Kind letter to Mozilla’s management

I'm a simple user and no product strategist whatsoever, so please see the following as a personal opinion. Still, as somebody who has been using Firefox non-stop for the past 12 years, I believe I know where Firefox's strengths lie, and therefore I want to share the following ideas to stabilize or increase usage numbers:

- Facts are facts: the number of MAU is dropping, and this needs to be taken seriously. But Mozilla and its employees, and this sub should realize that nothing is lost yet. They have +190 million monthly active users that prefer their browser over others. That's a large user base that should be cared for and listened too! So rule no. 1: ENGAGE MORE WITH THE COMMUNITY. Make them feel respected and comfortable in the Mozilla family. Make product managers read and also reply on Discourse and Ideas topics. Now users barely get any response when posting there. Regard criticism as valuable feedback, and act upon it. It will spark enthusiasm within the community, whose members in turn will convince other users.

- BRING BACK CUSTOMIZATION AND POWER FEATURES: bring back a fully supported Compact Mode, as a first proof user feedback (nr. 1 on ideas.mozilla.org) is really taken into account and Firefox wants to accommodate for different users' preferences. Simplification hasn't countered dropping usage numbers, on the contrary, it has alienated or even pushed away loyal users. Have a look at Vivaldi regarding customization options. Come up with new, innovative features (e.g. bookmark tags, which Vivaldi doesn't have). Finally extend the WebExtensions API (promised at the time of FF57), in close dialogue with addon developers, to differentiate Firefox addons from less powerful extensions in other browsers (e.g. uBlock Origin, which works best in Firefox).

- SEARCH FOR SMART AND CHEAP WAYS TO PROMOTE THE FIREFOX BRAND. Again, engage with the community to help building viral campaigns. Create short video tutorials to show off Firefox's unique features and how they actually work. Look for partners that have the same FOSS or privacy-focused mindset (DuckDuckGo, Signal, ...) and campaign together.

- TAKE CARE OF YOUR EMPLOYEES. They are your most valuable asset. Create a culture wherein knowledge is shared and new ideas are discussed/PoC'ed, and active engagement with the community is seen as obligatory to build great products.

I realize this has been brought forward and discussed already multiple times on this sub, but I felt the need to let my voice be heard.

Please upvote if you share my ideas, and downvote if you don't. Please keep the discussion civilized. Thanks for reading!

43 thoughts on “Kind letter to Mozilla’s management”

  1. > this needs to be taken seriously

    The only way that’ll start changing is by having all “abandon your current software, use our own instead” prompts from large tech vendors banned.

    Its one reason an auction model for a mobile ballot was condemned from the start. No matter how mozilla obtains an install on either desktop or mobile (even by paying), google will disrespect that choice by spamming users of its websites with endless requests to abandon their current browser and installing/using chrome.

    The hard enforcement part is that prompts are not easy to track as theyre not fixed website code, but dynamically displayed to website visitors on unclear frequency and not systematically to all so google can claim it only reaches a very small number of visitors or is part of a/b tests.

    > SEARCH FOR SMART AND CHEAP WAYS TO PROMOTE THE FIREFOX BRAND

    Gotta agree that advocacy seriously collapsed after mozilla dreamed itself becoming a behemot with firefoxos. Theres almost none going on, wether stimulated from users, scriptmakers or popular websites. It doesnt pay to advocate for firefox, not even in imaginary internet points.

    Mozilla couldve acquired for *insanely* cheap both tumbler and deviantart. Sites this huge wouldve given it a large audience to display ads to, promote firefox to, and even take payments for in exchange for services like access to features or higher quotas. Revenues dont have to be earned through mozilla-branded initiatives (a fatal mistake to chain them to a browser’s decreasing marketshare), all they need is being mozilla-owned, sustaining themselves and contributing to mozco’s total income. IMO theres no alternative but to own or otherwise control web services and have those crosspromoting each others.

