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.

Is property theft?

It’s a shame to write about something with the sole intent of being critical, so let us first say that Benjamin Black’s commentary about the GPL in the context of cloud computing is of its time.  That is, as the web starts to fulfill its promise of delivering more and more computing, the importance of Free software might appear diminished.  Tim O’Reilly, for one, has been forecasting this for several years already, and the AGPL was written with this in mind.  (Incidentally, fans of plain speaking might note that Greg Papadopulos has pioneered a new term for cloud computing: “the network”.)

Rather than make things even more complicated than they are, let’s be clear.  Free software is about your rights in relation to a device that you own (iPhone owners: Apple controls your property).  When we consider the increasing intimacy of technology in our everyday lives, work and social  interactions, the importance of this becomes more and more apparent.  You may want a vendor to control what your device does, but you should at least have the right to opt out.  And this also explains why many people feel that the publc sector should have a proclivity mandate to use Free software.  It starts to seem unreasonable that a government body, paid for by and representing the public, should allow its infrastructure to be controlled by a commercial interest.

But cloud computing is the use of someone else’s infrastructure.  And so, Mr Black is entirely correct in saying that rules around, for example, data portability, are very important and not yet well-defined.

Now, none of this invalidates the importance of a strong copyleft like the GPL, and it certainly does not mean it acts unfairly.  Mr Black talks about “those who control a software project” deciding who “gets paid”.  In this model, the dual-licensing model (licensing software either as open source or with a commercial license), is the only way to “get paid”.

Leaving that dubious assumption aside, where does control come from? Control of a project is a function of its ownership of the copyright and the trademark of the software.  Control over copyright is gained by creating the work, paying for its creation, or by paying for the rights or by receiving those rights as a contribution.   By no means all GPL projects conform to this consolidated ownership, and those that do may be under the control of a commercial body or they may be held in trust elsewhere.  I believe that the Free Software Foundation Europe offered this service a while ago.  (And as an aside, I am delighted to read that some people welcome Sun’s policy of dual-copyright ownership.  This was a labour of love for me and others to get the several hundred open source project at Sun to use the same contributor agreement).

So, when Mr Black is complaining that the GPL is “like DRM”, he is referring to projects which, in order for you to contribute back to the code base that will bear the trademark by which the project is widely known, require that you assign some measure of copyright ownership back to the original owner (or proxy owner) of that code base.   It really, really, really is not like DRM.

Enough of this navel-gazing.  Let’s simplify these problems:

The rights of the user in relation to their own property are reflected in Free software.

The rights of the developer in relation to a project they participate in are reflected in open source. (Some people consider that the use of trademarks are an important, under-investigated are of this – I am one of them).

The rights of the user in relation to using someone else’s infrastructure are not yet governed by any widely understood framework.  The Open Cloud Manifesto is the first attempt (I am aware of) to address this.  It will take time.  That neither the Free software movement nor the open source movement address this is no criticism of either.

More to the point: exercising ownership rights which do not curtail anyone else’s freedom in relation to that work (c.f. DRM), but may impair their ability to make money on a piece of work you own is not, really, really not, wrong.

Firefox 3.5 Roundup

“Firefox’s Private Browsing is plain, it’s less flexible, and it’s actually a little dull. But it does what it says it does and behaves the way one should reasonably expect. That’s why I’m judging the victor in Round 1 of this duel to be Firefox 3.5. If Chrome had given me even so much as a warning about not clearing my history yet, or an option to either retain my Incognito history for the duration of the Windows session or not, then I would have scored this one for Chrome.” Interesting review. The reviewer says he might have prefered the functionality of Chrome, had it been what he had been lead to expect – but it was not.
Still the One to Beat: Firefox 3.5’s speed, customizability, and support for new standards secure its spot as our Editors’ Choice Web browser.

Firefox 3.5: Back on top… for now – Computerworld Blogs

“Sorry Opera; too bad about what happened to you, Netscape; and Internet Explorer, please, don’t make me laugh. The best Web browser on the planet is Firefox 3.5… for now. ”

“If you already use Firefox you’ll want to upgrade right away. If you’re not a Firefox user, this version represents a very good opportunity to give the browser a test run.”

Firefox 3.5: The Technologizer Review | Technologizer

“Bottom line: If you seek browser advice from me and we’re not in a hurry, I may assess your particular needs and suggest something other than Mozilla’s browser. But if time is of the essence, I’ll happily give the six-word recommendation I’ve provided countless times since 2004: You won’t go wrong with Firefox.”

    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.

    CyberMentors

    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.

    links for 2009-06-24

    • George Greve is stepping down as president of the FSFE. I have only worked on a couple of occassions with the FSFE, but I was struck by how effective and pragmatic the FSFE was prepared to be to get things done. This is not intended to be an implicit criticism of the FSF, but perhaps there have been more direct opportunities in Europe. Anyway, when George fixes the broken link on his blog, we can find out what he is doing next…
      (tags: fsfe)

