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Open Source Mozilla Software

An Open Source Pitfall? Mozilla Labs Closed, Quietly 112

mikejuk writes with this excerpt: When Google Labs closed there was an outcry. How could an organization just pull the rug from under so many projects? At least Google announced what it was doing. Mozilla, it seems since there is no official record, just quietly tiptoes away — leaving the lights on since the Mozilla Labs Website is still accessible. It is accessible but when you start to explore the website you notice it is moribund with the last blog post being December 2013 with the penultimate one being September 2013. The fact that it is gone is confirmed by recent blog posts and by the redeployment of the people who used to run it. The projects that survived have been moved to their own websites. It isn't clear what has happened to the Hatchery -the incubator that invited new ideas from all and sundry. One of the big advantages of open source is the ease with which a project can be started. One of the big disadvantages of open source is the ease with which projects can be allowed to die — often without any clear cut time of death. It seems Mozilla applies this to groups and initiatives as much as projects. This isn't good. The same is true at companies that aren't open source centric, though, too, isn't it?
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An Open Source Pitfall? Mozilla Labs Closed, Quietly

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  • by shadowrat ( 1069614 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @11:40AM (#47936837)
    How can open source software die? the source is there! Anyone interested in the software has had ample time to get the source. All mozilla or google or any other service is doing is providing some hosting for the git repository. clone it and save it if you care that much about the software. Wringing your hands that and crying all is lost just says you are doing open source wrong.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Stagnation is death.

      • by reikae ( 80981 )

        Is that why nobody even remembers Windows XP nowadays, let alone uses it?

        This doesn't apply to WinXP of course, but for many kinds of applications lack of (security) updates isn't a big deal.

    • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @12:08PM (#47937077) Journal

      How can open source software die? the source is there! Anyone interested in the software has had ample time to get the source.

      This, right here. Even if it goes stagnant for years? If you can get (or already have) the source, you can resurrect it.

      By contrast, if you wanted to resurrect, say, WinCE? Well, good luck with that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      But it's not just about the source... it's about the community, the support from the original authors, the available knowledge and comprehension that transcends wiki docs, as well as having a team large enough to be able to realistically continue its development in the foreseeable future. To lose these things abruptly doesn't mean that all the source code was deleted but rather that the virtual ecosystem was.
      • But it's not just about the source... it's about the community, the support from the original authors, the available knowledge and comprehension that transcends wiki docs, as well as having a team large enough to be able to realistically continue its development in the foreseeable future. To lose these things abruptly doesn't mean that all the source code was deleted but rather that the virtual ecosystem was.

        Feh. Those things you mention (the original authors, the development team, the community, website and other resources) aren't guaranteed regardless of how badly one would like them to persist. The source and the freedom to do something with it are what the licence grants. Everything else is gravy. Without the source the virtual ecosystem is useless; with the source one person can continue the project, even if only for personal use. The virtual ecosystem can be recreated by anyone who wants badly enough

    • How can you act like you don't understand the purpose of the post? Acting like everything is just dandy doesn't necessarily mean you're doing it right either...or more importantly, not avoiding a better solution. In this case, I read the author decrying a persistent problem relating to the adolescent tendency of open source to allow itself to be/remain captive to commercial enterprise...and then complaining about mission decisions (sorta like living rent free with your parents and complaining about the inte
  • Slight difference (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @11:40AM (#47936839)

    There was an outcry when Google Labs closed because people actually used stuff that came from there. Mozilla Labs, on the other hand...

    • Exactly - if it took 9 months to notice it closed down, it probably wasn't that used.

    • Also, Google labs included services that ended, not just software projects.

    • by Lennie ( 16154 )

      Mozilla Labs projects is for experiments.

      Things they've started which seemed like good ideas always moved on to be their own projects.

      For example the Rust language: []

      Now almost at 1.0: []

      If there is a problem, it might be that they haven't started any new projects.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        For example the Rust language:

        There seems to be some confusion here.

        Rust was started by and continues to be maintained by Mozilla Research. Mozilla Labs had other projects like PDFjs. As far as I can tell, Mozilla Research is still around.

        • by Lennie ( 16154 )

          Ohh, I see, thank you for explaning the about Mozilla Labs and Mozilla Research being 2 distinct things.

  • No suprise... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by guygo ( 894298 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @11:42AM (#47936851)
    Seems to be the way things work with the Mozilla crew. Look at the "progress" of the Thunderbird project. For over a decade people have been complaining about its inability to accurately render html, yet that problem still exists in the software today. No one wants to work on the un-sexy nuts and bolts stuff; everybody wants to be the guy who wrote the flashy new UI. Kinda difficult to do anything about it when you can't fire someone and hire a decent replacement.
    • Not much different from a proprietary project, except that instead of "sexy/ugly", the factor is "profitable/unprofitable".

