Mozilla bows down to DRM -- disappoints Firefox users


There's a time to hold 'em and a time to fold 'em. Sometimes things are worth fighting for and sometimes you just have to grin and bear it. Unfortunately, choosing a time to give up can be hard -- especially if your reputation relies on it.

Firefox is a good browser, but it is no longer great. From an overall experience standpoint, Google Chrome is far superior and that's OK. Mozilla's browser doesn't have to be great, but for it to stay relevant, it must know its users. In other words, the only thing keeping Firefox afloat is philosophies. People stick with the browser because it is open-source and holds beliefs in an open web. Once those philosophies are gone, so too is Firefox. Today, Mozilla chose usage over beliefs and it may pay dearly.

"The industry is on the cusp of a new mechanism for deploying DRM. (Until now, browsers have enabled DRM indirectly via Adobe’s Flash and Microsoft’s Silverlight products.) The new version of DRM uses the acronyms 'EME' and 'CDM'. At Mozilla we think this new implementation contains the same deep flaws as the old system. It doesn't strike the correct balance between protecting individual people and protecting digital content. The content providers require that a key part of the system be closed source, something that goes against Mozilla’s fundamental approach", says Mitchell Baker, Executive Chairwoman of Mozilla.

She further explains, "despite our dislike of DRM, we have come to believe Firefox needs to provide a mechanism for people to watch DRM-controlled content. We will do so in a way that protects the interests of individual users as much as possible, given what the rest of the industry has already put into place. We have selected Adobe to provide the key functionality. Adobe has been doing this in Flash for some time, and Adobe has been building the necessary relationships with the content owners. We believe that Adobe is uniquely able to bring new value to the setting".

Mozilla states that it will do the following:

  • Each person will be able to decide whether to activate the DRM implementation or to leave it off and not watch DRM-controlled content.
  • We have surrounded the closed-source portion with an open-source wrapper. This allows us to monitor and better understand the scope of activities of the closed-source code.

Now, I don't want to debate whether DRM is good or bad, that will just take away from the moment. The real issue is that Mozilla is implementing something it does not agree with. In other words, the company is flat-out saying watching videos is more important than its core beliefs and philosophies. Wrapping closed-source in an open-source wrapper? Yuck!

The only reason to back down is to make the casual Firefox user's life easier. Sadly, casual users are not the people to please here. A casual user will abandon Firefox as the wind blows. The foundation of Mozilla is users that will fight against poorly implemented DRM, cat-videos be damned!

Steve Jobs infamously banned Adobe Flash from iOS. On the surface, it seemed like a crazy idea. After all, users would want to see Flash content. It seemed as if users would be negatively affected. Apple was willing to fight for its belief that Flash was a burden -- impact on battery life and performance -- and in the end, came out looking like geniuses.

The moral of the iOS / Flash story, is that beliefs are worth fighting for. If Mozilla won't fight for its users, why should its users fight for it? Mozilla has broken a sacred bond today that it may never regain. Just remember, if you have to write a long, explanatory blog post and FAQ with an apologetic tone, you've probably made the wrong choice.

Image CreditIvonne Wierink/Shutterstock

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