back to article Firefox maker Mozilla axes a quarter of its workforce, blames coronavirus, vows to 'develop new revenue streams'

Firefox maker Mozilla has axed 250 employees, or a quarter of its workforce, claiming the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is to blame after hitting it in the wallet. The organization will also "ship new products faster and develop new revenue streams." “Economic conditions resulting from the global pandemic have significantly …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sadness

    ...reading this on Firefox. OTOH, it was a little doomed to expect their main competitor to continue paying them long term.

    1. Len
      Holmes

      Re: Sadness

      Why would Google being a competitor matter?

      Apple and Samsung are competitors yet Apple pays Samsung for some components because Apple needs those components. Similarly Google pays Mozilla to deliver the search traffic from hundreds of millions of Firefox users because Google needs the traffic.

      Mozilla had ended the arrangement with Google a couple of years ago as people were a bit uneasy with Mozilla being connected to a company with a dubious reputation. That didn't last very long as Google probably increased their offer above market rates and Mozilla couldn't resist. That's when Google came back in the fold.

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: Sadness

        Sad to say, Firefox's market share is now less than 5%. While I'm sure Google does care about those people, I doubt they are prepared to go far out of their way to direct their searches.

        1. Len
          Holmes

          Re: Sadness

          There is no accurate data on market share of web browsers so that 5% is very poor guess. Firefox' desktop market share could be 1%, it could be 25%.

          To collect accurate data would require a place that a representative sample of internet users regularly visit with their web browsers. These places do not exist. Even Google's websites are less popular (or simply blocked) in some parts of the world. That means that the snake oil salesmen that do try to publish numbers usually have data from a handful of countries (think: 90% US traffic, 6% EU traffic, 4% Asian traffic) and then extrapolate based on unreliable data on how many people have internet access in every country of the world. This also assumes that internet habits are identical between a North-American suburb and a sub-Saharan inner city. You would not want to make purchasing decisions on such shoddy data.

          One could argue that Google Analytics (because it's so ubiquitous, even in faraway corners of the web) should give Google a good idea of what browser market share looks like. Unfortunately that is massively skewed by all sorts of default and optional ad blockers, tracker blockers, no-scripts etc. My own visits do not register on the sites where I have access to the Google Analytics data because Firefox blocks it.

          The most accurate picture will be that of absolute user base thanks to automated update checks. Mozilla will have a very clear idea of how many users use Firefox at least once a month. Google will know that for Chrome users, Microsoft will know that for Edge users etc. They will not, however, know how many people use the browser of the competitor as it’s proprietary information.

          There have been attempts by outsiders to establish absolute numbers by triangulation with other sources (for some apps and services we have published absolute numbers so they can be used to compare against). The last time I saw a reasonable one for Firefox is about a decade ago when unique users was estimated to be about 500 million. Rumours are that it's currently around 250 million but I don't know how reliable those rumours are.

          Even if you knew absolute numbers then you’d stil have to battle with the fact that the market size is growing at the same time. If Firefox had a marketshare of 25% of all 1 billion internet users (250 million) at some point and ten years later has a marketshare of 10% of all 3 billion internet users (300 million) they have lost 15 percentage points market share but gained 50 million users.

          All in all, I am fairly confident that a) Mozilla will have audited absolute user figures to show to prospective customers such as Google and b) Google will test to see how much traffic comes their way from Firefox built-in search window to validate the value for money. Considering Google has kept coming back to Mozilla for more they seem to think they are getting their money’s worth.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Pirate

      Re: Sadness

      I don't think Google are a competitor: Google have won. But when Firefox dies is there still a browser which is not driven by Google code? So Google should need to keep them in business for anti-monopoly reasons. Well, that would be true if we lived under governments which made even a pretence of dealing with monopolies any more.

    3. Blackjack Silver badge

      Re: Sadness

      Yeah.

      If Firefox dies so does Icecat.

      If that happens I dunno what Web Browser I will end using since I hate Chrome.

  2. Gene Cash Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    This is actually a good thing

    If they have fewer "developers" then they can't remove as many features as usual.

    As far as I'm concerned, they're negative "value-add" these days.

    1. karlkarl Silver badge

      Re: This is actually a good thing

      Sadly I also agree. They will add less focus on creepy slurpy cloud services and get back to their humble beginnings of just making a trustworthy browser.

      I feel sorry for them and am completely reliant on them and Firefox (potentially the only ethical browser left). Perhaps as a community we need to find better ways to fund them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This is actually a good thing

        I think this is excellent news: it means that the constantly-threatened ruination of thunderbird might not happen after all. yay!

