Stop Using Chrome, Mozilla Engineer Says - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Cloud // Software as a Service
09:36 AM
Connect Directly

Stop Using Chrome, Mozilla Engineer Says

Is Firefox really the best defense against Google's control of the Internet? Or should Mozilla just clean up its own mistakes rather than throwing stones at competitors?

Geek's Guide To NYC Travel: Interop Preview
Geek's Guide To NYC Travel: Interop Preview
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Failure to use Mozilla's Firefox browser could lead to Google domination of the Internet, Mozilla engineer Robert O'Callahan said Friday.

"[I]f you want an Internet -- which means, in many ways, a world -- that isn't controlled by Google, you must stop using Chrome now and encourage others to do the same," O'Callahan wrote in a blog post. "If you don't, and Google wins, then in years to come you'll wish you had a choice and have only yourself to blame for spurning it now."

A decade ago, Mozilla helped create the modern Web by innovating with Firefox when Microsoft, content with Internet Explorer's market share of more than 90%, preferred to focus on desktop computing. But in September 2008, after steadily stealing market share from Internet Explorer, Firefox found itself competing with Chrome, a browser funded by the company that provides the bulk of Mozilla's revenue.

Though Mozilla put on a brave face and tried to rise to the challenge, it stepped on its own feet in the process. As Chrome was beginning to take off, Firefox developed a reputation for being buggy and bloated. Mozilla alienated enterprise IT, then tried to make up. It failed to find a way to work around or challenge Apple's iOS rules, resulting in the absence of Firefox from iOS devices and diminished relevance as the mobile revolution took hold. Following pressure from the advertising industry, it backed away from its plan to block ad-tracking cookies by default, thereby undermining its claim to put users first. It supported the addition of digital-rights management technology to Firefox, alienating the open source community and eliminating a reason to choose Firefox over Chrome.

[Microsoft's browser is battling its past. See IE's Bad Reputation: Will Microsoft Rebrand?]

Perhaps most damaging of all, Mozilla stepped into a political minefield by elevating CTO Brendan Eich as CEO in March 2014. The decision set Mozilla's community against itself. Eich in 2008 had made a financial donation in support of California's Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage, a position anathema to influential members of the Mozilla community. Following 10 days of controversy and online debate, Eich resigned, leaving Mozilla and its supporters divided about Eich's treatment and depriving the company of a singular technical talent -- Eich invented JavaScript. In April, O'Callahan said, "Almost all Mozilla staff supported keeping Brendan Eich as CEO."

Amid Mozilla's missteps, Google has been developing Chrome with purpose and competence. It made Chrome the world's most popular browser by the measure of several Web metrics firms, except for Net Applications, which still rates Internet Explorer as the leader. But, however the data is sliced, Chrome has eclipsed Firefox in popularity.

O'Callahan contends that Google is attempting to enforce Chrome usage through contracts with Android handset makers that make Chrome the default browser and by making critical features like offline support in Google Docs work only in Chrome. Coincidentally, European regulators have been investigating whether Google's contracts with its Android partners violate antitrust laws. Regulators in the US and South Korea have found Google's Android contracts to be acceptable.

O'Callahan argues that Apple and Microsoft want the same power that Google seeks and thus aren't any different. Only Mozilla remains committed to an open, standards-based Web, he insists.

Google did not respond to a request for comment.

Mozilla director of product management Chad Weiner echoed O'Callahan's view that browser choice matters. "Robert's comments are of course his own -- but they hit on Mozilla's principle that the Internet is a global public resource that must remain open and accessible to all," said Weiner in an email. "We built Firefox as a vehicle for this mission -- to promote openness, innovation, and opportunity on the Web. Yes, users need choice and Firefox is a unique, independent option committed to preserving that freedom to choose."

While Mozilla has advanced Web privacy -- one area where Google, as an advertising company, can't follow without alienating its customers -- O'Callahan acknowledges that privacy leadership hasn't really helped Firefox.

"We have put a lot of effort into privacy-related initiatives over the years," O'Callahan noted in a comment, pointing to Do Not Track, Lightbeam, and Cookie Clearinghouse, among other initiatives, including one expected to ship soon. "They've generally been co-opted by our competitors, subverted, blocked, or just ineffective. ...Unfortunately, a lot of the ideas bandied about by privacy activists aren't practical for the mass market, so the problems are generally harder to solve than they think."

