Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Story of Firefox OS

Ben Francis (Hacker News):

During this five year journey hundreds of members of the wider Mozilla community came together with a shared vision to disrupt the app ecosystem with the power of the open web. I’d like to reflect on our successes, our failures and the lessons we can learn from the experience of taking an open source browser based mobile operating system to market.


In a rush to get to market we imitated the app store model with packaged apps, adding to the problem we set out to solve. Lost focus on what makes the web the web (URLs). Too much focus on the client side rather than the server side of the web stack.


After realising “open” on its own doesn’t sell, ultimately chose a strategy to compete mainly on price, which is just a race to the bottom. Suffered from a lack of product leadership and direction after the initial launch.

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From the "What I Would Do Differently Today" section:

Create device APIs using REST & WebSockets on the server side of the web stack rather than privileged JavaScript DOM APIs on the client side. Create a community curated directory of web apps on the web rather than an app store of submitted packaged apps.

That sounds familiar. Didn't another mobile OS initially try a similar strategy? 😉

This piece chimes massively with Andrew Orlowski's superb opinion piece for The Register, from 2003, that attempted to analyse what went wrong with the AOL acquisition of Mozilla:

> ... techno-utopians tend to get lost in their fabulous daydreams, sometimes. They forget that these browser things are just tools, and browsers are just windows onto the web, so a graceful XUL framework means diddly-squat to the innocent punter. Creating a neat C++ framework when what the world really needs a non-Microsoft browser is nothing but a deriliction of duty: a piece of vanity code. What we Brits call pointless "willy waving".

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