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Over 27% of Firefox Patches Come from Volunteers 107

dolphinling writes "Everyone is aware that the Mozilla Corporation makes some money, and employs some people now. Google has full-time employees working on Firefox too, as do a number of other places. Yet despite that, in the six months up to Firefox 2 some 27% of the patches to Firefox were submitted by key volunteers, and those patches represent 24% of changes made to the source code. What's more, those numbers only counted contributers with 50 patches or more, so the actual numbers are probably quite a bit higher. It's good to see that even as Mozilla does so well in the business world, it can still keep its ties to the community so strong." They were running these number to find out who they need to start offering support to. So: contribute to Firefox, and you know you'll get a hand up. Nice work, folks.
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Over 27% of Firefox Patches Come from Volunteers

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  • by iambarry ( 134796 ) on Friday February 16, 2007 @10:29AM (#18037884) Homepage
    Everyone is aware that the Mozilla Corporation makes some money
    I am so out of touch. Must be getting old.

    How do they make money?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      The Search bar in the corner
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jackharrer ( 972403 )
        And search through address bar. Works almost the same.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by KiloByte ( 825081 )
        Why the hell would anyone want the search bar if you can simply type "google xxx"? (And for lazy bastards like me, you can change this to "g" by editing "Quick searches/Google/keyword"). Same with "wp" for WikiPedia, and so on. Toolbars are useless and a waste of screen real estate.

        Oh, wait... that's a sponsored toolbar. Oh my.
        • Re:making money (Score:5, Informative)

          by linvir ( 970218 ) on Friday February 16, 2007 @10:47AM (#18038060)

          Why the hell would anyone want the search bar if you can simply type "google xxx"?
          It's a lot more effort to type "google" than it is to press CTRL+K

          I use this all the time, and I definitely don't consider it a waste of screen real estate. The only time I ever remove the Google toolbar is when I'm setting up KDE on a small desktop.

          As for wikipedia... well, that's all Google's really for nowadays anyway: a faster search engine for wikipedia with a decent built in spellchecker.

          • by cripkd ( 709136 )
            Maybe its easier to hit ctrl-k and type your search, but for me it seems more natural, as opposed to fast, to type google asdf. But even with that, google still sees the search has originated from a firefox install, so its the same, see the generated url.
            • Typing google makes you feel superior, because its like typing a function :)
              • I use keyword searches because it's simpler to use the same interface for all my searches. I hit ctrl-L to put the cursor in the address box, and then:

                gg foo (Google)
                ggg foo (Google Groups)
                wp foo (Wikipedia)
                cc foo (
                az foo (Amazon)
                dict foo (

                Plus you can use them for non-searches:

                ym (Yahoo Mail)

                Using a special search function for Google which you can't use for anything else just adds extra complexity. One way for everything is simpler.
                • by linvir ( 970218 )

                  I can see where you're coming from with that. During my brief period using Konqueror as my main browser, I used that stuff all the time. Mainly wp for wikipedia searches.

                  But, if you take the time to click on the G logo on the extreme left of the search bar, you will see that it comes with a whole bunch of other sites for you to search. So if you're doing most of your searching on only one website, the search bar retains its usefulness.

                  It's good that this address bar search functionality is available in F

          • by deander2 ( 26173 ) *
            ohhhh... ctrl-k. that's one key faster than my ctrl-l + tab!
            danke! :)
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by MobyDisk ( 75490 )
              ctrl-l + tab! That's faster than move hand to mouse, move mouse to upper right corner, then down and left a little, then click, then move hands back to keyboard!
              danke! :)
              • by kogus ( 855114 ) on Friday February 16, 2007 @02:08PM (#18041164)
                Using the mouse! That's faster than hitting [Windows Key]->"S"->[enter]->[enter], arrowing to "Accessibility options", pushing enter, then pushing [tab] nine times, then using the arrow to get to the "Mouse" tab, then pushing [alt-m] to turn on mousekeys, [alt-a] to apply the change, then using my number pad to navigate to the search bar and click it. danke! :)
              • by deander2 ( 26173 ) *
                heh. was my post not obvious enough in its joking-ness for ya? ;p
                • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )
                  Actually, I seriously did it with the mouse. So this entire thread has helped me out. And it inspired me to lookup a list of firefox shortcut keys. My life is now .1% faster and easier than before, thanks to you!
            • CTRL+E -> Search field FTW
          • I'd like to e-buy you an e-drink. Perhaps on E-Bay? (Sorry, friday, plus i'm a little hyped up today. The B-Flat song on NPR this morning put me in a goofy mood)
          • Actually, I type 'g ' && 'go ', which takes longer than going to the searchbox but there's no changing providers involved.
            Got some wikipedia, imdb, javadoc etc keywords in there as well, lovely feature.
            • Okay, shouldn't have used unencoded and :-)
              It should read 'g searchterm' for i'm searching google & 'go searchterm' for feeling lucky @ google.
              I seem to be looking over the feature to edit my own comments..
        • by StressGuy ( 472374 ) on Friday February 16, 2007 @11:02AM (#18038194)
          you damn near got me fired!

