MozillaZine

Interview with Mozilla Foundation Director of Engineering Chris Hofmann

Tuesday May 4th, 2004

PCTechTalk has an interview with Chris Hofmann, Director of Engineering at the Mozilla Foundation. Chris answers several questions about the Mozilla project and reveals some interesting examples of feedback that has been received from users. Thanks to Alex for the link.


#1 oh no

by stonedyak

Wednesday May 5th, 2004 3:36 AM

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It looks like they've changed the name of the browser *again*!

from the article: "The Firebox browser and the Thunderbird mail/newsgroup client are being announced as "the next generation" browser and mail client."

Actually, I quite like Firebox :)

#20 Re: oh no

by stonedyak

Wednesday May 5th, 2004 10:30 AM

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Ok, they've corrected it now. I look silly.

#23 Re: oh no

by lladnar1

Wednesday May 5th, 2004 11:09 PM

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I kinda like Firebox too. I KNOW the devs will never change the name again but "box" reminds me more of browsing than "fox" does. Yet another thing to add to Firesomething...

#29 re: o no...

by roseman

Thursday May 6th, 2004 12:37 PM

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wasn't it Bill Maher from Politically Incorrect who said, that when asked how old he is, he usually just says :"FireSomething"... Hey, isn't the browser name up to V-7.0 now? (the NAME, not the broswer) anyone know the url for BoxZilla?

#30 _7_ versions?

by joeblakesley

Monday May 10th, 2004 7:43 AM

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If my memory serves me correctly, it was: (1) m/b (2) Phoenix (3) Firebird (4) Firebird Browser (although I don't think that was ever officially announced) (5) Mozilla Firebird (6) Firefox

What am I missing?

#2 Telling by its absence or am I just paranoid?

by brokenvoice

Wednesday May 5th, 2004 4:22 AM

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One thing that struck me about the interview is that the interviewer mentioned Camino by name several times in different questions, yet Chris NEVER mentions it in his answers but does mention Firefox (even when not prompted).

More and more I see Camino as a sort of unpopular stepchild of Mozilla.org - the kind that only gets invited to parties to make up the numbers you know?

I don't really have an axe to grind here (I'm moving from Mac OS X to GNOME 2.6 and prefer Firefox) but this is definitely part of a trend.

#3 Re: Telling by its absence or am I just paranoid?

by mlefevre

Wednesday May 5th, 2004 5:39 AM

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Camino is a kind of "unpopular stepchild". It's never going to be as popular, because it's only on one platform, and there just aren't that many users on Mac OS X, compared to Windows and even compared to Linux. The foundation is paying for people to work on Firefox and Thunderbird, and those are the products that they are pushing. Camino isn't really part of the strategy. That's not to say anything against Camino, which although slowly, seems to be moving along, but it's a side project, not the main focus.

#5 Re: Re: Telling by its absence or am I just parano

by brokenvoice

Wednesday May 5th, 2004 6:13 AM

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Oh, I understand that it isn't the main focus and is maintained by a team of driven volunteers. Couple those circumstances with the fact that it is a niche browser on a niche platform means that it's unlikely that it will be promoted as heavily or as thouroughly as Firefox.

It just felt to me like (and I know I'm probably projecting this feeling onto the interview) like Chris was deliberately _not_ naming Camino explicitly. And may I say (just in case I get flamed) that I don't think Chris was dissing Camino or anything else like that, but what he was doing did come across as deliberate.

Anyone else get this feeling?

#6 Re: Re: Re: Telling by its absence or am I just pa

by mlefevre

Wednesday May 5th, 2004 6:42 AM

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I'm not sure whether he was particularly aiming to avoid mentioning Camino, or whether it's just that he didn't have much to say about it, and didn't go out of his way to work it in to his answers.

Two of the questions were phrased as "Mozilla/Firefox/Camino" - I don't think itd be easy to give a useful answer that covered Firefox and Camino at once - they are rather different things. Giving an answer about Firefox and then tacking on an extra comment about Camino would dilute the message, and probably confuse the issues. Chris Hofmann is obviously good at doing interviews. He had points to get across and he made them in answer to the questions.

Agreeing that Camino's performance is better than Firefox's wouldn't do much to help the cause - it isn't the direction that the primary effort is heading in. What could he have said about Camino - that they're working towards a 1.0 version in X months? that there are large deployments of Camino happening in corporations? that a large number of Mac users are migrating to Camino from other browsers? Adding an extra "oh yeah, and there's Camino too, which is progressing kind of slowly" to the other answers also wouldn't achieve much.

