Mozilla has this reputation for caring about people more than profit and it’s a good reputation. Well deserved and generally everyone that has been involved with Mozilla is both honoured and proud. Mozilla has played the role of the underdog well and without the pressures of being the top dog. It’s just got on with it’s job and in doing so Mozilla has championed open source. Taking it from niche nerdism to something that’s embraced not only in tech circles but as a way of life. The strong ties with the community and the transparency that Mozilla have championed are things that have been adopted by projects both larger and smaller.
However having achieved some success, it’s easy to get lost in the plaudits and go out of your way to maintain that perception of success. Google Chrome came along and really attempted to punish every stumble that Mozilla made, aggressively carving out a position in the browser space and even surpassing Mozilla at the alternative to Internet Expolorer. In doing so, Google redefined what was expected of a modern browser beyond what Mozilla had once set and ever since Mozilla has been playing catch up.
Mozilla now entrench in another battle and no longer able to set its own pace. Had to make some changes to the way it went about things. It required more staff and perhaps that is its downfall. The current face of Mozilla is in start contrast to the face that once was. Mozilla wasn’t just about open source, but open design and open concepts. There has been many occasions over the years whereby someone could disagree with Mozilla but for better or worse, they could always understand the train of thought behind the decisions. This is no longer the case.
Mozilla is, at least on the surface, almost entrenched in a new siege mentality. Directions are presented, particularly in regards to design, but none are explained. The assumption that seems to be all over the various forums and in Bugzilla is that Mozilla is simply mimicking that of Chrome. Some developers seem to revel in the practice of not justifying or discussing decisions in public. Aggressively so. Such developers would’ve never have found themselves in the employ of Mozilla a while back but the general attitude right now is that beggars can’t be choosers.
But the question remains, is it worth? It’s there for all to see in the comments sections of all of the mainstream tech sites. People asking and agreeing with the premise that Mozilla has all but decided to do whatever Chrome does. Certain key Mozilla figures are adamant that Mozilla does its own user research and has it’s own user experience teams but with the desktop browser simply becoming and more Chrome-like it’s hard to accept that. Why for example are curved tabs better than square tabs? Why are flat buttons better than accented ones? In which ways is Mozilla arriving at the same conclusions as Google rather than blindly following them?
If Mozilla’s evolution is in fact being hostile to working in the open as the core of a community rather than working above the community then there’s no doubt that this path of evolution is undoubtedly bad.