        • by Kjella ( 173770 )
          People need a lot more hand-holding than you think. people hate the CLI. Microsoft is introducing ribbons to take even more real estate, because their research shows people don't find their way (yes, there's bloat. There's also plenty useful functions people never find). I swear, if there wasn't a separate search box some people would never find out that you could search the internet.

          Do I care? No. I use "g" (default in Opera) and "wp" (go to, right-click search area and choose "Create search"
        • Why the hell would anyone type "google xxx" if you can simply use the search bar?
      • How do they get money because people use the built in searh bar in FF?
    • by mshmgi ( 710435 ) on Friday February 16, 2007 @10:31AM (#18037902)
      Sure, they give the software away, but they make it up in volume!
    • I read they make a lot of money from the search box built into the gui, particularly Every time you doa search of Amazon thru the FF search box, they get a kick back. I also think they get a kick back every time someone installs one of the FFs with Google toolbars that Google offers.
    • I find the lemmings to a cliff jump to use Firefox amusing.

      1. It's better than IE, we know that. IE itself wouldn't be bad if they would stop supporting and enabling goofy Microsoft extensions that eventually Firefox goes along and supports as well.
      2. Opera has been out there for ages. It's a better browser with much more advanced use of tabs, has had them for years, and is much more COMPLIANT to the spec.
      3. Konqueror has been out there for ages. It's use of tabs is not as great as Opera's, but more importa
  • There's more to Mozilla than coding - volunteers also do quality assurance [], documentation, and other things that aren't reflected in these numbers, but are just as important to the finished product.
    • by UbuntuDupe ( 970646 ) * on Friday February 16, 2007 @10:43AM (#18038028) Journal
      Hey, good point.

      Me: "Firefox deleted my bookmarks when I updated to the new version."
      Mozilla: "Shut up. That's fixed in the new version. Download it here."
      • by jZnat ( 793348 ) *
        Well, when you're like the 100th person to submit a duplicate bug of something that's already fixed, I can see why they start to get hostile.
        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          And when you're the 100th person to add details to a bug, that has been open for... years.
          What then?
          • And when you're the 100th person to add details to a bug, that has been open for... years. What then?
            Then you organize people to get together for a bug-birthday, of course.
          • by jZnat ( 793348 ) *
            Vote for it I guess. I don't like how many bugs are years old in Mozilla, but it happens. Bug spam never solved anything. If you've got an idea on how to fix it that hasn't been mentioned already, go ahead and propose the idea. Ask about what needs to be fixed in order to fix the bug to perhaps get some people motivated to fix it (outside of the Mozilla developers).
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              Voting doesn't do anything either. You can tell this, not just by developer comments, but by the fact there is no report in Bugzilla to show the top N voted bugs. (It's possible to make a custom report that kind of gets the result, but if voting were important for decision making it would presumably be a default report).

              Many highly voted bugs have been open for years. This is very dissappointing to me as it's these ones (when in core parts of the browser) that I believe the Mozilla developers should be work
  • FTFA:

    We looked for those developers who had submitted 50 or more patches [...] We needed to draw a line somewhere, so when we first began, we searched for long-standing and key contributors to the project. [...] Asa and I then cross-referenced those results [...]
    Goddamn bastards GET BACK TO CODING!! Precioussss Firefoxxxx.... (just kidding...)
  • Moo (Score:3, Funny)

    by Chacham ( 981 ) on Friday February 16, 2007 @10:38AM (#18037974) Homepage Journal
    and those patches represent 24% of changes made to the source code.

