Mozilla’s Downsizing Continues

Posted on August 11, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Mozilla Firefox, Web browsers with 36 Comments

Mozilla announced today that it is laying off 250 employees, the second time this year that it’s been forced to do so. The problem? Its flagship product, Firefox, is losing users and thus revenues at an alarming rate.

“Today we announced a significant restructuring of Mozilla Corporation,” Mozilla CEO Mitchell Baker writes in the announcement post. “This will strengthen our ability to build and invest in products and services that will give people alternatives to conventional Big Tech. Sadly, the changes also include a significant reduction in our workforce by approximately 250 people. These are individuals of exceptional professional and personal caliber who have made outstanding contributions to who we are today. To each of them, I extend my heartfelt thanks and deepest regrets that we have come to this point. This is a humbling recognition of the realities we face, and what is needed to overcome them.”

According to Baker, Mozilla initially intended to make significant investments in Firefox, one of the few remaining Chromium holdouts in the browser space, in 2020. But with COVID ravaging the planet, the firm has had to step back and reassess its priorities. And face a new reality in which Firefox is struggling with single-digit usage share and Mozilla, as a company, is smaller.

“We’ll experiment more,” Baker writes. “We’ll adjust more quickly. We’ll join with allies outside of our organization more often and more effectively. We’ll meet people where they are. We’ll become great at expressing and building our core values into products and programs that speak to today’s issues. We’ll join and build with all those who seek openness, decency, empowerment and common good in online life.”

Of course, Mozilla’s fall has been a long time coming, and as recently as 2018, Firefox still had north of 10 percent usage share. But with Microsoft announcing that it would adopt the Chromium browser engine in late 2018, it appeared that Firefox would soon have a new foe to worry about, and as I argued at the time, Mozilla and Firefox are going to have to change to adapt to this reality. They have not done so quickly enough.

And so in August 2019, Mozilla’s CEO stepped down and was replaced by Baker, the former CEO. Then, in January 2020, the firm laid off 70 employees as the losses continued.

My advice remains the same: Mozilla needs to adopt Chromium and stop wasting resources trying to match the capabilities of the industry standard. Like Brave, Microsoft, Opera, Vivaldi, and the others that build browsers on top of Chromium, Mozilla can continue to add value to its own product, and it will save a lot of time and money doing so.

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Comments (36)

36 responses to “Mozilla’s Downsizing Continues”

  1. stevek

    We have banned the use of Firefox at our company as they use their own certificate store; and not the one that is provided by the Operating System (Windows or Mac). Since we do SSL inspection we have to inject our own Certificate Authorities into the store; and Firefox with its own store makes this very difficult.


    We tried to use methods to inject into their store; but between version updates those methods break all the time.


    In the end; it wasn't worth it; so we banned it's use.


    If they flipped to Chromium I assume this would get fixed as well; and they'd have the option to do Group Policy and the mobile device policy standards; which Firefox also doesn't support presently.


    All that happens and we'd happily support Firefox in our corporate environment again...plus have the advantage of the same rendering engine that everybody else uses now. It'd all be a win-win...


    But my guess is they would rather go down with the ship.

    • tboggs13

      In reply to stevek:

      Firefox has supported the personal certificate store on Windows for several years now, which covers most of the internal certificate authority issues. Also, it natively supports GPO for many things. I have had to actually migrate some settings from config files to GPO to keep them when they deprecated the config item.


      However, Mozilla's late support for enterprise customers has not overcome their previous antipathy. Everyone in our support department is in favor of removing Firefox from the environment in favor of Edge. The long term goal to also get rid of Chrome.

      • stevek

        In reply to tboggs13:


        It does not use the Windows Certificate store; nor does it use the Mac's keychain.


        You are referring to the option for security.enterprise_roots.enabled


        that IMPORTS Root CAs ONLY from the OS store into the users personal firefox profile cert store.


        It only imports it the first time after launch when that setting is enabled.


        It ONLY imports the Root CA from the OS store.


