Don't Be Fooled by Google's Fake New 'Privacy'

Ryan Tate · 01/24/11 06:35PM

Google made waves today with software that purports to banish ad tracking cookies. In reality, virtually no one will use the software, it doesn't banish ad tracking cookies, and Google itself is the leading tracker to begin with.

Mozilla's Mitchell Baker investigated over looks, not finances

Melissa Gira Grant · 09/16/08 04:00PM

Mother Jones, the lefty politics magazine based in San Francisco, tarnishes its usually sterling reputation for tough investigative reporting with an interview with Mitchell Baker, chair of the Mozilla Foundation, the nonprofit behind the Firefox Web browser. The deepest "inside the Firefox's den" they venture? Exposing the arresting effects of Baker's mane of red hair on the mostly male-dominated rooms she commands. If Mother Jones were up to its usual hijinks, it would be asking Baker, instead, about rumors that Mozilla faces a $14 million back tax bill after flunking its latest audit.Mozilla hasn't filed financials since its 2006 report, when it just squeaked by a rule that allowed it to avoid disbursing more of the money that has gushed into its coffers from a lucrative search-referral deal with Google. Since nonprofits like Mozilla are allowed to file their finances on a downright sluggish schedule, it will be some time before we know what's really happening with the browser maker. But it has been holding onto a large chunk of change just in case it faced a challenge over its nonprofit status, and we've heard that the latest review of Mozilla's finances didn't hold good news. Wouldn't that have made for a much interesting conversation than whether Baker considers herself a geek sex symbol? (Photo via Mother Jones)

Apple wanted Opera to be the iPhone browser

Jackson West · 09/12/08 09:20AM

Before the first iPhone was released, Apple wanted Opera to build the browser for the iPhone, says a source. Negotiations dragged on for six months, the sticking point being exclusivity — Apple wanted it, but Opera was unwilling to commit, seeing a larger market for licensing its proprietary software to multiple handset manufacturers. Eventually, Apple walked away armed with ideas from the negotiations and built a version of its own Safari browser for the popular mobile device. Meanwhile, Opera ended up as the browser of choice for the blockbuster Nintendo Wii, and Opera Mini did much to saturate the mobile handset market. But is the iPhone claim simply a proud boast made by an indiscreet senior manager at a company party? Maybe.The real question is, why would Apple have approached Opera in the first place? Simple. It's not like the Cupertino company has thousands of employees to throw at a browser project — with only a few thousand in corporate and the rest in retail, Apple is actually happy to outsource engineering whenever possible. Especially when the company can ensure an exclusivity deal and enforce some creative control over the interface. But that demand of exclusivity led Opera to bow out, which forced Apple to end up developing its own mobile browser after all. If the source's assertion is true, passing on Apple could prove a miscalculation on Opera's part. Apple is said to have offered it a large piece of then-theoretical iPhone sales. Opera chose a smaller piece of a larger pie in licensing its Opera Mini to multiple carriers and manufacturers, and so far, it's done fine with that strategy. But even with the bugs and lawsuits, the iPhone is set to beat Steve Jobs's public estimates that Apple would sell 10 million units this year. Meanwhile, mobile search partner Google is intent on porting the company's new Chrome browser to the Android mobile software platform and both Mozilla and Microsoft recently upgraded their competing Firefox and Explorer browsers. Four years in, and Opera has big money to blow on a bar tab at the Supper Club in San Francisco's SoMa neighborhood. That will buy a lot of champagne and at least a temporary warp in Apple's reality distortion field. But enough to make up for the iPhone money Opera passed up? That remains to be seen.

Firefox developer loses three months of browser-bug data

Owen Thomas · 09/10/08 03:00PM

Ever suspected those "Report Bug" tools in Web browsers leave you shouting into an abyss, your feedback discarded? An engineer at Mozilla, the maker of Firefox, has just confirmed that's actually been the case for months. Mark Smith explains that his misconfiguration of database led to the loss of three months of data about websites which users say Firefox doesn't display correctly, information Mozilla uses to "help prioritize fixes to the browser."The loss is especially ill timed, given the recent launch of Google's Chrome browser, which Google says uses the search engine's extensive index of the Web to test for display bugs. Smith is taking the error like a man: "I fucking did it and it was my fault and that's that." But he might want to update his recent post about optimizing database configurations for Web applications. Experience is the best teacher of all.

