I’m a Bad Voltage listener and a Mozillian (who happens to be employed by the Mozilla Corporation to work full time on Firefox OS as an engineer).
I’m sorry you were disappointed by the response you got from the Mozilla Corporation’s PR team, I guess they don’t have the resources to follow up with every communication as fully as they’d like to. I’m disappointed by their response too. But I can’t speak for them so I’m going to speak for myself instead. Not to represent the views of the Mozilla Corporation (which is just one contributor to the Mozilla Project), but to represent my personal views as an individual contributor to the wider project. I guess I’ll ask for forgiveness rather than permission
Firstly, to your concerns about Mozilla’s financial state, let me put it this way: I do not fear for my job for the foreseeable future. As Chris Beard said , each of the partnership options available to Mozilla when the Google search deal came up for renewal had “strong, improved economic terms”. I personally saw it as a positive move for Mozilla to declare independence by leaving behind the single global search deal to pursue a strategy with a more local and flexible approach (not just Yahoo) which aligns much better with our mission to promote choice and innovation on the web. I think any impressions that Mozilla somehow “lost” the Google search deal or suddenly took a massive cut in revenues by switching partners are simply false. In conjunction with other efforts to diversify Mozilla’s revenue streams I see it as making a lot of financial sense. Also, as a mission driven not-for-profit organisation with money in the bank, I think Mozilla has a responsibility to continue to invest that money in furthering our mission, and software development and marketing sound like great ways to spend that money.
Secondly, as Aq says browser market share numbers are notoriously difficult to measure. The impression I have is that the widely reported steady decline of Firefox market share has actually levelled out recently and Firefox is at least gaining new users at about the same rate its losing them. The fact that it’s still losing users is taken very seriously, and I see the Firefox team trying new things  and taking bigger risks every day in order to improve user retention and tell Firefox’s story  in a more effective way.
But having money in the bank and a healthier trend in desktop market share mean nothing if Mozilla isn’t moving its mission forward. And that’s what I worry about, that’s what keeps me up at night.
If you think about what success looks like to Mozilla, it doesn’t have so much to do with market share or how much money is in the bank (though those things are needed to keep the organisation running), it has to do with the health of the open web. On desktop, to all intents and purposes, I think Mozilla won. The desktop browser market we have today has multiple major players who compete on features, performance and usability but co-operate on open standards, and broadly speaking a web page written to those standards will work in any of those browsers. That’s what success looks like to Mozilla.
But on mobile the picture is different, and the web faces new challenges. Few people bother to switch from the browser that comes bundled with their mobile operating system and the terms set by the commercial owners of their app ecosystems can make it especially hard to compete. But more importantly, much of mobile Internet usage is moving away from the open web, into the walled gardens of proprietary app stores.
Firefox OS is an effort to challenge those walled gardens by showing that the web can provide a viable alternative which doesn’t lock users in to one company’s ecosystem. The first phase of the Boot to Gecko project was to prove that it was possible to build a mobile operating system entirely using web technologies, and I believe it succeeded. Firefox OS shipped as a working OS built on HTML5 on over 15 different smartphone models in over 30 countries and is still growing and expanding into new countries. Mozilla doesn’t really have sales numbers from all our partners but analysts show that Firefox OS sales are at least in seven figures.
But think about the scale of this market. The sales of Firefox OS devices could well be more than Ubuntu Phone, Sailfish, Tizen and other upstart mobile operating systems combined, but still be less than 0.1% of the global market. That’s not enough to get Firefox OS out of the “other” category in sales charts, let alone for Mozilla to have the kind of seat at the table on mobile that it had on desktop. So despite promising sales and incredible support from OEMS like ZTE, LG and Alcatel One Touch and network operators like Telefonica and Orange, Firefox OS still faces a huge challenge.
Trying to play catch up with Android and iOS on mobile, which have a head start of many years and many more resources behind them than Mozilla can muster, is futile. But remember, this is what Mozilla is good at. Mozilla has always punched above its weight, it’s taken on an incumbent Goliath before, and won. We won’t do that by competing on their terms, but by doing things differently.
That’s why the second phase of Firefox OS is not about building an OS which looks like every other OS but built with HTML5, it’s about identifying and working to the unique strengths of the open web to go places its competitors simply can not go because they’re now so invested in a particular strategy. It’s about focusing on what users actually need and creating a compelling experience they want to use.
Over the last six months I’ve seen Mozilla do a lot of soul searching about where to take Firefox OS next, in order to best serve our users and our mission. That’s meant cancelling some projects that weren’t showing enough success, and re-focusing on some key areas, with a three year strategy of where each of Mozilla’s product lines are heading. It has meant re-focusing on working to Mozilla’s strengths as an organisation, on the web’s strengths as a platform, and crucially on engaging the community more deeply (which made the PR team’s response to you particularly disappointing to me). It’s meant more focus on how we can create a compelling experience for consuming, creating and curating the web - extracting more user value from the web that exists today, and shaping the web of tomorrow.
The realisation that we were spreading ourselves too thinly and subsequently trying to re-focus on doing fewer things better , and saying no to some business opportunities, has meant a lot of internal change, and has unfortunately lost us some people along the way. But I believe Mozilla will come out of this stronger and more focused on solving the challenges that face the web today.
In addition to Firefox OS I see Mozilla preparing itself to ride a recent surging wave of mainstream interest in the topic of privacy, which is an area in which Mozilla has a lot of trust and a strong voice. I also see Mozilla taking the long term view by becoming more active in some new post-smartphone frontiers of the Internet, like the IoT and VR , where we can make sure Mozilla has more of a voice from the start.
A lot of people want Mozilla to succeed, and recognise the important role they play in keeping the web open. Mozilla certainly has a lot of challenges facing it right now and that’s why it needs the support of the community more than ever. If that’s something you care about then I encourage you to vote with your feet and find a way that you can contribute to the Mozilla Project  to help push its mission forward. And do keep telling us how we can improve, there are people listening, Mozillians are everywhere
I hope that Mozilla can continue to earn respect from the open source community in its role as a defender of the web, and re-engage people like Aq, Jono, Jeremy and Bryan and the rest of the Bad Voltage community in fighting for a cause we all care about .
Lots of love
(sorry for the non-clickable links, the forum wouldn’t let me post more than two links in one post). [links edited to be links – sil]