To that end, I've tried to synthesize and distill countless
discussions and ideas I've heard from throughout the Mozilla community
over the last few years about where we should go with our products to
further the Mozilla mission.
I've posted a draft vision statement document here:
Ideally, the vision statement would become something we can use to
guide priorities and roadmaps, and something we can rally around to
grow our global community to advance the Web.
Please post or send me any feedback you have!
I do think it could do with some discussion of how to bring forward
all this innovation while dealing with the mass-market of current
Firefox users. There's clearly a tension between doing innovative,
risky new things and shipping to hundreds of millions of people and
keeping them "comfortable" and feeling like they're getting an
experience "on your own terms".
I think this is an excellent draft for a vision statement. It is quite consistent with my personal vision of the future of the web. I do have a few thoughts on possible refinements.
The "Future of the Web" captures fairly well the likely near term evolution of the browser in a way that is subtle, non-scary, and easily digestible by our user community. However, I wonder if it is explicit enough as a vision to drive our internal evolution. The more blunt statement is that PC style applications such as web browsers are going to become increasingly irrelevant over the next few years as the the attention of users shift from PC-based computing to an ambient computing experience based upon a ride variety of devices. The "browser" will disappear as a distinct application category but live on as the universal applicaiton platform based upon web app technologies and a suite of user level services. As an organization we must rapidly shift our focus from the browser as an application to the browser as a platform and services.
I have written a few articles the expand on this perspective that may contain useful material:
"The Third Era of Computing" http://www.wirfs-brock.com/allen/posts/74
"The Browser is a Transitional Technology" http://www.wirfs-brock.com/allen/posts/115
and a slide deck: http://www.slideshare.net/allenwb/is-the-browser-a-transitional-technology
"Discover, Connect, Experience"
I like the Discover and Connect portions of the vision as a description of how the user-facing elements of the classic browser can evolve in to a set of high level services that are pervasively available in the ambient computing environment. However, I think the importance of our role in driving the open evolution of the web applicaiton platform is somewhat lost in the Experience section. It is important to us and to our open web principles that the browser application platform firmly establishes itself as the dominant platform for the emerging device-based ambient computing era. If it does not, the likely alternative is the emergence and monopolist domination of some not really open proprietary platform (see "Why Mozilla", http://www.wirfs-brock.com/allen/posts/210 ). The specific work areas described under "Experience" are all important and contribute to the improvement of the web applicaiton platform. However, the section just doesn't seem to capture the how significant the open web app platform is to us. We should state explicitly that our mission and vision includes ensuring the dominance of the open web app platform. To whatever extend proves necessary we should be willing to take ownership of ensuring that this happens.
"On Your Own Terms" and "Everywhere"
The items under these heading feel more like a tactical roadmap for the next few years rather than a vision statement. I don't have any problem real problems with this roadmap but I guess I would like to see a stronger tie-in explaining why these items are so key to realizing the overall vision.
At the end of a document of this length I think it would be useful to reemphasize "Why Mozilla" and "why we can win".
So, overall pretty good. But I want the vision statement to be something I can really cheer about. This is probably the most exciting time to be in the computing industry since the early to mid 1980's. We are in the midst of an inflection point that is drastically changing the role of computing in society. I would like our vision statement to capture more of the excitement and significance of this time and the unique position we are in to really made a difference.
On 24/06/11 18:16, Jay Sullivan wrote:
> I've posted a draft vision statement document here:
The complete statement, for reference, is:
"Discover, experience and connect with apps, websites and people on your
own terms, everywhere."
My question: what about this vision is distinct from our competition?
Other browsers certainly permit or are trying to permit users to
"Discover, experience and connect with apps, websites and people ...
The answer could be the "on your own terms" bit, but that (and perhaps
this is a problem inherent in trying to reduce things to such a small
bit of text) seems quite vague. A user might ask: what do other browsers
actually stop you doing that you might want to do?
Another thought: is there a social media website or platform out there
which would not fit the strapline "Discover, experience and connect"?
Facebook: discover, experience and connect
Blogger: discover, experience and connect
Foursquare: discover, experience and connect
Thinking about it another way, is it specific enough so that we not only
say "yes" to some ideas because they fit with the vision, but also "no"
to some others because they don't?
I rather liked the line that was being promoted a while back: "Firefox
answers to no-one but you." Perhaps that's not quite a vision statement.