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  2. I think Firefox’s biggest issue is reliability. I’m forced to use two browsers because apparently it’s tired of playing videos. To be honest, that pales in comparison to the ridiculous amount of time it takes to share tabs between devices. Some tabs are literally arriving two days late! Then there’s payment information. I’d like to enter it on one website and have Firefox remember that. I don’t want to go through complex menus or sing hallelujahs before I can save my card details.

    I don’t care about flexibility and extensibility. All I and a bunch of regular people want is a browser that does what it says on the tin, and so far the Fox is failing to provide even that.

    Until that’s resolved you can expect MAUs to keep tumbling.

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  3. Like users, browser devs are in a constant arms race against advertisers and other abusers.

    And you have an increasing range of screen technology, screen sizes, and screen resolution, which may explain some of the layout redesigns. Unfortunately they also get caught up in web fads, which explains some of the layout redesign failures. I haven’t been able to scroll about:preferences since FF 56 and yes, I’ve reported the bug.

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  4. Wow, mate. This is essentially what firefox needs. If they do what you’ve said they’ll make a turnaround. This is exactly what they need.

    Hopefully ,they read this and do what you’ve told

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  5. 40+ million users lost in just three years. It’s pretty clear that Quantum/Proton/whatever-that-address-bar-thing-was didn’t help anything, in fact it probably accelerated the decline.

    Mozilla, you better start fixing your act.

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  6. > BRING BACK CUSTOMIZATION AND POWER FEATURES

    Especially on mobile, the new Android browser feels very bare-bones.

    Edit : only realised the formatting issue now

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  7. firefox was largest when its website was marketed as an open source movement. i, a lonely user with zero coding skills, visited that site and posted on it daily. i promoted it aggressively like a zealot, and deleted IE shorcuts replacing them with firefox, without even asking, on every computer I saw. don’t even remember the address now or have any idea what equivalent community engagement site. Mozilla, plz make me your zealot again, i will go to war for you.

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  8. Oh they absolutely know they’re in trouble, but management has no idea how to turn this trainwreck around. They’ve thrown so many things at the wall already and nothing has stuck. Of course, it may also be true that products like Firefox no longer have any place in this modern software environment

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  9. It’s weird that people use Chrome and just don’t care to understand that every single website they go to is reported and recorded on the google mothership. I think you can clear this in your account somewhere – but people don’t know or care to. And if you tell them they just flippantly say “oh you’re tracked anyway”.. I’ll use safari or Firefox and even Edge over Chrome. Why would you give google all your shit for free? If anything they should be paying me to use Chrome.

    I partly wonder if the users are dropping because of the relatively lacklustre browser of Firefox on mobile. This is partly apples fault for not allowing a true web browser on the iPhone. And Android users…well they’re already on the mothership so they use Chrome. I do use Firefox focus though alongside safari. Mostly to get past the paywalls on websites like The Atlantic, and to do random searches on the random thoughts that pop into my head like “how good was the rock at football anyway?” And then google “Dwayne Johnson CFL stats”

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  10. Firefox’s greatest thing used to be customizability. We’ve seen that go down the drain as devs take away flags, options, and force needless UI changes on us. I love Firefox, but I haven’t used it since the last update where they turned tabs into shitty floating buttons (using chromium based Edge since, it’s pretty great). If Firefox would stop going down the Google-esque path of “we know what’s best for you, shut up and suck it” maybe they wouldn’t be losing their already niche userbase.

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  11. We all want Firefox to succeed, and the technology itself is much better than Chrome… But Mozilla also needs to start respecting its user base more again. That is why Phoenix 0.1 started in the first place, and attracted so many users from crusty stale Seamonkey. Go back to that philosophy Mozilla!

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  12. >They have +190 million monthly active users that prefer their browser over others.

    This is what I find crazy when they remove something and say it’s not coming back, because it was only used by 1-3% of their users.

    Its like they get up and say, “Ok so lets just alienate 5 million users!”

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  13. Maybe Firefox should team up with DuckDuckGo and ditch Google for the ad revenue. I know that would be a huge financial hit, but I honestly believe a lot of the stifling in innovation lately has been due to Google’s stranglehold over Firefox.

