98 votes

I am a Mozilla employee, AMAA

Hi everybody, happy Friday! I am Aaron Klotz, a Staff Software Engineer on the GeckoView team at Mozilla Corporation.

I have worked at Mozilla since the fall of 2012 and have worked on three different teams across that time: Performance, Platform Integration & Security Hardening, and finally GeckoView.

Given the recent news about layoffs, I thought it might be cathartic to do an AMA to share my experiences at Mozilla and try to set the record straight the best that I can. I would not dare try this in other forums, but since the Tildes community is capable of civil discussion, I'll do it here! I provided some proof a long time ago when I first joined Tildes, and I'd like to think that many people in this community are willing to vouch for me at this point, but if you want more, I can add it.

Obviously I cannot discuss issues that are covered by my NDA (but fortunately most issues are not covered), and some details I might want to avoid out of sensitivity for people who were laid off. AMAA!

EDIT 1: Also to make clear (if it wasn't obvious): These opinions are mine and mine alone, do not reflect the opinion of any Mozilla entity, etc. etc.

EDIT 2: I'm logging off for the night, but I'll try to follow up throughout the weekend if I have time. Thanks for all the questions! Hopefully I've cleared up some things for you!

EDIT 3: Okay, I think I've gone through the other questions asked over the weekend, but I'm going to stop now! Thanks for your interest! Now, I've got a mobile browser to help build!

67 comments

  1. [8]
    jgb
    Link
    Hi, thanks for all your work. As a proud Firefox user and evangelist, I nonetheless cannot help but feel that Mozilla is losing the browser war, possibly irrecoverably. Multiple implementations...

    Hi, thanks for all your work. As a proud Firefox user and evangelist, I nonetheless cannot help but feel that Mozilla is losing the browser war, possibly irrecoverably. Multiple implementations are the only way to ensure web standards remain open, so it is of the utmost importance that Firefox remains relevant and targeted by web developers. For a company established to maintain a web browser, some of Mozilla's decisions can look quite bewildering to an outsider - reminiscent of the well known xkcd about Google ditching everything to focus on the 8.8.8.8 DNS Server.

    To what extent are you confident that Firefox can stay relevant in the browser marketplace and keep the web open and out of the custodianship of tech megacorps? How well do you think Mozilla is being steered?

    37 votes
    1. [7]
      dblohm7
      Link Parent
      As I mentioned in another response, it's really hard if other organizations don't start stepping up to the plate. Another issue is what Joel Spolsky once referred to as Fire and Motion. Chrome has...

      To what extent are you confident that Firefox can stay relevant in the browser marketplace and keep the web open and out of the custodianship of tech megacorps?

      As I mentioned in another response, it's really hard if other organizations don't start stepping up to the plate. Another issue is what Joel Spolsky once referred to as Fire and Motion. Chrome has effectively limitless resources to pour into adding new features to the web platform. As long as smaller projects are stuck struggling with keeping up to feature parity, those projects don't have the resources to actually work on anything above and beyond that.

      How well do you think Mozilla is being steered?

      I have to steer (heh) clear of this one, I'm afraid. Not because of NDA or anything like that, but as long as I'm still an employee, I do not wish to discuss it.

      25 votes
      1. [2]
        jgb
        Link Parent
        I appreciate your response. Since you've answered a lot of Very Serious big picture questions in this AMA, mine included, here's a more light-hearted one - what is the most satisfying problem or...

        I appreciate your response. Since you've answered a lot of Very Serious big picture questions in this AMA, mine included, here's a more light-hearted one - what is the most satisfying problem or bug you've solved during your time working at Mozilla?

        10 votes
        1. dblohm7
          Link Parent
          That's an easy one: This bug was also a personal career highlight of mine. Even Raymond Chen (if you know who he is) linked to that blog post!

          what is the most satisfying problem or bug you've solved during your time working at Mozilla?

          That's an easy one: This bug was also a personal career highlight of mine. Even Raymond Chen (if you know who he is) linked to that blog post!

          11 votes
      2. [4]
        PendingKetchup
        Link Parent
        Never knew Joel was an Israeli paratrooper.

        When I was an Israeli paratrooper

        Never knew Joel was an Israeli paratrooper.

        3 votes
        1. jgb
          Link Parent
          This line rather caught me off guard! Not the sort of phrase you often encounter on software blogs.

          This line rather caught me off guard! Not the sort of phrase you often encounter on software blogs.

          3 votes
  2. [6]
    dblohm7
    Link
    Will anybody please ask me something about the Servo layoffs? I really want to discuss those! :-P

    Will anybody please ask me something about the Servo layoffs? I really want to discuss those! :-P

    20 votes
    1. [2]
      moocow1452
      Link Parent
      Gee Aaron, I've heard about them there Servo layoffs, and I was in need of a hot take in order to take back to my friends and relatives as my own opinion. Would you happen to have one I could borrow?

      Gee Aaron, I've heard about them there Servo layoffs, and I was in need of a hot take in order to take back to my friends and relatives as my own opinion. Would you happen to have one I could borrow?

      16 votes
      1. dblohm7
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        That gave me a huge bellylaugh, @moocow1452, thank you! 🤣 Setting the Stage First let's talk about how Servo fit into MoCo. Servo was part of the Emerging Technologies (ET) group, formerly known...
        • Exemplary

        Gee Aaron, I've heard about them there Servo layoffs, and I was in need of a hot take in order to take back to my friends and relatives as my own opinion. Would you happen to have one I could borrow?

        That gave me a huge bellylaugh, @moocow1452, thank you! 🤣

        Setting the Stage

        First let's talk about how Servo fit into MoCo.

        Servo was part of the Emerging Technologies (ET) group, formerly known as "Mozilla Research." Think of places like Xerox PARC, or Microsoft Research, or one of the less-crazy Google moonshots. Their job was to try to look off into the horizon, not a year or two from now, but five to ten years from now, try to envision where the internet will be going, and experiment with new ideas that could potentially be used by MoCo once that future arrives.