But it's certainly an unambiguous statement of how we are and can be
different from, and better than, everyone else.
I hope that's helpful :-)
I read that as being the same as "on your own terms". Could you
elaborate on how you see the difference? Getting that part right is
quite important, I agree.
Here's a (poor) attempt to articulate the difference:
"Answers to no-one but you" is an exclusive-style statement against
which I can imagining measuring features. ("Does this feature to count
the number of users in Firefox meet the standard embodied and implied
here?") I feel that much less about doing things "on your own terms".
Everyone might have different terms. What if my term is "I want a
browser which stays the same and doesn't confuse me with UI changes"?
"On your own terms" feels like either it would be utterly stifling for
Mozilla in terms of the amount of change we could have, or it would lead
to loads of contradictory requirements, or it would be interpreted
loosely enough to have not much bite.
Can you make the timeframe for that vision statement more precise? My
experience with previous roadmap-ish documents is that they stay around
for longer than planned, and get read in a then-different context.
On a different note, what's the take on multi-lingual/global web? To
give some concrete example questions:
- how does the vision apply to the web in Africa?
- ... China?
- ... emerging markets like Brasil or India?
- I expect the planet to get smaller still, with more multi-lingual
content coming up, and more content in more foreign languages, and more
From my point of view "Firefox answers to no one but you." is simple,
direct, and contains nothing but the message.
"Connect, etc etc on your own terms, etc etc" hides the message in the
middle of a sentence with lots of other verbiage of precisely the kind
that at least I tend to gloss over entirely when reading. I missed the
"on your own terms" clause entirely the first time I read that sentence....
I like it a lot but I find it dangerous to reduce mobile to Android
only. Surely Android is the main player there right now, but we should
care to be cross-platform on mobile just as we are on desktop, and just
like we don't support only Windows on the desktop but also Mac and
Linux, we should support something like MeeGo and WebOS as well. Doesn't
have to be tier-1, but we should not be one-dimensional in the vision
Note that any statements of mine - no matter how passionate - are never
meant to be offensive but very often as food for thought or possible
arguments that we as a community should think about. And most of the
time, I even appreciate irony and fun! :)
> Can you make the timeframe for that vision statement more precise? My
> experience with previous roadmap-ish documents is that they stay around
> for longer than planned, and get read in a then-different context.
I don't see this as a roadmap-ish document at all. The roadmap documents
will fall out of this, or be built in support of this. They will have
timeframes and deadlines and schedules and precision that we all crave
but they derive in a big way from this so getting this right I think is
I see where you're coming from but I don't think it's right to compare
MeeGo and WebOS to Mac and Linux. They're more like BeOS and Amiga or
something. Our supported (we make sure they work all the time)
platforms should be the ones where users are and where we're allowed to
be and right now that's Mac, Windows, Linux, and Android.
The section on "The future of the Browser" says:
# Firefox has always been available for major desktop operating
# systems, but for many devices, Firefox in its current form --
# client software with the Gecko Web rendering engine -- will not
# be feasible. Yet the experiences it offers should be available
# everywhere. The future browser will therefore be delivered in
# many ways, sometimes as client software, sometimes as a
# Web-based service.
I'm somewhat concerned about how this downplays the role of Gecko as
part of Firefox.
Power over the full set of protocols and formats used for
interchange of data on the Web is important to Firefox's ability to
advance Mozilla's mission to promote "openness, innovation and
participation on the Internet" (http://www.mozilla.org/foundation/):
it's a key piece of what gives Firefox leverage. We have the
ability to reject changes to these protocols and formats that go
against our mission, and while we don't (and shouldn't) have the
ability to make any addition we want, we can strongly influence
Imagine, as an extreme example, a world where all Web browsing is
done on WebKit on iOS devices, but the Firefox brand remains as one
of the leading bookmarks/history sync services. The statement
quoted above makes that seem like a possible success condition, but
it seems like a failure to me, since we'd lose our ability to
influence the technology of the Web.
In other words (going back to the quote), I think it's not just the
experience that matters, it's also whether a set of people with our
goals have the power to change and advance the experience.
I really agree with dbaron on this. Overall this is kind of ironic, since
generally speaking the UX team has both fixated on the front end experience
as opposed to the underlying platform, and the UX team has also occasionally
argued in favor of a webkit-based Firefox on iOS which provides a better UI
and sync on top of their rendering engine.
