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Problems With the Firefox Development Process 563

An anonymous reader writes "Mike Connor, one of the core Firefox developers, is raising a flag concerning the Mozilla Firefox methodology of development. From his blog: "In nearly three years, we haven't built up a community of hackers around Firefox, for a myriad of reasons, and now I think were in trouble. Of the six people who can actually review in Firefox, four are AWOL, and one doesn't do a lot of reviews." In an earlier entry, he raised concrete concerns about the community involvement. Asa Dotzler recently elaborated on the process, as previously covered on Slashdot."
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Problems With the Firefox Development Process

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 07, 2005 @02:42AM (#11863402)
    Firefox is mostly a cute interface grafted over the browser portion of the Mozilla Application Suite.

    Mike Connor has a point, but we aren't talking imminent disaster. Yet.
  • by lukewarmfusion ( 726141 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @02:49AM (#11863421) Homepage Journal

    Don't set your standards low just because the competition does. Set 'em high because you can and should.

    (I've just been in the mood to slap someone lately. Nothing personal.)
  • by Vthornheart ( 745224 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:00AM (#11863447)
    Have they produced any Documents that new programmers to Firefox could use to quickly begin becoming useful to the cause? It sounds to me like their problem is that the overall architecture of the system is under-documented (either that, or they're just not allowing sufficient access).

    If it is a problem of documentation, then those two remaining programmers had better work on documenting it... and quickly. If they want the architecture to be preserved when new programmers who don't understand it come along.

  • by rsborg ( 111459 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:02AM (#11863457) Homepage
    to work on frickin Windows, when the MoFo [] has a hard time getting people to do work with sexy Firefox/Mozilla?

    I think some things need to be funded, and if Mofo needs the cash, then Cashdot should be able to help out (maybe do a sidebar-fundraiser or something)... I'd pitch in a couple of bits for my fave browser! Hell make it a contest so people can win firefox/mozilla SWAG []!

  • Same ol', same ol' (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:04AM (#11863463)
    It's nothing new, really, just a little more extreme.

    Mozilla has for years made a constant and ongoing argument that they're open to all comers and want all the help they can get, only to turn people away without consideration. I don't know what it's all about, and I'm not sure I care anymore.

    It's a shame, because while (for example) Ben Goodger is obviously a talented programmer, his belief that he is the only person capable of doing what he does is just crippling the effort. Allowing a few people to prove they're as good as he is (hmmm... maybe he's afraid to find that out) could move things along tremendously.
  • by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:04AM (#11863464) Homepage Journal
    Bingo. Provide architecture docs for the browser. Also put together extension tutorials.

  • by adepali ( 749748 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:07AM (#11863475) Homepage
    I believe the main reason for this is lack of developers-oriented documentation. Even for simple extensions, one has to search around the web and hack through existing modules to see how things work; things get harder when you try to work with the actual code, which comes with a whole bunch of its own graphics toolkit, scripting etc. Sure some people may know the entire code by heart, but these things need extensive, robust documentation if more independent developers are to get involved.
  • by SubTexel ( 715118 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:09AM (#11863482)
    Funny how people always bitch about products when they dont have X feature, etc.. But when they include all of those nice features everyone wants they bitch about how bloated it has become..
  • by Gopal.V ( 532678 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:11AM (#11863487) Homepage Journal
    > because this isn't fun anymore.

    Mmm... "Just for Fun !!"

    If you look at very successful FOSS projects, you'll see a comitted 3-5 member team which does pretty much everything for that project (projects like KDE or gnome don't classify as projects, they are meta-projects).

    A project needs lots of users and around 3-4 x times the core team contributing bits and peices to keep it alive. Once that is reached, the project is pretty much self sustaining.

    I feel that firefox has got a bit of elitism in their top level. Maybe those developers should take a look back into where THEY came from.
  • Reading code... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tuck ( 41529 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:17AM (#11863511) Homepage
    ... can be harder than writing it. When you're writing code or fixing a non-trivial bug, your understanding is built up as you work on it. When reviewing someone else's patch, you're starting cold and it can take a significant effort to comprehend it enough to even attempt to review it.

    Brian Kernighan is widely quoted as saying: "Debugging is twice as hard as writing code in the first place. Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are, by definition, not smart enough to debug it."

    When you're debugging, it involves rereading code you're already familiar with, so I suggest a corollary: reviewing someone else's code can be harder than writing it in the first place too.

    That said, don't let it stop you from trying! Pick a patch from your favourite project and review it. Try to understand it. Look for places where it could be wrong.

