Mozilla wants the enterprise to know it cares.
“We are re-establishing a Mozilla Enterprise User Working Group as a place for enterprise developers, IT staff and Firefox developers to discuss the challenges, ideas and best practices for deploying Firefox in the enterprise,” read a July 19 post on The Mozilla Blog. “The group will have conversations on the discussion list and during in-person meetings as well as during monthly phone meetings.”
Moreover, the next meeting will focus on “the release cycle and how enterprises can use Firefox in a way that fits into their own testing and release cycles.” While the online discussions themselves will apparently “preserve the privacy of the participants,” Mozilla will make summaries of those discussions public.
Mozilla is renewing its enterprise focus after a bit of controversy in June, when its release of Firefox 5 worried enterprises still figuring out how to adopt Firefox 4, released a mere three months before. “I have 500,000 users on Firefox 3.6,” read a much-circulated comment by IBM’s John Walicki on a June 21 blog posting 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.”
If that wasn’t problematic enough, Asa Dotzler, community coordinator for various Mozilla projects, wrote the following in a June 23 comment on Kaply’s blog: “Enterprise has never been (and I’ll argue, shouldn’t be) a focus of ours.”
He added: “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.”
The debate erupted from there. 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 engagement and support,” Ari Bixhorn, director of Internet Explorer, wrote in a June 23 posting on his blog, “I did want to take the opportunity to clarify the Internet Explorer team’s commitment to, and support for, our corporate customers.”
Mozilla continued its fire extinguishing over the next few days. “Enterprises are built of people,” Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs tweeted June 28, “and Mozilla is fundamentally about people. We support Firefox users wherever they are.”
The organization also reflected some of the blame back on the enterprise.
“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 them.”
But those deployment specialists, he insisted, have been 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 investing in.”
Now comes this Mozilla Enterprise User Working Group as an apparent way for the organization to start that conversation. With Firefox squeezed in the marketplace between Internet Explorer and a host of sprightly upstarts like Google Chrome, the need for controversy-free deployment is likely higher than ever.