But the reason I agree with dbaron is because ultimately we can only really
improve the user experience of the Web if we control the entire technology
stack. I've recently been giving a lot of thought into platform level
features that can improve the user experience of web applications, and
webkit on iOS has a direct reason not to support these types of new features
(because these features can make mobile web applications more directly
competitive with native mobile applications, and only the later is
I'm concerned that eventually offering Firefox as a web-based service ends
up as a failure scenario if enough major operating systems lock down and
prevent the installation of competing platforms. In that scenario, even if
the Web prevails as the universal platform for application development,
Firefox/Gecko can only remain relevant if we create compete with a full
platform, and we start to explore OEM deals.
On Tue, Jun 28, 2011 at 8:45 PM, L. David Baron <dba...@dbaron.org> wrote:
> On Friday 2011-06-24 10:16 -0700, Jay Sullivan wrote:
> I'm concerned that eventually offering Firefox as a web-based service ends
> up as a failure scenario if enough major operating systems lock down and
> prevent the installation of competing platforms. In that scenario, even if
> the Web prevails as the universal platform for application development,
> Firefox/Gecko can only remain relevant if we create compete with a full
> platform, and we start to explore OEM deals.
If the trend to lock down operating systems continues as expected, and
convergence between software, hardware, and telcos keeps on deepening,
I'm concerned that such a narrow definition of success means we have to
take on an incredibly deep stack, which taken to a rhetorical extreme
would go all the way down to hardware, further down to distribution
channels, and further down to cell towers and fiber networks. My
understanding is that the economics of OEM deals don't tend to work in
My own interests recently have been further up the stack in areas where
we haven't yet had as much impact as we'd like, including making sure
users' control of their online experience extends to things like their
contact data, social experiences, behavioral data, etc. In that part
of the stack, the specifics of the rendering engine don't matter that
much, but the ubiquity of the delivery vehicle does - in other words,
it's much harder to give users control of their data if that data is
completely inaccessible from our software.
Luckily, I don't think we're in an either-or kind of situation. I do
think there's huge value in avoiding monoculture, _and_ that there are
many ways in which Firefox can present compelling and important value
to users for whom Gecko isn't an option. Yes, this implies tradeoffs,
but I don't yet think they're fundamentally different than any of the
other tradeoffs we make everyday to move the user's agenda forward.
Take RockMeIt, join it with Google Wave protocol, give it a natural,
human-friendly interface and you're ready to go.
"answers to no-one but you" distinguishes us from Chrome and IE, for
example, because Chrome answers to advertisers and IE answers to
stockholders and corporate IT departments. (Please forgive the
ridiculous oversimplifications; a vision statement is no place for
nuances!) "on your own terms" doesn't separate us from either, in my
mind, partly because the phrase has little definite meaning to me. If
Chrome happens to provide the UX that I like, then even as it's sending
every twitch of my mouse and activating my laptop camera to record my
eye movements, it's still sort of on my own terms -- I get to experience
the Web exactly how I want to. If I were to think hard about the
importance of privacy, I might extend my terms to include something that
would reject Chrome, but that feels like a bit of a stretch. "answers to
no-one but you", despite its awkward hyphen, describes a tool that does
only what it needs to in order to satisfy my requests. "on your own
terms" requires me to think up terms (restrictions) that limit what my
willful tool might do.
Maybe that's the short version: "on your own terms" translates (for me)
into "according to the restrictions you select", together with the
implication that Firefox is a dangerous thing that you need to restrict.
I actually don't find it to be that extreme a difference; "on your own
terms" has strong positive connotations and sounds smoother than
"answers to no-one but you". But the above is the best I can do to
describe a real difference in my first impression of each, and I do
prefer "answers to no-one but you". ("answers to nobody but you"?)
> On Tue Jun 28 21:50:20 2011, Alex Faaborg wrote:
> I'm concerned that eventually offering Firefox as a web-based service ends
>> up as a failure scenario if enough major operating systems lock down and
>> prevent the installation of competing platforms. In that scenario, even
>> the Web prevails as the universal platform for application development,
>> Firefox/Gecko can only remain relevant if we create compete with a full
>> platform, and we start to explore OEM deals.
