Are your enterprise desktops and laptops running Firefox? If so, you might be interested to know that Mozilla doesn't care about you.
Do you feel a little hurt? Well, perhaps you should. Mike Kapley, a blogger who focuses on Web browsers, discussed how Mozilla is creating chaos in organizations with large browser deployments and rigorous testing requirements due to Mozilla's move to a "rapid-release" deployment system.
Mike's take is that enterprise IT departments have to spend a tremendous amount of time testing all the various applications that a company might run. And as we all have seen with our own eyes, every browser operates a little bit differently -- so differently, in fact, that many Web-based applications may run perfectly on one browser but cannot run at all on another browser brand or version. So a company's IT department is left with a choice: Either rewrite its software so it is compatible with more browsers, or stay on an older version of one browser, knowing full-well that the application will be left behind by users trying to use newer software and will be susceptible to security holes that will never be patched.
While some businesses do end up sticking with an old browser (thus causing the continued used of IE6), other companies are willing to spend money rewriting their applications to function with new browsers. The problem is, however, that major browser updates are happening far too rapidly for the enterprise to keep up with.
Think about this: Mozilla released Firefox version 4 in late March. Firefox 5, a major new release, was ready and available for download just three months later. Therefore, all that time spent testing on applications for version 4 was utterly wasted.
In response to Mr. Kapley's blog, Asa Dotzler, founder of Mozilla’s Quality Assurance and Testing Program, made several comments regarding how he feels about enterprise users:
Enterprise has never been (and I’ll argue, shouldn’t be) a focus of ours. 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.
A minute spent making a corporate user happy can better be spent making many regular users happy. I’d much rather Mozilla spend its limited resources looking out for the billions of users that don’t have enterprise support systems already taking care of them.
So it looks as if the folks over at Mozilla are following the same rapid deployment model Google follows with its Chrome browser. With Google, I can understand its desire to develop the fastest and most feature-rich browser. That's just who Google is. Mozilla, on the other hand doesn't necessarily have to go that route. Nevertheless, that's the direction it seems to be taking, which is disappointing to those of us in the enterprise.
It is worth noting that a few days later, Jay Sullivan, VP of products at Mozilla, issued a statement. One of his points regarding the enterprise issue was:
A key challenge for enterprises is that they need to certify their websites, apps and add-ons each time Firefox is updated. This can take weeks or months. Security is also paramount, enterprises need access to a version that includes all known security fixes. We are exploring solutions that balance these needs, with active discussion in our community. Open Source software is well-suited to these challenges, as interested parties can come together to build what is needed.
That being said, it seems Mozilla doesn't yet have an answer for the enterprise. That makes for a nice little void in the browser field that needs to be filled. Large businesses aren't looking for the fastest, or most feature-rich browsers. They're looking for ones that are secure, stable, and have highly predictable update cycles. Some might say that Microsoft fills that void, but with recent indications that Microsoft will soon be moving to IE 10, it looks as if a new vendor might have to step in to develop an enterprise-class browser that isn't a constantly moving target.
So what do you think? Do the comments made by Mozilla leaders regarding their lack of interest in supporting the enterprise make you think twice about your Firefox use? Let us know!