Therein lays a major problem for Firefox: Privacy is not a priority in the mass market. By attempting to find a middle ground between consumers and advertisers, Mozilla has surrendered leadership in Web privacy to White Hat Security's Aviator browser.

More problematic still is Firefox's scarcity in the mobile market, the ascendancy of native apps over Web apps, and Mozilla's underwhelming answer to App Store ecosystems. A browser is no longer enough. Mozilla needs mobile and desktop hardware partners to assure distribution; to develop and promote technology to help developers make Web apps that outshine native apps; and to reduce the percentage of app revenue taken through the Firefox Marketplace revenue from 30% to 5%, as it is in the Chrome App Store.

Among those commenting on O'Callahan's post, several individuals argue that Mozilla would do better to focus on innovating rather than appealing to fear of Google domination.

In an email, Tim Bray, Internet veteran and former Googler, acknowledged O'Callahan's concerns and suggested that Mozilla delve deeper into technology that's not focused on advertising. "I enjoyed Robert O'Callahan's rant," he said. "I'm a big fan of Mozilla and I use Firefox. Like many people, I use more than one browser, and I also use Chrome. The Google trade-off is easy to understand: They offer free Internet services that people like to use, and they sell ads. If this bothers you there are alternatives, and it's totally reasonable to be concerned, like Robert, that there continue to be alternatives. I'd love to see a major Internet property, for example Firefox, become privacy-focused, do some thought leadership, and help force the exploration of business models other than free-stuff-with-ads."

Today's endpoint strategies need to center on protecting the user, not the device. Here's how to put people first. Get the new User-Focused Security issue of Dark Reading Tech Digest today. (Free registration required.)

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
User Rank: Apprentice
2/7/2017 | 11:56:21 PM
Stay out of my politics if you want my business
Google has a liberal political agenda and that is bad business.  I switched from their search engine because of it and will switch from their browser when I find a decent alternative.  If you want my business stay out of my politics!
User Rank: Apprentice
1/6/2015 | 3:08:14 PM
Re: stop using chrome. . .
I whole-heartedly agree. Though an avid Mozilla fan to that point, I was quick to uninstall Firefox from my equipment. The treatment of Brendan Eich spoke volumes. Mozilla toutes 'Privacy' and the ideals of freedom from control and monitoring, etc.. but in the end demonstated that they are not above attempting to punish someones freedom to choose. If they are willing to do that to their CEO, who they know personally and recognized to be qualified to be their CEO, they cannot be trusted to be impartial to their users and clients, who are faceless data points in comparison.
User Rank: Apprentice
8/25/2014 | 3:54:15 PM
Stop using Google for search
A better solution is to stop using Google for search. That's where their power base lies. Anyone who still uses Google search is just begging for the day of the Googlenet.

Google leveraged their search monopoly to make their failing social network relevant and now they're leveraging that same monoploy to dictate to site owners how they should manage their sites, e.g., forcing every site to encrypt regardless of whether they have any compelling reason to do so (i.e., no private data) or risk search penalties.

Google is the bane of the free Internet. If you use their "free" products and services, you are their product, bought and sold.