        When MoCo seemed to be more flush with cash, it made sense to be doing this. Rust was incubated out of Mozilla Research, and we're damn happy that it did. But a research arm with a 5-10 year horizon only makes sense to continue funding if:

        • You have gobs of extra cash to throw around; and
        • You expect those gobs of cash to last long enough to actually be able to benefit from that investment in 5 to 10 years.

        At MoCo, the former is not true anymore, and the certainty of the latter is in doubt by the public.

        I doubt that any execs felt good about cutting ET, but if you are short on resources and forced to choose between allocating them either to the short-term or to the long-term, you only have once choice you can make.

        EDIT: I have removed the remaining content of this post. Emotions were running high last week because of both the layoffs and some social media nonsense that was happening during the fallout. Unfortunately those emotions led me writing out some thoughts that conveyed themselves really vindictively, and that is neither what I wanted nor was it fair to the Servo team. For that, I apologize.

        (And no, nobody put me up to editing this, but since this is The Internets I fully expect everybody to accuse me of lying anyway. C'est la vie!)

        28 votes
    2. [3]
      Death
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I'll bite: How much impact do you think this will have on the Servo project? Does this mean Mozilla no longer considers projects like Servo viable? Does this have any implications for other,...

      I'll bite:

      1. How much impact do you think this will have on the Servo project?
      2. Does this mean Mozilla no longer considers projects like Servo viable? Does this have any implications for other, future Rust projects at Mozilla?
      3. What does this mean for the future of Rust and Mozilla? Are they going their separate ways?

      And also finally:

      Will you pour one out for the MDN people too? I feel like they're deserving of some attention too given how geniunely excellent the MDN has been for years.

      15 votes
      1. Flashynuff
        Link Parent
        I also wanted to ask about MDN. I would be lost without it.

        I also wanted to ask about MDN. I would be lost without it.

        9 votes
      2. dblohm7
        Link Parent
        Hard to say. I mean, the code isn't going anywhere. It easily could be resumed or forked. It probably depends on whether any Servo devs get paid to work on it again. See my other response. No...
        1. How much impact do you think this will have on the Servo project?

        Hard to say. I mean, the code isn't going anywhere. It easily could be resumed or forked. It probably depends on whether any Servo devs get paid to work on it again.

        1. Does this mean Mozilla no longer considers projects like Servo viable?

        See my other response.

        Does this have any implications for other, future Rust projects at Mozilla?

        No implications. We will continue to use Rust when it makes sense to do so.

        1. What does this mean for the future of Rust and Mozilla? Are they going their separate ways?

        No. The governance of the Rust project had already been well distributed outside of Mozilla up to this point, and there is so much enthusiasm for Rust as a language that it will be able to stand on its own. We will continue to use it.

        Will you pour one out for the MDN people too? I feel like they're deserving of some attention too given how geniunely excellent the MDN has been for years.

        Amen to that!

        7 votes
  3. [2]
    kfwyre
    (edited )
    Link
    Thanks for putting yourself out there, and thanks for being a force for good on an increasingly hostile web! My question is more of a personal one, but what are you most proud of accomplishing in...

    Thanks for putting yourself out there, and thanks for being a force for good on an increasingly hostile web! My question is more of a personal one, but what are you most proud of accomplishing in your time at Mozilla?

    19 votes
    1. dblohm7
      Link Parent
      Thank you for the question! This is the kind of catharsis I was hoping for! From a personal development perspective: I had a terrible case of impostor syndrome when I went to Mozilla. In 2015 they...

      what are you most proud of accomplishing in your time at Mozilla?

      Thank you for the question! This is the kind of catharsis I was hoping for!

      From a personal development perspective: I had a terrible case of impostor syndrome when I went to Mozilla. In 2015 they flew me to San Francisco to help Adobe fix some hangs that they were seeing when running Flash inside Firefox on Windows 8. I came up with the fix to the problem and impressed my Senior Director enough that he called my work out in a Mozilla-wide meeting. It was a pivotal moment for me because his generosity in praise for my work finally made me feel like I belonged.

      From a technical perspective: I am most proud of the work I did over 2018 and 2019 to give Firefox better ways of detecting and preventing injection of third-party DLLs into Firefox processes. It basically drew upon all of the programming knowledge I have accumulated over the course of my life into one single project. It's not something that end users would notice, but it is important for improving security and stability.

      25 votes
  4. [2]
    Death
    Link
    This is a shot-in-the-dark question but I'll ask anyways: what is going on with Thunderbird? I don't mean that as in "did people working on TB get fired", but more generally: why is Thunderbird...

    This is a shot-in-the-dark question but I'll ask anyways: what is going on with Thunderbird?

    I don't mean that as in "did people working on TB get fired", but more generally: why is Thunderbird such an afterthought for Mozilla, when it is probably one of the few viable alternatives for Outlook or native mail apps in terms of desktop mail applications.

    Specifically what baffles me is things like TB needing a paid plugin to work with Exchange, when it seems to me like building that functionality in the core app, or even selling it as a "pro" version could be an extremely lucrative avenue for Mozilla.

    And perhaps that could lead into another perhaps unanswerable, but still interesting question: why isn't Mozilla looking at enterprise software, is it just not a sector it can reasonably expect to get a foot in the door?

    15 votes
    1. dblohm7
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      To understand my answer to this, you need to take a look at Mozilla's Mission. Essentially our topmost leadership decided that Thunderbird's ability to contribute to furthering Mozilla's mission...

      why is Thunderbird such an afterthought for Mozilla

      To understand my answer to this, you need to take a look at Mozilla's Mission.

