lighting a candle

There’s going to be a lot of reaction today to Mitchell’s post about Mozilla Foundation investment in XULRunner (Daniel and Alex have already posted theirs, keen folk that they are), and I’m going to be spending the next 7 hours travelling, so I’m going to rush this note out and find out later if it helps or hinders. Exciting!

Hearteningly, I think that people are misunderstanding what exactly is being not done here. Mitchell’s post defines a “standalone XULRunner” as:

[...]an instance of XULRunner that various applications would expect to find on a machine and would share once found. This would allow distribution of a thin “application layer” only, which would then take advantage of a stand-alone XULRunner already on the target machine.
When Mitchell says that the Mozilla Foundation (and, by extension, the Corporation) are not going to invest in a standalone XULRunner, that “XULRunner runtime”, à la the JRE or .NET, is what she’s primarily contrasting, IMO. Daniel’s post seems to be more interested in something much more modest, such as a zip file or DMG that you can take, drop your application.ini and custom code into, repackage with some magic dust, and be done with. I do not read Mitchell’s post, nor do I understand our intent, as “waving off” code that would make that process smoother, nor of presenting any barrier to having the resulting code hosted in the Mozilla CVS repository. Her explicit mention that
clearly understood bug fixes should be a good candidate for immediate check-in whether or not the bug affects Firefox or any other Mozilla Foundation application
should be noted well here. Daniel’s example of improved installation support for “generic” extensions is an example of work that fits this pattern exactly, in my considered opinion, and I would not expect this announcement or direction of Mozilla employee cycles to add any new impediment to that.

(I think in hindsight that the use of the term “packaged XULRunner” or “standalone XULRunner” in this way is probably not as clear as something like “system XULRunner”, though I have become comfortable with the term myself over the last little while. The expectations for a “system XULRunner” are quite high, and it’s that significant and not-well-understood deliverable that the Mozilla Group of Companies is not investing directly in right now.)

It’s also important to appreciate that projects can be very successful in the Mozilla community without being Mozilla Foundation products. SeaMonkey is a great example of a group within the Mozilla community that has shown leadership and motivation in developing, supporting and marketing a piece of software that doesn’t have any Mozilla Foundation employees tasked directly to help it — though some Employees do indeed work primarily in the context of that product as a personal choice, and that’s a fine thing. A XULRunner community can and must exist independent of, though overlapping with, the Mozilla Foundation’s own direct technical investment.

My cab is here, so I must run, but I don’t think that things are as bleak or hostile as some others do. I think that the next few weeks and months will bear out my understanding and expectations, and I’m committed both professionally and personally to helping that they do.

one comment to “lighting a candle”

  1. entered 14 May 2007 @ 9:21 am

    Thanks, Mike. If I have misinterpreted, and it becomes evidently clear that I have, I will post a new blog article expressing my apologies.

  2. entered 14 May 2007 @ 9:47 am

    [...] Yes, Mozilla made an official announcement (Mitchell’s pre-announcement, Shaver’s preemptive-response) about the plan for XULRunner, a physical manifestation of the Mozilla platform. The announcement contains a lot of information and covers many aspects of the Mozilla platform. Mitchell discusses how the platform will be used internally, to how Mozilla will respond to the platform runtimes from Microsoft and Adobe, and everything in-between. The plan specifically covers: [...]

  3. entered 14 May 2007 @ 2:43 pm

    What about Thunderbird?…

    In all this talk about the future of XULRunner and Mozilla and Firefox nobody has mentioned Thunderbird. Can we just assume that Thunderbird is dead too? …

  4. entered 15 May 2007 @ 2:54 pm

    Will there be an English translation of this post?

  5. entered 16 May 2007 @ 9:26 am

    [...] XULRunner, Mozpad, and SeaMonkey Our Planet lately has been full of XULRunner talk. And this is good, as it clearly tells that there’s wide support of that technology, and things are moving on in that area. While we unfortunately have not yet reached a point where we can magically deploy a common, shared runtime and this vision will not get a reality in the Gecko 1.9 timeframe, the XULRunner platform is growing, and lots of work is being put into it, by MoCo and lots of outside volunteers. This is a cool, open, cross-platform base to builds applications upon, it will get way better even in the Gecko 1.9 cycle, and it will continue to improve in the future. I’m sure of that. What we need though, is a stronger community around it – not that we lack people working on it or using it, or knowing its internals and deployment, we just can improve a lot in their communication. This helps "users" of the platform (those building apps based on it) in getting better info about how to achieve what they want to do, it helps people working on the platform in knowing what those "users" need to make working with it even easier – and it helps the platform itself by getting patches into it through this collaboration (hopefully also patches contributed back by the platform users). Mozpad ("Mozilla Platform Adherents and Developers") is a good idea, and we build upon that idea to get such a community started. I hope though that we will leverage existing Mozilla community infrastructure as much as possible there so that it’s as easy as possible for people already in the Mozilla communities to participate there. Daniel Glazman insists in recent blog articles that we need a real name for this runtime, a logo, images "Built with Xulrunner", more visibility on the web sites, and articles in the press. I must admit that I’m with him on that – though I believe, despite I also have heard of other plans – that we should not pick any new name for that runtime/platform. The current, originally temporary, name of "XULRunner" describes exactly what it is – it runs XUL applications, it consists of everything building up the XUL platform – it basically markets the core technology of our platform, which is probably XUL. The majority of XULRunner builds around what is needed to provide XUL with everything it needs to works as expected, so that name serves very well to tell the message that "if you want to use XUL, you need XULRunner". And then, I think the package already got spread widely enough under that name that we should just stick to it, as changing it would probably trash all publicity it already has in developer communities (which are the target audience of this technology, right?). We really need a logo, and "built with XULRunner" images based on it, though. Maybe a good point for starting off the new community. The SeaMonkey project got some really positive attribution in that recent platform/XULRunner discussion, by the way: John Lilly counts SeaMonkey among XULRunner/Mozilla-platform apps that are doing amazingly well, Mike Shaver is calling our project an excellent example of contributing to the platform, and talks of our success as a volunteer project: SeaMonkey is a great example of a group within the Mozilla community that has shown leadership and motivation in developing, supporting and marketing a piece of software that doesn’t have any Mozilla Foundation employees tasked directly to help it — though some Employees do indeed work primarily in the context of that product as a personal choice, and that’s a fine thing. It’s really good to hear people talk about SeaMonkey this way, it has been hard work to get here, and lots of people didn’t believe we could ever get here when we started off this effort. Oh, and we surely won’t stop to work hard on getting even further along. As you might know, though we are using big pieces of the platform building up XULRunner, we still have major steps ahead to get a "real XULRunner app", the efforts for which we have code-named "suiterunner". The major step in that direction, killing xpfe in favor of toolkit should happen really soon now, and we will continue to adopt new technologies present in XULRunner, replacing old, often badly or non-maintained code in current SeaMonkey – without killing the feel of the suite our users have grown to love. We will continue to be a good example of a XULRunner user, improving this where we can, as this helps both sides: SeaMonkey is a good testcase of an extensive, non-browser-only app building upon XUL technologies, which helps to improve XULRunner as a platform for such products, while we can get out a platform that serves our suite better. Because of that, the SeaMonkey project will be proud and glad to be a member and supporter of a stronger XULRunner community, helping to make this Mozilla platform the best comparable product on the market. [...]