    Reviewing is a related but distinct skill from developing, and it can be improved with practice. A good reviewer is worth their weight in gold but it's often a thankless task (so let me take this chance to say a big thank you to markus and djm for putting up with my diffs :-).

  • by mccalli ( 323026 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:18AM (#11863514) Homepage
    OK, so it's Thunderbird not Firefox. But I since I was an OS X user on a laptop and Windows user on a desktop, and since I could find no way to synchronise my address book, I decided I'd do the coding and write the vCard import module for Thunderbird which many people have been crying out for.

    I downloaded the code, posted up onto the relevant bugzilla entry, and waited for a response.

    And waited.

    And waited.

    Still no response.

    Seven months later, the bug flickers into life again and people start asking why this isn't here. Again, I post up reminding people that I offered to write the code, and still would. Again, utter silence. Tumbleweed drifts across the face of the bugzilla page...

    Have a look, entry 79709 if you're interested (Mozilla's bugzilla set-up disallows direct linking from Slashdot). My main motivation for writing this has now gone, as I bought an OS X-based desktop too and can synchronise contacts fine now. I might still have a crack at it just for interest's sake though, but I wouldn't count on getting any contact from Mozilla people.


  • by krayfx ( 694332 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:34AM (#11863558)
    why are we obsessed with firefox being too perfect! c'mon this is a community based product and even though they strive for perfection and do quite a good job at it. they are humans and bound to be prone to problems. and we arent paying them. its our fault that we raise them to some levels and then expect them to be there just because we praise them and raise them to exhalted levels and get a free download of our favourite browser!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:36AM (#11863562)
    Well it makes sense, people want the products they use to only have the features THEY want. This is why plugins/extensions are nice. I don't believe that Firefox is bloated.
  • by iabervon ( 1971 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:42AM (#11863573) Homepage Journal
    They have to be defended against violations in order to avoid becoming generic and therefore invalid, but that doesn't mean you can't license them to the general public for a variety of uses that you approve of. The trademark on "Linux" is perfectly fine, despite all of the Linux variants calling themselves "Linux", because Linus licensed it for that purpose. That doesn't mean that Sun could call their next Solaris version "Linux" with impunity, if it didn't have a Linux kernel.

    Mozilla is trying to establish a trustworthy brand and identity, as you say; however, having an identity excludes potential participants, who are being identified as not part of the project. And their fear that other people's versions would reflect badly on them excludes those other people from feeling welcome.

    One of the key strengths of the Linux brand is that people you trust for other reasons have a stake in it. Sure, there are people out there who release terrible versions of Linux, but you don't get it from them. There are also people out there who release versions of Linux with special features for just your problem, and that's part of what Linux is about (e.g., Intrinsyc ships a Linux version with special support for the hardware on their embedded devices; the Linux Audio Development project has a version which avoids skips when recording audio; these projects couldn't call themselves Linux if Linus managed the trademark the way Mozilla manages theirs, and it would reduce the recognition of Linux as something that can solve any problem you happen to have).
  • by Joseph_Daniel_Zukige ( 807773 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @03:50AM (#11863589) Homepage Journal
    that slashdotters could maybe get off their backsides, quit sniping at things for a while, and do a little code review for firefox?

  • by Osty ( 16825 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:07AM (#11863622)

    As for the remainder, yes - the defect tracking system is absolutely the correct place to keep discussions about the defect. IRC? Who logs that, and what if I'm hit by a bus and someone wants to finish what I'd stared? Nope, that's the entire point of bugzilla and similar systems - to keep information most local to where it's needed. A fine programming principle...

    As I read the comments in the bug, you were looking for technical information (ie, "do I have to create a stream, or is it provided to me by the dialog?" (not a direct quote)), not design. The design should be kept close to the problem, and definitely in the bug. The technical implementation details, and especially minor questions about how you do this or that, don't need to be logged in the bug. Again, as I read it, what you really needed was a comprehensive architecture document of Thunderbird, or failing that at least someone familiar with similar code that could point you in the right direction. That's a task for IRC channels (because the discussion is ephemeral, and doesn't need to be logged for anything but your development purposes) or mailing lists.

    Well, I wasn't about to buy it an engagement ring that's for sure. How 'genuine' would be enough for you? A tattoo on my forearm? A declaration of undying commitment before a gathering of my peers? A nice romantic dinner, just me and the bug?