      Essentially our topmost leadership decided that Thunderbird's ability to contribute to furthering Mozilla's mission was limited, so they ceased contributing MoCo resources to its development. Their line of thinking was that they do not really see how a free email client works to build a better and safer internet. I am paraphrasing their argument, and I'm not saying I agree or disagree with it, but it is what it is. So Thunderbird ended up languishing for a few years until its volunteers convinced the Foundation to stand up a special subsidiary with some seed funding to continue TB development. My understanding is that Thunderbird is now funded completely independently of MoCo and has a few paid staff members working on it again.

      why isn't Mozilla looking at enterprise software

      We've had problems thinking about enterprise in the past. I think there were people within Mozilla who didn't really think we had a high-enough profile in enterprise for it to be worth caring about beyond providing the ESR builds. Some data emerged that told us otherwise, so we finally got serious about supporting enterprise features like group policies, Windows Installer, things like that. But we still don't have things like paid enterprise support.

      The good news is that it sounds like there are people who are starting to become more aware of the enterprise segment. No promises though.

      EDIT: Added correction based in info from TB people.

      14 votes
  5. [2]
    Flashynuff
    Link
    Thank you for doing this! I've seen your comments on Mozilla topics here, and they've always been enlightening. It truly sucks that Mozilla is in this position. Do you think that Mozilla's...

    Thank you for doing this! I've seen your comments on Mozilla topics here, and they've always been enlightening. It truly sucks that Mozilla is in this position.

    Do you think that Mozilla's attempts to diversify revenue with VPN, Pocket, etc will be enough? I'm not sure that I can imagine a worse situation than having your primary revenue stream be dependent on your biggest competitor.

    How does this affect the future of Firefox on Android (Fenix included)?

    14 votes
    1. dblohm7
      Link Parent
      Not on their own. I think that the only way this stabilizes is for Firefox Desktop usage to increase, Firefox Mobile usage to increase, and for at least one of the ancillary products to become...

      Do you think that Mozilla's attempts to diversify revenue with VPN, Pocket, etc will be enough?

      Not on their own. I think that the only way this stabilizes is for Firefox Desktop usage to increase, Firefox Mobile usage to increase, and for at least one of the ancillary products to become popular enough that it is making a significant contribution to our revenues.

      How does this affect the future of Firefox on Android (Fenix included)?

      We lost a couple people in the mobile group, but thankfully were mostly untouched. Our goal is still to provide the best possible browsing experience on Android.

      Given that Firefox for Android relies on Gecko, and they saw much more significant changes than we did, I think that it will take some time to see what the fallout is in that team, but broadly speaking we're pushing forward.

      14 votes
  6. [2]
    Death
    Link
    Thank you for doing this AMA! I've always enjoyed your perspective on Mozilla-related threads. You've said before that developing a browser engine is hugely complex these days so I have two...

    Thank you for doing this AMA! I've always enjoyed your perspective on Mozilla-related threads.

    You've said before that developing a browser engine is hugely complex these days so I have two questions (because I'm greedy)

    1. What has changed compared to before that has made browsers so much more complex?
    2. What, in your view, is taking up most of the Firefox team's time in development?
    13 votes
    1. dblohm7
      Link Parent
      This is a great question! So great, in fact, that my answer comes with a preamble! One of the criticisms that Mozilla often faces is that it just seems to some people like we aren't producing...
      1. What has changed compared to before that has made browsers so much more complex?

      This is a great question! So great, in fact, that my answer comes with a preamble!

      One of the criticisms that Mozilla often faces is that it just seems to some people like we aren't producing enough output relative to the size of our budget. But (and you @Death obviously understand this) this view is misguided because it uses a woefully outdated concept of what a web browser actually is. Usually the people who make that criticism have in their mind the idea of what Netscape was in 1995: A glorified document viewer, more or less.

      What is the modern web browser? It is a self-contained JIT-ted JavaScript interpreter, development environment, and framework for displaying hardware-accelerated UI and accessing system resources in a controlled way. Web browser codebases are massive, and in fact, if the internet is to be believed, contain more lines of code than some operating systems.

      Some of the biggest culprits that led us here:

      • JIT compilation of JavaScript;
      • AJAX and the emergence of the "single-page application" (thanks GMail!);
      • Hardware-accelerated graphics;
      • Developer tools that included debuggers and profilers;
      • Significantly broadened scope of web APIs;
      • Efforts to offload features that previously were manually coded in JS into built-in browser capabilities;
      • Increased security features necessarily to make all of the above happen as safely as possible.

      (This list is obviously not exhaustive! 🙂)

      1. What, in your view, is taking up most of the Firefox team's time in development?

      In terms of what is taking the most time, I honestly do not think there is a single item that I could call out.

      What I can call out are some of the highest priorities (though keep in mind, as my background is in engine work as opposed to front-end GUI-ish features, I am going to be biased toward the former):

      • Project Fission (aka Site Isolation or process-per-origin): This is essentially a massive refactoring of our DOM and multiprocess code so that we can allocate web content to child processes in a way that we can actually host a tab's web content across multiple processes depending on origin. This is an important defense-in-depth mitigation for SPECTRE and other similar attacks.
      • 100% deployment of WebRender. I think this took a lot longer than originally anticipated to move from the experimental stage (as part of Servo) into production on Firefox release. We're finally starting to see the finish line off in the horizon, though!
      • The JavaScript team is rewriting a bunch of stuff in their JIT compiler that will give us significant performance improvements, especially on JS-heavy sites where we have traditionally performed poorly, such as GDocs. They're also working on a new parser front-end written in Rust, which is exciting!
      20 votes
  7. [4]
    nacho
    Link
    What are your views on the direction Mozilla is headed in? Do you think Mozilla's business model means they can compete with the other major companies/products in the space? How is morale among...

    What are your views on the direction Mozilla is headed in?

    Do you think Mozilla's business model means they can compete with the other major companies/products in the space?

    How is morale among your colleagues?

    12 votes
    1. [3]
      dblohm7
      Link Parent
      I think there are a couple of perspectives on this, micro and macro: From a micro perspective: I think that some of the teams that were just shut down should have been some time ago. We were...

      What are your views on the direction Mozilla is headed in?