        How many people use SSL Inpecting firewalls is you have an internal CA system with a Root CA; and then the firewall devices are configured as Subordinate CAs or SubCA's and those firewalls issue certs on behalf of the sites you are trying to visit; essentially doing a man-in-the-middle with the firewall inspecting the traffic and the browser still seeing a legit cert chain.


        The enterprise_root command does not import SubCAs so this does not work.


        This means you have to manage the Firefox certificate store directly; and because firefox stores it per profile that means you have a store per OS User account and per browser profile. So it's not just 1 firefox store you have to manage...its multiple and you have to find in the directory path.


        Also it doesn't update the Root CAs either; so if you've pushed an updated Root CA via OS policy mechanisms then Firefox will not reimport that CA cert into the user's profile certificate store...you have to manually go do this.


        The methods you do this by; in my experience changed often between firefox versions.


        We even purchased 3rd party software (PolicyPak) to help with this on Windows; but they even gave up trying to keep up with the changes are required you to use the ESR version of firefox which lags behind in versions.


        I do know that more recent versions of Firefox do have Group Policy template files but they are very limited in what the manage; if you really want to manage firefox policies you have to use their .pref file system; which again; changed too often between versions; and made it hard to keep up with. It also required setting up an entirely different structure to push policy updates for just the one piece of software...which was cumbersome and often didn't work on things like laptops that were on the network infrequently.


        And policy management is highly important when your company is heavily regulated...


        Again all the above...lead me to implement a Firefox ban.


        I'd love to make it available again; which if they moved to a Chromium engine; which does have stable and well documented policy updates via both Group Policy and MDM methods I'd do it in a heartbeat.

    • klhyvcfxe2 vtni56y

      In reply to stevek:


      Set 'security.enterprise_roots.enabled' to true.

  2. zhackwyatt

    I hate this news.


    I always wished that Edge would adopt Firefox instead of Chromium. Fifty different web renders are bad but I think only having one is also bad.

  3. lvthunder

    How many employees does Mozilla have? Losing 250 employees is bad don't get me wrong. If that 250 employees is 5% of the company it's a different conversation then if it's 50% or 75% of the company.


    I don't think anyone doesn't use Firefox because of the rendering engine. I also don't think if they switched to Chromium they would gain usage share.

  4. ejuly

    There was this story/rumor going around 3 years ago that Microsoft wanted to move IE. A few mid-level people were in a discussion about what it would take for an IE transition. Some person on the Mozilla side stated that they did not feel their users would accept MS being involved and would probably kill Mozilla. A year later MS announces IE/Edge moving to chromium. Am I mis-remembering something? I used FireFox quite a bit and still have it available on all my machines but my default browser is Edge.

  5. IanM

    When Chromium browsers sort out their terrible text rendering, I might be interested. In the meantime, I like black text to be sharp and black, not blurry and grey.

  6. videosavant

    Great news. I actively root for the demise of totalitarians. Not quite there yet with Mozilla...but maybe soon.


    #BrendanEich

    #Brave

  7. nine54

    How many browsers do we need? Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to see Microsoft revamp Edge to make it a worthy Chrome competitor. And Safari already is an able competitor for those in the Apple ecosystem. All others will serve only increasingly niche audiences.


    Where we really need more innovation and competition is in search where Google has an overwhelming majority. For many casual users, the browser is just the gateway to a Google search and any site that they haven't yet replaced with a mobile app. I like the growing emphasis on privacy, but until Google's search hegemony is disrupted, there's only so much a browser can do here.

  8. waethorn

    Chromium doesn't meet their concept of "free software", given that a privacy-abusing monopoly advertising broker owns it.

  9. winner

    It's good to have a different web engine. The same engine (like the same OS) just makes the vulnerabilities more dangerous.

    I'm writing this on Firefox BTW. One of the reasons is that I want to support them.

    With MS and Google duking out chrome variants, I like the idea of something different.

