and pairs), so I first want to think a little harder about what’s important – what this public good is, how it manifests itself, and how it exists at all.

Software is both machine and information.  It’s a tool composed of intricately expressed ideas.  In this way it is quite similar to mathematics, language or a theoretical science.  Private ownership, or perhaps better expressed, any form of public exclusion, is clearly negative outcome for the world, to say absurd in many cases (although the distinction between applied science and invention is a blurry one).

So, as I say, I’m still thinking, and maybe you are too.  But my definition of the Open Web would comprise two parts:

  1. what is important about the web: not the intrinsic qualities of the technology, but the incidental ones, i.e. the behaviour it facilitates
  2. what are the specific qualities of the technology that engender this (both capabilities and licensing, in combination with the previously-assumed net neutrality)

With these, I think our analogies will butter a few more parsnips.

The coming “browser battle” ?

First Look: Google Increases Graphics Performance With Chrome 7 | ConceivablyTech

IE9 and Firefox are significantly faster in these tests than Chrome and it may be ironic that Firefox already creams IE9 in its own tests. Mozilla’s hardware acceleration isn’t finished yet and if the current performance is any indication, Firefox may clearly outrun IE in HTML5 performance.

Indeed it might.  And while there is little differentiation in Javascript performance and page rendering, the IE Test Drive suite shows what a divergence there currently is in complex graphics rendering.   One thing is for sure, it looks like 2011 will be a vintage year for browsers.

    Englightenment in Dixons

    I once read that Bill Gates considered his greatest achievement to be the separation of hardware and software. He must have said it pre-2002 or so, as Google evidently has no record of it, so you’ll have to take my word for it (or ask him yourself).  Then a couple of weeks ago, in the run up to Google’s the-end-of-the-Internet announcement, Eric Schmidt snapped at reporters who suggested that the success of Android made the ChromeOS strategy questionable.  Mr Schmidt offered that ChromeOS is for a different category of devices.

    This is why I was impressed by Android and baffled by ChromeOS.  Android seems to me to be a huge step forwards for a sector that was fraught with fragmentation.  ChromeOS, meanwhile, appears to be a backwards step – sure, it will be cheap (at least unless hardware OEMs succumb to patent claims on some of the underlying technology, which makes the Oracle-Google spat over Java all the more interesting), but still, as far as I can tell, a netbook running ChromeOS is a netbook that does less than the same device with Ubuntu, or, let’s say it – good old Windows XP.

    And then, I saw this sign in Dixons in Birmingham Airport.  They had a rack of the-computer-formerly-known-as-netbooks, only now, they’re apparently, “Web Browsers”.

    Dixons, Birmingham Airport

    Woah.  This is probably about the first thing that makes me think Google’s efforts to blur the OS / browser distinction might bear fruit.  If the whole category of device is classified as a web browser, users might not feel that an OS that is only a web browser isn’t such a lemon after all.

    Worth noting that this was Dixons: DSG International, one of the biggest players in retail electronics in Europe (El Giganten, PC World, Dixons, Currys).  Wonder if this name will catch on?  And if so…what will us browser makes call our software?

    The Windows Browser Choice screen, 2 weeks in

    It’s been on of the most hectic months for me in my time at Mozilla in preparing for the browser choice screen.  Johnath provided the details of our submission to Microsoft for the browser choice screen itself (, but I wanted to provide an update and a big thanks to everyone who has helped us get off the ground.

    Microsoft asked us to provide a product description in 140 characters in 23 languages.  Now, I find it hard to sum up Firefox in a tweet, but we needed to.  A big thanks to both Jenny Boriss and James Hopkins at Critical Research for helping us figure out what we felt we needed to cover.  Being Mozilla, of course, we wanted to provide more than 23 languages – we felt that there are more like 33 languages widely used in the European Economic Area (plus Croatia and Switzerland, where the browser choice screen is also available), but for now, 23 seems to be the limit.

