Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Boycott the Mozilla Corp.

[Editor's note - This post was written by Chris Soghoian, the PhD student, and in no way reflects the opinions, thoughts, or policy of any of my sponsors/employers]

Firefox is now distributed by the Mozilla Corp - a for profit corporation, who, while supporting the open source development of the browser, has recently been flexing a bit of muscle.

In particular, their lawyers want linux distributions to start submitting patches to them for approval before they can be rolled out to their customer base. For critical things like security updates, this is just not possible. Distros want to roll out patches as soon as possible, and waiting for the Firefox team to OK something is just not possible.

Note, that no other open source project has tried to implement such a requirement. The Mozilla/Firefox guys are unique in this.

And essentially, what they've done is told the Debian team to fall in line (as Redhat and Novell have done), or to stop using the Firefox name and logos.

More info on this is available here

Now, one interesting thing is that the Mozilla Corp makes millions of dollars per year through the google search bar in the top right hand corner of the browser. In fact, so does Apple through its Safari browser.

If you go to, and then enter in the search, Mozilla earns nothing at all. If you use their search bar, they make a couple cents (I have no direct knowledge of the actual numbers, but they get something - and it adds up to millions of dollars when spread across all those users). This fact is public knowledge, and has been mentioned in many places:

Now, I'm far too lazy to start going to google's homepage when I search.

So, instead, I whipped up a custom search engine for Firefox.

Simply go to this webpage, and you'll be prompted to install a new search engine for your search bar. The only difference between this custom one and the one that ships with Firefox, is that it won't identify itself to Google as coming from the Firefox toolbar. It'll look like any other search going to Google. And thus the Mozilla corp will be denied my one or two cents per search.

Sure, I like firefox. It's a great product, and far better than IE. However, it's an open sourced product, and I don't approve of them taking advantage of free community resources, debugging and code-contributions only to point their evil lawyers at Debian.

So, suck it Mozilla Corp.


Michael Hampton said...

Mozilla earns money not from Google searches themselves (these COST money!). They, like other premium Google accounts, get a cut of the ad revenues generated when someone clicks an ad on the search results page.

Anonymous said...

OK so how does it cost Mozilla money when someone does a search through the built in search bar?

Anonymous said...

dude, get over it (and yourself). Mozilla is entitled to make money on a product they have produced and are providing to you for free. If Mozilla can't make money, then we'll all be stuck using internet exploder.

I realize you are still in college, but in the real world, things cost money to produce.

Anonymous said...

But they DIDN'T make the product. It's an OPEN SOURCE production, with MANY contributors. It is being managed by Mozilla, but not developed exclusively by them! That's like having a community center create a fantastic piece of artwork, where the entire community contributes something, then putting up posters around it for advertising revenue. They are capitalizing on other peoples good will.

Zeth said...

A very clever and witty solution! Another, (more obvious) solution is to use Epiphany or Konqueror instead.

>Mozilla is entitled to make money on a
>product they have produced and are
>providing to you for free.

Not quite true actually. Much of the original codebase was produced by Netscape who shared in under an open source licence. Mozilla then modified it, and re-released it.

The Mozilla corp are not respecting this culture of sharing and modification, biting the hand that feeds it.

>I realize you are still in college, but
>in the real world, things cost money to produce.

Another miscomprehension, college is the real world!!

Anonymous said...

The software is Free Software, just the name and the logos are "unfree".
You can build the application without branding. Actually that's what you get when you checkout and build the sources without modifications.

"Debian" itself and the corresponding logos are protected themselves... It's fine if they don't want to use the "unfree" MoCo trademarks, but they are not in the position to complain about somebody else.

MoCo makes money from google searches via the search bar. Guess what? I use that bar partly because I can support them by this.
It's not like a greedy mega-corp. is trying to get rich. The money will be spend to support development, infrastructure and contributors.

Next up:
Boycott Debian because they take donations.

It's perfectly reasonable to protect the names and logos (like Debian does). This ensures that people cannot built an ad-fox or similar and sell it as the real deal.
This furthermore ensures a constant quality. Debian guys are known to screw things because they try to apply their system/installation/coding conventions.

Those Debian folks seem to understand the situation: Rename the thing, put up another logo/icon and patch everything you want without being required to get approval by whoever first.

BTW: Where did you hear about those evil lawyers?
Have a look at the actual conversations that took place (e.g. within the bug) and you will see that Mike Connor represented MoCo. And just for your info: He's not a lawyer. He didn't threaten to sue or did other nasty actions lawyers usually do.

Get over it.

Access said...

While they may or may not be doing wrong with the first thing you mentioned.

Their is nothing wrong with making a profit from Firefox by milking Google and not the direct user. I dont mind them making a few cents of me clicking a button.

Anonymous said...

As far as I can tell, firefox the browser is still open source. There are trademark issues though. As Debian has discovered, they can rename the code base and do whatever they want with it. I would bet that if I did took a debian distribution and modified it in some manner that they didn't like and called it Debian, they would scream about it.