> If the trend to lock down operating systems continues as expected, and
> convergence between software, hardware, and telcos keeps on deepening, I'm
> concerned that such a narrow definition of success means we have to take on
> an incredibly deep stack, which taken to a rhetorical extreme would go all
> the way down to hardware, further down to distribution channels, and further
> down to cell towers and fiber networks. My understanding is that the
> economics of OEM deals don't tend to work in our favor.
If we reach a state where the evolution of the Web platform is controlled by
one or a few vertically integrated mega-corporations, then I will consider
Mozilla to have failed in its mission. I'd feel OK about that as long as we
fought well to the end. I would not be interested in redefining success so
we can carry on.
"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in
us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our
sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned,
we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us." [1 John 1:8-10]
If Firefox is awesome enough, some iOS users will want it, and at that point
we can ask Apple outright if they're willing to give users what they want.
To keep that possibility open, I would strongly suggest that we do not call
any browser we ship on iOS "Firefox".
I don't have particular insight to add, but I'd like to metoo to what
gerv, dbaron, roc and bz said:
Promising "on your own terms" isn't as good a statement as "answers to
no one but you". In particular, people's terms can vary so much that
"your own terms" can be easily called as untrue.
But more importantly, I worry about downplaying Gecko in order to bring
"Firefox" to iOS. I think Mozilla having a browser engine of its own is
critical for having leverage to make the Web platform evolve in ways
that are positive in the light of Mozilla's mission.
I think it would be bad to brand a shell for an Apple-controlled engine
on iOS (or a MS-controlled engine on Windows Phone) as Firefox. That
seems too close to the Netscape route of eventually becoming a logo that
is squeezed for recognition from the past days of glory. Rather, I think
we should create demand for the real full Firefox (with Gecko) on closed
I agree with roc that we shouldn't redefine success in such a way that
bringing "Firefox" branding to Apple-controlled engine is "success". If
the iOS model becomes so pervasive that there is no other option, I
think we should consider it a failure for Mozilla to advance its
I think roc's suggestion of how to approach iOS makes sense: Showing
awesomeness elsewhere to create user demand.
Another (though way more costly) way to create demand would be this:
1) Port Firefox to iOS
2) Make sure it's truly awesome (drives up the cost, making ultimate
rejection even worse)
3) Let people who are iOS developers install it using the mechanisms
that Apple has to allow for developers to test their self-developed
4) Wait until the people who can use it to create buzz.
5) Beat the drum about Apple blocking awesomeness for regular users.
I think it's sad that we need to consider giving up essential
Firefoxness because a platform that doesn't align with our values has so
many users. It's very sad that Nokia isn't letting Meego fly for real,
since that platform would have been a great match for Firefox. Still,
considering that Firefox already exists for Maemo, I wonder why we are
hiding that platform from http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/mobile/ and
giving equal screen estate to Android and iOS when iOS doesn't allow us
to deliver the product we'd want to deliver? Is it so embarrassing to
ship for an also-ran platform that it's better to hide it than to let
people know that there's another open platform that runs Firefox?
I realized this won't work as long as iOS has technical measures that
Yeah, we spent a decade working on keeping the browser from being
absorbed into the Operating System (windows). We won!
Now the stakes are even higher with push to absorb the entire stack of
devices, OS, browser, and services all looked in from from single
providers. It is our mission to keep the interoperability vision of
the internet alive.
The JIT worked fine on iOS 4.0 when I previously ported Firefox, FWIW.
(My port is way out of date, but it's probably not more than a week's
worth of work to get it running again.)
If we really wanted to target iOS we could certainly deliver Firefox
via jailbroken channels, since there are no legal barriers to that
"Presenting compelling and important value" is not enough. Facebook
Connect presents compelling and important value - that's why a boatload
of sites and users use it. But we are still kicking off a project to
compete with it (and, ideally, eliminate it and all other vendor-lockin
> Yes, this implies tradeoffs, but
> I don't yet think they're fundamentally different than any of the other
> tradeoffs we make everyday to move the user's agenda forward.
We make engineering tradeoffs - but we don't (I hope) and shouldn't
trade off our principles, or trade off our leverage, because we think
users well benefit in the short term.
This is a vision, so I'm not talking about the present, but where things
are going in the future. Some more-open-than-Android system will be
larger in market share on mobile in a few years than Mac and Linux are
today on PCs, I'm pretty sure of that.
