Well, getting digged makes for an exciting week. 🙂 In case there was any doubt, Digg can drive a lot of traffic. My post about Steve’s view of the browser world has generated a lot of good conversation, and I’m happy it has, even if some of the headlines are more inflammatory than I think the post was, or than I think. There are a ton of great reactions, and the comments on the post are insightful — many that both agree or disagree, and make good, distinct points.
There are a few things I’d like to clear up, though, in as direct a way as I can. (Rather than try to re-state any of the misinterpretations of what I said, I’ll assert my positive views here.)
I like Apple and Apple products. You’ll just have to trust me when I report that we have more Macs in the house than we do people. iPods, too. They’re great.
I think that Steve Jobs has made a ton of positive change in the industry. Design matters again. DRM is dying. And I’ve got all my music in my pocket.
I think that Safari coming to Windows is a good thing. User choice is good. No doubt about it.
I think competition in the browser world is fundamentally a good thing. There is great work being done by browser makers today, in all parts of the world, not just from Microsoft, Apple and Mozilla. Also great stuff like Camino, Opera, OmniWeb, Maxthon, SeaMonkey, Shiira and Flock, not to mention new types of non-traditional browsers like Songbird (for music) and Miro (for Video).
I don’t believe that Firefox deserves anything from anyone, except based on the value we deliver — we need to compete to stay relevant. We need to make Firefox better & better, we need to help people understand why we do what we do. Absolutely, and we’re working hard to do that.
Firefox market share does matter. But maybe not for the reasons you think. The Mozilla mission is to keep the Web open & innovative — that’s our public benefit goal. To get further towards that goal, people have to care about Mozilla, of course, and Firefox market share is an important tool for that at the moment. But it’s not an end in itself. It’s not even really a revenue issue. We’ve figured out reasonable sustainability strategies that don’t rely overmuch on whether our share is 20% or 25%. And we’re investing a lot of time and attention in places like China, where helping the Internet get better is the right thing to do, but won’t result in obvious market share gains (because the Chinese market, and many Asian markets are notoriously undertracked at the moment).
Here’s the main point from my previous point: words and pictures matter. There are two basic possibilities for why Steve’s slides looked the way they looked. The first possibility is that their actual intent is to make this a two browser world on all platforms (well, all the platforms they care about, which would be Windows & OS X). I think that’s not a wonderful strategic goal for them, but the market will decide (like with everything).
The second, more likely possibility is that it was a careless construction of the slides that show a transition from the current world with more than just IE & Safari to a world with exactly two options. That it isn’t what they were trying to say. Oops!
I think that the truth is actually somewhere in between — that as they started to think about how to draw an “after” picture, it was messy. That representing anything like the real world wouldn’t show the impact that Apple wants to have, or the incredible diversity of what’s likely to be the real after picture. It’s much easier to say things in the language of the past — that users can just get their browser from Apple or Microsoft.
But by using mental models and language of the past — a past in which modes of distribution are controlled by a few players with global financial wherewithal — the large companies, the controlling parties are seeking to prolong control. It’s an insidious way of thinking, because often you don’t even realize you’re doing it because it’s not convenient to try to communicate or try to understand a complicated future where it’s not Red against Blue, La Bamba versus La Costena, Coke against Pepsi. And by letting others use these simplified 2 party models, whether intentional or not, we’re all aiding & abetting their dominance, whether it’s good for people or not.
But the world is messy and complicated, and it’s increasingly rare for something to be pure and simple. My friend Diego says that “Web thinking is freedom thinking.” But we have to protect that by calling out efforts to the contrary, whether they’re intentional, accidental, or just because people don’t take the time to draw the messy version of the picture.