The Mozilla Mission

(Or, Why We're Cool With Chrome)

March 22, 2011
The Mozilla Mission
Gregory Koberger • March 22, 2011

I have been an avid Firefox user for the past six years. More importantly, I currently earn my livelihood as an employee of the Mozilla Corporation. And most importantly, I think you should use Firefox 4. It's an amazing piece of software, and I truly think it is the best browser on the market.

However, Mozilla is about more than just Firefox. You can use Chrome, and still support the Mozilla Mission. It is about choice. Currently, in large part due to Mozilla and its Mission, you now have that.

(Naturally, I do not speak for Mozilla. I wanted to write about both Firefox 4 and my experiences thus far at Mozilla, and the Mission is what has intrigued me the most.)

The Mozilla Mission

The Mozilla project is a global community of people who believe that openness, innovation, and opportunity are key to the continued health of the Internet. We have worked together since 1998 to ensure that the Internet is developed in a way that benefits everyone. As a result of the community's efforts, we have distilled a set of principles that we believe are critical for the Internet to continue to benefit the public good. These principles are contained in the Mozilla Manifesto.
The Mozilla Manifesto

A lot of people know that Firefox is open source. Most people, however, are surprised to learn that Mozilla is a nonprofit organization. We are the only browser to be run by a nonprofit, and we are the only major browser to not be run by a billion dollar corporation. This puts us in a unique position. “As a non-profit organization, we define success in terms of building communities and enriching people's lives instead of benefiting shareholders. We believe in the power and potential of the Internet and want to see it thrive for everyone, everywhere.”[1]. Note that there is not a single mention of highest market share or even Firefox anywhere in our Mission. To borrow a line from Tron, our primary goal is the “fight for the User.”

The History of Mozilla

It's hard to remember what the Internet was like before Firefox. During the first Browser War, Microsoft destroyed Netscape, and peaked at 96% of web browser usage. This meant that 96% of access to the Internet was controlled by Microsoft. Standards were ignored in favor of proprietary features, and the entire browser market faced severe stagnation for over 5 years.

Netscape, having been defeated by Microsoft and left with a negligable market share, open sourced their code under the watch of the newly formed Mozilla Foundation. These days, Mozilla is a fairly large and well known company. However, at the time, it was a small community taking on one of the largest and most powerful software companies on the planet.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Firefox

It comes down to choice. Thanks to Mozilla, you have a choice.

This is the world we wanted, and the world we made. We wanted a world where people — normal human beings — could make meaningful choices about the browser technology that they use. That's what we have today.
John Lilly, Former Mozilla Corporation CEO, as quoted by The New York Times

So, maybe you like Google's minimalistic approach to design. Try Chrome. Perhaps you want incredibly tight integration with your OS. Use Internet Explorer or Safari. Suppose you want everyone you've ever met staring back at you while you browse. Lucky for you, there's RockMelt. The point is that you have a choice, and that is exactly what Mozilla has always been about.

You no longer are tied to a single browser because your favorite website is Best Viewed in Internet Explorer. Specific browser vendors can't use their browsers to serve their own purposes, as they know their users have a number of high quality alternatives. If you truly prefer Internet Explorer or Safari or Chrome or Firefox, nothing is stopping you from using it.

These days, we tend to forget how far we have come. We pick browsers because run a few milliseconds faster on a certain benchmark, or because we like the way the tabs are curved. We forget how lucky we are to have the ability to make choices like this— a decade ago, you either used Internet Explorer or you didn't use the Internet.

Okay, Why You Really Should Be Using Firefox

Firefox 4 is an amazing way to browse the web. It is blazingly fast, impeccably designed and completely customizable.

Customizable: When comparing features among browsers, it is easy to forget that there are over 200,000 add-ons you can use to enhance Firefox. You can give your browser a Chrome-like Omnibar, a Safari-like start page, or a RockMelt-like way of sharing. You can make Firefox look like Chrome, Safari or even your 13 year old sister's bedroom. Anything on the browser can be dragged around, changed or removed.

Privacy: One of the biggest complaints about Firefox is the lack of an Omnibar (combined address and search bar). This is done for a reason, however— it prevents everything you type in the URL bar from being sent to Google. In Chrome, everything you do is stored on Google's servers, unencrypted. Firefox also implemented Do Not Track, which is like a Do Not Call list for ads that track you. Your privacy is incredibly important to Mozilla.

Sync: My favorite feature is sync. It lets you sync passwords, history and bookmarks across multiple browsers and phones. You can open up a tab, walk away from your computer, and have that tab on your phone. Additionally, unlike Chrome, everything is completely encrypted. Mozilla has absolutely no access to your history, even if subpoenaed. Google, on the other hand, stores your browsing history in plain text on their servers.

Pinned Tabs: Not a huge feature, but nice if you leave GMail or Twitter open. Combined with Easy App Tabs, Aaapptabs and Unread message icon (GMail Labs), it's quite handy. When the page changes, the pinned tab glows.

Switch To Tab: It's easy to end up with 50 tabs, which quickly becomes a huge mess. Yes, there is now Panorama, which lets you drag, group and organize tabs. However, my favorite way to fight tab bloat is the new "Switch To Tab" feature. Let's say you have Twitter open. If you open a new tab and start typing "twitter", the first option will let you switch to the Twitter tab rather than opening a new one. You can also search open tabs from the Awesomebar by typing something like "% twitter."

The Rest: There are a ton of new features that have been added to a long list of classic Firefox features. You should definitely check Firefox 4 out if you haven't already. I promise, you won't be disappointed.

Conclusion

So, that is why you don't have to use Firefox 4. You should definitely try it— I guarentee you will like it. However, if you truly prefer Chrome, Safari or Opera, use it. Which browser you use comes purely down to personal preference, and is no longer a choice forced upon you. The fact that you have an equal choice that is what is important to Mozilla and its Mission.

Download Firefox

And, in the spirit of this article:  Chrome · Safari · Opera[2]

  1. The Mozilla Mission []
  2. I didn't include Internet Explorer because I don't believe it is a proper alternative. While it has come a long way since IE6, it is still far behind the other "modern browers". []