I don't think that the Mozilla foundation is doing anything extreme. After all, debin took the firefox source and basically renamed it. So what if they couldn't call it by the same name.

As for earning money through Google search, petition the distros to choose another search engine. Isn't it a good thing for the Mozilla foundation to be able to make some money to afford to pay all of the developers and infrastructure requirments? Would you prefer to pay for your browser? Of course, you do get IE and Safari for free when you buy the OS right? (The last is supposed to be sarcastic.)

Anonymous said...

Dude, so what. I hope firefox does well with it. I don't like the patch ideals, but then again, we can all write our own can't we?

Anonymous said...

uhm, mozilla corporation is a wholely owned subsidiary of the mozilla foundation, a 501(c)3 charitable organization -- it exists to properly manage funds raised in certain ways as required by law to channel them back to the mozilla foundation so that the mozilla foundation can continue to do their work. Talking about the mozilla corporation in this way without acknowledging the mozilla foundation which owns it I feel is misleading.

So, don't use their google browser window. There are plenty of other browsers and research tools one can add to mozilla. whoop de doo.

As far as what they told debian and others, it is essentially required for trademark protection and image protection. While Debian could most likely be trusted with patching the browser where necessary -- in order to maintain the validity of firefox so that firefox users know what they're getting, mozilla essentially needs to do this. Imagine if someone were to roll into an 'official' firefox some sort of back-door or other item that would somehow tarnish the image of mozilla/firefox. If they are going to tell tiny Joe Q. Keyboard not to do this, then they need to be consistent.

As far as security patches go -- with nightly builds, and the technical knowledge of the mozilla developers, surely they are the ones who can best make sure these issues are covered. I would hope that anybody not a part of the mozilla team finding (and then writing fixes) security problems would already be working with and sending them back to the mozilla team as soon as they are found.

Anonymous said...

"Another miscomprehension, college is the real world!!

By Zeth, at 5:13 PM"

Obviously someone has not existed in the real world if they think that college is the real world. College is a place to gather facts and learn how to learn. The real world is where one learns how the facts apply and how to benefit (whether others or self) with the application of knowledge.
Remember - lots of people who've never been in college or not completed college have contributed signficantly to society - er - the real world. :) thanks for reading my rant.

Anonymous said...

This is completely ridiculous - that google give them money is great for open source software - it means the best web browser is open source and developed by a corporation and charitable foundation which is committed to open source and browser research. This funding means that this will always be the case, it doesn't cost you anything - the money comes from one of the richest corporations in the world. This money either goes to Mozilla or Google keeps it - why would you be in favour of that ??

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think Mozilla getting money from Google searches borders on the murky waters of AdWare.

Opera's old "free" version used to have ads that would display at the top of the browser and would give money to Opera for every click through. Firefox has an ad for Google and gives money for "click throughs" for searching in just the same way? Where's the difference?

Anonymous said...

Firefox is not the best web browser. I see this has become some sort of mantra lately. Open source - yes, which is a good thing, but not the best.

Anonymous said...

"But they DIDN'T make the product. It's an OPEN SOURCE production, with MANY contributors. It is being managed by Mozilla, but not developed exclusively by them! That's like having a community center create a fantastic piece of artwork, where the entire community contributes something, then putting up posters around it for advertising revenue. They are capitalizing on other peoples good will."

Yeah, but think of this this way - an Art Gallery contains the work of many artists - yet advertising the shows are essential, so that people will know it exists. The gallery doesn't create this work, but without the small amount of revenue it needs to support the shows, the art will NEVER get seen.

At some point EVERY open source project has to deal with financial realities just as at some point every college student has to step into the real world.

Opera has been around for FAR longer than Firefox, but the Fox is the only real threat to IE, because it is actively advertised - "Grass Roots" is great in theory - but anyone who works in business knows that you have to spend money to get even a really good product to the masses. That money has to come from somewhere - and in this case they have opted to take it from google instead of making you watch annoying banner ads.

Dealing with life in a complex society is all about making compromises. This particular compromise is one I can live with.

And "anonymous" didn't say Mozilla "Made" the product - he said they produced it. Which means they coordinate it - which I'm sure means Quality Control, Advertising and a lot of line items that someone has to pay for.

I love open-source, but the world is not a free place, and if the money didn't come from somewhere, the product would not exist (or would not be nearly as good as it is - or have an much adoption).

When FireFox starts forcing banner ads in the header bars, THEN you can gripe - until then, this is a battle not worth fighting.

Anonymous said...

"Opera's old "free" version used to have ads that would display at the top of the browser and would give money to Opera for every click through. Firefox has an ad for Google and gives money for "click throughs" for searching in just the same way? Where's the difference?"

Opera's ads were additional garbage on the screen. Firefox makes money on the ads that google displays, reguardless of where your search is coming from. (I dont even know if they paid for the sponsored results click or just using google)

I understand where mozilla is coming from. As was posted above, it deals with credibility. If Debian (or anyone really) releases an update to FF (not a plugin, an update) it leads the common dumb dumb to think that the update represents Mozilla... if something is buggy with the update, Mozilla takes the PR hit.