Note that I'm NOT proposing to even mention an open and innovative
system like MeeGo in the vision. What I'm proposing is to make the
headline say "Firefox on mobile devices", just to not shut the door on
another options beforehand, and continue to pursue Android as the main
focus there right now.
I'm pretty convinced that other vendors will let it fly for real over
the long term, but MeeGo will have substantial offers on tablets
probably way before it does on smartphones (though the Nokia N9 will be
a success, nobody knows yet if it will be the end of the line for Nokia
or some niche market line will continue from it). MeeGo is larger than
Nokia and will have its place with other vendors, but that takes time.
We as Mozilla should not bet on it, but we should not close our doors on
The browser today and even more in the future is not a browser any more,
it's a web application runtime. I have a hard time seeing the browser
being a web service, as it runs the web. I see Mozilla doing web
services in addition to web application runtimes, though.
That's a mission statement about -us-, the vision statement is about
the product. We have no control over whether websites and apps
"answer to no-one but you", but we can certainly help you surf the
web "on your own terms" by giving you control over that experience.
Could other browsers do that? Sure, it'd be great if they did. Just
as we've succeeded in bringing more choice to the internet even if
the choice isn't always us, wouldn't that be a victory condition?
Is there an example of other platforms where the originator abandoned
them and they was relevant in the market later on?
I can't think of one, at the moment, but I'm not at my best. When
there is a viable, valuable mobile target for a full-on browser other
than Android, we'll have a meaningfully different context and we
should revisit the vision accordingly. I think the vision document is
useful in directing the areas of investment, exploration and
partnership over the next 3-4 years.
No idea, I know too little of the platform world and its history - and
then, there's also no precedent for what we achieved with Firefox. :)
> there is a viable, valuable mobile target for a full-on browser other
> than Android, we'll have a meaningfully different context and we
> should revisit the vision accordingly.
As I mentioned in a different place on this thread, I'm absolutely with
focusing on Android in practice right now, but I think we should not
close the door on others prematurely and use "mobile devices" in the
language of a vision statement where we don't need to specifically limit
to Android - even if in execution we're focused on Android, which I
agree we need to (even if I won't touch that system myself if I don't
Certainly, but I think it would have been unwise for people to be
building product visions 3 years ahead of Firefox's ascent that
But you can perhaps understand how it's hard to accept
platform-viability premises on the basis of a lack of strong knowledge
of the platform world and its history!
> I think we should not close
> the door on others prematurely and use "mobile devices" in the language of a
> vision statement where we don't need to specifically limit to Android - even
> if in execution we're focused on Android
I think that one of the most important things that a vision document
can do is exclude things. The vision should be based on the things we
know now, or are willing to base a lot of investment on. When things
around us change (like MeeGo picking up marketshare or HandheldAmigaOS
or whatever) we should look at the vision document and make sure it
still makes sense.
But right now, if we are focused on Android, we should make that clear
so that people know how to contribute most effectively, and where they
should expect to find most of our relevant resources deployed. We
have enough to do without giving "support this new marginal OS!"
implicit support through an over-broad vision.
It is not a permanent document. It doesn't see forward until the end
of time. It takes the set of all things that we could be to all people
and distills them into the things we are planning to be, and to which
people. People are going to point at this vision document to direct
their work, and (let's face it) to demand work from Mozilla. Let's
speak truthfully about our intention given our context, even if we
wish there were things that were different about that context.
I hope it also leave space for experimentation next to it - and
basically, that's all I'm asking for. Note that I'm contracted for
working on areas that are purely reactive to whatever OSes Firefox
actually runs on, so it won't be my work time that's affected anyhow,
and in my free time I can look into what I want, but it feels better if
interests in more open ecosystems are supported philosophically by
"Us" Mozilla, or "us" the users?
> the vision statement is about
> the product.
"Firefox answers to no-one but you" sounds like it's about Firefox to
me... Perhaps I'm not getting your point?
> We have no control over whether websites and apps
> "answer to no-one but you", but we can certainly help you surf the
> web "on your own terms" by giving you control over that experience.
But what web browser doesn't give you "control over your experience"? No
web browser is yet an automated slideshow viewer.
Having said that, I agree that perhaps "Firefox answers to no-one but
you" is not a perfect fit for "product vision statement"; I gave it as
an example of a statement we made which I liked and which was clear,
un-vague and testable.