        They will add less focus on creepy slurpy cloud services and get back to their humble beginnings of just making a trustworthy browser.

        I think you underestimate Mozilla's commitment to awfulness. Given their track record over the last few years I just start with the assumption that the people they fired were all the competent people capable of making a trustworthy browser and that the people left are the ones who like the creepy slurpy cloud services (the ones that that bring in revenue).

        completely reliant on them and Firefox

        Try Waterfox or Pale Moon.

        Perhaps as a community we need to find better ways to fund them

        Or we could just not do that and let Mozilla die. They used to be great once and did important stuff and I'm sure that Jason Scott will have nice things to say about them in a documentary one day, but Mozilla is only part of the problem these days. All the code will still be there, able to be forked and managed by somebody competent and perhaps even ethical (gasp!).

        1. karlkarl Silver badge

          Re: This is actually a good thing

          "Try Waterfox or Pale Moon."

          These are both fairly dependent on the upstream Mozilla codebase. For example individually they are not equipped to implement WebAssembly runtimes etc.

          Also, I know Pale Moon has been fairly resistant in accepting patches for OpenBSD. Possibly due to their very small development team.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: This is actually a good thing

            True, but If Mozilla was to disappear both projects would pick up funding and developers. That's kind of my point: let somebody competent take over.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: This is actually a good thing

              I don't see why everybody would automatically jump to developing Palemoon or Watefox if Firefox disappeared, or why the same amount of funding would automatically switch over to them.

              If you are right, then the projects are about to pick up 250 new contributors.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: This is actually a good thing

                I didn't say either of those things would happen.

        2. Snake Silver badge

          Re: This is actually a good thing

          I think this is excellent news: it means that the constantly-threatened ruination of thunderbird might not happen after all. yay!

          My good man, what in the world are you taking about? Thunderbird isn't "ruined" at this point??

          I switched to Thunderbird earlier this year after updating my workstation to Windows 10, as Microsoft Live Mail is not Win10 compatible. Can Mozilla manage to make a mail client any slower and still [sell] it as "functional"?? Sometimes it feels like it has crashed, it's UI responses are so slow. I've turned off Calendar, which made it even slower (hard to believe that was possible, I know) but the entire experience brings "laggard" to an entirely new level.

          And, as the other responder so wryly noted, just how many features and options can Mozilla kill in Firefox and maintain users?

          It is apparent what is happening in Mozilla is the tyranny of a minority of decision makers, be they management or programmer, telling everyone else how this thing will work. Regardless of what actual users think.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: This is actually a good thing

            My good man, what in the world are you taking about? Thunderbird isn't "ruined" at this point??

            Works perfectly fine for me, and has done for 15+ years. I'm not going to claim it's the most amazing code ever or that it couldn't be improved, but it works perfectly well.

            I switched to Thunderbird earlier this year...

            ...Microsoft Live Mail is not Win10 compatible

            OMFG THAT'S HILARIOUS!!!!!

            Sometimes it feels like it has crashed, it's UI responses are so slow.

            Maybe it's the operating system and you should consider trying it on Linux? It's been working perfectly fine for me on Linux machines for 15+ years. :P

            I've turned off Calendar

            Um... thunderbird doesn't have a calendar. But OTOH I know how you tend to get confused about what features open source software does and doesn't have, what with the whole "gimp doesn't support layers" fiasco. So: did you mean to say that you disabled the lightning extension that was presumably bundled in whatever malware-laden executable you happened do download and run? Or that you're not sure what software you installed and are critiquing?

            It is apparent what is happening in Mozilla is the tyranny of a minority of decision makers, be they management or programmer, telling everyone else how this thing will work. Regardless of what actual users think.

            Dammit why did you have to go and say something reasonable? I feel so dirty agreeing with you ;)

            1. Snake Silver badge

              @Dr AntiSol

              "Firefox doesn't have a calendar"

              I'm sure that will be news to Mozilla.

              The add-on now gets auto-installed at initial program installation, which makes Thunderbird functionally have a built-in calendar from the get-go. The "malware-laden executable" was downloaded directly from Mozilla.org, which actually may say something...

              Also, we should take the time to point out your rant as self righteous, as my replies prove.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Coat

                  @Snake

                  @Snake

                  I thought that maybe I should point out that this is all intended in good fun. No harm intended. I'm just stirring ;)

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: This is actually a good thing

            "Can Mozilla manage to make a mail client any slower and still [sell] it as "functional"?"

            Performance is perfectly acceptable (read: fast, no delays) on my 6 year old Core i3 ...

