Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mozilla and its frenemies

Following my friend Matt Asay’s tweets (a tentative foray into wasting time with Twitter that I don’t waste with NetNewsWire, LinkedIn or Facebook), he had an interesting tweet on Mozilla.

Longtime steward Mitchell Baker and her (relatively newer) CEO John Lilly were interviewed at the WSJ’s D7 conference Thursday. “All Things D” reporter John Paczkowski (formerly of GMSV) has a brief writeup, which Matt tweeted. (A few video highlights are provided by the WSJ).

I’d recommend the entire summary Paczkowski post, but let me quote the parts related to Mozilla’s coopetition with Google:

How does it feel to be competing with Chrome, Walt asks, noting that Mozilla has long had a relationship with Google. “You’re now where Google’s “don’t-be-evil bulldozer is heading. How does that feel?” Baker says relations between the two companies are still good. They are still cooperating on geolocation, for example. The next version of Firefox will ship with that and it’s a Google service. It doesn’t have to be a Google service, but Google provides it for free and as such, is the obvious source.

Lilly jumps in: As long as we build a good browser, we’re OK. We’re not without assets. “We’re not simply going to shut down because Google is entering our market.” Our point of view is that the browser can do more for you. That’s not really Google’s vision. We think of the browser as a “user agent.”

Lilly says he likes Chrome. “Really?” asks Walt. Lilly says yes. He notes that rival browsers like Chrome and Safari have made Firefox better. A nice change from competing against, IE, apparently.

What’s the value proposition for Firefox now that Chrome exists? Questioner has switched to Chrome because it runs Google Apps better (which is the way Google designed it). So why use Firefox? People like the interface, says Lilly. They can modify it. They can skin it, etc. Lots of legitimate reasons.
There aren’t a lot of direct quotes, but I like Baker’s one-liner: “If you were a business picking a space in which to compete, you wouldn’t pick one with Microsoft, Apple and Google.” So true

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