    Consider it from the approver's point of view. You offered to help, ran into a technical snag, asked a question in an inappropriate forum, and disappeared for 7 months. I get that it's open source, and work is done by individuals in their spare time, but that doesn't sound to me like you were really committed to fixing the bug. If you were, you would've tracked down the information you needed (it wasn't a design question requiring a committee vote), and continued with the work. That's how I define "genuine".

    Enjoy the remainder of your aggression. Remember the point of this Slashdot thread? About how Mozilla was failing to build a community...?

    That wasn't aggression, and I'm not affiliated with Firefox in any way (in fact, aside from having it installed but never using it, I have no association with the project at all). To turn it around on you, perhaps Mozilla is failing to build a community because people don't follow through on commitments? Of course, it's more likely that they're failing to build a community because they've failed to build a community. (no, really -- the fact that your technical question went unanswered can be seen as a sign of a lack of community, and short of some group of people stepping up and actively trying to build that community, the community will continue to not grow ...)

  • No so strange (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:13AM (#11863636) Homepage Journal
    That's perfectly consistent. Missing features are bitchable as bugs if they're features you want. Actual features are bitchable as bloat if they're features you see no need for.

    Which sounds funny, but isn't. The only objective definition of bloat is trivial features whose maintenance cost far outweighs their benefit to the user community. I've worked on projects that had really nasty feature bloat, because individual developers were given too much independence, and wasted time working on features that appealed to them. Meanwhile, less sexy but more important features (and worse, fixes for showstopping bugs), went neglected. So yeah, you can have bloat and missing features at the same time.

  • by oo_waratah ( 699830 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:24AM (#11863662)
    This is a real concern. The whole process of programming 'should' be egoless. The person who writes and maintains the code often feels to much ownership and instead of taking the the change in good grace and thankfulness they often approach the whole thing defensively. "The code was never intended to do that".

    This is NOT a problem with Open Source development but with programmers as a whole, myself included but I try and suppress it. You have to 'give up' code that you have too much ownership in.

  • An additional remark:

    The problems with reporting bugs in Firefox are trivial compared to reporting bugs to Microsoft, in my experience.

    A top-level Microsoft support technician got interested in a very well-documented bug in Windows XP that I reported. He decided, partly as an experiment to teach himself about Microsoft, to work with several Microsoft groups. Result: An entire waste of time of many, many hours, over a period of months.

    I've been reporting several bugs in Windows XP for literally years, and they haven't been fixed. If you work with both Linux and Windows XP, do you notice that Linux has a powerful, bug-free Command Line Interface, and the CLI in Windows XP is weak and buggy? (Yes, I know they are working on replacing it.)
  • by bhalo05 ( 865352 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:29AM (#11863677)
    Better than nothing? Konqueror is now good enough most of the time, and faster and lighter than both Mozilla and Firefox.
  • by Aaron England ( 681534 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:32AM (#11863686)
    Perhaps it has something to do with their stated developer policy?

    Q5: How do I get involved?

    By invitation. This is a meritocracy - those who gain the respect of those in the group will be invited to join the group.

    It was elaborated on slashdot [] once before.

  • by bonch ( 38532 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:45AM (#11863716)
    The reason you see it in OSS more often than, say, the commercial world, is that people who piss off clients usually get fired. That sort of accountability to the consumer--mostly because consumers eventually affect the bottom-line--doesn't exist in the OSS world. We have to rely on trust and goodwill, and often people don't feel the need to follow any social rules because they're not being employed by anyone.

    Like any development model, OSS has its good points and its bad points, and that is certainly a bad one.
  • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:49AM (#11863724)
    Well, the Opera guys just set out to create a web browser. Since Firefox is more of a web development environment, it's kind of hard to compare them, ya know?
  • Typical? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by m00nun1t ( 588082 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:50AM (#11863728) Homepage
    From my observations of lots of open source projects, and involvement in a few, this seems fairly typical. With only a few exceptions, it seems like most projects have the bulk of the work done by a very, very small number of people, usually just one. I often wonder how much the "many eyes makes all bugs shallow" maxim, while probably true, applies in practice when on most projects there simply aren't many eyes.

    [dons flame retardant suit]
  • by nberardi ( 199555 ) * on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:50AM (#11863731) Homepage
    I think you are partly right and partly wrong. With Open Source all that you get is the recognition of your project in most cases. If one person draws all the attention away from the group then you can feel left out and angry. How many people here can name any of the people on the FireFox team that haven't been in Wired Magazine. No cheating...

    There are probably not many and personally I think this is what drives some of the negativity.