    When do we get to rename FireFox to Apache Broswer?
  • Volunteers would probably patch IE too, except they can't, because it's closed source... hence the main issue with closed source. Even if you wanted to fix it, and you knew how, and you had the time, you still can't fix it.
    • by shokk ( 187512 )
      Sometimes people just want to scratch their own itch. Firefox gives them that opportunity and they jump for it. IE does not and it becomes uncomfortable to itch so much. The funny thing is that during their salad days, had Microsoft been open about it and swallowed their pride for a few months, people would have found and fixed their bugs at a much faster rate than has been the case so far. Now everyone has that bad IE taste in their mouth and are just walking away. I don't see IE7 being any different.
  • by sunderland56 ( 621843 ) on Friday February 16, 2007 @10:46AM (#18038052)
    Over 75% of the "improvements" to Windows come from volunteers, too.

    Won't you please help support their work? Just visit any web site, you'll get some downloaded for free!

  • by gtoomey ( 528943 ) on Friday February 16, 2007 @10:51AM (#18038088)
    Mozilla doesn't just make "some money", it makes $50 million a year from firefox. ox-a-50-million-dollar-cash-cow []
  • After all, if you are contributing patches, that means you don't have commit privileges. The people paid to work on Mozilla don't need to contribute patches because they just commit their changes.

    • by Giorgio Maone ( 913745 ) on Friday February 16, 2007 @11:18AM (#18038368) Homepage

      This is not true.

      Every single change in the Mozilla code base is proposed/discussed in a Bugzilla [] entry, usually called "a bug" no matter if it refers to a defect to be fixed, an enhancement or a new feature.

      Patches are attached to those "bugs", and they always require peer review [] to be accepted and eventually committed, even if they come from Mozilla Corporation paid staff.

      So, "they just commit" applies to nobody.

      • by jZnat ( 793348 ) *
        Does this mentality apply to the entire trunk? I know that there's a strict review process for the stable and branch, uh, branches, but the trunk doesn't seem to be as rigorously reviewed.
        • Yes, peer review applies to the trunk as well.

          The main difference is that new features and "risky" fixes (i.e. large patches with high regression danger) are almost never accepted in a branch, unless they answer an urgent security need.

          Trunk, instead, is considered a playground for innovation, but changes are nevertheless bound to the same proposal/discussion/review/commit life cycle.

          There's a browser safer than Firefox, it is Firefox, with NoScript [].

  • by tinkertim ( 918832 ) * on Friday February 16, 2007 @11:08AM (#18038260) Homepage
    Just because the folks submitting patches aren't being paid by Mozilla, doesn't mean they aren't monetizing their accomplishments.

    Finding a popular / useful OS project to work on is a very common (and worthwhile) practice used to build resumes and compensate for lack of 'proven' experience. Another *really* good example of this is Xen.

    I don't have statistics like these for Xen, however a quick glance through their mailing lists (xen-devel) will show a flurry of activity daily, sometimes up to 15 - 20 patches a day being submitted, ... maybe 30% of them accepted as-is (or a bit less, this is off the top of my head).

    The point is, being able to augment your resume or CV with "Patches xxx, yyy zzz for Firefox, xxx yyy zz for Xen, xxx yyy zzz for Open Office) really helps to show that you like doing what you do and quite a few people happen to think you're rather good at doing it.

    So if you submit, say 10 patches, 3 of them get accepted which helps to get you that 80K a year job, well you did in fact (indirectly) get compensated for your efforts and so did everyone who uses the browser that now works a little better due to your contribs.

    I really fail to see anything 'sinister' about that in and of itself, but had no idea that Mozilla brought in that kind of dough. I would have guessed maybe 1 - 2 million, not 50. But even knowing that, I still see it as a win-win situation. Maybe I'm a little more laid back than most.
  • by Andy_R ( 114137 ) on Friday February 16, 2007 @11:21AM (#18038392) Homepage Journal
    Bug 306276 (windows not going where the user wants to put them under OS X) annoys the hell out of me. So much so that I'd happily pay $100 a fix for this in v1.5 or v2.

    Is there a centralised system for offering this sort of incentive to volunteers?
    • That annoys the hell out of me as well. Sometimes my window will jump across the screen and be halfway off the screen, and no matter what I do to try and move it, it keeps popping back in that position. Closing that window and starting the session over again seems to be the only fix.

