Mozilla's Firefox enterprise policy apparently has some IT administrators concerned. Will that affect the browser's adoption rate among corporations?
Mozilla's probably had better months.
The organization's troubles started with the release of
Firefox 5, which arrived a mere three months after Firefox 4 first entered the
marketplace. For your average user, downloading and installing a new browser is
a quick and relatively trouble-free exercise. However,
large enterprises almost immediately began expressing worries about Mozilla's
speeded-up cadence of browser releases.
"I have 500,000 corporate users on Firefox 3.6," read a
much-circulated comment by IBM's John Walicki on a June 21
by Firefox developer and consultant Michael Kaply. "I'm now in
the terrible position of choosing to deploy a Firefox 4 release with potentially
unpatched vulnerabilities, reset the test cycle for thousands of internal apps
to validate Firefox 5 or stay on a patched Firefox 3.6.x."
Then Asa Dotzler, community coordinator for various Mozilla
projects, wrote a response on Kaply's blog that's caused Mozilla substantial
headaches ever since. "Enterprise has never been (and I'll argue, shouldn't be)
a focus of ours," read his
June 23 comment
. "Until we run out of people who don't have sysadmins and
enterprise deployment teams looking out for them, I can't imagine why we'd
focus at all on the kinds of environments you care so much about."
Microsoft was quick to leap at Mozilla's opening, with an
executive very publicly asking Walicki to consider jumping back to Internet
Explorer. "Although I'm in no position to question a competitor's approach to
customer and engagement and support," Ari Bixhorn, director of Internet
Explorer, wrote in a June 23 posting on his
, "I did want to take the opportunity to clarify the Internet Explorer
team's commitment to, and support for, our corporate customers."
Mozilla's damage control extended into this week, as a variety
of executives stepped forward to defend the organization's approach to the
"One aspect is that Mozilla is mostly not composed of
enterprise IT staff," Mike Shaver, vice president of Mozilla's technical strategy,
wrote in a June 28
posting on his blog
. "This means that we rely on prospective deployers to
tell us what their specific needs are, and hopefully contribute help in meeting
He went on to portray the relationship between Mozilla and
the enterprise as somewhat less than transparent.
"We've tried on a few occasions to collect this
information-what sets of features would lead to which deployments with what
user impact?-but have had a lot of trouble getting that information into our
product planning in a usable way," he wrote. "A surprising (to me) number of
institutions will not talk on the record about what they need, which makes it
pretty hard for them to join a community conversation about what is worth
That same day, Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs tweeted
"Enterprises are built of people, and Mozilla is fundamentally about people. We
support Firefox users wherever they are."
Will Mozilla's current issues affect Firefox's market share? It's certainly too soon to tell whether
the imbroglio will make IT administrators more hesitant to deploy Firefox
within their organizations (although Microsoft likely hopes so). However,
recent trends suggest that Firefox's overall market
share is stalling-in which case, the last thing it needs are additional
headwinds, from businesses or consumers.
According to Net Applications, Firefox's browser
market share for June stood at 21.67 percent, compared to Internet Explorer at
53.68 percent, Chrome at 13.11 percent, Safari at 7.48 percent and Opera at
1.73 percent. Internet Explorer has seen its share decline significantly over
the past 10 months-in August 2010, it stood at 60.48 percent-while Firefox has
declined slightly over 1 point during the same period. Meanwhile, both Chrome
and Safari have logged gains.
In other words, Firefox finds itself squeezed between a
still-dominant Internet Explorer and a collection of growing upstarts. In that
sort of situation, your best recourse is to continue gaining enough
market share to keep the wolves away from the door-and one of the best ways to
gain rapid market share is to enlist large companies to your cause. But after
this week, how many companies will reconsider their Firefox plans?
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