Mozilla frustrates me

Mozilla “retired” their iPhone app. Big deal, right?

It’s part of something that’s got me thinking about Firefox lately. I clearly am an incredibly uninformed outsider, so consider this to be one giant talking-out-ones-ass rant.

Mozilla deserves undying love for holding the line against Internet Explorer, but it seems like they have utterly lost the plot and it worries me. 

They put out one small app for the iPhone. Apple’s rather buttheaded App Store rules preclude Mozilla from shipping a version of Gecko on any platform so there’s not a huge amount of platform innovation available for them. Still; one app, iPhone only, that you just decide to give up on? Especially one that mates with your existing sync technology? I guess it’s no big deal, not many people have iPhones. And almost no one has an iPad so porting the app to be universal would be a waste of time. There’s no value in the sync technology, and thus no incentive to get people to use Firefox on the desktop. 

Then there’s the “Junior“, a WebKit-powered browser for the iPad. There’s probably a dozen or more browsers on the iPad; do we need another? The answer is really dependent on your personal politics, probably. I would love to see it. So much so that since that little tease a few months ago, I’ll sometimes dig around to see if I can find any news; and the Googles fail me, not to mention I can’t find it at either their Github or Mercurial repos. It’s very strange to me that they’d operate in secret like this.

And then there’s Boot2Gecko, Mozilla’s attempt at recreating the huge market success that was Palm’s WebOS. Look, I loved WebOS; I wanted WebOS to stomp a mudhole into iOS. I wanted to be able to build real applications with web tools. The UX was wonderfully fluid and natural. Ye gods how I wanted WebOS to win. It was my OTP, if you will. 

But it lost. It lost. There’s lots of complex reasons why it lost. One of them is simply that the web probably isn’t ready to compete with compiled code running on bare metal, especially on a platform tuned to that bare metal. Great industrial design mated to a bespoke software platform made amazing things happen for the iPhone and iPad. Palm, in my humble but correct opinion, was far ahead of every shit Android phone to come out (a few high-end models notwithstanding) but the web just can’t compete with native code in terms of performance. 

So what the hell is Mozilla trying to accomplish here that isn’t “This time, it’ll be different!”? Android went straight to compiled code. Windows Phone 8 apparently offers native support now (e.g., C++) and apparently always used C# (I’m not a Windows guy and their constantly-shifting terminology makes little sense to me). What does Mozilla know that everyone else doesn’t? How are they going to accomplish all the things everyone else says “screw it” and punts to C to accomplish? And worst of all, they’re banking on hardware makers being able to produce a phone that people love – because if the physical artifact isn’t beloved, let’s face it, no one will even make it to the software.

I get that Chrome made life far too interesting for Mozilla: Google wants Chrome to be #1, but needs at least one not-Webkit browser around to ensure the playing field appears level. So since Mozilla gets most of its revenue from Google searches, they (Mozilla) should look towards diversifying their income, and I guess somehow B2G fills that need. Not sure how, but otherwise why the heck are you doing it

Lastly, there’s Mozilla Labs. Once it had projects that seemed to make real sense: Prism (desktop Gecko apps, like Fluid does for WebKit) was my favorite. Today the first project listed is something about badges. People love badges, I guess. They don’t really care about the Web and having web applications seamlessly integrated with their desktop. Nope.

I just don’t get any of it. From an outsider’s perspective they seem to be all over the place, and in strange directions that make no sense. Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges. 

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