    We also wanted to create a specific “learn more” page for people using the browser choice screen – people who might not have installed much software for themselves in the past, and who specifically wanted more details on Firefox.  For this reason, I felt we should have a slimmed down version of the Firefox pages that we have on and today, and give people a chance to really make it specific for their country.  Here is where I was pretty much overwhelmed by the localisation community at Mozilla.  In just a couple of days, we have had 27 localisations of our “learn more” screen.

    A huge effort and thanks to all who took part:

    • Basque: Julen Ruiz Aizpuru
    • Bulgarian : Ognyan Kulev, Mihail Chilyashev, Pavel Peev
    • Catalan: Toni Hermoso Pulido,  Eduard Gamonal
    • Croatian: Sasa Tekovic
    • Czech: Pavel Cvrcek
    • Danish: Jesper Kristensen, Søren Munk Skrøder
    • Dutch: Tim Maks van den Broek, Wim Benes, Ton Kessen, Laurens Holst, Mark Heijl, Ben Branders
    • Estonian: Merike Sell, Otto de Voogd, Sander Lepik
    • Finnish: Jussi Bergström
    • French: Cédric Corazza, Goofy, Jean-Bernard Marcon,  Philippe Dessante, Nicosmos,  Alexandre Lissy, Benoit Leseul, Céline Demange, Daniel Schroeter
    • Frisian: Wim Benes (again)
    • Gaelic: Kevin P. Scannell
    • German: Archaeopteryx, Robert Kaiser, Michael ‘Coce’ Köhle, Kadir Topal (now a Mozilla employee – congratulations!)
    • Greek: George Fiotakis, Kostas Papadima
    • Hungarian: Kalman Kemenczy
    • Icelandic: Kristján Bjarni Guðmundsson
    • Italian: Francesco Lodolo, Giuliano Masseroni
    • Latvian: Raivis Dejus
    • Lithuanian: Rimas Kudelis
    • Norwegian: Ronny Vårdal, Håvard Mork and Bjørn Ivar Svindseth for Nynorsk
    • Polish: Leszek Zyczkowski, Hubert Gajewski, Marek Stępień, Staś Małolepszy, Stefan Plewako and Gandalf
    • Portugese: Carlos Simao, Sérgio Parreira
    • Romanian: Alexandru Szasz
    • Russian: Alexander L. Slovesnik
    • Slovak: Vlado Valastiak
    • Slovene: Brian King, Matjaž Horvat,  Vito Smolej
    • Spanish: Ricardo Palomares, Nukeador, Guillermo López
    • Swedish: Markus Amalthea Magnuson, Hasse Wallanger
    • Turkish: Rail Aliev
    • Welsh: Rhoslyn Prys

    and I think that Welsh, Galician, Turkish and Basque are all underway too.  I think this is a great illustration of Mozilla’s raison d’etre.  It is not the case that we have to have every language under the sun represented in the browser choice screen, but at the same time, it shouldn’t be the case that software, or the coroporations who produce it, should define which languages are and which are not on the web.  These are important cultural and social artefacts.  While there is a community that demands access for this language, it is our job to try to facilitate it.

    So, from the 23 languages that Microsoft allow on, we still wish to route users to other locales that they might be using.  I would especially like to call to attention Alex Buchanan for his great efforts in making this a reality.  Right now, if you use Internet Explorer with, for example, Catalan as your prefered language, and you click on “Tell me more” from, you will get more information (and access to a Firefox binary) in Catalan.

    Toni called me attention to a deeper problem here, namely that the language packs for many of the lesser-spoken languages in Europe do not modify the user’s IE language preference.  Although we don’t have a single fix for that, I know that Pascal is looking into a few approache.  Watch this space.  Also, we are aware that is not very helpful for blind web-users.  We will do what we can to address this, at least in our content downstream.