I choose not to be Google's product. For me it's Firefox, Safari, and Bing/Yahoo.
User Rank: Strategist
8/24/2014 | 5:37:49 AM
Re: Firefox
Like anything else you use a product or service because it works. If Firefox is losing its user base its because Chrome is better. I don't particularly agree that Chrome is better, but its the perception and many users are followers so if Chrome has done anything. Its convinced enough influential users to adopt Chrome and the rest follow. Its very much that same influence that has made Internet Explorer a bad browser to use. Even though on a level of security, performance and usability its probably acceptable to most people now. I myself think Chrome is nothing more then another browser competing for a user base and because Google has developed a ecosystem of not only a browser, but Chrome OS, Android and many web applications that work well with Chrome. That it has developed a decent following. Whereas Mozilla has indeed floundered in political correctness, a lack of good funding and a product line that does not mature. I think for many Firefox of old had a niche because IE was so bad, and so it was natural to gravitate to Firefox as a good alternative. Today, you have to be more then just a good alternative to a bad browser. IE has even become a decent browser and so is Firefox just a mediocre alternative that cannot find its base anymore? I don't adopt the use of any product just to save competition. If you want your product to succeed then make the product viable and competitive. This is where open source fails. The same thought proccess has always been in open source operating systems too. Your just supposed to ignore the bad performance, buggy installations and lack of good support because its open source and you want to support that. This is why Chrome OS has had more success then any Linux distro ever had. Its because the end user has a good experience and it works. They don't spend hours or days getting something to work. If Mozilla is to succeed with Firefox, it has to start realizing that its in a competition for end users. Not just expect users with take pitty on Firefox because its open source. Most users don't care how the product is produced. Just that it works.
User Rank: Guru
8/23/2014 | 3:32:35 PM
My un expert opinion is that the only way I can keep Conduit away from me is NOT TO USE CHROME. Has any one else formed that same opinion or has any more expert  person have an y reason for the basis for my  opinion on this?  A few gvot websites require one  to use it to view their content. 8.1 is a little better on this, but it still got in and I just avoid it. When my new 8.1 arrived in 4/14 it did not have Internet Explorer installed even though the ICON was and it took hours for Dell to get it installed as when I ordered the system I had specifically asked for access to IE. Others who had got H/P 8.1 had the same issue.  Linda Joy Adams
User Rank: Ninja
8/23/2014 | 11:37:29 AM
Why use either?
On Mac, I typically use Safari, as it renders sites better than most other browsers and is just nicer to use, although I use FireFox or Chrome for some testing purposes.

But on Windows - my gosh! - the Web is UGLY with Chrome and often FireFox as well. It's almost comical that the leader in web fonts, has the most popular browser that doesn't support them properly. And, I've found that FireFox often has rendering problems as well. And, that's not getting into what the article pointed out about being bloated. Heck, even the UI itself looks ugly.

Maybe Windows users are just used to ugly, but when I use Windows for website testing, especially with Chrome and FireFox, I often think, "How can people endure seeing the Web this way?"

Yea, an then there is the whole Eich thing. Nice move there LGBT activists! I'm not sure whether to feel sorry for Mozilla at being caught in the midst of the stupidity, or be mad at them for having so little backbone in failing to tell people to grow up.

In the end, though, we just have to demand better. There just isn't a good excuse for sloppy, ugly, bloated, and broken browsers at this point in the game.
User Rank: Apprentice
8/21/2014 | 7:00:34 PM
Re: stop using chrome. . .
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
8/21/2014 | 6:42:46 PM
Re: stop using chrome. . .
It's interesting how many people cite Mozilla's handling of Brendan Eich as their reason for abandoning the company. There's probably a lesson here in how not to politicize your organization.
User Rank: Apprentice
8/21/2014 | 6:15:10 PM
Firefox forced me to quit them
I removed Firefox from all my computers when they decided to fire their CEO because of a political donation that he made.  Regardless of your opinion on the matter, that type of intolerance is totally unacceptable to me.  People have a right to their opinion and he didn't do it with company money and wasn't out advocating his politics as a company representative of Mozilla. What they did was despicable and I will never use their products again. 

There are other browsers out their and I now use Chrome almost exclusively. I once in a while use IE or Opera.
User Rank: Apprentice
8/21/2014 | 2:44:53 PM
stop using chrome. . .
I have use FFox for years on my desktop; not on any mobile as it doesn't seem to run well as stated in the article.  Of late, I have had zero issues with Fire Fox.  Opera seems the best on my older Tablet.

As a side note (and not trying or wanting to hijack this article) but I supported Bendan E and his right to have an opinion.  There are many people that believe the word marriage has a special meaning and perhaps looking for a different name (civil union) with same benefits would be tennable.
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
2021 Outlook: Tackling Cloud Transformation Choices
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  1/4/2021
Enterprise IT Leaders Face Two Paths to AI
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  12/23/2020
10 IT Trends to Watch for in 2021
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  12/22/2020
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you.
Flash Poll