    links for 2009-06-23

    • Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8 web browser has not been available for that long, and already it is beating Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome in 7 out of 10 areas. If you do not believe this, then Microsoft has launched a new website called “Windows Internet Explorer 8: Get the facts.” Delicious ambiguity about whether or not this is ironic. Love it.
      (tags: ie8)
    • Fascinating article this. Tim Bray arguing that text is king, and anything else amounts to eye-candy. I have some sympathy with him, I fundamentally care about words and I do not spend time sifting through podcasts and videos. Swaying all that (and without resorting to tired adages involving a thousand words), sometimes there are audio or visual experiences which fundamentally trump even text. So, no, I cannot agree that text is the payload, that remains information. It's just that we always seem to take reading for granted and get ever-excited about moving pictures…
      (tags: timbray)
    • "Firefox should stop with the feature bloat and focus their energy on speed. Once they get that on par with the leader, then they can add a few more bells and whistles." I strongly disagree with this. For one thing, I do not see such a difference between Firefox 3.5, Chrome and Safari in terms of speed (the author seems unaware of Safari), partly because for me, my bandwidth is my biggest bottleneck. But above all, the author is only concerned with his own usage, and is probably unaware of Mozilla's raison d'etre of improving the web for everybody. "Bells and whistles" such as html 5 support are central to this mission, shaving fractions of fractions of seconds from page rendering times may be important, but they do not define the mission.
    • Woah: 3 Firefoxes born in North Dakota.
      (tags: redpanda)
    • "If Microsoft wants us to take IE8 seriously, the company should treat our intelligence with some respect. " Savio Rodrigues on Microsoft's latest marketing – if that doesn't give marketing a bad name – of Internet Explorer 8.
      (tags: ie8 microsoft)
    • "Here's another rule to live by: When you're the biggest PC software company in the known universe and you have to bribe and/or force people to use your products, said products are probably not very good." Quite. Microsoft's desperate push for IE8 is weird. Perhaps they think that the lesson of Vista is to push new products *even harder*… ?
      (tags: ie8 microsoft)

    links for 2009-06-19

    • "As CodePlex continues to gain in popularity, I expect we'll see the MS-PL push past MPL and potentially even past the MIT License, which currently ranks seventh at 3.79 percent share. When that happens, it will be a sign that Microsoft has truly arrived as an open-source player." Not to pick on Matt Asay, but no, open source developers using a license that your lawyer has written in no sense means you have arrived as an open source player. After all, I suspect that Matt would be the first person to assert that all the people who are using the GPL are not in open source because they share the world view of the GNU project.
    • Interesting comments on Matt Asay's article. Not sure I can agree that Google are the "ultimate open source company". In my world view, the "ultimate open source company" would actually open source its core product.
    • The bootnote is way more interesting than the article. But I am pleased that Microsoft would see a license it wrote being widely adopted once it has been OSI-certified. I remember Jason Mattusow announcing these licenses in 2005 with no hint of OSI-involvement. This situation is greatly preferable. AFAIK, licenses are not competing, but philosophies might be. The rise of th GPLv3 and the AGPL is really interesting – and what will this mean for Google's ability to compete in 5 years' time?
      (tags: opensource)
    • I call this blindingly obvious. For all the weasel words from the music industry and Hollywood, file sharing is actually harming the ability of a small group of obscenely rich people to make even more money, harming a business that promotes soulless mediocrity and is more concered with investment projects than meaningful works of art.

      Of course good artists study art, good writers read, good musicians listen to music – as much as possible.

      (tags: music)

    Chris Messina on Opera Unite

    • Chris Messina’s take on Opera Unite is a good read. “Now, it might sound ironic coming from me that I think Opera was wrong to paint their pitch with the paint of libertarian ethos, but if they’re going to succeed, they have to go beyond “owning your own data” to talking about why owning your own data is better or easier.” I thikn this nails it. Opera Unite is the anti-cloud computing. And the people who are almost certainly the most interested in that are the free software activitists who also want to live online. But then, they are not going to be using Opera in the first place.
    • “The licensing wars should be a thing of the past. The question is how to drive participation while building businesses that improve as participation increases.” Curious argument this. For one thing, I suspect that fixing licensing issues around patents and especially trademarks may help to energise open source businesses. For another, it is silly to knock Richard Stallman down as a leading figure in the “open source” movement, as he roundly rejects the label, and has been saying for years that he is not interesting in creating wealth, but preserving freedom.
      (tags: opensource)
    • The Add-Ons team released Collections, and with many things around Firefox, it can often be a surprise just how rapid the uptake is. Although maybe it is not that surprising that a blog like Duct Tape Marketing would apprecite the (what they might call) “sticky” aspect of having people subscribe to one’s colection.
      (tags: firefox addons)
    • Interesting, most especially for former employees at Sun. (And it is Jabbar, not Jabber). The comment about greed killing the company was interesting – I recall that the runaway success of the E10k product created a huge expansion at Sun, created an organistion that felt it had a proprietary cash-cow to protect (i.e. close) and instituted a massive amount of complexity in the company that was geared to selling expensive and complex products, not the simple, horizontally scaling white boxes that the market (lead by Google), realised it wanted. Well, that’s my take.
      (tags: sun)
    • “if Mozilla and Opera Software want Microsoft to offer the user a choice of browser when they start Windows for the first time, when will we be given the opportunity to choose our search provider when we first start Firefox and Opera? After all, both currently default to Google because the two companies have deals in place with the search giant, who pays for search queries generated by the search box in both browsers.”

      Not sure I agree with all the logic. But anyway, you can change the default search in Firefox with a single click at first run and with a single click on any subsequent search. This has been available in Firefox for years already.

      (tags: firefox)
    • “2008 has really been the Year of Firefox.” It’s true: the number of Firefox users in Europe has just about tripled in 2 years.
    • Curious story of IE8 updates causing Windows to fail to boot. Anyone else heard about this? It seems extraordinary.
      (tags: ie8)

    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?

    links for 2009-06-12

    • Eskilstuna Kommun will no longer supply halal meat in schools – or rather, will not make provision for food based on a "religious or ethical" basis (there must be hundreds, if not thousands, of muslim children in Eskilstuna). Not sure I understand this – they are saying that vegetarian alternatives are just fine. But what if I eat vegetarian food for reasons of ethics, however tortured?