Firefox, Chrome already fighting over who's faster

Paul Boutin · 09/03/08 12:20PM

The real browser war isn't between Microsoft and anyone. It's between Firefox and Google Chrome, jostling to become the aftermarket browser of choice. Yesterday, a Google engineer assured that the company's new open-source browser processes webpages much faster than Mozilla Firefox — "Many times faster. I guarantee you." Mozilla engineers released their own test results that show Firefox with a slight performance edge. But the latest test, run independently by, skews the other reporter Stephen Shankland ran tests suggested by the Chrome team. Google's browser trounced the rest of the field:

What took Google so long to build a browser?

Owen Thomas · 09/02/08 07:00PM

Blogger Jason Kottke has been asking for a Google browser for seven years. So, too, have Larry Page and Sergey Brin. In 2001, Google CEO Eric Schmidt told them the company wasn't ready to take on Microsoft in a full-fledged browser war, Steven Levy reported in his Wired feature on Google's new browser, "Inside Chrome: The Secret Project to Crush IE and Remake the Web." But I don't think Google's project is really about taking on Microsoft. It's about Mozilla, the maker of Firefox, in a feud that stretches back almost two years.John Lilly, the CEO of Mozilla, has said he's "not worried" about Google Chrome. That's classic PR-speak. Mozilla and Google are financially intertwined; Firefox makes money for Mozilla by referring users to Google's search engine; that traffic, in turn, generates advertising revenues for Google. But Mozilla has shown some signs of independence, signing a deal with Yahoo for search in some parts of Asia. And the larger Firefox gets — its browser-usage share has reached 20 percent, according to some estimates — the more leverage it has over Google. Sure, in theory, Microsoft can tie its Internet Explorer browser to its Web search and mapping services, generating traffic. But that's been the theory for years. Can we say it? Microsoft's online services just aren't very good, which is why users avoid them and they're losing money hand over fist. A new browser won't change that. So Firefox, not Internet Explorer 8, is the real strategic problem for Google. Of course, it's impolite to say so. Firefox, as an open-source project, is beloved by geeks, even though its executives are well paid and the project is gushing cash. (Mozilla Corp., a for-profit corporation, is owned by the Mozilla Foundation, a nonprofit; the company's profits can thereby flow up to the foundation without violating its tax-exempt status. Neat how that works, eh?) Google would also face an all-out rebellion in the ranks if it came out and said it's taking on Firefox. But there's reason for the Googlers behind Chrome to start a grudge match. Several key engineers — Ben Goodger and Darin Fisher among them — devoted considerable volunteer time to Firefox before joining Google's browser project. An article posted on the Truth about Mozilla blog in February says Mozilla's CTO, Brendan Eich — a veteran of Netscape — removed Goodger as a Firefox "module owner" in September 2006. Being the "owner" of a module, while a volunteer position, carries considerable cachet. Goodger subsequently removed himself from the Firefox project, as did colleagues like Fisher and Pam Greene. Wired now reveals the motivation behind Eich's move: By June 2006, Goodger and others had created a prototype of Chrome. If Lilly wasn't worried about Google's browser, why would Eich take Goodger off Firefox? In any event, removing Goodger played into Google's hands, making him all the more willing to take on Mozilla. The infighting between the browser maker and the search engine shows the limits of open source's "sharing is caring" ideology. Open-source projects can be just as political as proprietary code — and as vulnerable to twisting for corporate priorities. The bottom line of Google Chrome's creation? The bottom line. Google was worried that Firefox was making too much money, and Mozilla was getting too independent. Mozilla had to be stopped — and the true Firefox believers at Google had to be cajoled into doing Larry and Sergey's dirty work. (Illustration of Ben Goodger by Scott McCloud)

"Affirmative... I poked one. It was dead."

Jackson West · 06/27/08 06:00PM

Spotted in Dolores Park, a group of Firefox 3 fans building a robot from household items. Can you suggest a better headline? Do so in the comments. The best one will become the new headline. Yesterday's winner: "Spoiler Alert: Eric Schmidt Named As Final Cylon." by WagCurious. (Photo by JP Puerta)

Why does Firefox use Google for search? Follow the money

Owen Thomas · 06/10/08 12:00PM

A new version of Firefox, the popular alternative Web browser, is getting close to releasing a third version. That's prompting people to take a close look at the business practices of Mozilla Corp., the maker of Firefox. Danny Sullivan, the longtime search-engine observer, is calling on Mozilla to let Firefox users pick the search engine built into their browser; Firefox 3 defaults to Google in its new release, as it has in the past. Sullivan has a point: Google, which has called for openness, risks seeming hypocritical. But he gets the business side of things all wrong.

