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Mozilla to Enterprise: We Never Meant to Make You Cry

Mozilla to Enterprise: We Never Meant to Make You Cry

Firefox's expedited release schedule has ruffled the feathers of enterprise users, and the situation came to a head a month ago when a Mozilla evangelist publicly stated that the enterprise isn't a focus for Firefox. Perhaps having some second thoughts on that position, Mozilla's revived its Enterprise User Working Groups in an effort to help business users keep up with a faster-moving Firefox.

By Richard Adhikari
07/22/11 5:00 AM PT

Less than a month after Mozilla evangelist Aza Dotzler blew off enterprise users of the company's Firefox Web browser, triggering an avalanche of angry responses, the Mozilla Foundation is seeking to make nice with corporate America.

The Foundation has announced that it's re-establishing the Mozilla Enterprise User Working Group (MEWG).

This group will provide a forum for enterprise developers, IT staff and Firefox developers to discuss the challenges, ideas and best practices for deploying that browser in the enterprise.

"The Enterprise Working Group is a step to continue the dialogue with enterprise IT departments," Stormy Peters, head of developer engagement at the Mozilla Foundation, told LinuxInsider.

However, Mozilla may find the going rough with the MEWG, which withered from lack of interest shortly after being set up in 2007 by Mike Kaply of Kaply Consulting, who was then working at IBM.

"Unless there are some practical results out of the group, I don't see it mollifying anyone," Kaply told LinuxInsider. "I think it's a damage control move."

The MEWG doesn't look as if it will tackle the main problem enterprises have with Firefox, which is its rapid release cycle. Many cmpanies can't cope with a new release every couple of months and were outraged when their complaints were blithely dismissed by Dotzler.

Resuscitation Is for Revivalists

The MEWG will set up a discussion list for conversations. Members will discuss topics listed in the forum as well as during in-person meetings. There will also be monthly phone meetings which will focus on one particular topic.

That setup's almost identical to the one Kaply laid out when he launched MEWG in 2007.

Mozilla didn't involve Kaply in its decision to restart the MEWG, Kaply said, adding that he first learned about it when he read the Mozilla blog.

The next meeting will discuss the release cycle and how enterprises can use Firefox in a way that fits into their own testing and release cycles.

A Real Working Group or Just Kitty Litter?

Whether or not MEWG will be able to achieve anything is open to question.

The original MEWG was disbanded mainly because of a lack of participation combined with a lack of support from Mozilla.

If this revived MEWG is to get off the ground, Mozilla devs need to rethink their attitudes toward the enterprise, Kaply suggested.

Companies have to go through a complex list of processes to cope with new technology, some of which Kaply has outlined in a blog post.

Companies need a stable release rather than the latest technology per se, Kaply wrote. Updating a browser requires lots of testing and certification and can be an expensive process.

Indeed, the MEWG may be able to help smooth the way for enterprises to upgrade to the latest version of Firefox, Mozilla's Peters contended.

For example, members will be able to develop and share solutions that help organizations adopt automated testing to make certification easier, he said.

"Since the amount of changes between releases is much smaller than the prior release cadence, the use of automated tests that target those changes could help mitigate certification and deployment issues in a managed environment," Peters stated.

Mozilla Gets It, Maybe

"I have memories of sitting in meetings about 10 years ago with Mozilla, Sun, IBM and Google telling Mozilla why enterprise was important," Kaply said.

Perhaps the Mozilla Foundation underwent a radical change after the outcry from enterprise users following Dotzler's comments on June 23.

Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs tweeted June 28 that "enterprises are built of people and Mozilla is fundamentally about people."

The same day, the Mozilla blog stated that the foundation's exploring solutions that balances enterprises' needs for certification of their browser-related technology on the one hand, and security on the other.

The establishment of MEWG may prove to be a step in the right direction.

"It's so difficult to separate the consumer from the enterprise these days, especially with the consumerization of IT, that you have to pay attention to both sectors simultaneously," Jim McGregor, chief technology strategist at In-Stat, told LinuxInsider.

Security Remains the Snag

It's not likely that Mozilla will slow down the refresh cycle for the Firefox browser.

"It's a requirement these days to bring out browsers rapidly because of security issues," In-Stat's McGregor pointed out. "Even if Mozilla wanted to slow down the pace of new browser releases, they couldn't do so."

One possible solution is to provide a long-term support release and ensure there's overlap between the old and new versions of the browser, Kaply suggested.

"That's what's missing with rapid release," Kaply said. "The moment Firefox 5 came out, Firefox 4 was out of support."


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