© 1998 Jamie Zawinski <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In 1998, I did an interview with themes.org, and one of the questions they asked was:
By now, its pretty well known that you can go to the Netscape web browser and type: about:jwz in the location field and it brings up your home page. Why did you decide to put this easter egg in? Are there more things like this, or is Motif to be blamed for the general bloat in Netscape?
Yes, there are a bunch of easter eggs in Mozilla; so? By and large they're pretty small, but that doesn't really matter, because they serve a very important purpose: first, they're entertaining to find (I love it when I stumble across them in other programs, and judging by the amount of mail I get about these things, so do a lot of other people.) Programs should be fun to use. But by far their most important reason for existing is that they are fun to write. Hackers get a kick out of puzzles, and you know what? If dropping in an easter egg allows a hacker to blow off some steam and consequently stick around the office for a few hours longer, and put in a 20 hour day instead of merely a 16 hour day, then those are resources well spent. The hacker's happy at having been creative; somewhere down the road, some users will be amused by it; and the program ships faster, and is a better program because the people who wrote it cared about it. Everybody wins.
Yes, such toys are "unprofessional." I wear my unprofessionalism as a badge of honor. Professionalism has no place in art, and hacking is art. Software Engineering might be science; but that's not what I do. I'm a hacker, not an engineer.
Convenient though it would be if it were true, Mozilla is not big because it's full of useless crap. Mozilla is big because your needs are big. Your needs are big because the Internet is big. There are lots of small, lean web browsers out there that, incidentally, do almost nothing useful. If that's what you need, you've got options...
Sure, Mozilla could be leaner, and still do all the things it does today; and that's a noble goal (and, need it even be said, one that you can finally help out with if that is your concern!) But being a shining jewel of perfection was not a goal when we wrote Mozilla. It was not interesting to spent years designing and a decade implementing. The goal was to ship useful software, and to ship it quickly. Along the way we happened to come up with what is probably the most portable piece of software of its size that has ever existed, and what is reportedly also the second most widely used piece of software in the world (after Windows itself.)
I think that's not too shabby an accomplishment, and if part of the price was a bit of bloat, oh well. Nothing comes for free.