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.