    A couple times I have posted a bug to the FireFox Bugzilla, both times they have been duplicates. Both times I have been critisized by the person managing the bug to look before submitting. Both times the title of the bug has been totally different than anything I would have thought of.

    Most of the problems come from the lack of dealing with other people. Many of these developers shouldn't be doing the customer interaction. That is why even in small companies 1st level tech support is not the developer who created/developed the project.
  • Re:Agreed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dhbiker ( 863466 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:52AM (#11863735) Homepage
    Well I for one think that it's awesome that Mozilla develop for the Windows platform, I have one Windows PC at work, an HP-UX and at home I use Linux. I HAVE to use Windows at work because we must support our software on Windows, Solaris and HP-UX so I think its great that I can use the same tools on all three.

    FWIW this will type of thing will gradually wear Microsoft down - I no longer need to pay for MS Office, Open Office is more than good enough (and getting better all the time), eventually the only bit of MS software I'll be running on a windows box will be the OS itself.

    Microsoft will shrink or they will have to adapt and start writing more quality software for less cost to the consumer - I fail to see how this is a bad thing unless you hate Microsoft for the sake of it? (I dislike them very much, not for the sake of it but because of their hideous business practices)
  • by dattaway ( 3088 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @04:53AM (#11863737) Homepage Journal
    When I posted a carefully written response to the criticism, I got criticism...

    This happens in every profession at every employer from anyone who has to do work. Its human nature to take the gravy from the plate and give others the left over bones. Of course, this doesn't help when there are no other people to enjoy the left over scraps so they get discarded.

    Next time you have a problem, bring lots of gravy. The dogs might attack the problem next time without going after YOU!

    More proof that the difference between us and other animals in the kingdom is that we have opposable thumbs. The advantage is we get to meet a lot of monkeys. And an infinite number of them are proficient at typing on a typewriter typing the Complete Works of William Shakespeare while ignoring your very simple question.
  • by Xunker ( 6905 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @05:17AM (#11863794) Homepage Journal
    I feel your pain, but I disagree with that it's acting out anger -- instead, from my experiences I feel that it's not anger but a lack of ability or experience with dealing with someone who says, either directly or indirectly, that something you made is "wrong".

    One thing the FOSS paradigm has done is made it possible that people with no experience in the social aspects of software development to write code that is potentially used by millions of people. It can open up a "cowboy culture" where everyone is at odds with everyone else and where, if I may borrow a line from a certain movie, "we're all our own countries with temporary allies and enemies".

    I say this with the benefit of hindsight, to be sure: I was a once a pimply, antisocial code-contributor and inlooking back on my own exchanges I see that I was as bad as it gets: if someone found a bug in what I did, instead of fixing it I would spend all my energy in combating the person who reported it because surely this person was out to get me. It wasn't until a few years later when I got a "professional" job that my boss pulled me asside one day and gave me a half-hour verbal bitch-slap that I realized that a bug report is usually someone who _wants_to_help_me_. Basically, I was too arrogant to see that, and now that I'm "old and wise" I see that same thing on others.

    Of course, I'm not saying you should let them off the hook because thay don't know any better.. in fact, I'd hazard the sentement that more bitch-slapping needs to be done in the open-source world!

    I don't know were I'm going with this, but that's my two cents.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 07, 2005 @05:19AM (#11863799)
    You can't post an attack like that without giving at least a bug number. For all we know, you could be making the whole thing up.

    And mods, same applies to you - the whole reason you exist is to sort out the weat from the chaff - a comment like this with a bug number is wheat, a comment like this without a bug number is chaff.
  • by Elranzer ( 851411 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @05:23AM (#11863806) Homepage
    What features does IE have over Firefox?

    RSS? PNG support? Popup blocker without a service pack? Proper CSS support? Integrated Sherlock? Tabbed browsing?

    Oh wait, those are all features Firefox has that IE doesn't. About the only thing IE has that Firefox doesn't is ActiveX support, and the only good thing that has come from that is keeping me in business (people pay me to clean their computers of spyware/malware).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 07, 2005 @05:29AM (#11863816)
    In other words, Firefox is the emacs of the browser world. OK. Which, as a vi guy, I'd rather not use. Do one thing and do it well and all that.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 07, 2005 @05:35AM (#11863824)
    Are you using the same Opera I'm using? The one that looks absolutely nothing like a Windows application under Windows? Hell, Firefox fits better with the rest of the Windows applications than Opera does.

