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Let's Make A Difference!

So, I've spent a lot of this day with philosophical issues, thinking about a lot of things surrounding, Mozilla, SeaMonkey, Firefox, the web, and the future.
I found myself in danger of being misaligned with where Mozilla is heading as the project is trying to make the open web more relevant and be a force that constructs where the web as a whole is going, possibly even fearing oblivion if not being in the lead there, and SeaMonkey and myself are easily seen as conservative and backwards and probably irrelevant from that point of view. Not that I agree that things are necessarily that grim, but it is a great base to really go deep and let your thoughts wander.

Now, what are the powers that seem to be shaping a lot of the web today and which we are facing when wanting to make our mission and vision win ultimately?

Google is trying hard to be your one true way to get to information, Facebook your one true way to friends, Microsoft your one true way for applications (in the cloud), Apple your one true way to mobile computing and media - of course, all on "the web", trying to make those rather large areas of the Internet their realm and ultimately rule over your online life.
(Of course, that description of the contenders is largely incomplete, there are some more areas, some of those and probably a few others competing over them, but more details wouldn't change the picture much.)

The common theme here, as you're seeing, is that single large companies are trying to be the "one true way" to do things - some for very specific areas, some for multiple ones, possibly ultimately all your online experience.

Bring in feature-rich web applications: Now you can do everything online on their services, in the cloud, running on their machines, under their tight control, they can have all your data to use for any mining they want to make money with, share it with whomever pays, and it even looks nice and convenient for you! Isn't that cool?

One shape fits all, one entity controls all, runs all, and markets all. Well, nice if you're that entity, probably not so nice if you are individualistic, don't do or want to fit that common shape, or want to have self-control over your own (online) life, let alone don't want to or can't be online all the time. Or, heaven forbid, be creative and shape some part of the future on your own!

ADOPT mozilla.Now, here's where Mozilla comes in, why that project really matters, and why the future needs our work.
If you always wondered if there's some scheme going on behind what Mozilla does, be it Firefox or anything else, let me be clear: there is.
And that scheme "behind the scenes", the very core of what makes Mozilla such a great and special project, is our mission of promoting openness, innovation, and opportunity online.

That mission means, for example, that what we're trying to accomplish is that everything is built in a way that everyone can see how it works and rebuild it him-/herself and plug him-/herself into the network of services. You can built your own search engine, friend network, web application, or even mobile app/service and can fully hook it into your online experience and your browser and even offer it to others, without needing to ask anyone for permission. In that light, web applications are things you can re-shape, run independently and control yourself. You also can control your data and determine who is being able to do what with it. You can be inventive and find new ways of doing things - for you and others. And you can even choose what your window to that experience is, you're not bound to a single shape or size - e.g. use a visual screen, a screen reader or braille display; use a traditional desktop browser like Firefox, an integrated Internet suite like SeaMonkey, or a mobile browser like Firefox for mobile devices (and I'm just using our own projects as examples for convenience, we welcome any competition that is in line the mission). Or even find a completely new way of doing it!

OK, if you're in the Mozilla community, you probably already know that. But there's more.

Think about breaking down the borders between web application and desktop application development: What if writing one or the other would be so similar that it's almost or completely the same? There will always we a need for offline or local applications, and there's some historical evidence that even could make one assume that after the web application being the cool hype, there will be some wave towards local applications again. What if a developer wouldn't need to care much and his code would run the same in both settings, and at the same time on all kinds of operating systems that people may use now and in the future? I know one single piece of technology out there that is in a unique position to strongly enable and support that. Did you know that a real lot of the Firefox, Thunderbird, and SeaMonkey applications are written in almost exactly the same technologies that are used for web applications? Now, guess what I'm thinking about here.

And now, what if that one shape of the window to the Internet (the browser) isn't really what fits you? What if you want a different interface that provides you with more, less, or different features? Imagine this browser, let's call it "Firefox" for the sake of the argument allows all kinds of free changes to the face it shows you, i.e. its User Interface, and anyone with knowledge of web-like technologies can create those mods and offer them to anyone else who might like them, in some kind of "add-on" system? Ah, right, we already have that. And what if you want some really different UI, say one with a lot of advanced data controlling features available fast in its menus, and that even has a built-in message center for online communication and also some easy way to create simple web content built in? Good we already have SeaMonkey for you. And what if you want to build something different yourself? We even have that already. And we are working on improving that.

Build your own shape that fits you, control your things yourself, run things like you want, make your own market. Take what's there and improve it. Create a better future.

DrumbeatNow, if that doesn't have potential!

We only need to work and care that it's successful.

Let's beat the drum for that. Let's keep the Internet diverse. Let's make a difference!