Video confirms Mozilla's Toronto offices truly are the worst in tech

Nicholas Carlson · 06/09/08 10:00AM

I spent the better part of today at Mozilla's offices in Toronto - the workspace Vallewag labeled as 'the worst in tech'. Mozilla's Toronto office is far from the worst tech workspace I've ever seen - in fact I'd rank it among the best small office spaces in tech I've visited.

Tech's worst workspace: Mozilla

Nicholas Carlson · 05/19/08 02:20PM

What's so bad about Mozilla's Toronto workspace? Besides the fluorescent lighting, the colorless white walls and the folding tables, the worst thing about Mozilla's Toronto workspace is how we're sure management would improve it. With corporate graffiti, company logos and too many colors. That was management's trick at Facebook and look where readers ranked it in our poll on tech's ten worst workspaces — as tech's second-worst workspace, just after Mozilla. Check out the full list, below.

Rank tech's 10 worst workspaces

Nicholas Carlson · 05/16/08 08:00AM

After reviewing our post "The 10 worst workspaces in tech," commenter AdmNaismith described Facebook's office, pictured above, as "foggy, dank, dim, and utterly depressing." Commenter mothra1 hated Yahoo's New York offices more: "They suck! Lifeless and impersonal. Kinda like the douchebags who still actually work there." Meanwhile, Adobe apologist BlairHapjo told us we "clearly didn't get past Adobe's lobby," and the rest of the office features "Aeron chairs, real offices (with doors!), big picture windows." For us, the worst offices we found on Office Snapshots and elsewhere were the the ones that try too hard to seem Internet-hip, like Jajah and Google. Now it's time to settle the disputes. Below, vote for your least favorite and help us rank tech's 10 most dismal places to work:

The 10 worst workspaces in tech

Nicholas Carlson · 05/08/08 08:00PM

We've toured the top 10 workspaces in tech. Click to viewNow, we've gone back to Office Snapshots to find the 10 worst. What makes them so bad? Some offend with exposed fluorescent lights, gray cubicles and a dystopian corporate sheen. But others, with their pseudo-hip graffiti, kindergarten toys and plastic decorations — all in a desperate attempt to seem "Internet-y" — come off even worse. We'll start with Yahoo's New York digs.

Mozilla's Toronto office

Nicholas Carlson · 05/08/08 09:59AM


Most people who work on Mozilla's products don't get paid. Actual employees in Mozilla's Toronto office have it much worse. (Photos by menros)

Mozilla's 10th anniversary made Valleywag feel old

Jackson West · 04/01/08 02:20PM

Mozilla's 10th anniversary party at 111 Minna last night felt a little like a high school reunion for the kids who didn't go to their high school reunion. The Mozilla Foundation, maker of the Firefox browser, feigned poverty by renting just half the gallery space and serving up crudités and issuing one drink ticket per guest, only later splurging by opening up the bar. There was some awkward dancing to Soft Cell's "Tainted Love," old jean jackets embroidered with the Netscape logo, a gargantuan chocolate cake and a photo booth. Many of the oldsters who were around when CSS was just a dream and Ajax was still used to scrub toilets also traded reminiscences of Burning Man, tech society's annual prom. Mozilla Foundation chair Mitchell Baker earned part of her $500,000 salary by giving a brief speech. And sign-toter Frank Chu showed up, uninvited but always welcome. But the talk of the party was the man who wasn't there.

The man who didn't let AOL kill Firefox

Nicholas Carlson · 01/31/08 01:00PM

Tomorrow, Netscape is officially dead: AOL is ending support for the venerable browser. But its offspring, Firefox, is thriving. Both Netscape and Firefox had several brushes with death. In 1998, "Microsoft was driving their monster truck after us and they were about to pin us to the wall," former Netscape software engineer Brendan Eich recently told the San Francisco Chronicle. Before that could happen, however, Netscape execs James Barksdale, Eric Hahn, Mike Homer and cofounder Marc Andreessen decided to open the browser's source code to the community. Behold, Mozilla. But the organization wasn't independent of Netscape owner AOL yet. And here's a shocker, AOL executives nearly killed Mozilla through neglect. So who saved the baby?