Mozilla turns evil, sells your eyes to the highest bidder

Seriously?  If you find yourself writing a headline like this, you need to take a break from the internet.  If you clicked on this one because you wanted more blood-sport FOSS drama, you’re out of luck (and you should also take a break from the internet).  Come on guys, what’s happened to us that we keep jumping from one outrage to another?  For a group that loves to make allusions to 1984 when privacy is concerned, you’d think we would put up more resistance to these 2-minutes hate sessions when they are pushed on us.

Mozilla was the first open source project I ever took interest in.  I downloaded the source code for Netscape 5 (remember that?) and was *amazed* that they would just give it away to anybody like that.  I am involved in open source now, all these years later, because of that one experience.  Firefox is still one of the most well known and most used pieces of open software in the world.  They have been consistently open and doing good for us users. You don’t just disregard all of that because of a few ads.

So let’s quit this self-indulgent outrage, Firefox is still a great open source project.  Mozilla aren’t selling out, they aren’t turning evil, and they haven’t suddenly stopped caring about users. They have a nice feature that shows website thumbnails for previously viewed website, it’s very handy once you have previously viewed websites.  For new users, they’re empty, and empty tiles are useless.  So Mozilla wants to pre-populate them, until you’ve used the browser enough to fill that space.  That’s great, it turns something doing nothing, and makes it do something, that’s a good thing.  And they might make some money off it, which for everybody who’s concerned about Google’s dominance and infiltration into our privacy should be a good thing.

Are they ads?  Yes.  Or No, depending on who you ask.  But you’re asking the wrong question. The question should be: do they make Firefox worse for me? or you? or other people?  And the answer is we simply don’t know yet, because as of today those tiles are still empty for new users.  Mozilla thinks they can make Firefox better, both the web browser and the project behind it, and after 15 years of doing exactly that they’ve more than earned the right to try.

But let’s get back to the bigger problem, this constant stream of flamewars and hate fests.  We can’t go on tearing down free and open source projects like this.  No matter how much one of these might benefit your favored project at the moment, sooner or later the outrage machine is going to turn on it too. If we care at all about open source as a philosophy, we need to care about the people and projects that live by it.

As Russ Allbery saidrecently, after the Debian project had just weathered an outrage storm of it’s own:

But people should also get engaged and interested in understanding other *people* and finding ways to work with other people in difficult situations, since at the end of the day our communities are about people, not software.

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13 Responses to Mozilla turns evil, sells your eyes to the highest bidder

  1. Nick says:

    If you don’t like it? Grab the source, modify it and it’s yours. In other words?… fix it yourself. That’s what “OpenSource” is about! Freedom to examin or modify the source as you please.

  2. Dennis Shimer says:

    I appreciate the thoughts. I think this post should be saved as a template then just fill in the latest outrage, conspiracy, or controversy. Since I’m not a developer other than some primary school level python hacking I tend to be a lot more forgiving of decisions that made at the top in big and small projects. I am just so utterly amazed at the work that is done constantly around the globe on my behalf so that I can enjoy first rate products in open formats for whatever small time or cash donations I can make. It would be impossible to thank even a tiny portion of the folks whose work benefits me, so at the very least I’ll comment positively, suggest constructively, and support in whatever humble way I can.

  3. israel says:

    Or No, depending on you ask.
    should be
    Or No, depending on WHO you ask.

    • Michael Hall says:

      Thanks fixed it (also fixed the lack of spacing between paragraphs, not sure what happened there)

  4. Jason Bourne says:

    While I do not entirely approve of this action on the grounds it is another example of some entity demonstrating how they do not care about producing software with the end user at the forefront. But really, I can understand that stuff does cost money and bills need to be paid – just look at the electric bill. Can’t pay the bills? Project goes bye-bye.

    What I will reserve judgement on is whether they will remain truly “Open Source”. This allows for forking the code and removing the advert functionality. If they pull an Oracle/MySQL they can no longer claim to be a member of the open source community. They are then just another proprietary ‘closed source’ shop. Then is when I will need to reconsider what value I place on open source vs closed source for my choice of browser.

  5. frecel says:

    As open source projects become more popular this type of “reporting” is less and less likely to go away. Mostly because these days clicks almost directly translate into money and people are more likely to click on an article with a shocking title that seems to be written by someone with a five minute attention span for people with a five minute attention span rather than read those “boring and lengthy” official announcements that actually explain why certain decisions were made.

  6. Guest says:

    You have to understand something and this can not be changed. Some of computer users (and i guess this does not just apply to computer users) value privacy. There is no way around this fact and two last strongholds fighting against embracing commercial model built on invading user privacy felt. First it was Ubuntu that represented the most popular GNU/Linux distribution and then it was Firefox! Something probably nobody up until yesterday could imagine it was possible. Yes yesterday the last big stronghold felt and said IT IS OK TO INVADE USER PRIVACY FOR ANY COMPANY AND YOU JUST HAVE TO TRUST US ON THIS.