      I think there are a couple of perspectives on this, micro and macro:

      From a micro perspective:

      I think that some of the teams that were just shut down should have been some time ago. We were spread far too thin trying to do far too much with far too little resources, which just wasn't sustainable and not a path to delightful products.

      From a macro perspective:

      I am very concerned about Firefox market trends. This is much worse than just market share.

      In years past, the market was still growing, so even though market share was dropping as a percentage, the raw number of Firefox users were not.

      But now the raw number of users are dropping, and I am not confident that the anybody has the solution to that.

      Do you think Mozilla's business model means they can compete with the other major companies/products in the space?

      As-is? No.

      But I also think that there are organizations and people who could be helping us out, but choose not to, and that is not helping anyone.

      Allow me to clarify what I mean by that:

      First I need to talk about three different entities:

      The Mozilla Open-Source Project (the "Project"). Just like the Linux Kernel is a project, or LLVM is a project.
      The Mozilla Foundation ("MoFo") - the non-profit foundation.
      The Mozilla Corporation ("MoCo") - the legal entity that receives money from the search deal and supplies most of the resources for running and developing the project.

      Like any open-source project, the Project has multiple organizations that contribute to it. For example, you might be surprised to hear that most of the GTK and Wayland components of Gecko are currently being worked on by Red Hat developers, not Mozilla developers. In the 2000s the Project used to receive a lot of contributions from IBM, but not anymore.

      The Mozilla Corporation has the search revenue deal that gives it the resources to assign the majority of paid staff to the open-source project. I suspect that the size of MoCo's budget raised some eyebrows to the point that a lot of external organizations and individuals decided that MoCo was rich enough to handle all of the project's development by itself, so they didn't need to.

      Unfortunately, when you're maintaining an independent web rendering engine while your competitors are companies with trillion-dollar market caps, MoCo's budget still pales in comparison to theirs. I think that if enough external organizations continued to significantly contribute to the Project, we'd be okay. But other than Red Hat and KaiOS, that has more or less dried up.

      There are a lot of web developers (or their managers) out there who cannot be bothered to test their stuff with Firefox, or even worse, use Chrome-specific APIs. Web compatibility is "somebody else's problem."

      As long as other organizations besides MoCo and Red Hat sit out from contributing, and as long as web development continues to steer away from standards and cross-browser testing, things don't look good.

      How is morale among your colleagues?

      Not very good ATM. We knew the layoffs were coming, but I think the scale was unexpected.

      22 votes
      1. [2]
        nacho
        Link Parent
        Thank you for this very thorough answer! I had not considered that the raw number of Firefox users could be dropping. That's concerning indeed. I don't think anyone is served with a (near)...

        Thank you for this very thorough answer!

        I had not considered that the raw number of Firefox users could be dropping. That's concerning indeed. I don't think anyone is served with a (near) monopoly, the monopolist included.

        10 votes
        1. dblohm7
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          There was an interesting tweet from a Googler the other day where they suggested that, if Gecko met its demise, Google would have to rethink its iron-grip control over the Chromium project. Of...

          I don't think anyone is served with a (near) monopoly, the monopolist included.

          There was an interesting tweet from a Googler the other day where they suggested that, if Gecko met its demise, Google would have to rethink its iron-grip control over the Chromium project.

          Of course, that's just one Googler's personal opinion. I personally do not believe that Google would do such a thing, even though it would be the right thing to do.

          EDIT: After all, if it is the right thing to do, then they could have done it already. Or let Microsoft take more ownership. But they haven't.

          13 votes
  8. [5]
    skybrian
    Link
    I'm not sure you can answer this, but how much do the major browser vendors cooperate? Have you participated in any cooperative efforts? Also, to what extent do Firefox employees assume the worst...

    I'm not sure you can answer this, but how much do the major browser vendors cooperate? Have you participated in any cooperative efforts? Also, to what extent do Firefox employees assume the worst of their competitors, Google in particular?

    This morning, for example, there is an article today on Hacker News where the top commenters assume that Google is up to something nefarious with their experiments in changing Chrome's URL bar UI.

    12 votes
    1. [2]
      dblohm7
      Link Parent
      They cooperate a lot in standards committees, although of course there are lots of politics and conflicting motives. As an aside, one reason why Mozilla continues to invest in Gecko is that we...

      how much do the major browser vendors cooperate?

      They cooperate a lot in standards committees, although of course there are lots of politics and conflicting motives.

      As an aside, one reason why Mozilla continues to invest in Gecko is that we believe that this is the most effective way to continue having influence on standards. After all, if you're just using an engine controlled by somebody else, why should the standards committees give a hoot what you think?

      Word on the street is that Microsoft already has lost significant standards clout since switching over to Chromium, and that Google isn't willing to share control over Chromium with Microsoft. Grab your popcorn, folks!

      Have you participated in any cooperative efforts?

      Not personally, no. At one point it looked like I was going to be involved with one, but it didn't pan out.

      Also, to what extent do Firefox employees assume the worst of their competitors, Google in particular?

      I somewhat touched on this earlier in the week in a different thread, but I think the general consensus among Mozillians is that most (with a couple exceptions) individual Googlers are great and have altruistic motives. Also keep in mind that many Googlers (including some of the founders of the Chrome team itself) came from Mozilla. However, Google is an organization that excels at taking individual, seemingly-benevolent units of work and then combining them into things that are anti-competitive or just plain evil.

      Some of us also believe that some career-long Googlers just do not understand that not everybody has an effectively infinite budget like they do. A couple of them sometimes make hand-wavey arguments about how Mozilla should "just" quadruple our budget and then everything would be fine, as if that's something that anybody can do.

      23 votes
      1. culturedleftfoot
        Link Parent
        I read this and I shudder. That kind of naivete and that kind of power is not a good combo for the rest of us.

        However, Google is an organization that excels at taking individual, seemingly-benevolent units of work and then combining them into things that are anti-competitive or just plain evil.

        Some of us also believe that some career-long Googlers just do not understand that not everybody has an effectively infinite budget like they do. A couple of them sometimes make hand-wavey arguments about how Mozilla should "just" quadruple our budget and then everything would be fine, as if that's something that anybody can do.

