Mozilla recently announced that they would be dismissing 250 people. That's a quarter of their workforce so there are some deep cuts to their work too. The victims include: the MDN docs (those are the web standards docs everyone likes better than w3schools), the Rust compiler and even some cuts to Firefox development. Like most people I want to see Mozilla do well but those three projects comprise pretty much what I think of as the whole point of Mozilla, so this news is a a big let down. [...]
One of the most popular and most intuitive ways to evaluate an NGO is to judge how much of their spending is on their programme of works (or "mission") and how much is on other things, like administration and fundraising. [...] Mozilla looks bad when considered in this light. Fully 30% of all expenditure goes on administration. Charity Navigator, an organisation that measures NGO effectiveness, would give them zero out of ten on the relevant metric. [...]
Mozilla now thinks of itself less as a custodian of the old Netscape suite and more as a 'privacy NGO'. One slogan inside Mozilla is: "Beyond the Browser".
Regardless of how they view themselves, most of their income comes from helping to direct traffic to Google by making that search engine the default in Firefox. Google make money off that traffic via a big targeted advertising system that tracks people across the web and largely without their consent. Indeed, one of the reasons this income is falling is because as Firefox's usage falls less traffic is being directed Google's way and so Google will pay less.
There is, as yet, no outbreak of agreement among the moral philosophers as to a universal code of ethics. However I think most people would recognise hypocrisy in Mozilla's relationship with Google. Beyond the ethical problems, the relationship certainly seems to create conflicts of interest. Anyone would think that a privacy NGO would build anti-tracking countermeasures into their browser right from the start. In fact, this was only added relatively recently (in 2019), after both Apple (in 2017) and Brave (since release) paved the way. It certainly seems like Mozilla's status as a Google vassal has played a role in the absence of anti-tracking features in Firefox for so long.
Honestly, I've given very little thought to Mozilla since I left, but two thoughts I have often had are:
- Firefox is kind of crappy, actually;
- They have an entire building full of people. What do all of those people do???
And I've asked! Before lockdown, I used to regularly have lunch with a friend who is a current and long-time Mozilla employee, and I've asked "what do all of those people do?" and I have never gotten an answer that I either understood or was able to retain.
(I have the same question about multi-building companies like Pinterest too -- how does it take more than 300 people to run that entire fatuous business? But I digress. And also don't really care.)
Back to Mozilla -- in my humble but correct opinion, Mozilla should be doing two things and two things only:
- Building THE reference implementation web browser, and
- Being a jugular-snapping attack dog on standards committees.
- There is no 3.
And they just completely threw in the towel on standards when they grabbed their ankles and allowed W3C to add DRM. At this point, I assume Mozilla's voice on the standards committees has all the world-trembling gravitas of "EFF writes amicus brief."
By the way, one dynamic that the cited article missed is that a huge part of the reason for Google's "investment" in Mozilla was not just to drive search traffic -- it was antitrust insurance. Mozilla continuing to exist made Chrome not be the only remaining web browser, and that kept certain wolves at bay.
Google has decided that they don't need to buy antitrust insurance any more. Wonder why.