Chris Kranky

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Where did Mozilla go? Here kitty kitty kitty

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

catMozilla has been a bit rudderless since the unexpected departure of CEO Brendan Eich. But it was a company in crisis prior to that, what is their business after all? Kept afloat by Google, a rich Uncle, who could shut the value off from one day to the next. The pray is of course FirefoxOS, but for a company not used to selling & promotion, this is one of those 90-degree turns you hear companies trying to make (a AAA membership is highly recommended).

Troubling to me is the number of WebRTC developers who have decided not to worry whether their application is compatible with Firefox and instead simply tell the user to select Chrome instead. The reasons are mixed, some cite the incomplete or somewhat different implementation of WebRTC between Chrome & Firefox, time to market, testing required for different browsers and generic complexity. The “I don’t care” option isn’t mentioned aloud.

Unfortunately, WebRTC developers not caring about Firefox is evident. More than 70% of all visitors for the Kranky Geek WebRTC Event were using Chrome (call me surprised). With only 30% left to share, Firefox accounted for only 10% of visitors with Safari at 5% (damn those Apple users) with Internet Explorer barely holding on at 3.6%. The WebRTC community is, it would seem, all about Chrome.

In the wider world, we know that Chrome continues to gain and holds the lion market share at 45% with IE losing ground and Firefox holding it’s own at 20%.

Whether WebRTC lives or dies is dependent upon acceptance by the developer community and the widespread availability of platforms. By all accounts, it would seem Firefox (at least on the WebRTC front) is indeed — dying. This direction could be changed by the new CEO if WebRTC is to play an integral part in FirefoxOS. But for Firefox to disappear from the WebRTC scene, is certainly not helpful in the mission (token nor not).

Big companies, with big money and a serious effort and audience – can overcome nearly any obstacle. Indeed, Google Voice uses a plug-in which I happily installed and use daily. Dropbox similar. Webex if I must. WebRTC is thus a “nice tool” to have. But the acceptance rate for plug-ins, Java installed whatever drops off significantly for anything I don’t trust or use regularly. The new arrivals and nascent players get put at a distinct disadvantage.

The notion of WebRTC was to make real time communications easy and spark innovation. That noble goal is still quite viable and timely across any platform and perhaps there needs a dominant browser, one that casts such a wide shadow that others simply wither and die. If Firefox does indeed shrink to nothing, Google, will be knowingly or unknowingly be pushed into that position and have to slay the weak who remain. This type of monopoly position invites all sorts of burden and pesky government inquiry, which no doubt Google would like to avoid.

This is NOT to say that Firefox is NOT supporting WebRTC. Indeed not, WebRTC has all the trademarks of things that Mozilla has always rallied around. Firefox initially had some rather pointed ideas about the direction of WebRTC that were worthy of argument, reasons why they did things differently and in the spirit of the Internet, arguing that others should join them and not the other guys. But the volume lowered and the lights dimmed.

Perhaps Firefox should capitulate and simply follow to the letter whatever “Simon says” (read Google) about the WebRTC standard and work to ensure near 100% compliance. That certainly would be easier, less thought required, but intellectually not as stimulating and maybe the best ideas won’t pervail.  But perhaps this is a battle that can’t be taken on at the moment and we need this problem solved now.