    Opera's clearly the superior browser, but you still need to find a theme to make it fit in natively.
  • misconceptions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TuxPaper ( 531914 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @05:42AM (#11863840)
    - Reviewers != Coders. There are more Firefox coders than reviewers. A bottleneck is created, but hardly a crisis

    - Most of Firefox's changes come from Gecko, which is done by Mozilla coders (I guess you could call them Gecko coders, although I've never heard anyone say that). There are currently about 70 reviewers, and 20 super-reviewers for mozilla. There's about 84 coders a month (down from the 150+ haydays of the Netscape area)
  • by strider44 ( 650833 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @05:47AM (#11863852)
    I hate to break it to you mate, but the guys with mod points won't go "oh that guy wants me to mod him up. Well okay, obviously he knows what he's talking about!"

    Please, if you have mod points, use them. If you don't, either post on topic or shut up and stop polluting the board.
  • Konqueror too (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 07, 2005 @05:55AM (#11863875)
    It's bloated compared to konqueror, too.

    Konqueror isn't as featurefull, of course, but it's really not too far off these days, and it's very lightweight in comparison. Which probably has a lot to do with why Apple choose its rendering engine instead of Mozilla's.
  • by ralphdaugherty ( 225648 ) <> on Monday March 07, 2005 @05:55AM (#11863878) Homepage
    Informative exchange, what I get from Ian's experience is that you have to reach out to build a community, and from Ian's experience they didn't reach out and respond to the people that you would want to add to that community.

    I would guess that to be because it was a technical question that needed answered to get him started, and limited the number of people that could respond and it didn't get responded to.

    But I can't imagine some duplication of code to get a working prototype presented to be just rejected out of hand as duplicative. I mean it's an iterative process and getting something in front of them is a start. Asa's blog said they had contributions from a thousand developers.

    On the other hand you would need a reviewer for it, and I think the point of this thread was that not only Ian's offer was ignored but his patch prototype may have been too. :)

  • Re:Typical? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @05:55AM (#11863879) Homepage Journal
    Once a project hits a critical mass, there are MANY eyes looking at your software.
    They will all gladly download and install your codebase.
    A large percentage who come across problems will go back to how they did it before.
    A much smaller (but still large quantity) percentage will actually report bugs and problems in running it.

    Most people won't download the source at all.
    Cost/Benefit ratio - a small bug/UI niggle problem is not worth me getting the source and scratching my head for a few hours just to locate the source of the problem, and then however long to fix it.

    Theres a small team of bug blasters who TRY to force bugs in the software, usually to the irk of the main dev - they have a special knack for breaking code. Most security issues wouldn't come to light without their help.

    So, yes, many eyes will see the code.
    Many eyes will tell you about the problems.
    Few or one will fix the code.
    Perhaps we should find a way to send stimulants to them :)
  • Re:Agreed (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BackInIraq ( 862952 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @05:57AM (#11863884)
    "I agree. One of the more glaringly obvious problems is using critical FOSS resources to do Microsoft's jobs for them. It's beyond crazy. Here you have a pitifully underfunded and obviously understaffed project, supposedly for free and open source software, yet devoting the lions share of effort to helping make Windows better and therefore microsoft more money. A company that could snap it's fingers and hire 500 extra full time devs tomorrow."

    There are other ways of looking at this. For one, and this is probably not the case and you are not likely to agree, maybe they are donating their time and effort to the cause of making the average computer user's experience better, and sine the average computer user is going to be on windows, they are working where the most good would be done.

    Or there is the classic "they'll see how good Firefox is and switch to an open source OS" argument. Not bloody likely, unless you are looking SERIOUSLY long term. Firefox IS proving that an open source app can be user friendly, polished, and do the job better than commercial software, and thus showing the promise of a future open source OS. But as of right now, there is no open source OS that is as easy for the average user to get going and use as Firefox is. So nobody is going to be converting just yet. But again, looking long term, it IS a start.

    Lastly, maybe developing primarly for Windows, but also making sure it runs on linux and mac is their way of targeting the largest user base, but making sure that said users can have the same experience across platforms. Telling them they should fish only in the open source pond makes you sound just as bad as Bill Gates, who generally wants developers to fish only in the Windows pond. By developing most apps with only linux in mind, and leaving windows users with ports that generally come off as clunky and unpolished, you are making open source look bad to Windows users, and generally reducing the chance of them ditching Windows. By developing directly towards Windows, and doing it well, they are making open source look good. If more apps were developed in this way, eventually the only thing anybody would be using of Microsoft's would be the OS.