    • No suprise... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Depends on the project. Many BSD and Linux nuts and bolts get fixed by very qualified and talented people. For some reason, Mozilla projects seem to relish letting the most aggravating bugs languish for decades. Not always because of a lack of patches or reviewers, but because of giant egos coupled with Napoleon complexes.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This. You should read some of the threads on Bugzilla. Wontfix wontfix wontfix. Someone pops in to mention/submit a patch and some process-nazi autist (or 10) goes apoplectic. Meanwhile, Mozilla cranks outs 28 new "versions" that do little more than rearrange the UI 28 times. You couldn't pay me to play on a team like that.

        captcha: useless

    • With the existence of Outlook you really can't depend on somebody's email client being able to render HTML. Just about the same time when IE got a passable HTML+CSS rendering engine, they started using the Word HTML engine for Outlook. The result: completely terrible support for normal HTML in Outlook. The better solution would have been to incorporate the IE rendering engine into Word and Outlook. But for some reason, they made the exact opposite decision and decided to keep using the MS Word rendering eng
    • Re:No suprise... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by colfer ( 619105 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @02:55PM (#47938937)

      Mozilla's resources are going to mobile. They don't want to be caught dead if the dominant platform really does changes from desktop to mobile. So it's all about the Firefox browser for phone, and FirefoxOS.

      All this groaning about them spending resources on UI misses the point. You're just complaining about what you see! The real $ is not going to UI it's going to mobile, and to technical parity with Chrome.

      Wonder if they feel the same way about Email - that it's dated technology! Some of the technical issues they left hanging when they took away all the paid developers are significant.

  • Pitfall! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ultra64 ( 318705 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @11:52AM (#47936927)
    And here I was expecting an Open Source! []. How disappointing.
  • Its lost the browser initiative to google. I can't imagine it will still be around in its current form in a decade.

  • Really? In a recession companies cut down on pet projects?

    I'm taken aback, really!

  • the ease with which projects can be allowed to die â" often without any clear cut time of death.

    And that doesn't happen with closed source projects? Sure it does, you just don't hear about it when some PHB slowly takes a group of developers and has them put everything on the back burner for some pet project. Then years pass, the old project isn't officially dead, but nothing has gotten done. On and off new business requirements are analyzed, and eventually a mysterious mandate from far higher up comes

  • by Bloody Bastard ( 562228 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @12:03PM (#47937031)

    Is that because closed source enterprises never get shut down?

    Gee, if it is Open Source, you can even branch it and continue on your own, if you feel like... now, with closed sources....

    • I thought they were talking about Pitfall the game where your block-shaped character jumps over crocodiles. Open source version? Yes please.

  • by UnderCoverPenguin ( 1001627 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @12:05PM (#47937047)

    In my professional career, several projects I have worked on have been canceled despite a good state - not behind schedule nor over budget, or even ahead of schedule and/or under budget. The reasons were usually variations from "marketing has decided to change direction" to "after management re-org, the new managers decided the risks were too high". The latter happened to one project despite us having 5 fully and correctly operating prototypes, and having invested 3 person-years of effort and over half a million US dollars in development tools and licensing of third party libraries. Another project was canceled because the primary stakeholder lost interest despite the first two phases being highly successful.

    • I've had multiple projects get killed in the middle of a solid Beta. Usually so did the departments developing them. One of them got killed not because of customers or technical issues, but because the CEO's ego wouldn't let him be controlled by his investors. So they pulled funding.

      I've had one project get killed after it had been in commercial release for about 2 months.

      • by ihtoit ( 3393327 )

        I've killed projects* half an hour from full deployment because certain parties refused to stump up their end of the contract.

        I am NOT building databases because I enjoy the challenge. I don't, in fact databases are the bane of my existence. I would rather deal with the hardware side of things.

        *by killed read: walked away with the entire project source on a flash drive in my pocket and all backups obliterated, all orders for hardware cancelled and a note on my workbench saying "Pay up or you don't see me or

  • by Tridus ( 79566 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @12:29PM (#47937303) Homepage

    This has nothing to do with open source at all. An organization closed down a unit, and got rid of some projects. That happens pretty much every day in the private sector and in the closed source world. What makes open source special in this regard. Do you expect them to keep supporting things forever even when the organization doesn't want to anymore?

    The only difference is that with open source, someone could take that code and keep working on it, if they wanted to. That's it. The rest of this has nothing to do with open source at all and is just a flagrant attempt at drumming up controversy by asking a bullshit question in the headline.