    Alongside all of the people who have contributed localisations for this project (and if I forgot anyone, please give me a hard time in comments), I would also like to thank some of the other people behind the scenes at Mozilla that made this project happen.  Staś Małolepszy is a geniune superstar and his incredible diligence prevented those of us less blessed from making bigger and more permanent mistakes.  Stephen Donner, for helping me understand a pair-wise test case from a hole in the ground, Kev Needham for his ability to spin Firefox builds like turntables, John O’Duinn and Matthew Zeier and their teams for springing into action and Tomcat, well, just for being Tomcat.

    And we might all thank Chris Mullaney at Microsoft for coordinating getting content from Mozilla into, (and for her gentle way of pointing out obvious typos).  It may be an obvious point, but Windows has been the platform on which the vast majority of people have experienced computing and have experienced the web.  Whatever we might think and say about Microsoft (and there have been some pretty interesting things written this week), Windows is a platform that seen a vast ecosystem of software, both Free and non-Free developed for it, and its legacy of backwards compatibility on an incredible range of hardware is one of the wonders of modern computing.   Let us hope that Microsoft also finds embracing more choice benefits the Windows platform too.

    Update 12/3/10: as Laurens commented, there were a number of people who contributed translations to the text on the screen.  Although this is only 140 characters, this is a difficult task, interpreting an English text and making it fit.  I have attempted to all all the names of those involved to the list above.  Thanks again.

    Be geek; Be prepared to talk to anyone about anything

    I’m just about recovered from Mozilla Camp Europe.  Compliments to William and Irina for putting together such a well-run and enjoyable event.  I felt that this year’s event was even better than last year’s, which is no reflection on the fine city of Barcelona.

    Highlights there were many.  Meeting Glyn Moody was pretty damn cool.  He’s such a gentleman he did not wish to disclose his favourite book for fear of appearing pretentious – that’s class.  He also opened my, and a few other’s, eyes to things that Mozilla could and should be doing.  With great responsibility comes great power, after all.

    From the Advocacy track I was delighted by the level of contribution from people.  I did not speak much myself, as I felt I had little to offer compared to the war stories and practical advice from our speakers.  But I will mention a few memories:

    Bogo Shopov kicked us off on Saturday in fine style.  To learn more about Bogo and his adventures in freedom fighting, you can read his page, Who the f**k is Bogo -few “About” pages start so promisingly.  Bogo kicked us off by explaining that his mother told him not to talk to strangers, and consequently we all had to introduce ourselves.  And then…a pantomime, “The non-linear behaviour of a business mind”.  For about 15 minutes, Bogo silently performed his working day.  I think this was to make us consider decision making cycles in businesses.  But it might have just been a laugh.  Mission accomplished on both counts, and a wonderful and imaginative way to kick off the track.

    Bogo Shopov

    For the rest of Saturday afternoon we brainstormed on Project Drumbeat and then on remixing the Mozilla Manifesto.  We will be hearing a lot more about these  in the coming months.

    On Sunday, I met a few people for the first time, and can say without exaggeration I felt truly inspired by some of our speakers.

    I had heard many great things about Mozilla Italia, but hearing from them in the flesh was amazing.  Iacopo Benesperi presented on advocating at non-technical events.  All through this session I was nodding in agreement, but it was not because these were things I knew, but rather, that I had felt. Iacopo brought them to life.  One slide in particular captured my imagination (the picture is not very good because of my rubbish camera dreadful photography skills):

    Mozilla Italia have quite some experience attending events and advocating for Mozilla and the lessons rang so true.  I especially liked the bullets on this slide, “Be prepared to talk to anyone about anything”, and on his closing slide, “Be geek” (i.e. let people get as technical as they want to).  What does not come across from my underexposed snap is the respect and affection for this target that all the Mozilla Italians showed.  It’s that spirit that made me want to join the project in the first place.  I enjoyed Iacopo’s (who I should point out is from Florence) presentation so much that it temporarily dulled the pain of Liverpool’s 2-0 humiliation at the hands of Fiorentina 5 days earlier.  There’s always the return fixture.