    That's not good enough for you? Well guess what, THAT is step one towards shrinking their desktop market share. Because once you ensure that the only thing a user is using from Microsoft is Windows, and by offering all their other apps on Mac/Linux, you are making it MUCH more likely that a user will switch. Until you do that, a majority of users *never will*.

  • [Grin]

    Whatever the answer is, it is definitely not in commercial software. See my comment just above: The Firefox people are great compared to Microsoft []. With Microsoft, you pay to be disrespected.
  • Re:Agreed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mant ( 578427 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @06:10AM (#11863912) Homepage

    Maybe they aren't doing the project "for free and open source software" but for users who want a decent browser on any platform? Mozilla aren't fighting any war for the desktop, because they make browsers, not desktops.

    That seems to be their goal, so quite obviously windows is included, and the Mac. I notice you don't comment on the Mac, but that is also a closed source OS, even if it has Darwin underneath.

    Your right that offering FireFox for Windows isn't going to get people to move off Windows. I've seen some people make the argument, but never seen it as being listed as a goal of the Moz and FF people. You can't call it failure if it wasn't their goal.

    In fact, you seem to be against cross platform development altogether. It is hardly the only OSS software to do this (Open Office anyone?), and it is usually touted

    Open source isn't some huge, unified movement dedicated to destroying Microsoft (although some individuals are). There isn't a "true open source" community, maybe you mean the free software community, which is based on the ideals of free software, rather than the more pragmatic open source community? (not that the two are mutually exclusive). Even then I'd think the point of open source is freedom, and that includes the freedom to delevop in MS Windows. The GPL and other licenses don't say you can't develop on a closed source OS.

    Like freedom of speech lets people say things you don't like, including ideas that are against freedom of speech. Freedom to code lets you code for closed source systems, even if the people that came up with the idea don't like what you are coding for.

    It isn't any half way measure, they are doing exactly what they want to do (and other major OSS projects do), and they are doing very well. It just isn't what you want, but you are free to go make a *nix only fork if you think it will get more support by loosing all the Windows people.

  • Re:ok (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 07, 2005 @06:14AM (#11863920)
    source code is not an architecture. it's a design [].
    what i saw in the first link was 2 pages of folders where the code for mozilla1.7 is burried.
    what is the api between ui and gecko? what is the datastructure and related code for tabbed browsing? how do i add a new html tag to be recognized? etc.. the answer to those questions should not be 'RTF code'. I don't want to browse through KLOC to find the answer.

    I've read the linux kernel code commentary (black book) where they describe VM subsystem, IO subsystem, kernel module interface, thread control architecture (with spin locks and all) - THAT was helpful when i started reading the code. the other way around is not helpful (timewise) - reading the code to get the mental picture.
    Yes documentation becomes outdated, but having something cuts learning curve way down, and making patches to documentation is easier than writing it from scratch.
  • Process (part 2) (Score:3, Insightful)

    by marvin2k ( 685952 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @06:33AM (#11863968)
    I have worried about that for a while now until I wrote this: earlier post []

    I really don't think fancy new features should (can) be a top priority right now anymore but instead the core problem of getting new developers needs to be solved not just for now but also for the future. While I agree that changing things like the versioning system won't change much I believe splitting up the codebase into more handy chunks and giving "outsiders" more power (eg regular contributers should need no code review) should be the goal. I think it's this sharp devision between core (Foundation) and outside (everybody else) developers that is the main problem here.
  • Managers (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 07, 2005 @06:45AM (#11863992)
    I'm guessing people get to become managers of these projects 'cos the're good at development. Perhaps there is a chance for a trained manager to get involved and sort out the messy human problems, leaving the developers to get on with the hard coding.
  • Documentation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by yulek ( 202118 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @06:55AM (#11864008) Homepage Journal
    The whole mozilla project is also in desperate need of documentation. It's nearly impossible to write applications and complex extensions without digging into the sometimes sparsely commented source code.

    Documentation would also help in the review process.
  • by atrizzah ( 532135 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:12AM (#11864054)
    I see your point, but I just don't draw the same parallel. People are still free to do whatever they want with the Firefox code, as long as they take out the Mozilla name. I don't see the need for the type of differentiation between Firefox-deriviative browsers that there is for the whole Linux operating system. In fact, I think it would only hurt Firefox if clones with the same name started popping up all over the place.
  • by guet ( 525509 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:20AM (#11864071)
    The problem is, we're talking about a browser here, not an operating system like Linux - it's far easier to persuade people to download a web-browser rather than an operating system (Linux). Maybe that will change, but right now the Mozilla/Firefox people have to worry about security and all the unscrupulous free-loaders who would attempt to use their name.