        I read this and I shudder. That kind of naivete and that kind of power is not a good combo for the rest of us.

        19 votes
    2. [2]
      Wes
      Link Parent
      That's Hacker News in a nutshell. The most negative motive is always assumed, especially when it comes to Google. I'm glad that URLs are finally being reworked. Phishing is the number one attack...

      an article today on Hacker News where the top commenters assume that Google is up to something nefarious

      That's Hacker News in a nutshell. The most negative motive is always assumed, especially when it comes to Google.

      I'm glad that URLs are finally being reworked. Phishing is the number one attack vector online, and it's clear that regular users cannot confidently determine which site they're always on. Adding a "show full URL" toggle to the context menu is a perfect compromise, and power users should have no problem configuring a single setting.

      I feel like every time I dip into a thread talking about Google, or web standards, every response is either "don't be evil" or "EEE", even when they make no sense (which is most of the time). Sometimes it's full-blown conspiracy theories.

      I really don't get much value out of HN anymore. It's mostly the same trite remarks that have been parroted for years now.

      It's a shame, because you see the odd great comment from an engineer in the field. Somebody that explains what really went on behind the scenes, or tells an interesting story from history. That's the kind of content I've always really enjoyed from HN.

      5 votes
      1. skybrian
        Link Parent
        Yes, certain topics get predictably bad discussion on Hacker News, though others are fairly okay.

        Yes, certain topics get predictably bad discussion on Hacker News, though others are fairly okay.

        1 vote
  9. [2]
    culturedleftfoot
    Link
    Thanks for doing this. What are you most concerned about when you think about the future of the internet? Short-term, mid-term, long-term? What is Mozilla like to work for? If you could wave a...

    Thanks for doing this.

    What are you most concerned about when you think about the future of the internet? Short-term, mid-term, long-term?
    What is Mozilla like to work for?
    If you could wave a magic wand to incorporate a feature into FF tomorrow, what would it be?

    9 votes
    1. dblohm7
      Link Parent
      Monopolies. Surveillance. Security. Privacy. Governments attempting to control the internet. I have really enjoyed it. Most of the people there are there for the right reasons, and they're smart...

      What are you most concerned about when you think about the future of the internet? Short-term, mid-term, long-term?

      Monopolies. Surveillance. Security. Privacy. Governments attempting to control the internet.

      What is Mozilla like to work for?

      I have really enjoyed it. Most of the people there are there for the right reasons, and they're smart AF. Most of them are incredibly humble too.

      I remember one day I was sitting at a table with a bunch of other colleagues, and marveling at their combined accomplishments. Then I pinched myself and asked myself how the hell I managed to wind up at the same table! 🤣

      On the downside, even though we're a small company, we have a high profile in Silicon Valley and Tech circles, so every time we end up in the news, tech social media has an opinion. Usually those opinions are filled with falsehoods and conspiracy theories that has those of us on the inside just shaking out heads in disbelief!

      If you could wave a magic wand to incorporate a feature into FF tomorrow, what would it be?

      Again, keep in mind that I look at it from an engine standpoint, not a UI standpoint. One thing that really bothers me about Firefox is that, over time, its user profiles get crufty and start performing badly. One way that we have tried to mitigate this is to offer users the ability to "refresh" their profiles, essentially creating a brand new one and then importing their bookmarks and stuff. But we still don't have great insights as to what is going "wrong" with those bad profiles before we refresh them.

      The way we access user profiles in Gecko and Firefox is abysmal. Basically any system-privileged piece of code in Gecko can retrieve the path to the profile directory and just start reading and writing whatever it wants.

      I would like to see a well-defined interface for accessing profile data that everything must go through. That interface would contain performance instrumentation so that, when stuff starts going bad, we know exactly what data was being accessed by whom.

      15 votes
  10. [3]
    entangledamplitude
    Link
    I’ve never really understood what made Mozilla shelve the FirefoxOS / Boot2gecko effort towards a free mobile operating system. Any comments on the motivations? In hindsight, do you think that...

    I’ve never really understood what made Mozilla shelve the FirefoxOS / Boot2gecko effort towards a free mobile operating system. Any comments on the motivations? In hindsight, do you think that might have been a missed opportunity?

    8 votes
    1. [2]
      dblohm7
      Link Parent
      Resources, resources, resources. We basically mortgaged the quality and performance of Gecko to make FxOS happen, and it did not end well. Project Quantum was more or less an effort to pay off...

      I’ve never really understood what made Mozilla shelve the FirefoxOS / Boot2gecko effort towards a free mobile operating system.

      Resources, resources, resources.

      We basically mortgaged the quality and performance of Gecko to make FxOS happen, and it did not end well. Project Quantum was more or less an effort to pay off that tech debt.

      We were sad to see it go, but are happy to see that the torch was picked up by other organizations. It lives on as KaiOS, and have come full circle now that they have partnered with us to port modern Gecko over to it.

      18 votes
      1. entangledamplitude
        Link Parent
        Wasn’t aware of the recent developments regarding KaiOS and modern Gecko. Color me excited :-)

        Wasn’t aware of the recent developments regarding KaiOS and modern Gecko. Color me excited :-)

        9 votes
  11. vaddi
    (edited )
    Link
    Hi, thank you for sharing your perspective, as a person from inside, now that many people are doubting Mozilla. I have a quick question, probably the answer is simply "resources" but is something...

    Hi, thank you for sharing your perspective, as a person from inside, now that many people are doubting Mozilla.

    I have a quick question, probably the answer is simply "resources" but is something that I always wondered about:

    Why isn't there an official Firefox app distributed through F-droid?

    8 votes
  12. [2]
    TheJorro
    Link
    What add-ons do you use on your own Firefox installs? Any special configuration tips or tricks?

    What add-ons do you use on your own Firefox installs? Any special configuration tips or tricks?