Entry written by KaiRo and posted on May 21st, 2010 02:13 | Tags: Drumbeat, Facebook, Firefox, Google, Mozilla, SeaMonkey | 10 comments

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  • Comments

    AuthorEntry

    Pete

    quote
    Robert,

    let's be straight. Mozilla.com's mission is gain market share for Firefox. Nothing else. Even if they wanted to focus on more projects like Thunderbird, Sunbird, Songbird Whateverbird, they don't have the resources to do that.

    There is no diversity. And with seamonkey you can be happy that it's mentioned at all on mozilla's project pages. As I said yesterday in another comment, I think it's a big mistake to neglect the power of the Gecko platform. But we are where we are. Maybe another CEO will lead Mozilla to more diversity.

    Pete
    2010-05-21 09:29

    voracity

    from Australia

    quote
    remote browser
    OK, I've been tossing this idea around for a while, and this seems a good place to exposit.

    What if 'gecko' was its own standalone bit of software? Obviously, running 'gecko' on its own wouldn't do anything, but let's say you ran something like:

    $ gecko firefox.com/version6.html

    And up pops Firefox 6.
    2010-05-21 09:48

    KaiRo

    Webmaster

    quote
    Pete:
    Believe me as someone who's seen a real lot of the Mozilla project and been with it for more than 10 years. Firefox market share is an instrument for the mission, but market share is not the driving force behind what's happening, the mission is. And diversity is a huge part of that.

    voracity:
    Your idea would make things more complicated for users, which is a no-go. If we make things complicated for users, we'll die and our mission with us.
    2010-05-21 15:04

    Keith

    from the US

    quote
    I miss when Mozilla was not an end-user product. Things were so much cooler (and geekier) back then.
    2010-05-22 01:40

    voracity

    from Australia

    quote
    I think you've misunderstood my intent. The user wouldn't run that command, of course. They would download an installer to get Firefox, or just use the internal update --- as always. Nothing at all would change from a user's perspective (if they're not interested in learning how to hack).

    However, tinkerers and developers and alternative browser developers (such as yourself) could run that, and they could host almost the whole browser online. The gecko engine (acting like a low-level OS) would just need to be a) Turing complete :), b) fast, c) provide decent APIs for all of the computer's hardware and d) be a little bit of kitchen sink with respect to the HTML/CSS/Javascript/etc. features it provides.

    Doing it this way would also force the browser developers to dogfood their own engine *as* an application engine --- a little like XUL, but with the kind of remote access that websites have to deal with on a daily basis (and that browsers still don't). Browser developers would be forced to create great application caching systems, lag-free and uncomplicated client/server architectures and well-defined security boundaries --- because that's what they have to do to make their own application!

    Let's face it, every computer scientist's ultimate goal is to self-host their own software. That's what my suggestion is about. The user won't notice any difference (except for a faster rate of improvements) but the developers get access to the ultimate form of hackable and rapid development system.
    2010-05-22 05:53

    KaiRo

    Webmaster

    quote
    voracity:
    So, what you want it XULRunner, then. ;-)

    Reality is that we're currently going in the way of making that somewhat obsolete, though, as it unfortunately has a speed penalty over linking things even more statically together - and right now the thought in Mozilla land is that speed is one of the primary things the "new browser wars" will be decided on.
    2010-05-22 18:58

    voracity

    quote
    Heh, actually, it's more like a HTMLRunner. The difference is important, because XUL is non-standard.

    Your right, speed is crucial, and that's part of the point. If browser UI developers have to do the *exact* same things as web developers, then they will solve a whole heap of speed issues for their browser applications that will *also* solve the speed issues that have been plaguing web developers with their web applications for years. (Thankfully, that's already been happening for a couple of years.)

    In addition, it will also make hackability a whole lot more accessible than the current XUL-based Mozilla browsers. In this regard, there are a lot of similarities to the whole Jetpack vs XUL-based extensions approach. Indeed, if the browser were built from HTML, there wouldn't even *be* a Jetpack vs XUL-based issue. Again, that's why a HTMLRunner is different to a XULRunner. :)
    2010-05-23 06:10

    KaiRo

    Webmaster

    quote
    HTML is crap for UI design and its completely crazy syntax for things like <input> would drive me away from any UI work if that would be based on the crippled and document-oriented markup language HTML is.

    XUL is the best thing since sliced bread, at least when it comes to UI design.
    2010-05-23 12:54

    voracity

    quote
    Right, so any sane browser developer forced to use HTML for their UI would port the necessary non-standard features from XUL into the HTML standard, meaning that millions of web developers can enjoy those delightful XUL features (like flex-box).

    I will leave the discussion there, as I think we are coming at this from perspectives that are too different to be reconciled by a sequence of short comments.
    2010-05-23 16:18

    Keith

    from the US

    quote
    HTML marks up the structure, not the layout, so you really can't make UIs in HTML (without some CSS and JS at least). I just wish XUL were easier for dummies like me. The way it is now, I find it easier to just use GTK+, wxWidgets, or even the Windows API than give myself a headache trying to figure out XUL.
    2010-05-24 05:20

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