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.