    7 votes
    1. dblohm7
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I tend to keep mine simple. uBlock Origin, HTTPS Everywhere, Facebook Container, and a special add-on for Mozilla developers that help us to monitor our code review queues. I don't think I really...

      What add-ons do you use on your own Firefox installs?

      I tend to keep mine simple. uBlock Origin, HTTPS Everywhere, Facebook Container, and a special add-on for Mozilla developers that help us to monitor our code review queues.

      Any special configuration tips or tricks?

      I don't think I really have anything special there, other than to recommend that you be suspicious of random websites that tell you that there are hidden secret settings that will make things run better. If those settings were as great as portrayed, we'd make them the defaults!

      I do have some tips specific to how Windows users should configure their machines:

      • Don't use third-party AntiVirus. Just use Windows Defender.
      • Don't try to manually manage the size of your page file. Just let Windows handle it.
      • Don't use CCleaner or similar utilities.
      14 votes
  13. [4]
    admicos
    Link
    Once I saw "GeckoView" in your post I just had to ask: Do you think the embedding work in/by GeckoView is flexible enough to (maybe in the future) work outside Android, as a separate...

    Once I saw "GeckoView" in your post I just had to ask: Do you think the embedding work in/by GeckoView is flexible enough to (maybe in the future) work outside Android, as a separate GTK/Qt/something widget like WebkitGTK or QtWebView?

    Researching this topic I came across SailfishOS's Gecko fork and EmbedLite as a way to try and embed Gecko, but because of little to no proper documentation (that I could find) and not knowing how well they keep up with updates, that doesn't seem to be usable outside Sailfish.

    Anyway, Thanks in advance, and I hope you'll have a great time in these interesting times.

    7 votes
    1. [3]
      dblohm7
      Link Parent
      GeckoView is very much an Android-centric API, but I think that, as a team, we're hoping that it can be an exemplar for what could be possible on other platforms, and we'd like to be part of that...

      Do you think the embedding work in/by GeckoView is flexible enough to (maybe in the future) work outside Android, as a separate GTK/Qt/something widget like WebkitGTK or QtWebView?

      GeckoView is very much an Android-centric API, but I think that, as a team, we're hoping that it can be an exemplar for what could be possible on other platforms, and we'd like to be part of that if so.

      I think that is a long way off though; our executives want to see GeckoView succeed as part of Fenix before they start thinking about where else we might go with it.

      11 votes
      1. [2]
        PendingKetchup
        Link Parent
        Any plans for an Electron competitor? I want to ship my Node app's GUI on a Gecko engine. I know there was some noise about being able to do this with Servo, but I'm not sure it ever worked.

        Any plans for an Electron competitor? I want to ship my Node app's GUI on a Gecko engine. I know there was some noise about being able to do this with Servo, but I'm not sure it ever worked.

        8 votes
        1. dblohm7
          Link Parent
          At one point there was an experiment with a project called Positron to directly compete with Electron, but eventually it was dropped. We're hoping that embedding beyond Android comes back at some...

          At one point there was an experiment with a project called Positron to directly compete with Electron, but eventually it was dropped.

          We're hoping that embedding beyond Android comes back at some point, but we've got bigger fish to fry at the moment.

          6 votes
  14. [2]
    zigzagzig
    Link
    Any thoughts on Brave and their monetization model?

    Any thoughts on Brave and their monetization model?

    7 votes
    1. dblohm7
      Link Parent
      Brave is interesting because their founders both came from Mozilla and quite a few former Mozillians (including a close friend of mine) now work there. It's an interesting monetization model, but...

      Any thoughts on Brave and their monetization model?

      Brave is interesting because their founders both came from Mozilla and quite a few former Mozillians (including a close friend of mine) now work there.

      It's an interesting monetization model, but at the same time, anytime cryptocurrency is involved, there always seems to be a sketchy element to it, IMHO. I don't think it's anything that Mozilla would be willing to attempt, let's put it that way.

      17 votes
  15. [3]
    hook
    Link
    This will be a non-techie question for a change. What would benefit Mozilla and its mission (or at least the Project ) more: if I renew my donation to MoFo or start paying for using Pocket? On a...

    This will be a non-techie question for a change.

    What would benefit Mozilla and its mission (or at least the Project ) more: if I renew my donation to MoFo or start paying for using Pocket?

    On a similar notice, how is Pocket going to bw affected by this? One one hand it does some things great (esp. integration in Firefox and Kobo), but on the other it is lacking features that e.g. WallaBag had for years.

    7 votes
    1. [2]
      dblohm7
      Link Parent
      This is subject to debate among those of us who aren't lawyers and accountants, but personally I would go for Pocket Premium. I'm not too sure, honestly. Up until now, Pocket had been run mostly...

      What would benefit Mozilla and its mission (or at least the Project ) more: if I renew my donation to MoFo or start paying for using Pocket?

      This is subject to debate among those of us who aren't lawyers and accountants, but personally I would go for Pocket Premium.

      On a similar notice, how is Pocket going to bw affected by this? One one hand it does some things great (esp. integration in Firefox and Kobo), but on the other it is lacking features that e.g. WallaBag had for years.

      I'm not too sure, honestly. Up until now, Pocket had been run mostly as a separate subsidiary. I'm not sure how that is going to change after the layoffs.

      10 votes
      1. hook
        Link Parent
        Will go for Pocket Premium and keep an eye out for Mozilla VPN then.

        Will go for Pocket Premium and keep an eye out for Mozilla VPN then.

        3 votes
  16. [2]
    Kuromantis
    (edited )
    Link
    Here's a slightly more meta (and far more optimistic) question: If at some point things improve and antitrust is applied to tech companies, privacy regulations like being able to request and...

    Here's a slightly more meta (and far more optimistic) question:

    If at some point things improve and antitrust is applied to tech companies, privacy regulations like being able to request and remove your data and reject cookies are widespread and you accomplish your mission of "building a better internet" (or rather, a government who shares your mission does that for you), what exactly do you think you (as in MoFo and its various projects) would do after that?