  • Blame C++ (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Squidlips ( 1206004 )
    It was the C++ re-write that screwed Mozilla/Netscape. C++ is the worst language that ever had widespread adoption as far as productivity.
    • I would get all huffy about your post except for the fact that your username is the most awesome in the world. Carry on brave squid lips, carry on!
    • by Uecker ( 1842596 )

      I once started to add a feature to firefox in my spare time and still haven't finished it because of it took much time... This C++ mess was certainly part of the reason, layers on top of layers... and horrible long compile times. I know very few people who write good C++ code.

      • by HiThere ( 15173 )

        The question is, what language would they write good code in?

        FWIW, C++ has many features that are strong improvements over C. Class encapsulation, e.g. OTOH, it's also full of things that are only worthwhile if you are really interested in run-time optimization. Or maybe they serve some other function that I don't understand. Like the STL. Most of the code in the STL would be far better implemented as libraries, even if it might not be quite as fast. I also strongly dislike their implementation of ite

        • by Uecker ( 1842596 )

          The question is, what language would they write good code in?

          If Linus is right, C++ attracks bad programmers. So another language would not help. Personally, I stick to C. It is not the perfect language, but all others I tried are worse..

          FWIW, C++ has many features that are strong improvements over C.

          Well C++ has many features. They are meant to be improvements. But they are basically *all* broken.

          Class encapsulation,

          This is just syntactic sugar. But even this is broken: You have to put the complete class definition in the header - including private implementation details. How stupid is this? You can actually have much better encapsulation in C by

  • Thunderbird too (Score:4, Insightful)

    by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @01:44PM (#47938121)
    They announced that they killed Thunderbird too several months after the fact. It was months and months after the latest update, suddenly they're like "Oh yeah, that? We're done with that." Outlook sucks, Windows Live mail sucks, Incredemail is a disease, and Eudora is dead as well. There are a grand total of zero good e-mail programs out there now. What were they thinking?
    Actually, they announced what they were thinking. They're focusing on making new versions of Firefox every single month for no reason and causing massive crash glitches, incompatibilities with webpages, and an all out war with Flash player as well as a go-nowhere phone OS project. Great choice! But what would you expect from a company that gets over 90% of its money from Google, who makes a competing product.
    • Re:Thunderbird too (Score:5, Informative)

      by McDutchie ( 151611 ) on Thursday September 18, 2014 @03:51PM (#47939479) Homepage
      Thunderbird is not dead at all, it's just been relegated to community maintenance mode (like SeaMonkey has always been). There was a lot of press blather about how that amounted to the "death" of Thunderbird, meanwhile its users are happily downloading security updates with the occasional new feature, and continuing to use a relatively stable program. Considering what they're doing to Firefox, I think this is a good thing.
      • by HiThere ( 15173 )

        Yeah, but are they ever going to fix the filters they broke with one of those updates? Doesn't appear so. If there were a decent and maintained email program I'd switch to it immediately. Unfortunately the others all seem far...until they break more stuff and decline to fix it.

    • by Urkki ( 668283 )

      Um, Thunderbird has not been killed. Release notes for current version, released last week: []

      It may not get new features any more, but that's not same as killed. In fact, many people would argue that this is a good thing. There's need for stable software too, and for mail clients, Thunderbird is that. Don't dis it just because you may want something more cutting-edge.

    • by richlv ( 778496 )

      um, where's the announcement that they are done with thunderbird ?

    • thunderbird doesn't need any new features, works fine and only needs patches (which are still done)

      That's the ideal kind of living software.

      Somehow people have the wrong idea that needless feature churning and color scheme changes are needed and the norm.

  • To be clear, this Mozilla Labs thing does not seem to be related to their big products and research projects, i.e. firefox, firefox os, rust, servo. Mozilla labs is some sort of project incubator for people to work on webby applications.
  • So it closed last year, but you only just noticed and posted an article? It doesn't seem like it's going to be missed very much, if the corpse can decompose and start to smell before someone sends the police to check on aunt Mozlabs.

  • So when was the antepenultimate blog post???

  • Killing most projects early is considered a good thing in some circles because it weeds out the garbage and makes more resources available to the more worthwhile projects.

    Often you can tell how good a company is at managing R&D by how quickly it kills bad projects.

    When I was working in R&D portfolio management we found that a bunch of small projects was much less likely to return something worthwhile than a more limited number of big projects.

    It really boiled down to the idea that there is a non-lin

  • I believe R&D is better off with Crowd Source

  • Mozilla stopped caring about ideas from others a long time ago. For years Mozilla only exists to feed the egos of the top developers. They are no longer listening to user input and keep alienating its user base with every version of any of their products. Abandoning their own incubator in this way really fits the picture. It would have only generated ideas that the top devs at Mozilla resoundingly rejected because it was 'not invented here'. They get really aggressive if you pitch an idea to them, almost as

Things equal to nothing else are equal to each other.