  10. compuser

    "Mozilla needs to adopt Chromium and stop wasting resources trying to match the capabilities of the industry standard." Yea, that's exactly what they should do so we'd have another rebranded Chrome browser pretending not to be Chrome. Please, Mozilla, don't be like Microsoft who already made Edge a rebranded Chrome after giving up on developing their own browser, and don't ever become another rebranded Chrome. Almost everyone I know uses Firefox, and we do because we like Firefox, not Chrome.

    • dftf

      In reply to CompUser:

      Technically if you use Firefox on any iOS device, then essentially they have there as all browsers have to use WebKit. (Maybe Apple will also enforce a similar restriction in the Apple Silicon version of macOS? Also, while never a final-release product, did the Windows 8 Metro UI version of Firefox have to use Trident?)


      It might make-sense on Android at-least to use a Chromium-engine there, as Firefox is currently way-slower than any-other browser I use.

  11. brettscoast

    That's too bad. I remember when firefox first came out 16 years ago I thought this thing rocked, what a shame that over the years they have leaked a lot in usage share numbers to Google Chrome mostly, compared to the days when they had well over 30% share of the browser market. Your advise is pretty sound Paul they simply have to adapt or descend to irrelevancy.

  12. codymesh

    Firefox has spent years waffling about with their mobile efforts, and have only recently, in 2020, gotten around to releasing a truly mobile-optimized browser.


    Mozilla has always been a slower-moving company, this isn't the first time their flagship product is in trouble. Firefox was in pretty bad shape in around 2016 while they spent many years prior developing and finally releasing Firefox Quantum in 2017, which imo saved Firefox. And now they've gotten around to putting the revamped engine on mobile in 2020.


    I think Mozilla will be generally ok, especially now they have their mobile piece in place. But they remain behind in things like support for PWAs, and Microsoft's cooperation with Google on PWAs have only widened the gap since.

    • dftf

      In reply to codymesh:

      I still struggle to see the reason for using Firefox on a mobile-device or tablet thesedays.


      On iOS the engine is WebKit, same as all browsers, so it's only worthwhile if you prefer the UI, or add-ons you can get for it.


      And for Android the only two reasons I'd use it originally: (1) it still supported the Flash Player add-in, so sites with only Flash video would work -- latest versions no-longer do; or (2) the add-on support meant I could use an ad-block -- thesedays I just use Brave or Vivaldi instead, where this is built-in, or Opera Mini if travelling and really want to save data and not for any secure websites.

  13. wright_is

    The industry needs to match features with Firefox, before I'll swap.

  14. drmdub

    Firefox doesn't need to adopt Chromium, it just has to accept that it's a small company and stop trying to compete with the big boys. It's too bloated. It's not a good thing to have all the web based on a technology that is controlled by Google, so an Open Source option is good. I know technically Chromium is open source, but that's nonsense. Google controls that, and you can tell that because if you download the actual Chromium browser, it's identical to Chrome in almost every way.


    Mozilla just needs to be smaller. Dump unnecessary people and projects (looking at you Thunderbird), and focus on being a good browser.

  15. GCalais

    This makes me sad. Firefox has become a bit slower and memory hungrier compared to Chromium browsers in the recent past, but in terms of native features and tools and specially user experience/interface it’s a fantastic browser. And Mozilla as a whole is a company that’s hard to dislike too.

    • petteri

      In reply to GCalais:


      Same. I'm enjoying using Firefox and hope they can hold on. I'll respectfully disagree with Paul, I think it's important that we have someone innovating in the browser space outside the de facto Chromium standard using Blink as the engine.

      • richardbottiglieri

        In reply to petteri:

        I think a standard web engine would be a good thing, overall.

        I personally prefer using Firefox, and it sure does seem like their heart is in the right place. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that most websites are primarily tested against Chromium browsers, and if something doesn't work well in Firefox or Safari or anything else, it just doesn't get priority from the web developer due to low market share. Microsoft has made a wonderful Chromium browser that honestly makes it almost crazy to use Chrome, unless a site is coded to specifically require it (for whatever reason). Not to mention, but Firefox is a bit harder on battery life in Windows and macOS when compared to the new Edge browser.