    6 votes
    1. dblohm7
      Link Parent
      Mozilla has always wanted a global focus, so I would expect that if things got significantly better in say, North America and Western Europe, those activities would expand to other regions where...

      Mozilla has always wanted a global focus, so I would expect that if things got significantly better in say, North America and Western Europe, those activities would expand to other regions where there are still severe problems.

      5 votes
  17. [2]
    pipszk
    Link
    Do you know how Mozilla decides which projects to invest in that are potentially revenue generating? I get that it's hard to make money ethically on the web, especially when most it is built upon...

    Do you know how Mozilla decides which projects to invest in that are potentially revenue generating? I get that it's hard to make money ethically on the web, especially when most it is built upon monetizing your data, but in each case, they seem rather late to the party in an already saturated niche market. Here's to hoping for a breakout product that really sets a new standard.

    6 votes
    1. dblohm7
      Link Parent
      Very insightful question. Unfortunately those kinds of decisions are far above my pay grade! We used to have this twice a year event called "Dino Tank," which was a blatant rip-off of Shark Tank...

      Very insightful question.

      Unfortunately those kinds of decisions are far above my pay grade!

      We used to have this twice a year event called "Dino Tank," which was a blatant rip-off of Shark Tank (or Dragon's Den, or The Tigers of Money, depending on where you come from). Basically any Mozillian (or group of Mozillians) could present ideas to a panel of execs, and the winner would get a small budget to build out their idea. I think a lot of us (myself included) thought that was a really neat thing, but unfortunately we stopped doing it a while back, probably for similar reasons that ET was eventually wound down.

      8 votes
  18. [4]
    moocow1452
    (edited )
    Link
    Related to Gecko OS, was there any chatter about a dedicated hardware answer to Chromebooks, where a Firefox browser ran on top of a minimal distro and looked pretty? Seemed like that's where a...

    Related to Gecko OS, was there any chatter about a dedicated hardware answer to Chromebooks, where a Firefox browser ran on top of a minimal distro and looked pretty? Seemed like that's where a lot of the Chrome browser growth is happening since they're pivoting to Enterprise and Microsoft is not really pushing OS dominance any more. Or is hardware maintenance out of scope as compared to the resources and connections that Google can work with?

    Also, I made a feature request for Firefox Focus having a toggle in the quick menu to turn off JavaScript instead of it being buried in the settings. Completely ignored, so what gives? /s

    5 votes
    1. [3]
      dblohm7
      Link Parent
      We couldn't have done that in-house; it would have required a corporate partner to handle the hardware side. Could we have made that happen in the larger form-factor? I have no idea. I'm still...

      Related to Gecko OS, was there any chatter about a dedicated hardware answer to Chromebooks

      We couldn't have done that in-house; it would have required a corporate partner to handle the hardware side. Could we have made that happen in the larger form-factor? I have no idea.

      I'm still amazed that we had the partnerships that we did just on the phone side of things -- one thing that I lament about the timing of FirefoxOS's demise was that the hardware for it was just starting to become good!

      Also, I made a feature request for Firefox Focus having a toggle in the quick menu to turn off JavaScript instead of it being buried in the settings. Completely ignored, so what gives? /s

      Unfortunately development on Focus is kind of on hiatus at this time (save for security updates, of course). Our product managers are re-evaluating this to decide whether to resume active development or not. Stay tuned, I guess...

      8 votes
      1. [2]
        moocow1452
        Link Parent
        Aw no, I really like Focus in that it helps me use the internet to look up a thing and be done, keeping me on an internet diet as opposed to having to go by the appetiser table of recently visited...

        Unfortunately development on Focus is kind of on hiatus at this time (save for security updates, of course). Our product managers are re-evaluating this to decide whether to resume active development or not. Stay tuned, I guess...

        Aw no, I really like Focus in that it helps me use the internet to look up a thing and be done, keeping me on an internet diet as opposed to having to go by the appetiser table of recently visited and autocompletes every time I have to ask the Duck a question.

        8 votes
  19. [4]
    scrambo
    Link
    Out of all the "recent" projects to come out of Mozilla, I think I'm interested in Servo the most. It seems like a highly technical, but hugely important aspect of improving the "Web Experience"...

    Out of all the "recent" projects to come out of Mozilla, I think I'm interested in Servo the most. It seems like a highly technical, but hugely important aspect of improving the "Web Experience" for the next generation of web users. Do you know (or are you allowed to say) if there's been any thought given to making it easy to "riff" off of? By that I mean, there's tons of browsers out there that have built off of Blink (looking at you, new Edge). It seems like it's an "easy" thing to do, especially compared to the amount of browsers that have built from the Gecko rendering engine. Do you know if Servo would be easier to use for a custom browser than its predecessor?

    Also, another thought has occurred to me while writing this question, in your opinion would Mozilla be in a position to develop their own Search Engine to prop up their profits and keep the revenue coming in? Or might that anger their main source of income enough to drop them?

    5 votes
    1. [3]
      dblohm7
      Link Parent
      I haven't really looked at Servo's code, but my understanding is that it is much easier to embed. This is not so much praise for Servo as much as it is criticism for Gecko. When Gecko was started...

      It seems like it's an "easy" thing to do, especially compared to the amount of browsers that have built from the Gecko rendering engine. Do you know if Servo would be easier to use for a custom browser than its predecessor?

      I haven't really looked at Servo's code, but my understanding is that it is much easier to embed. This is not so much praise for Servo as much as it is criticism for Gecko.

      When Gecko was started in 1998, there was a decision made regarding its architecture that essentially made it more than just a rendering engine: it became an entire cross-platform application framework! In other words, you're not really supposed to embed Gecko in your application, but rather you're supposed to write your application on top of Gecko. There is an inversion of control there where, instead of your app driving Gecko, Gecko drives your application. (Given that GeckoView's purpose is to make Gecko embeddable in Android applications, you can imagine that we have to fight against Gecko's original design assumptions quite frequently.)

