Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Firefox’s Unusual Approach to Decreasing it's Browser Share


Firefox’s newer versions are pretty solid.  And with the demise of Opera presto, Firefox should have seen a jump in market share.  However, behind a decent product lies a cacophony of  numbskulls that believe misguided political correctness is more important than business dominance. 

As you may recall, Mozilla’s CEO (Brendan Eich) was forced to resign from his position.  This was precipitated because he gave a donation in support of maintaining the status quo on traditional marriage; and by extension disagreeing with same-sex marriage.  From what I have read, there was a backlash in the Mozilla community that forced his hand (although the media tends to be sensationalistic in order to sell its stories;  the truth appears to be that an online, small potatoes, dating site called for a boycott unless Mozilla served up his head as a peace offering).  It seems that Mozilla believed that this personal belief held by their CEO would result in lower usership of their browser.  This is my speculation, it is possible their action was philosophical in nature … the end point would still be the same.  We do know that it wasn't because of lack of qualifications:  seeing as Eich was a co-founder of Mozilla and a developer of java-script.

So why was this an unusual maneuver for a business seeking to expand its base?  To me, it seems risky … given that each debate has two hostile sides (each of which can turn against your business).  The flip side of this coin is those that agreed with Eich’s position:  Traditional/Conservative Jews, Christians, Muslims, Sikhism, Mormans, etc - - - basically, the majority of the planet.  What if all the Mormans in Salt Lake City banned the gecko engine (used by Firefox)?  You see what I’m saying?  Perhaps it would have been better to weather the storm (perhaps not a storm, maybe a brisk breeze would be more accurate) and not feed the media.  I suspect it would have dissipated as quickly as it precipitated.  Maybe I’m wrong?  Maybe they pacified the more antagonistic side?  And the other side simply wasn't interested.  Unlikely.  Being vocal in the media does not mean you are the more passionate in the debate.  The other side may not want to engage in a media spectacle of hysterics. Instead, they might simply and silently choose to stop using Firefox.  Time will tell.

It is worth mentioning that Mozilla is not a discriminatory company (or whatever you call these open source types).  Your sexual orientation has no bearing on whether you are allowed to use it or not.  It does not filter or alter content to reflect personal biases.  It employs anyone and takes volunteers from all political persuasions and sexual preferences.  Or at least, it used to.

What’s next for Mozilla?  Perhaps they should make a survey for all their employees and volunteers.  One that can pin-point where they sit on the political spectrum.  Then they can remove the rest of those dissenting from the firmly held convictions of that online dating site.

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