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D7 Interview: Mitchell Baker and John Lilly May 28, 2009

Posted by stewsutton in D7 All Things Digital.
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duo-baker-lillyCEO of Mozilla, Mitchell Baker and chairman of Mozilla  John Lilly steward the development of Firefox, the open-source browser that challenged and then broke Microsoft’s choke hold on the browser market.

Firefox (as of April 2009) has 23% percent of Web browser market, according to Net Applications. That makes it the second most popular browser world-wide, after Internet Explorer, which holds 66.1 percent. An impressive feat. And an important one. Because by dislodging Internet Explorer from its dominant market position,

Firefox has proven not only that open-source projects often provide better software–something to which any Linux geek will attest–but that it’s possible for a particularly well done one to become an everyday consumer application.

  • 300 million people use Firefox (23% of the web users)
  • Other interfaces to the web beyond the browser may change this…

Is Firefox doing better or worse? – Firefox is growing linearly since its inception (23% is the high point so far).

Why does 75% of the web use other browsers?

The browser is actually an important “mediation layer” to the web and not just a pane of glass

Some of the things that Firefox did that have offered an advantage have been matched…

Safari bested Firefox in speed for example – tabbed browsing, quick bookmarking, Firefox is a LOT smaller (less than 100 million) is fighting with multi-billion dollar competitors – Google (Chrome), Apple (Safari),  Microsoft (IE), Opera, etc.

People are now designing for modern browsers

IE always loses on speed

If you were going to pick a business space to operate, you would not intentionally pick a location where Apple, Google, and Microsoft were competing. – People a few years ago were really looking for a high quality product that offered performance and features with simplicity – Non-profit arm that has commercial “roll-ups” –

Steve yelled “Bing” at you this morning…

As a CEO, I can get up and make a lot of noise about the technology and demand a response.

The “open source” component of Firefox gives big leverage to open source development

Volunteer coders – this is a “risk” for the non-English versions of Firefox

Do you want to check the “code” or check the “translation”

Other foreign speakers will scream about it when something is NOT RIGHT

Would I rather buy a product that is sorted out at the beginning or buy into a product that is using the volunteer army to produce the product.

How much software do you think is great?  Not much of any category is great. – And those companies that have hired experts are also producing a good percentage of that.

Internet Explorer is the “leading browser” – Mozilla folks are “describing it” as “out of date”.

Can’t run complex web apps in IE8 – things run slow there

Two paths (fast browser apps and slow browser apps) – new graphics standards support and the performance of the browser within that support.

Distribution is hard for Mozilla – but easy for Microsoft and Apple.

Google Chrome is going against Mozilla, IE, and Safari.

IT FEELS COMPLEX (the relationship with Google).

Geo location is an area where there is good cooperation

Converting Firefox to a top-quality open source product has taken some significant effort – this is the effort to establish that really “finished” look.

Apple is not a “hospitable environment” for us – they want to manage their own browser. – That makes it impossible for Firefox to be that “mediation layer” like it is on the other environments.