          3. Maventi

            Re: This is actually a good thing

            Thunderbird is slow? It does have plenty of faults but speed isn't one of them, and I use it pretty regularly with very large mailboxes.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Trollface

          Re: This is actually a good thing

          Or we could just not do that and let Mozilla die.

          Mozilla is a dinosaur that has outlived its usefulness. Nearly half a billion dollars a year to produce a web browser and assorted pointless frippery like "$3.5 million behind professors integrating ethics into computer science curriculum" and "Lean Data Practice workshop to New Delhi and Bangalore India, and Nairobi, Kenya".

          Like most non-profits that have been around for too long, it seems to have evolved into a bureaucracy whose priorities are the enlargement and enrichment of itself.

          e.g. look at page 7 of their 2018 balance sheet (I can't find a newer one). Is that really $286 million on salaries and benefits? But they only have "just over 1,000 employees worldwide" - so is that a mean of, say, $280,000 per employee? That doesn't include office costs, computer equipment costs, and all the usual expenses of having employees - it is just "salaries and benefits". Nice work if you can get it.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Alien

            Re: This is actually a good thing

            $3.5 million behind professors integrating ethics into computer science curriculum

            Because it's not like the companies computer science graduates end up working for ever have ethics problems, is it? Still less is it the case that these CS graduates are complicit in this and perhaps ought to behave as if they at least knew what ethics was rather than treating it as someone else's problem. No, no, everything's just fine with the world: we don't need any of this annoying ethics.

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Stop

              Re: This is actually a good thing

              Because it's not like the companies computer science graduates end up working for ever have ethics problems, is it?

              There are two ways of responding to this. The first is that do you really think $3.5 million would do diddly squat? There are 5,300 degree granting colleges and universities in the US alone, and approximately 28,000 worldwide. Maybe they could use the change left over to fix global warming too?

              The second way of responding is that virtually every university research project by staff or students requires formal ethical approval from a departmental or faculty ethics committee in response to a written submission about the project. So they all get to find out about ethics the hard way, by filling in lengthy forms justifying what they want to do.

      2. rg287 Silver badge

        Re: This is actually a good thing

        Perhaps as a community we need to find better ways to fund them.

        Seems to be the season. Few such projects seem to be finding good models to support themselves:

        Companies toiling away the most on LibreOffice code complain ecosystem is 'beyond utterly broken'

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Alien

        Re: This is actually a good thing

        I think we do need to find better ways of funding them, although I don't know what they are. I would probably pay a subscription for Firefox, but I'm probably one of the few who would given that it kind of needs to remain freely available as well, so it's just a donation really.

        Perhaps a more comfortable thing would be to start charging a subscription for some of the services around it. For instance I use lockwise on iOS as really my only password manager there (not quite: I have some bootstrap passwords I stash elsewhere) and it's fine for me. With a few more features (the ability to store things like notes around credentials and stuff that is not just username/password, perhaps OTP although I'd be uncomfortable of OTP in the same tool I use for passwords). I don't use FF on iOS. So they could, perhaps, keep FF free but start charging for the credential-syncing stuff & other things like that. I'd pay a subscription for that, for sure.

        I do seriously wonder how they got to have 1,000 staff though: surely it can't take that many people to look after the things they do?

        Finally there are the whole 'I used to use Firefox but now they've broken it' brigade. I was more affected by that than most people I suspect since I completely relied on extensions which died with whichever the apocalypse release was and will never (can never) come back. Well I wrote some shell scripts and makefiles which do what the extension did and it's not quite as good but very close, and more maintainable. The browser itself is just better than it was I think and certainly smells a lot more secure. But the continual low background whining from these people must be hurting Mozilla a fair bit: I guess the argument is that it's better that we all fall into the willing arms of Google than live with a browser which is, in fact, more secure & more modern looking than it was but has changed from the one they used as children. In my darker moments (which are all my moments) I wonder if Google is paying them to whine.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

      4. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: This is actually a good thing

        "Sadly I also agree. They will add less focus on creepy slurpy cloud services and get back to their humble beginnings of just making a trustworthy browser."

        Unfortunately that's kind of the problem. Making a trustworthy browser is all very well, but no-one is actually willing to pay for one. Maybe creepy slurpy cloud services aren't quite the answer, but they're still desperately looking for something that can pay the bills since no-one wants to pay for the actual main product.

        1. fidodogbreath Silver badge

          Re: This is actually a good thing

          At least Mozilla's creepy-slurpies can be shut off or disabled. Assuming you're willing and able to wade through eleventy-million settings in Options and about:config, that is.

    2. ashdav

      Re: This is actually a good thing

      These days all the development is done in Chrome so expect further reductions.

