Should Mozilla Fork Firefox?

Glyn Moody has an excellent article up at Open Enterprise that summarizes a recent debate between fans and critics of Firefox and one of Mozilla’s co-founders. The issue being hashed over is whether Firefox is losing relevance, having become far more staid than its original vision of a leaner, faster browser. When it was conceived, this goal flew in the face of its then competitors, including the original Mozilla browser itself.

Moody goes on to lay out the heart of the argument and the radical solution.

Mozilla finds itself facing a classic Innovator’s Dilemma, trapped by its own success. Fortunately, the solution to that dilemma is fairly well-established: to prevent others from developing disruptive technology that undermines your success, *you* must do precisely the same, competing against yourself.

As he explains, Mozilla is in a unique position to do so, perhaps spawning a progeny of Firefox that will disrupt it in the same way that browser disrupted its predecessor. Mozilla isn’t motivated by profit so stands to lose little by fork its own golden child to try to re-invigorate its overall mission to open up and advance the experience of the web.

I would advance the argument that Safari and Chrome already are out competing Firefox based on speed and certain features. Firefox may still outweigh both by sheer market share but I believe the acceleration shown by the other browsers paints a concerning picture.

I hear a lot of techies who were advocates for Firefox from the start, like I was and still am, now lamenting its slowness and apparent bloat. Those same folks now dissatisfied with Firefox are some of the strongest advocates for its competitors, most especially Chrome. Personally, I’d rather keep cheering for a project that isn’t beholden to a bottom line and better able to take the sort of principled stands that the Mozilla folks have been able to do over the years.

One Reply to “Should Mozilla Fork Firefox?”

  1. Good stuff. FFox is a little bloated, but that is my addons I suspect.

    Some recent introductions to other browsers are a step forward for (the source of much bloat IMHO). But – there is a small collection of add-ons that allow me to work faster and better: Firebug, HTTPFox, Devtools, delicious, and a few others.

    The hard core web programmers will be the last to leave FFox because of the power these tools represent.

    Safari is a poor user experience IMHO, Chrome is good but..and on Linux it is a train wreck for me. Opera could step up, but that gonna take the jaws of life to get their collective head out of…well you know…

    I think browser addons make life better but a super-kill-switch would be awesome. If a browser was a car, FFox would be a fast car pulling a trailer of cement (the addons). Allowing me to leave the trailer behind for casual browsing (not work) would help.

    That memory leak ever fixed? Auto update (options) for Flash would help. Fixing some of the documented bugs that have been in the system for years would also help.

    My $0.02. Thx Thomas!

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