    A lot of spyware vendors for example would be tempted to ship their own special 'enhanced' version of Firefox with the same branding and call it Firefox+ or something, with built in weather, clock, terrorist headcount, free desktop pictures, plus of course key logging, pop-ups and god knows what else. Just enough fluff to make it seem useful to a non-expert user, and just enough spyware to keep them happy. Then when it all comes out that it is spyware, Firefox will be tarred with the same brush.

    That kind of thing is one good reason not to allow just anyone to use the brand.
  • Re:Back on topic: (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:45AM (#11864125)
    They went for a Java model with no graphical layout tool instead of building in a VB-style GUI/code editor.

    Huh? Its not a java model, its an XML based one (XUL). Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be anything in the way of an IDE (or an IDE plugin) to create those files, which would make creating one a lot easier.

    But 99% of the extensions I've seen are nothing more than a window or two with one or two options. So doing the XUL coding by hand isn't that insurmountable, even for a PhD :)
  • Re:Back on topic: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by REBloomfield ( 550182 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @07:57AM (#11864156)
    I have a Ph.D in comp sci

    Wow, big deal. You can research stuff that no one has ever researched before. How does that qualify anything you can't do as mind-blowingly difficult?

    As for a weekend device driver, I'm gald that the dominant software supplier in my shop spends more than 48 hours writing code that is going to be doing the brunt of the I/O work on my hardware....

  • by malkavian ( 9512 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @08:07AM (#11864177)
    Actually, Economically viable does come into OSS. If you download something for free, that's part of the TCO.
    A bad app, or one that crashes a lot wastes time.
    Time has a monetary value when applied to a person (one hour work == so much money).
    Even stuff that's free to download then has a cost associated to use it.

    This is why OSS didn't steamroller MS right out of the enterprise. People are still evaluating the cost of using it.
    And cost comes right back to being economically viable.
  • by nightski ( 860922 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @08:14AM (#11864196)
    While I disagree with him, why would it be a problem if he was arguing with a Firefox developer?

    I mean, if it is a Firefox developer - he is probably going to be quite biased towards how "awesome" Firefox is and say anything necessary to believe him.

    I mean, if you contribute a lot of time to a project and someone says something not particularly positive - which stance are you going to take? Offensive, or defensive?
  • by theborg1of4 ( 863815 ) <> on Monday March 07, 2005 @08:27AM (#11864239)
    It's sort of funny to watch how some people will compromise their morals just a little bit further as open-source projects become increasingly complex and start to suffer the same pitfalls as their closed-source brethren. The first slide occurred when Firefox security holes went unpatched for weeks. Now I see that at least one person is attempting to justify this latest concern by comparing Firefox to IE - how ironic considering the former is considered to be a completely different alternative to the latter.

    The fact of the matter is that developers - open-source or closed-source - would largely prefer to work on writing new code rather than maintaining old code (especially bug fixes). New code is trailblazing and ego-stroking and cool, while bug fixes don't have nearly the same sexiness. Once a project is deployed, enthusiasm for it tends to fall away.

    Now, with closed-source commercial projects you're paying people to maintain the code throughout its whole life cycle, so you can ensure that the software is enhanced and fixed as is appropriate for your business needs. People will grumble and try to squirm out of it, but if their paychecks rely on getting bug fixes and small enhancements done they can be forced to finish the work. But if you're volunteering your time to a project freely you have far more flexibility to pick and choose what you work on. I think the enthusiasm for getting 1.0.1 out the door is far thinner and weaker than the excitement generated on the march towards 1.0. This is what I perceive to be the Achilles heel of most large-scale open-source projects that don't at least have some sort of corporate interest (and therefore backing) to ensure forward progress will be continued.

    This isn't an open-source bash, by the way - I have great respect for people who donate their time freely to these sorts of efforts, and open-source has done some pretty amazing things for software development.
  • by geminidomino ( 614729 ) * on Monday March 07, 2005 @08:30AM (#11864252) Journal
    Konkqueror == Nothing for those of us that do not use KDE.
  • by MrNemesis ( 587188 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @08:38AM (#11864278) Homepage Journal
    Whilst I agree wholeheartedly with your comment (I'm an Opera user myself, under Linux and windows) and I was quite surprised you weren't modded into obliviion by some of the seemingly anti-Opera /. members, remember that Opera makes most of their money from the embedded market, especially mobile phones and PDA's. Hence there's an awful lot of incentive to get the browser to be as lightweight as possible. Similarly, alot of Opera's innovations have been related to making a browser useful with limited screen size (tabs, small screen rendering) and navigation tools (gestures, incredibly extensive shortcuts).