    Later in the day, I got to meet Gorjan Jovanovski, who was talking about the achievements of the Macedonian community.

    underexposed is the word

    Gorjan is extremely impressive – and I do not want to give away just how young he is, but when he described his achievements and then mentioned his age as a potential barrier in business meetings…well, I think everyone’s jaw dropped.  Gorjan is a remarkable chap with a very exciting future ahead of him.

    I felt we made some great connections and I look forward to even more participation next year.  I am very grateful to all our speakers, (and not just the ones I mention here), and remember, per Iacopo’s advice:

    • Be Geek
    • Be prepared to talk to anyone about anything
    • Give help (not only on Mozilla subjects)

    Is this the real life, Is this just fantasy?

    Mozilla Camp Europe is nearly upon us.


    I am really excited about the event (hard not to be), and I am very grateful to everyone who submitted papers for the advocacy track.  This year we will have a very special guest keynoting, Mr Glyn Moody, whose blog I have read for a long time.  And while I don’t want to play favourites with the sessions (after all, there are too many to go to anyway), there is one that I would like to call people’s attention to before hand because it requires a little preparation.

    Alina is leading a session on remixing the Mozilla manifesto.  I think that this is incredibly important.  On my first day at Mozilla, Tristan said two things to me: first, that he was pleased to see me (nice), second, read the manifesto.  While I do not think that we will ever be successful in trying to persuade people to use Firefox or Thunderbird or SeaMonkey because of specific public benefit goals or open source or of web standards, I also think that it is really important that we do everything we can to explain to people why these things matter, and what Mozilla is doing about it.

    So I think that Alina’s idea is a really important one, and whether or not you can make it to Prague, please take 5 minutes to re-read the manifesto and then spell out what it means to you.  To me, it’s about the Internet being a shared, public resource.

    Please use the tag #mymozman to help Alina collect all the thoughts.

    A Really Nasty Ad

    Like many others, I read about this unpleasant scam whereby someone has paid for the Google Adword “Firefox” to the extent that Firefox searches show their link (which pretends to be Mozilla’s site) in the results:

    Picture 1

    I couldn’t say that this is Google’s fault, it seems more that one of their customers is acting dishonestly – what responsibility they have for that I do not know.  However, this is exactly the kind of thing that leads me to object to the Omnibox in the Chrome browser.  I think it’s fine that the location bar allows you to use shortcuts to search, but combining the location bar and the search box seems to me to be an unwelcome development.  The search provider is disintermediating the location, presenting an opportunity to hijack the user to the highest bidder.

    And as this example so vividly demonstrates, it is locations that we can trust, not search terms.

    “And your travelling army of synthetic supporters would be taken away from you”

    My past and future will be colliding in Prague this October at Mozilla Camp Europe: the great news is that you do not need to be a fan of legendary Birkenhead rockers  Half-Man-Half-Biscuit fan to enjoy Prague, although I for one will be on the lookout for that elusive Dukla Prague away kit.

    More prosaically, the period for submitting papers for the advocacy track is still open, and I urge anyone with an interest in promoting Firefox, Thunderbird, the open Web, or Free software and talking about this at Mozilla Camp Europe 2009 to get in touch.  I would especially urge people to read Mark Surman’s blog to get inspiration about what issues really matter right now, and will matter in the future.  While I am loathed to be negative, we should all be asking ourselves, “what needs to change?”.

    If you do not want to speak, but want to suggest a topic, please add it to the wiki.  If you want to speak, please get in touch.

    Calling all evangelists, marketeers, advocates, community organisers, bloggers, activists…

    Mozilla Camp Europe 2009 will take place in the beautiful city of Prague on the weekend of October 3-4th.  2008’s event in Barcelona was very memorable but I am sure that 2009’s version will manage to live up to it.  Here is William’s announcement.

    I am leading the Advocacy track, and so please consider this the Call for papers for Advocacy.  I am interested to hear from anyone who would like to present on the topics of:

    • promoting Mozilla software (Thunderbird, Firefox, Seamonkey etc.)
    • promoting the causes near to our heart: open source, the open web, the use of (open) standards in technology
    • influencing organisations to change (e.g. to upgrade from IE6)
    • influencing public policy on software
    • organising communities, best practices
    • …of course, case studies in what you have done in your region are very welcome

    Or if you have an idea that you feel fits here, feel free to pitch it to me.

