five by five, in the pipe

A little more than eighteen-hundred days ago, I and many others held our breath as the much-anticipated Firefox 1.0 was released to the world. A million downloads in the first week pushed our server infrastructure to the brink, and left me reeling: we had come so far from the days of Netscape 6 and the drive to Mozilla 1.0. Our message of a better browser experience, exemplified by the security and performance and personalization and open source and standards-friendliness of Firefox, had found a welcoming audience.

We faced, then, a daunting series of challenges: shifting focus to our most promising product (Firefox) while maintaining the energy and contribution of the Mozilla community; making the project sustainable over the long term, within the inviolable parameters of our mission; navigating new waters of commercial-non-profit-hybrid-community-mainstream-competitive software. We’ve had success at all of those so far, by my lights, though surely not without our bumps and scrapes.

The world is very different today than it was when Firefox was born. Microsoft has rebuilt its browser team, and released two major updates to its browser — at the time, I counted IE7 as one of Mozilla’s greatest achievements. Two other software Goliaths, Apple and Google, have joined the browser fray with gusto. Where once only Opera dared to tread, the browsing experience is now seen as a defining characteristic of a mobile phone, and we are ourselves getting ready to rock it.

Even in this savagely competitive environment, Firefox and Mozilla continue to thrive. Of our 330 million users world-wide, more than 100M of them are in the last year, and 30M in the last two months alone. We’ve continued to grow incredibly even since the latest competitor entered the scene, because we’ve continued to relentlessly improve Firefox and the web in ways that matter to people around the world. Every day we, along with our incredible and essential mirror partners, ship almost twice as many Firefox downloads as we did in that incredible release explosion from five years ago.

In January, I’ll have been involved in Mozilla for a dozen years. It has been a lot of work and a lot of fun, a professional and personal opportunity that I think makes me one of the luckiest software professionals ever to whine about their debugger. Thank you to everyone who has helped make Firefox what it is today, and what it will be tomorrow. There’s lots more to do, but please take at least a few minutes today to sit back and relish the impact you’ve had on the web, and on the people who use it.

3 comments to “five by five, in the pipe”

  1. entered 10 November 2009 @ 4:34 pm

    You say it a little ambivalently, or ironically maybe… but I still think IE7 is one of Mozilla’s greatest achievements. Have you changed your mind about that? Just every aspect of the thing speaks of greatness: the scale of the effort it took to force that to happen, the long odds, the symbolism, the practical effects, the long-term impact.

    Maybe it didn’t advance the Mozilla manifesto principles much, directly anyway. But the way I see it, IE7 was nothing less than total victory in Mozilla’s first major, defining struggle. In the next five years, can we have some more moments like that? I only wish.

  2. entered 10 November 2009 @ 10:34 pm

    Oh, nothing ironic about it at all: because of our work to show people that a better browser was possible and desirable, MSFT had to make a better browser for all the people who didn’t know about or choose to use Firefox. My awkward phrasing there was just a reference to how I felt about IE7 at the time, even though typically one doesn’t enjoy a competitor releasing a dramatic improvement to their own software.

    We can have more moments like that, and we will. (I think we did with Chrome as well, though the context was different.)

  3. entered 2 December 2009 @ 11:43 am

    I would go further and say that IE8 was the greatest Mozilla achievement, because it shows that you didn’t just kick them into making one more half-hearted browser, but made them work at it until they got it right, and they finally came out with a modern-day standards-compliant (relatively) browser.