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: This is actually a good thing

      then they can't remove as many features as usual.

      nor "creep" new ones in...

  3. ThinkingMonkey
    Unhappy

    Hard to believe...

    Mozilla had 1,000 employees? Doing what? I've been a die-hard Firefox user pretty well since Day One but have been a little disillusioned with some of the "improvements" lately ("magnifying" address bar, anyone?) and a whole, whole lot disillusioned by them dropping Thunderbird. Yes, they certainly did. Phrase it however you want such as their excuse that "We are going to disentangle the technical infrastructure." but that's like saying "You're not fired, but you can't work here." Anyhow, what have the other 998 employees been doing lately?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hard to believe...

      You should be glad they dropped thunderbird. I am: stagnant is better than seeing Mozilla "improve" it - Haven't you seen what they did to firefox?

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Hard to believe...

        Haven't you seen what they did to firefox?

        Reminds me of a meme - "What has been seen, cannot be UNseen"

    2. fidodogbreath Silver badge

      Re: Hard to believe...

      Anyhow, what have the other 998 employees been doing lately?

      Firefox maker Mozilla has axed 250 employees, or a quarter of its workforce [...] The organization will also "ship new products faster and develop new revenue streams."

      Getting in the way, apparently.

    3. TXITMAN

      Re: Hard to believe...

      I have been running Thunderbird for a very long time and like it. It is still supported and works just fine.

      As for browsers the Pale Moon is still supported and bully for them.

  4. fnusnu

    And still no zoom and reflow in firefox for android, hence long since dropped for opera.

    1. fnusnu

      Whoever downvoted this, please show me where the settings are to reflow zoomed text.

  5. revenant

    Not a good future for Firefox

    Ditching a quarter of their developers is not a good sign. Combining engineering operations with IT further suggests a significant reduction in the importance of actual browser development.

    That letter to the employees seems to indicate that Mozilla intend to go full-on into activism to change the world, and the core browser doesn't seem to figure highly in the mission - just a workforce proud to be world-changing 'Mozillians' (whatever that means).

    How long before they go the final step and scrap their codebase and follow Microsoft by rebasing the thing on chromium?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not a good future for Firefox

      "Combining engineering operations with IT further suggests a significant reduction in the importance of actual browser development."

      Plus in my experience devops arn't particularly good at development or sys admin.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Trollface

      Re: Not a good future for Firefox

      How long before they go the final step and scrap their codebase and follow Microsoft by rebasing the thing on chromium?

      I'm pretty sure that was called v57

  6. Google

    Didn't expect this CEO behaviour to be tolerated at Mozilla

    Meanwhile, the CEO's are just fine:

    https://twitter.com/brendaneich/status/1217517703914643456 (graph showing Firefox market share vs CEO pay)

  7. steviebuk Silver badge

    Please

    Make a Google Keep plug-in that is legit. Then I can be back with firefox at work. I always loved firefox, was annoyed we went with gsuite at work so was encouraged to only use Chrome. Then I got use to Chrome. I still like Firefox but the integration with Google keep on Chrome is really good. Being able to highlight txt on a site and right click, save to google keep, which does and automatically adds the link, is so very very useful.

  8. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

    You know,

    I'd actually pay for Firefox if I had to. And this is coming from former sworn Napster.

    1. keithpeter Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: You know,

      @Hubert C and all

      I once paid money for a copy of Netscape Communicator 'Gold'. It came in a cardboard box that was basically empty apart from a CD and a piece of card with information about the contents of the CD. The 'Gold' bit meant it had a Web page editor (spun off as Composer) and a mail/news client that became Thunderbird. That was in the days when you went into the shop and picked the box off the shelf then took it to the counter and paid money to a human.

      Why not have a paid for version? All 'extras' off? Long term support? Laptop stickers? ISO with source code and build instructions for enthusiasts? Might make a bob or two.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: You know,

        Your Netscape Communicator lives on. It's called Seamonkey.

      2. Glen 1

        Re: You know,

        One-off fees only work if the software doesn't change much.

        That purchase money only pays wages for a finite amount of time. The business is maintained by getting people to buy *again* to keep upgrading. (Think how Office and Photoshop used to be)

        Otherwise, it would have to be a subscription service. (Like how Office/Adobe creative suite is *now*)

    2. Len
      Happy

      Re: You know,

      Why not get Pocket Premium? It’s a great app* (even the Free version) and with the Premium version you provide an additional income stream to Mozilla.