    Conversely, FF's main aim was to develop a leaner browser than the Moz suite whilst still maintaining a Moz/Opera-like level of functionality. Now that the browser is more-or-less set in stone, expect to see alot of work being done in the smaller/faster areas. Especially with the up-and-coming Gecko-powered embedded browser that's being worked on.
  • by Big Nothing ( 229456 ) <> on Monday March 07, 2005 @08:51AM (#11864314)
    "What features does IE have over Firefox?"

    It comes pre-installed on every Windows box. Don't underestimate availability.
  • by plague3106 ( 71849 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @09:43AM (#11864645)
    Its been a while since I tried Oprea, but I left it behind because a great many pages didn't render anywhere close to correctly. FF misses a few, but not nearly as many as Oprea had.
  • by Kethinov ( 636034 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:28AM (#11865027) Homepage Journal
    The word "internet" being in IE's name is quite a bit helpful for IE as well. Consider people who don't read anything they don't have to and barely read anything that they do. Consider bad spellers, and especially dyslexic people. I've encountered MANY people with poor literacy who (instinctively?) tend to pick IE when presented with a choice between FF and IE on a desktop because of the word "internet" in the name.

    In this very same group of people on desktops with only a FF icon, I've heard questions like "where's internet?" not realizing FF is a web browser. I even know people who don't know what a web browser is, or even that IE's name contains the word "explorer" as well. They only want "internet".

    Putting "internet" in IE's name was a superb marketing decision in terms of brainwashing.
  • I tried (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Cowdog ( 154277 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @10:56AM (#11865314) Journal
    I tried and failed to become a Firefox developer. You have to know several people who are already on the inside, so they can vouch for you. It's an exclusive club by design, not encouraging for newcomers.
  • by GreyPoopon ( 411036 ) <gpoopon@ g m a> on Monday March 07, 2005 @11:21AM (#11865578)
    While I disagree with him, why would it be a problem if he was arguing with a Firefox developer?

    I mean, if it is a Firefox developer - he is probably going to be quite biased towards how "awesome" Firefox is and say anything necessary to believe him.

    If the argument were about how awesome Firefox is, I'd agree. In this case, it's an argument of exactly what Firefox is and how it is constructed, and how it differs from Mozilla. It's just plain silly to argue with one of the developers who knows exactly what the differences are.

  • by Crayon Kid ( 700279 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @11:31AM (#11865718)

    all versions of firefox also consume 150+ megs of resident memory

    Sigh. Shall we get into that issue again? Here's the explanation, for the umpteenth time: it's irrelevant how much memory you see allocated for Firefox in your Task Manager. Firefox uses as much FREE memory as it can grab, because RAM is faster than pulling stuff from disk. What the hell good is having free RAM? You should never have free RAM, IMO, all available RAM should be used by smart applications that will use it to access data faster. Firefox is such an application. As long as it allows other newly starting applications to get their fair share of the RAM and doesn't hog it all for itself or makes it unavailable by leeking, it's all GOOD NEWS that Firefox uses lots of RAM. It damn well should.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 07, 2005 @01:18PM (#11866690)
    No, it really shouldn't use as much memory as it does, and it shouldn't have the memory retention policy that it does either. The amount of memory that it uses does matter, because it completely fragments the heap, it pushes the address space of other programs to disk, and it performs like utter shit after you've used another program that requires a lot of memory. As little memory as necessary should be used by the web client, most disk caching should be performed by the VFS, and the retention policy of allocated memory should be to shrink the used heap space whenever sensible.
  • by ahdeoz ( 714773 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @01:58PM (#11867250)
    That's not true. I use gnome and Konquerer is my file browser of choice for SMB shares.
  • by SunFan ( 845761 ) on Monday March 07, 2005 @02:57PM (#11867924)

    Well, perhaps inviting some more people if only to help digest the volume of issues in the bug tracker would be helpful. Sometimes secretaries really are essential. (It sucks, BTW, that secretaries are falling out of fashion because the engineers can do their own flight reservations on some crappy website. That's a waste of time, dammit, when someone else can do it much more efficiently.)

With all the fancy scientists in the world, why can't they just once build a nuclear balm?