      Also, another thought has occurred to me while writing this question, in your opinion would Mozilla be in a position to develop their own Search Engine to prop up their profits and keep the revenue coming in?

      Unfortunately I don't think this would be feasible. We could develop one, sure. Would it be good enough to be relevant? Would Firefox users try it, or just switch back to Google? How would Firefox users react if we switched them over to our search engine upon a Firefox upgrade? Let's suppose that every Firefox user stuck with it (unrealistic, but a worst-case scenario): could we scale it enough to handle the load of searches coming in just through Firefox, much less any additional traffic?

      I think that's way too risky in our current situation.

      12 votes
      1. [2]
        scrambo
        Link Parent
        Thank you very much for your response! It's not everyday I get to 'directly' interact with someone that works for a company like Mozilla :) In response to your new comment on here (about 30 min...

        Thank you very much for your response! It's not everyday I get to 'directly' interact with someone that works for a company like Mozilla :)

        In response to your new comment on here (about 30 min ago), first off - I didn't even know Servo team went through layoffs.... That scares me given my interest stated in the question above. How far back do you think those will push the Servo project? Will they reduce scope, or drop it altogether? (pls no) Will Servo continue to be developed at a reduced pace? Or is it not considered a priority now that revenue needs to be addressed? I hope everyone from that team who were laid off are doing okay, that seems like it was a super interesting project to work on - Not every day you get to create a modern web rendering engine!

        5 votes
        1. dblohm7
          Link Parent
          Basically this. I hope that the project survives somewhere, somehow, but MoCo just can't do it. I know for a fact that a lot of people are drawn to it because of that!

          Or is it not considered a priority now that revenue needs to be addressed?

          Basically this. I hope that the project survives somewhere, somehow, but MoCo just can't do it.

          Not every day you get to create a modern web rendering engine!

          I know for a fact that a lot of people are drawn to it because of that!

          6 votes
  20. [3]
    Gecko
    Link
    I'm a bit late to the party but here we go: If one wanted to financially support the Firefox browser in particular, how would one go about doing that? Also, what do you think about my username? ;)

    I'm a bit late to the party but here we go:

    • If one wanted to financially support the Firefox browser in particular, how would one go about doing that?

    • Also, what do you think about my username? ;)

    5 votes
    1. [2]
      dblohm7
      Link Parent
      Use Firefox and search with Firefox. Seriously. It's that simple. Subscribe to another Mozilla product such as Mozilla VPN, Pocket Premium, or anything new that comes out in the future.

      If one wanted to financially support the Firefox browser in particular, how would one go about doing that?

      1. Use Firefox and search with Firefox. Seriously. It's that simple.
      2. Subscribe to another Mozilla product such as Mozilla VPN, Pocket Premium, or anything new that comes out in the future.
      6 votes
      1. Kuromantis
        Link Parent
        Do I need to download the app if I'm in mobile? Is there a difference?

        Use Firefox and search with Firefox. Seriously. It's that simple.

        Do I need to download the app if I'm in mobile? Is there a difference?

        1 vote
  21. [2]
    lionirdeadman
    Link
    Thanks for hosting this AMA, I've certainly found it very interesting! ❤️ What happened to Project Fusion? It seems to have kinda stalled or well, the wiki page hasn't been updated. How well is...

    Thanks for hosting this AMA, I've certainly found it very interesting! ❤️

    What happened to Project Fusion? It seems to have kinda stalled or well, the wiki page hasn't been updated. How well is that working out?

    With regards to Gecko and GeckoView. Is there an effort to make embedding easier or is it more fighting Gecko with workarounds which would potentially only work in android world? Also, does Mozilla (at large, not solely withing GeckoView) believe that making embedding easier would make other entities more interested in contributing to Firefox since they could build their own products around Gecko?

    Oh, here's an interesting one. Does Mozilla contribute to WebKit considering that Firefox is shipped with that engine on iOS?

    4 votes
    1. dblohm7
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I haven't had good info on that since I left the hardening team, sorry. We still have close ties with the Tor project! Within my team, we're hoping that our experience with GV could be shared with...

      What happened to Project Fusion? It seems to have kinda stalled or well, the wiki page hasn't been updated. How well is that working out?

      I haven't had good info on that since I left the hardening team, sorry. We still have close ties with the Tor project!

      With regards to Gecko and GeckoView. Is there an effort to make embedding easier or is it more fighting Gecko with workarounds which would potentially only work in android world?

      Within my team, we're hoping that our experience with GV could be shared with embedding solutions for other platforms, but as I said in another comment, we've currently got bigger fish to fry.

      Also, does Mozilla (at large, not solely withing GeckoView) believe that making embedding easier would make other entities more interested in contributing to Firefox since they could build their own products around Gecko?

      I'm not sure what the broader consensus is on this, if there is one, sorry.

      Does Mozilla contribute to WebKit considering that Firefox is shipped with that engine on iOS?

      I don't believe so. We just do the best with what we're given on the device.

      5 votes
  22. YarnSphere
    Link
    Hi and thank you for hosting this AMA! I hope it's not too late to ask my question, seeing as you've answered a few not too long ago. There are a few security experts who share the belief that...

    Hi and thank you for hosting this AMA! I hope it's not too late to ask my question, seeing as you've answered a few not too long ago.

    There are a few security experts who share the belief that Firefox is far behind Chromium in terms of security. E.g. from GrapheneOS' website: https://grapheneos.org/usage#web-browsing where multiple points are raised against Firefox (even on the desktop front), some extending over to Tor as well. As someone who has worked in security hardening, is this something you agree with?

    I'm aware of project Fission; do you believe Fission by itself has the potential to close the gap between FF and Chromium-based browsers in terms of security (if you do believe that the gap does exist)? Are there any other ongoing projects that intend to improve Firefox's security?

    Thank you in advance! :)

    4 votes
  23. Ali07
    Link
    What happened to Netscape?

    What happened to Netscape?