    Some computer users really do not care about their privacy but there are others that will not rest until the shift away from current commercial model that invades user privacy is made. Probably it will be hard and long fight but then again RMS was facing huge challenge in regards to software freedom but managed to pull it off and i doubt all of the users cared and praised him for his valuable work.

    The end result of this blog post is somebody that wrote fond of Ubuntu (and this is hard to find these days) is attacked by mindless Ubuntu trolls. Yes your words might be food to some of the Ubuntu fanboy base but what is the reach of folk like that? They are only capable of personal insults on somebody that until yesterday wrote independently and in found of the product you are working on? What the heck did you do?

    Do you believe you persuaded ONE privacy critic with this blog post Ubuntu/Firefox are on the right track and there is nothing wrong and everybody should just blindly trust everything is perfect?

    You probably persuaded all of them to fight hard from now on regarding user privacy. Those trolls in need of the food like this blog post will turn on Ubuntu as soon as they get the chance because trolling is usually not build on solid ground but out of boredom and honestly trying to ignore something by attacking those reporting about it and thinking it will go away? It will not happen! Trolls will go because eventually they will get bored privacy critics will stay. Probably that blog site will not hide privacy issues Ubuntu has anymore from now and AFAIK it did do that respectively until yesterday.

    In a way that is a good thing somebody has to be vocal about issues individual company is trying to cover up. That is why we have independent press in the end and this too is something hard to find these days. Well i guess and hope we have one now when it comes to Ubuntu and privacy issues. That is at least some good that came out of this and lets focus on that.

  7. Raphael Sanches says:

    I agree with RAZVI….
    Canonical, just like Google or any other company that uses open source, only use it because it was easier/cheaper/faster than starting from scratch… Would they love to offer people closed/exclusive software and hold people hostage like Apple does? YES! OF COURSE THEY WOULD! …. so, facing that this is the scenario of technology in these days, we all use Google, Ubuntu, Linux, aware of those facts and the only thing we as users can do is try to DEAL WITH IT! … at the end, we all have to pay the price (our beloved data)… but… we can choose to WHO! … is Google worth it? Ubuntu?….
    In conclusion, the fact that Canonical is trying to make money out of Ubuntu doesn’t bother me, after all, their employees would not agree to work for free …. is HOW they do it! … Canonical has been since the beginning very ROUGH and HARSH about all the scopes/Amazon thing!…. it would not kill/weak them to be more OPEN and HONEST about it (We need to make money in order to develop your favorite OS, guys!)…

    P.S. I guess right now Canonical needs more of the African HUMBLENESS and less of the British ARROGANCE and COCKINESS… : )

    Joke: is RAZVI… changing the blog’s name to IHATEUBUNTU ???? LoL …. : )

  8. sicofante says:

    I’m not sure how ads invade privacy?

    Canonical sends information to Smart Scopes, an engine residing on Canonical’s servers we have no access to. I might worry about that and I do consider that a privacy invasion until it’s opt-in instead of opt-out.

    But how is showing an ad a privacy invasion? Am I missing something?

    • Guest says:

      Yes you are obviously missing something. Each time you open Dash and start typing the data is sent remotely to somebody else too and if this is not an breach of user privacy then i do not know what you think privacy is in the first place.

      Just showing adds and not harvesting user data in return well that might not strictly count as privacy violation that is true but this is not he case here.

      • Jo-Erlend Schinstad says:

        I haven’t seen any documentation to support the claim that Mozilla intends to upload information about the views to anyone. I don’t know if they’ve refuted it either, but it’s certainly not the case that all ads require live feedback. How do you think TV-commercials work? Many companies should be willing to pay Mozilla a fixed price to get some kind of attention in Firefox without requiring any kind of privacy breach.

  9. Lee Reynolds says:

    Firefox is murdering babies, drowning baby seals, torturing widows, and giving money to the DNC.


  10. John says:

    For me people seem to complain too much about things they can fix or avoid. If you don’t like Google’s intrusion upon your privacy then don’t use any of Google’s products.
    Its as if people want everyone to cater to their whims and wants rather then anyone else.
    The fact is that you can choose what browser to use, they are free to try and there is many ways to make them more private and secure. I have to wonder if Mozilla is a hypocrite though. Saying on one hand they value their users privacy but depend on Google for revenue from having Google search as the default engine in Firefox. I essence Mozilla like everyone needs revenue to develop Firefox and pay people to work on it.
    So its not like some open source projects that truly retain that definition. Maybe that’s why many open purists have begun to question if Mozilla is going the way of Canonical
    and Ubuntu and realizing everything has a price. This is nothing really evil about needing a revenue source and yet the true open source community frowns on any influence from private enterprise. Maybe because the users of open source projects love their products, but do little to contribute to support them. Yes, open source is all well and good until I need to help pay for it. Same goes for all the ad haters, and privacy junkies who fear any kind of data mining or web tracking. Yet all this provides all of us with free web sites and open access to services. Mozilla is not evil to turn to revenue sources. Its trying its best to balance what is best for Mozilla vs its users. I think they do better then Google, Apple or Microsoft or Canonical.

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