      One other "bug" I'd love to see fixed under Linux and OS X would be to fix the form controls. As it is, on any version of Windows they look native. Under Linux and OS X, though, all controls look like copies of the controls
      • One bug I'd like to see fixed is to get the damn middle button working on OS X. I mean, Opera and Safari let me open a link in a new tab by middle clicking it. And middle-clicking opens a link in new tabs on Linux and Windows.

        I know you can Cmd-click on a link to open in a new tab, but that's just a workaround, and Cmd-click on a tab doesn't close the tab clicked on like it does on Windows and Linux.

        Sure, OS X users are used to modifier keys for clicking (ctrl/cmd + click), but that's OK when you're using a
        • by Kelson ( 129150 ) *

          One bug I'd like to see fixed is to get the damn middle button working on OS X. I mean, Opera and Safari let me open a link in a new tab by middle clicking it. And middle-clicking opens a link in new tabs on Linux and Windows.

          What version are you using? This was fixed in Firefox 1.5 [] (Nov 2005!), at least for middle-clicking on a link. Among the bugs fixed in that release:

          151249 - [Mac] Middle click on link does nothing on Mac OS X (should open link in new tab).

          I haven't heard anything about it regres

        • by Kelson ( 129150 ) *

          OK, I can confirm that with Firefox 2 on Mac OS X Tiger, using my Logitech USB mouse, I can do the following:

          • Middle-click a link and have it open in a new tab.
          • Middle-click a tab and have it close.

          The bug's been fixed.

      • by ttldkns ( 737309 )
        I would love keychain integration on OS X but the mozilla dev team don't see any of these things as a priority []. All someone needs to do, though, is port the stuff over from camino cause it's got all the cool OS X features but none of the stuff which makes firefox cool. Maybe the camino and firefox mac programs should merge...
        • I think an extension would be better. Firefox needs to try and stay platform agnostic. Camino is localized and uses Cocoa on OS X. That allows to be much more mac-like.
      • One other "bug" I'd love to see fixed under Linux and OS X would be to fix the form controls. As it is, on any version of Windows they look native. Under Linux and OS X, though, all controls look like copies of the controls in Windows 95. Camino under OS X has native-looking controls, so it can't be too difficult to fix.

        While I can't speak for the Linux version, I am pretty sure that this will be fixed on OS X in Firefox 3. I almost went with Camino over Firefox due to this (and other parts where it integra

    • Yes: Bounty Source [].
    • This one drives me insane as well.

      Every few days I get an e-mail from people who voted on this bug.

      I'm really surprised that this hasn't annoyed someone enough to fix it themselves. I know that if I had more free time I'd give it a shot.
    • Seems like an as-yet unsolved problem.

      There have been proposals [] to have a centralized mozilla bounty system at, but they've been dismissed as WONTFIX [] in anticipation of human conflict becoming distracting to those with authority over the code base.

      Some, like Mark Shuttleworth, once held hope for more support for bounties from Mozilla, such as a bugzilla feature to associate bounties with bugs []. That hope [] seems to have disappeared [].

      Mozilla-related Wiki attempts have also disappeared [], and the other
    • Is there a centralised system for offering this sort of incentive to volunteers?
      Yes there is. Hire somebody to code it and then volunteer the patch to Mozilla.
      • by Andy_R ( 114137 )
        The reason I specified "centralised" in my original post is that I have no idea where to find a Mac programmer familiar with the Mozilla code who is keen to fix this bug, and I have no idea if it's a $100 job or a $10,000 job. If it is a $10,000 job, I have no idea where to find 99 other people who would pay $100 to get it fixed.
  • by loafing_oaf ( 1054200 ) on Friday February 16, 2007 @11:25AM (#18038442)

    Even more remarkable: 13 percent of the patches were submitted by Al Gore.

    Ba-doom boom

  • "browswer"?
  • This makes sense since 27% of security threats come from volunteers.
  • by Rakishi ( 759894 ) on Friday February 16, 2007 @01:06PM (#18039980)
    Only thing I wish was if they made a good set of centralized documentation for extension development. There are many people who simply give up on extensions because the whole process is such a giant PITA. Hell, some of the fucking documentation is plain wrong unless I'm reading it wrong (like session store and when it does certain things) which is even worse. Other parts are incomprehensible on their own. Finding out how to do something non-trivial should not involve searching five+ different locations (forums, 2+ websites, googling for good measure, other extension's source code, firefox source code).

