Feeds

Firefox needs heavy hitter Linux power

Big boys' browser blind spot

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Open...and Shut In the past 20 years Linux has moved from Linus Torvalds' personal hobby to an industry-dominating force, reshaping the server, embedded, and mobile markets. Linux's growth wasn't fueled on the fumes of peace, love, and late-night pizza orders. It has been driven by the collective efforts of many corporations, each intending to bludgeon each other by co-creating a rock-solid operating system.

No matter the diversity of the companies involved, from IBM to Wind River to AMD to Qlogic, the purpose was largely the same: to create an open-source complement to drive paid product offerings. Indeed, this collaborative development effort was largely possible because product value shifted up the stack, away from the operating system and into middleware, databases, applications, and more.

Like the browser.

Oddly, though, despite the rising importance of the browser in consumer and enterprise computing, there is no community open-source browser attracting the contributions and capitalistic urges of the technology world.

Instead, we see increased Balkanization of the browser market, with several major competing camps: Mozilla Firefox (Gecko-based), Apple Safari (WebKit-based), Google Chrome (WebKit-based), and Microsoft Internet Explorer (Trident-based, for now). In mobile, things are a bit better, with a seeming convergence around WebKit.

Why? We've already seen with Linux that for all the vendors efforts to compete in Unix, the real competition - and the real money - was found in complementary software, services, and hardware. It's inefficient for so many companies to be reinventing the browser wheel, with little apparent performance benefit.

And yet it doesn't happen. Mozilla's Firefox, the most likely community to rally around, gets pretty paltry corporate contributions, compared to Linux. True, the foundation does attract a significant body of individual developer/user contributions, but arguably the organization could do far more with more corporate financial and development resources. It currently relies on Google for the vast majority of its funding, with a contract that runs through 2011.

One decision from Google to pull the plug on its involvement and Firefox development would suffer. Considerably.

The alternative is WebKit, but that is largely controlled by Apple, and secondarily by Google. Given the two companies' hold on emerging markets, it's unlikely that many others are going to underwrite that dominance in code or cash to WebKit.

So we're left with Mozilla and Firefox, an exceptional browser run by an independent foundation. Like Linux, Firefox can be a neutral Switzerland around which furious competition swirls.

And it's not just about Google and Apple throwing in their lots with Firefox. It's rather about IBM, Oracle, and other enterprise technology companies whose applications will increasingly run in someone else's browser. This is a serious strategic mistake, and, like Unix in the past, is a compelling reason to actively contribute to a vibrant, neutral open-source community.

My money would be on Firefox to fill this role. I'm a Chrome user, but Chrome will never be a true community effort. Firefox is. ®

Matt Asay is senior vice president of business development at Strobe, a startup that offers an open source framework for building mobile apps. He was formerly chief operating officer of Ubuntu commercial operation Canonical. With more than a decade spent in open source, Asay served as Alfreso's general manager for the Americas and vice president of business development, and he helped put Novell on its open-source track. Asay is an emeritus board member of the Open Source Initiative (OSI). His column, Open...and Shut, appears twice a week on The Register.

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Download alert: Nearly ALL top 100 Android, iOS paid apps hacked
Attack of the Clones? Yeah, but much, much scarier – report
You stupid BRICK! PCs running Avast AV can't handle Windows fixes
Fix issued, fingers pointed, forums in flames
Microsoft: Your Linux Docker containers are now OURS to command
New tool lets admins wrangle Linux apps from Windows
Facebook, working on Facebook at Work, works on Facebook. At Work
You don't want your cat or drunk pics at the office
Soz, web devs: Google snatches its Wallet off the table
Killing off web service in 3 months... but app-happy bonkers are fine
First in line to order a Nexus 6? AT&T has a BRICK for you
Black Screen of Death plagues early Google-mobe batch
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Driving business with continuous operational intelligence
Introducing an innovative approach offered by ExtraHop for producing continuous operational intelligence.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?