    Please submit proposals by Monday, 24th August by email, and get in touch if you have any questions.

    Firefox for CyberMentors

    Like most people, I find I am spending more and more of my life online.  Contact with family and friends would not be what it is without the Internet.   Indeed, I think the vast majority of the online population would agree that the Internet has enriched our lives (if at the cost of a little solitude now and again).

    And when we think of the kinds of problems the Internet has brought into our lives, we tend to think of essentially legislative issues around copyright, or cross-border activities, or organised crime or competition law.  I’d even go so far as to say that there is a perspective amongst some that there is even a symbiotic relationship between the inability of governments, national and supra-national, to respond to the pace of innovation on the Internet and the pace of that innovation.  And while that is not necessarily a perspective that I share, I can certainly agree that the web is the new Wild West.  It’s unknown and untamed, and the law is playing catch-up to he creation of infrastructure.

    And when we think of the web, we tend to think only of social benefit and seldom of social problems.

    But social problems there are – with this amount of change, of course there are – and one that is sadly increasingly prevalent is online bullying.   So I am very proud that today the UK charity BeatBullying announces Firefox for CyberMentors, a build of Firefox specifically designed to help participants in the CyberMentors project.  There is both a full build of Firefox (see the CyberMentors home page for downloads) and an add-on to customise an existing installation of Firefox.


    This is the latest phase of Mozilla’s partership with BeatBullying, which we first announced in March.  If you are a CyberMentor, the add-on is designed to help you as you help other people overcome the effects of being bullied, and to help report instances of online bullying.  If you are interested in becoming a CyberMentor, Mozilla is still sponsoring a number of places in the project – please contact me for details.

    Beyond Ironic

    In all the debate about the Microsoft-European Commission case about the bundling of Internet Explorer, there has been lots of heat about the discomfort that will theoretically be caused to Windows 7 users if their operating system would be shipped without a browser.  Well, I am not about to insert myself in that discussion other than to say that in practise, there is a difference between theory and practise.  But my meta-comment would be that there has been an absence of a discussion about what Microsoft’s dominance over the browser market at the turn of the century actually meant to the internet.

    As we know, websites were being written for Internet Explorer (version 6) .  The web was therefore being developed for use with a specific application controlled by a specific vendor, and that vendor had little or no interest in further developing that application (to the point of disbanding the Internet Explorer team).  Or to put it another way, didn’t the web really start to become exciting once web standards were more widely used?

    Now, Microsoft is in something of a bind, as it seeks both to become compatible with and competitive on the web.  Internet Explorer 8 tries both to support web standards (their Acid 3 score notwithstanding) and offer backwards compatibility with previous IE versions.  And so, if a web page doesn’t work in IE8, you are advised to press a “compatibility view” button to see the site rendered differently.

    Enter this marketing campaign from Microsoft in Australia, the “Ten Grand Is Buried Here” contest.  It involves a series of online clues that one can only view in Internet Explorer. Well, fair dinkum.  It’s Microsoft’s money, it’s their campaign.  But it gets truly surreal when you read that the latest version of Microsoft’s own compatibility list disables the contest for IE8 users, and so contestants in the classily-monikered competition are advised to switch off “Compatibility View” in order to take part.

    Some lucky Aussie stands to win a lot of money, and for the rest of the contenstants, well, their prize is that they get to relive the days when the web was fundamentally broken.

    Crop Circle Envy

    David joined me in my office this afternoon to work on our presentation for Ericsson.  But I had another project I wanted to work on first.

    marketing discussion

    Me: Hey, let’s make a Firefox logo out of balloons and spoons!

    David: Why?

    Me: We could eventually progress to more elaborate creations.

    David: Er, that sounds great, but don’t we have some actual work to do?

    Me: Can’t we at least create a cake?