    I mean given the extensions are pretty much Firefox's only strength (Opera is leaner, faster and has more built in features) you'd think they'd put a lot more effort into making it as easy as possible for people to make them.
      • by Rakishi ( 759894 )
        Let me repeat: Good documentation, granted it seems better now than a year ago. I mean the Session Store docs by Mozilla are incomplete and I think wrong in some places to boot, granted its nice to have something.

        As it stands now 80+% of the time when I'm looking for how to do something non-trivial I need find an extension that does it or try to find it in the FF source code. Sure I look through the Mozilla documentation, search a few forums and search the xul docs (and google which does about the same thin
  • Over 27% (Score:2, Funny)

    by Curate ( 783077 )
    Wow, so what would that be... damn near 28%?
  • Go Fish (Score:4, Funny)

    by chimpo13 ( 471212 ) <> on Friday February 16, 2007 @01:49PM (#18040782) Homepage Journal
    It was a sad day for me when the Abe Vigoda: Dead or Alive monitor quit working. I liked the Abe face in the corner.
  • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Friday February 16, 2007 @02:04PM (#18041074) Homepage

    I would just like to say thank you to all the volunteers and paid staffers working on FireFox. It's a marvelously useful piece of software and whether you're a core developer or volunteer helping with documentation, I sincerely appreciate FireFox and the universe of helpful plugins available for it.

    You've all done a fantastic job and don't get nearly enough credit for how great it really is.

  • by Mr 44 ( 180750 )
    Hmmm, I would have titled this article as "72% of firefox patches come from people who's paid job it is to write them". But then that makes it too obvious that the open-source attitude of "anyone can fix anything" is, if not a lie, at least vastly overstated.
    • In a comment on his blog, the author said the number of "key volunteers" (those with over 50 patches) who produced the 27% of total patches is 125. He doesn't look at those who produced less than 50 patches. And that's 27% of not just Firefox patches:

      The analysis focused on Gecko, Firefox, Thunderbird, Mozilla Application Suite, NSS, Toolkit and "Other Apps".

      I'd just love to see how many paid MS employees for IE and Outlook there are, and what their patch rates are. (Red meat: how many did it take to cop

    • by Anonymous Coward
      "72% of firefox patches come from people who's paid job it is to write them"

      Holy shit! That's higher than the total number of problems Microsoft managed to patch in IE with only people who's paid job is to write them!

      sorry, I guess that makes it too obvious that the closed-source attitude that only people who are paid to do a job can actually do it is, if not a lie, at least vastly overstated.


      You did note, didn't you, that >27% only represented the poeple who contributed 50 patches or more? The
  • If volunteers are giving so much to the project, and they have 50 million usd in revenue every year, then some of that money should be going to these volunteers that are contributing so much. 50 million is a lot of money. As it stands, it just seems like total exploitation to me. Where is the indignation? I mean, it's one thing to contribute your services to a project that doesn't make any money, it's another thing to work for free for a very profitable entity. These guys need to spread that money around so
    • If you bother the RTFA, you'll see the whole reason they looked up who the key contributors were and how much they contributed was to "see how or if Mozilla could provide any resources." Those resources will likely to turn out to be either money or something that costs money. There's your remuneration for you.
      • nowhere in the said "article" is it clear what "support" is supposed to mean, ( a pat on the back, a blue ribbon perhaps?) so I'll go ahead and stand by my original post, which states any organization that is pulling in 50 mill usd per year, due in large part to the continued support of its unpaid volunteers, damn well better start thinking about paying those top contributors salaries, because if they don't, there is obviously a market out there that will.
        • by Anc ( 953115 )

          nowhere in the said "article" is it clear what "support" is supposed to mean, ( a pat on the back, a blue ribbon perhaps?) so I'll go ahead and stand by my original post

          The article doesn't say it? There's a link to a FAQ right at the top of the page, so why don't you make a little effort and go find out yourself [] instead of making clueless assumptions.

          any organization that is pulling in 50 mill usd per year, due in large part to the continued support of its unpaid volunteers, damn well better start thinking

  • Is the 27% number because the volunteers are especially active or because the paid staff is not doing much work. Perhaps it's just me, but I can't remember the last time I saw a striking change to the browser. Maybe they have a PR problem. Mozillazine has diminished to release notices. I haven't seen "look at me I'm cool" articles there in months or maybe even years. I use the minefield nightly builds so I would think that I'd be first to notice anything significant.

There's no sense in being precise when you don't even know what you're talking about. -- John von Neumann