Feeds

Where does Mozilla go when the monopoly witch is dead?

After MS, after browsers - we talk to Mozilla head Mitchell Baker

Boost IT visibility and business value

So what would Mozilla do if it ever won? The question, which The Register asked of Mozilla Foundation head Mitchell Baker a couple of weeks ago, may be slightly premature, but Mozilla most certainly isn't losing, and The Beast, while still gripping hold of a goodly chunk of the browser market, is bloodied and reeling.

Scarcely a week goes by without somebody saying something hurtful about IE6.

Mitchell Baker, Mozilla

But Microsoft Internet Explorer still has over 60 per cent of the browser market, with Mozilla Firefox lying second at around 25 per cent, and Google's Chrome and Apple Safari down around the 4-5 per cent mark. So for Mozilla, how much is that success, and how much victory?

It's not all about The Beast

Baker points out that perceptions have shifted substantially since the early days of Mozilla. "For a long time we were regarded as being on a fool's mission," she says. "When we started, nobody talked about browsers", because the browser came with the operating system and was, to 'normal' users, part of Windows. Just as, in Microsoft's view, it was inextricably intertwined with the operating system.

But now normal people do talk about browsers, and the company that used to tell you removing IE from Windows was impossible and would break everything is cutting a browser ballot deal with the EU, and accepts at least to some extent that a browser could be something separate.

So it's at least arguable that if there's a threat to any of the objectives set out in the Mozilla Manifesto, it's no longer so likely to come from Microsoft, and it's possibly no longer to do with browsers.

Nor is the complete destruction of Microsoft a necessary part of the deal. Mozilla's mission, says Baker, was not explicitly to get Microsoft - it's set out in rather broader and more enduring terms in the manifesto. Competition is necessary, and had to be re-established, and for Mozilla, the Internet is "a global public resource that must remain open and accessible". Security is fundamental, not optional; the Internet's effectiveness depends on interoperability, transparency, accountability and trust, and "individuals must have the ability to shape their own experiences on the Internet".

That one (point 5) seems to be where Baker is at at the moment, although she's fairly guarded about it. Speaking earlier at a session at DLD in Munich, (video) Baker had described Firefox as the "first necessary step", a mechanism for breaking the monopoly.

This was a process of disruption, and "we still intend to continue disruption… not based so much on cost, because we've now moved into a phase where everything is free of charge to consumers. For Mozilla and Firefox the key to disruption is the control point, so our original disruption of the first monopoly was to actually build an industry and to crack the control point open to get to the stage… of creating value."

Who controls the control point?

Baker's repeated reference to "the control point" is all about manifesto point 5, the individual's ability to shape their own Internet experience. Monopoly one (actually Microsoft's second effort, as the Microsoft Network preceded Bill Gates' discovery of the Internet) was Microsoft's attempt to control the experience via Windows. Firefox certainly played an important part in heading this one off, although Microsoft's failure to build anything sufficiently compelling to keep users within the Church of Windows was probably also a factor.

But by referring to this as "the first monopoly", Baker seems to be suggesting at least the possibility of subsequent monopolies. What, or who, might they be?

She's not specifically telling, and she's annoyingly polite about everybody, but she set the scene to some extent for the DLD audience. "We are building a slice of the internet where the only agenda is the individual control of our online experience… the browser is a first step, [then] probably identity, something to do with data, what is the sense of me, where is the home of me in this giant, large scale, automated Internet?"

Asked about this later, she was guarded. There's more to Mozilla than Firefox. "The mission is not to produce a browser, it is to build certain qualities into the human experience of the Internet… We are in a reasonable spot with the browser, and Firefox is important for the immediate future. But we've barely started in user control."

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Apple fanbois SCREAM as update BRICKS their Macbook Airs
Ragegasm spills over as firmware upgrade kills machines
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Captain Kirk sets phaser to SLAUGHTER after trying new Facebook app
William Shatner less-than-impressed by Zuck's celebrity-only app
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Chrome browser has been DRAINING PC batteries for YEARS
Google is only now fixing ancient, energy-sapping bug
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.