        If you stop to think about it, all cars in the US are basically based on the same design concept at a very high level, but there are major differences are in the thousands of little details that differentiate the makes and models. I think that Firefox could and should reverse course and work on a Chromium version of their browser. They have enough good stuff in Firefox that can be ported to Chromium, and that would make it a compelling alternative to Edge and Chrome. Not to mention, it would benefit all browser makers and users alike since they'd be contributing to the project, as Microsoft has. It's a win-win scenario.


        • wright_is

          In reply to richardbottiglieri:
          I think a standard web engine would be a good thing, overall.

          I think having diverse engines is good. We have a standard for the markup language. As long as all sides stick to the standard there shouldn't be any real problems...

          Having multiple engines means that they can't rest on their laurels, like Microsoft did during the late 90s and 2000s. The web stagnated.

          There is also the advantage, if their is a huge gaping zero day being exploited in one engine, you can switch to an alternative until your preferred engine is patched. The same exploit is unlikely to affect both engines.

          You car analogy is a little off. They all do roughly the same thing - transport you from a to b - and have the controls in the same rough positions, that is the standard (HTML/CSS), but their have different engines, different bodywork, seat comfort etc. I have driven GM cars, in Europe, and they usually sounded like the engine is running without oil (1.3L and 2.0L blocks), I'd hate it if Toyota, Ford Citroen, VW etc. all dropped their engines for GM blocks, for example.

  16. fishnet37222

    I've always used Firefox specifically because it's not based on Chromium. I just hope the project itself doesn't die.

  17. Scsekaran

    Or at least catch-up with Chrome / Edge with features such as PWA / Web apps. Firefox had tools to make Web pages to standalone apps long-time ago. Touch interface on Windows is not great either

  18. Jogy

    In the past, when I wanted to run away from Microsoft's Internet Explorer/Outlook, I wen to Firefox and Thunderbird, and never ever understood the appeal of Chrome - what can Chrome do that Firefox cannot, for my simple browsing needs?

    Now I am using a combination of MS Edge and Firefox and only on special occasions Chrome.

    I was also being very annoyed in the past of the aggressive Chrome-pushing strategy, where downloads of almost any free application was bundled with Chrome install.

    • gregsedwards

      In reply to Jogy:

      If you're using Edge, then you're using Chrome...well, Chromium at least. And if you're still on legacy Edge, then you will be moving to a Chromium-based browser soon. Might as well accept it. Chrome/ium just has the advantage of being the de facto standard. It's the engine that everything gets tested against, so more things just work as intended. I still get annoyed by this fact, because web developers are supposed to write code to target browser features as opposed to specific browsers, but it is what it is.

  19. Thomas Parkison

    Could it be that Firefox is a system RAM pig?

  20. rmlounsbury

    It is sad to see the long slow decline of Mozilla. They have always been much more than just Firefox and have had a number of open source and software projects that had less visibility. I've always been a fan of FireFox but it has almost always been my 1b option to Chrome or Edge.


    With Edge and it's deep integration into the Microsoft ecosystem I've just stuck with Edge and used FireFox for the things that needs some legacy support and won't work with Edge.


    I hope Mozilla can find its way and keep operating because they have done a good job building FireFox and being a good activist for proper internet hygiene as well.

  21. dftf

    Unless you're an IT Pro and have to use add-ons that only work in Firefox (or at-least work better) or want to customise every element of the browser UI, it's hard otherwise to see how to sell Firefox to the masses thesedays.


    If you don't like Google, use Microsoft Edge instead -- once it comes built-into Windows in the default install (in 20H2) many enterprises will. Or maybe something like Brave, Opera or Vivaldi. (Not Opera Mini: that uses either Opera's own site format, or the system WebView engine, depending on which site-compression setting you use).


    If you're running an old version of macOS, the ESR release of Firefox will at-least provide security-updates, so it's an easy-recommend there, and after July 15, 2021, when Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge drop support for Windows 7, I'd imagine the ESR release will support it until at-least the ESU end-date (Jan 2023).


    But "this browser still supports your legacy OS when none of the other big mainstream ones now do" is not a great selling-point...

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