      *I often come across articles I want to read but don’t have the time for at that particular moment. With Pocket I save them up to read offline for when I’m on the Tube or plane or for when I have more time. On holiday last week I used Pocket to catch up on two weeks’ of saved articles. It’s also great as an alternative for those mindless three minute waits somewhere where you’d otherwise fire up social media for some thoughtless scrolling.

      1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

        Re: You know,

        I'm afraid I've done this:

        HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Mozilla\Firefox\DisablePocket=0x00000001

        Because FF kept bugging me about a thing called Pocket and cluttering my menus with it and I didn't want it and couldn't make it go away. That worked though. I avoid mindless social media scrolling by (a) not having a smartphone and (b) not having any social media accounts (unless you count these forums...). If I want to look at something later I can simply bookmark it. Why does there need to be a second thing that does effectively that?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: You know,

          Yes, you can bookmark it, and maybe that bookmark will still point at something in 5 years, and maybe the thing it points at will still be what it used to be. I think my oldest thing in Pocket is more than ten now.

          Obviously Pocket will die at some point and all that will be lost, but it's made things better in the meantime.

          1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

            Re: You know,

            If you're that bothered, right click, Save Page As...

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: You know,

            An alternative approach is to make a snapshot of it with the Wayback machine.

            Until recently that looked like a fairly safe, long term archive for things.

            But their idiotic recent adventure in eBook piracy has put that in doubt. Completely predictably, they're being sued by the many large publishers of those ebooks.

  9. tiggity Silver badge

    That's what you get for trying to be a google clone

    I used to have FF as my main browser.

    UI changes that always made things worse (for me) and getting rid of functionality that used to be easy to do from main menu options (so I had to use plugins or tweak about config settings) irritated me, but I put up with it

    That stopped when they moved to the chrome style plugins - (yes, I know various security / performance arguments for it) but a lot of the plugins I used a lot e.g. FireFTP needed low level functionality and could not really be retooled to work with new plugin model.

    So I no longer had convenience of doing lots of things from browser, instead had to use separate apps and so lost main reason to bother with FF 100% of the time as no advantages.

    Still use FF, but not exclusively.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: That's what you get for trying to be a google clone

      So you've switched to Chrome because Firefox has become a Chrome clone?

    2. fnusnu

      Re: That's what you get for trying to be a google clone

      You still use ftp?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: That's what you get for trying to be a google clone

      (yes, I know various security / performance arguments for it)

      Not really. The real argument was "baaaaaaaaaw maintaining this codebase is HARD!"

      but a lot of the plugins

      Waterfox or pale moon will both be happy to run all your old plugins. I can't recommend waterfox highly enough, it will even find and import all your firefox settings/plugins/etc when you install it. Most seamless software replacement I've ever done.

    4. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: That's what you get for trying to be a google clone

      Yes, changing their GUI to be more like Chrome's was the beginning of their slow loss of market share. The average person doesn't see enough difference between the two to understand why they should use Firefox instead of Chrome like their friends use (or was preinstalled on their PC thanks to Google handing out cash to OEMs)

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: That's what you get for trying to be a google clone

      Ugh. I never use convenience as an argument for a piece of software. You're asking for trouble.

      Everyone here understands the convenience trade off and the costs associated with it.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    not in any way – not, not, not – a reflection

    time to change that keyboard

  11. poohbear

    People working from home don't surf so much (not on their tickey, they don't).

    So apart from Mozilla losing traffic, so too are the millions of small websites that made the we what it is.

    And on Android, most people won't install alternate browsers. Most of the traffic to my own sites is mobile these days.

  12. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Not so good a thing maybe

    "... core browser growth through differentiated user experiences ..."

    So once again some techno-behemoth is going to decide for us what we're allowed to want, and I bet they can't achieve this without snooping on us.

  13. pd4361

    So with a bit of luck, FF should have 25% less useless new features and disabled previously-useful features. Could be a good move.

  14. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
    Coat

    Did Any Of Those Let Go Have A Vulpine Surname

    You're Fired Fox.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    New Firefox for Android stinks

    It's really too bad that Mozilla didn't layoff 50% of it's staff after releasing that miserable POS aka Firefox for Android.

    Who in their right mind would ever design a web browser without allowing you set your own homepage?

    To make matters worse, the Collections billboard is nothing more than an annoying eyesore which can't be bypassed.

    Who wants to see all this Collections garbage everytime you launch Firefox?

    Looks like Mozilla finally sold their soul to the devil and caved in to selling ads. Mozilla should be ashamed of themselves for releasing such a POS.

    The Chrome browser has been an order of magnitude better than Firefox ever since Google developed site isolation.

    Mozilla has been working over a year on site isolation and they still don't have a freaking clue.

    Goodbye to Firefox and good riddens!

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