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  14. That was lovely! But for years now FF will not fix the problem of double FFs opening on Mac OS when clicking on a link – ie that comes in an email or text. I, too, have been a long time user of FF, I think since close to their birth/beginning. Yet their continual ignoring of this issue finally drove me away from using them – and I do miss FF.

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  15. I think Mozilla should sue Microsoft and Google on abuse of monopoly. Engineers are giving blood and tears, this is the minimum they could do to appreciate their work. They could easily fill 30 pages of reasons

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  16. I think you’d get farther by actually contacting Mozilla. It’s not that we can’t discuss here. It’s just that you’re preaching to the choir. You went to the trouble to write all this. Why not ensure that it gets to the people who can act on it?

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  17. In my controversial opinion, Mozilla CEO acts as if she’s a Trojan horse. She’s continuously enriched herself while de-prioritizing critical aspects of long-term sustainability of Firefox development and launching soul-searching request campaigns targeted at tech bad-actors like Facebook.

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  18. As an automation engineer, I try to keep firefox and geckodriver in the loop, but it is very hard to keep up with chromium when it keeps crashing on the same code chromium runs well. Especially javacode execution.

    I have deadlines to meet.

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  19. Also Mozilla needs to stay out of politics, and not call for “Increased Censorship”, at least pretend to be neutral…

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  20. \*shrugs\* I mean, just making patches that say Firefox and having a separate FF logo patch might be all FF needs to keep the community together and might even bring them closer!

    They could also be a bit more user friendly by alt texting the features they have(an undertaking) with it’s uses and do so with past features, unless some features were dropped due to privacy concerns.

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  21. I don’t think the management is up to what’s going wrong. Or management is the root cause. I thought about getting some sort of fundraising up to make a (considerably huge donation) to Mozilla, combined with a demand (and a requirement) to get the top 10 community requests done. This would raise awareness about the problems to the management.

    Is anyone out there who did something similar (fundraising for a donation) before and thinks, this is a brilliant idea?

    (Yes, my first post, registered just now to post this comment 😉 )

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  22. Most of the resources spent on marketing should be instead spent on improving the product. When the product is great, users will do most of the marketing for you.

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  23. I DON’ WANT PROTON.

    IT HINDERS THE WAY I WORK AND CUTS DOWN MY PRODUCTIVITY, BESIDES LOOKING SILLY AND EVEN STUPID.

    Firefox: STOP TRYING TO BE LIKE OTHERs. STICK WITH YOUR OWN PERSONALITY.

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  24. Customization and power features!

    The Add-Ons/Extensions seemed limited and amateurish. I don’t need as many add-ons/extensions in Vivaldi because features are baked-in. Firefox killed itself in becoming so simple and streamlined, it no longer differentiated itself. Although I prefer FF over Edge and Chrome, it still was not compatible enough with Chromium based browsers, so when I switched from Basilisk the choice was Vivaldi.

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  25. Firefox is a division of Google now. You’re better off using whichever flavour of non-offiical Firefox build appeals to you (Librewolf, Waterfox, Basilisk, et al) until the bottom falls out of that and Gecko can no longer communicate with the web. After that, it’ll be Blink and nothing else for a while until it drives people stir crazy enough to create a new browser.

    When that happens, I hope it’s more like Phoenix 0.1

    What I mean by that is that the browser itself is just a barebones rendering engine with powerful extendibility that can be programmed on top as extensions. The basic browser has the back, forward, home, reload/stop buttons, and an address bar, if all of that, and nothing else. All other extendibility would be done by extensions, even things like a tab bar. This way, people could choose which UI extension versions they awnt, fork UI extension projects, and so on, all without it affecting the security, stability, or efficacy of the underlying rendering engine. This would put the power to tailor the browser back into the hands of the users, which was what made Firefox so popular in the first place—it was a wave of empowering the user that began all the way back with Phoenix 0.1, then Firebird, and only really started dropping off sometime after Firefox 4.0 (too much bloat).

    There’s a tyranny, I feel, in linking features to security patches. This is why I lament the loss of software that didn’t hold us hostage in such a way, and hope for a renaissance of software that will choose not to again.

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