Mozilla's Not Non-profit (And Other Thoughts)

Wow, I wrote my "Dear Mozilla..." post last night around 10:30 pm and in less than 12 hours it has generated more traffic than my Blog has generated in any single month since I launched it. As I expected, the open source pundits are out in force (and it's a good thing, they are certainly some valid points in their arguments). As always, there are a few bad apples in the mix who want to make this a personal argument and want to insult me for expressing my opinion. I'll ignore them for now because I don't want to get roped into that.

That said, some of the content of the comments has struck a chord with me so I want to add some additional thoughts. I encourage open and good natured discussion and I'll take the opportunity to remind everyone that one of the great pleasures of life is that we're allowed to disagree.  There are a lot of supporters on both sides of this argument that bring very valid concerns to the table.

First, I never said that Mozilla shouldn't support Theora (or that any browser shouldn't). My letter was about supporting H264; not dropping support for Theora.

I completely agree with the assertion by many that Microsoft's reason for supporting H.264 is to basically "throw egg" on Mozilla's face. Simply put: good strategy; my post is certainly not the only one out there talking about how Mozilla needs to add H.264 support now.

I'm going to say it: I don't care about Opera despite its users being quite possibly the loudest out there. They have abysmally small market share and,  I'm surprised it's closed source nature doesn't horrify those of you who are so concerned about "free as in speech" software. I have to say; it's a bit contradictory.

Mozilla's Not a Non-Profit

The most common argument has been that "Mozilla's just an open source project, they can't afford a license." I'm calling a great-big, giant bullshit on this one and I congratulate the Mozilla Corporation for so successfully pulling the wool over the eyes of so many people (even their linked in page for the Mozilla Corporation describes Mozilla as a non-profit; choosing to describe only the Mozilla Foundation and not the Mozilla Corporation itself). The Mozilla Corporation (which owns the rights and trademarks around Firefox - Colby Russel correctly points out in the comments that the Mozilla Foundation does actually own the rights to Firefox and its trademarks) is an extremely profitable company.  The browser is Free Software, but Mozilla's not this small project with no finances. They are very well funded and completely profitable.

Whether they should pay for a license is up for debate and we can have some really constructive discussion around that topic; but make no mistake, the Mozilla Corporation is not non-profit. Driving your profit back into your business does not make you non-profit; it means you're reinvesting your profit rather than paying shareholders.

I Really LIKE Firefox

But I'm sorry to say that pragmatism wins out over idealism every time; and I fear that if Mozilla chooses to continue on this path, Firefox will see its market share dwindle as it becomes about as popular as desktop linux (used by open source purists, but that's really about it). Personally, I don't want to see that happen. But the truth of Firefox's rise is that it was just a categorically better product than the competition. By not supporting the video format that is clearly emerging as dominant on the Web, that will no longer be the case.