So they make money from my web browsing, they dont spy on me, they dont throw any extra ads at me... If I didnt read the news, there would be no noticable way for me to even know about it. So who cares? The only one "suffering" is google (but they get to be FF's default search location in exchange, so they dont "suffer" much)

Anonymous said...

Wow... I am startled at all the reasons in this blog that justify the need to authorize changes to an open source program... This is clearly to me, changing the nature of the software, from open source to a semi commercial software. I know there are plenty of reasons that can be used to justify that this is the right thing to do, but I believe that they are changing the open source to a commercial free software, and probably they will later create a licensed software.
Also, I find this issue on quality a bit unrealistic. I don't believe open source products are good at first. I believe they are bad, and they become good because many people with diverse needs contribute to them and make them simple and universal. So I agree, in some way this to me is being unrespectful to the contributors, specially when the contribution was made on the basis that this is an OPEN SOURCE program. The problem is that the contributors cannot sue the company, because they don't know each other, and are not in groups that can act... so they have been fooled working for an OPEN SOURCE that is becoming not so open. I completely agree with the initial blog.
On the other hand, I don't find a need to create a program or so, so that mozilla does not get its money. Simply, their rules will make the browser updates less frequent, by less people, and at the end a better browser will be created somewhere else. Let's just sit and wait.

Anonymous said...

Sad to see that in retaliation you want to go straight for the jugular, cut off their revenue. Especially, considering you want to continue using their Products. Why not just move to another browser instead?

I can understand why Mozilla would want Debian to honor the trademark requirements for Firefox and Thunderbird.

Anonymous said...

Let debian do whatever they want with the source code. If they want to make Iceweasel with the code then they can. Thats the great thing about open source; anyone can do anything with the code. If you want to give cash to firefox, then use firefox. If you don't then use iceweasel or the plugin. This is a case where there is no right or wrong. Its all about freedom of choice.

BTW: College is not the real world...

Seth Thomas Rasmussen said...

To all those averse to the notion of a "real" world,

Please stop acknowledging the arrogant, insecure individuals staring down the other side of the hill and not liking what they see. They'll either learn to take it out on the rest of their life instead of those still living theirs, or they'll eventually tire of being ignored and quiety implode.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for opening my eyes. I feel used when I read they make $72 million from Google!

Anonymous said...

The basis of OPEN SOURCE is to freely share ideas and create projects (successfully one hopes) without the constraints of profit and business.

Quoting what the 3rd poster said:
"dude, get over it (and yourself). Mozilla is entitled to make money on a product they have produced and are providing to you for free. If Mozilla can't make money, then we'll all be stuck using internet exploder.

I realize you are still in college, but in the real world, things cost money to produce."

1) This is an open source software and it is based off of the GNU-GPL license. Per the license, they (Mozilla Corp.) are not allowed to make any profit or money off of it. Unfortunately the counter argument is that the integrated search bar is considered "Google's" proprietary software. But as it stands, no one can make any profit off of a software product that is open-sourced and is based using the GNU-GPL license.

2) If we didn't have firefox, there are other alternative browsers out there besides it. Openly, I use the Opera browser more than FireFox. Another is Maxthon (aka MyIE2). You can also find several more just by googling "open source browsers". And no we won't be stuck using IE.

3) A lot of open source projects don't cost their respective teams any money out of pocket. It may cost them a lot of time, creativity, and other costs. But seeing how a lot of people (myself included) support open source, we value what we produce and/or what we contribute. So the community is willing to overlook some costs associated with open source projects/software.

4) If you read his website (official), you will find, he is attending a college for his Ph.D. He is well past the normal university/college stage. Not to mention he has already graduated from John Hopkins' graduate school.

Michael Hampton said...

From my own stats, I can tell you it comes out to about a cent per a few dozen searches (I don't have the exact number handy). This just comes off the top of the gross ad revenue.

Anonymous said...

Interesting argument, boycott mozilla. But it's getting around to Xmas and it's the end of the year when I think over which open source, shareware and freeware companies have done me the most good. Then I send them money. And I have to say, mozilla ranks.

So that means directly that I want those folks, who have improved so many people's lives through their vision of open source, to go home to their families with more than otherwise would have been the case.

Therefore, respectfully, I would like better than a custom search that gets them nothing instead of credit for one click, credit for three.....

PS: Is college the real world? Interesting question. As noted by Han Ji, most intellectuals are little more than petty scoundrels. But interpreting and understanding a statement of that sort isn't done in a 30 second sound bite, actually it takes the better part of a 50 minute lecture. Wait a minute...that IS the format in colleges....

Aiiii!!! we're doomed!!! Doomed I say!! All doomed.....

Anonymous said...

What I would like to see is a system that pays open source developers for fixing bugs and other contributions to mozilla.