If you want an answer to a specific question about how Camino fits in, send Chris Hofmann an email :)

#9 Re: Re: Telling by its absence or am I just parano

by jstrickland

Wednesday May 5th, 2004 7:25 AM

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I agree that Camino will probably never be as popular because it's only on one platform. However, I have to disagree with your statement that there aren't that many users ons MacOS X. While the number of MaOS X users will never get close to the number of Windows users, that by no means indicates that the number is small. There is a large community of Mac users that actively use Mozilla products. I think that evidence can be found in the very active development of both Firefox and Thunderbird for Mac. There just wouldn't be a need for such active development for MaOS X Firebird and Thunderbird if there weren't that many people using them.

As a matter of fact, I believe that all of the activity going into the Mac versions of Firefox and Thunderbird are the very reasons Camino will never be as popular. So much work has been done to give both flagship programs the desired native MacOS X look and feel that Camino has lost a lot of it's edge in that arena. Couple that with the fact that Camino can't be customized with extensions and you start to see why it isn't as popular.

#10 Re: Re: Re: Telling by its absence or am I just pa

by mlefevre

Wednesday May 5th, 2004 7:50 AM

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"I have to disagree with your statement that there aren't that many users ons MacOS X"

Sorry - imprecise wording. I was only intended to speak of the relative numbers, and as you say, there are far fewer Mac users than others. If you take a subset of Mac users that know enough to answer technical questions, and/or those who participate in web forums, then you end up with a small number. It can be pretty hard to track down a Mac person when you have a support, QA or code issue.

Although I'm not a Mac person, from what I've read Safari has a lot to do with it as well - the bundled browser for the OS, and it's far ahead of IE.

#11 Re: Telling by its absence or am I just paranoid?

by pbreit

Wednesday May 5th, 2004 8:39 AM

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Mozilla should stop wasting energy on Camino as soon as it can. FireFox for Mac is more than adequate. What Mozilla needs now is for platform experts to take the FireFox core and optimze it for the various platforms. It's silly for Mozilla to attempt to support multiple browsers on each platform.

#13 Re: Re: Telling by its absence or am I just parano

by bzbarsky

Wednesday May 5th, 2004 8:56 AM

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> Mozilla should stop wasting energy on Camino as soon as it can.

It's not spending any energy on it at all, if you mean mozilla.org

> FireFox for Mac is more than adequate

I have yet to meet a Mac user that agrees. They all complain about the fact that it just feels wrong.... Maybe that will change, maybe not.

> take the FireFox core and optimze it for the various platforms.

Clarify this part? What exactly needs optimizing?

Oh and what platform experts? Even finding people to fix things like Windows integration issues is hard nowadays.

#26 Re: Re: Re: Telling by its absence or am I just pa

by jstrickland

Thursday May 6th, 2004 6:25 AM

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> FireFox for Mac is more than adequate

>I have yet to meet a Mac user that agrees. They all complain about the fact that it just feels wrong.... Maybe that will change, maybe not.

Now you have met a Mac user that agrees. I have tried Camino on several occasions. However, there was something that just didn't sit right. On the other hand, I have been using Firefox (and previously, Firebird) for quite some time now. I liked it much better, even before the Pinstripe theme became the default theme. Now, the Pinstripe theme goes a long way toward giving Firefox that native OS X look and feel.

Something that bothers me is how much emphasis people seem to put on how much Mac users like their programs to have that OS X look and feel. I work with Macs and PCs. I know quite a few people that work with Macs. They all agree with me, that if a program has that native OS X look and feel, great. However, what is much more important to all of us is having a program that does what it is supposed to do efficiently and without crashing. That is where Firefox fits the bill with me. When you come from a graphics background you get used to having plugins and extensions that enhance a program's (ie Photoshop, Quark, Illustrator, InDesign) ability to get the job done in the manner that best works for you. Firefox gives you the same extensibility. Camino doesn't.

One final note. If so many Mac users felt like Firefox just feels wrong, and Camino doesn't, then why all the efforts being made by the Mozilla team on both the Firefox and Thunderbird side? Surely the Mac versions would have been dropped a long time ago, unless there were a significant number of Mac users using these products on a regular basis.

#28 Re: Re: Re: Re: Telling by its absence or am I jus

by kguru

Thursday May 6th, 2004 9:17 AM

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I agrere with you. I used Camino a little bit and it is missing too many features and is very strangely laid out. Firefox is much better. As far as I know, Camino was supposed to have been Apple's next browser, but instead they went with Safari because of its smaller footprint. It would be better for the Camino effort to go into Firefox and a standalone Composer for the Mac (Nvu and Composer++ don't work as standalone apps for the Mac).

#4 Bugzilla me!

by bmacfarland

Wednesday May 5th, 2004 5:58 AM

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"I even see now that you can order your own "personal BugZilla" and install it on your PC for personal task tracking... "

Wish he had mentioned where this was. I searched quite awhile and haven't found anything.

#7 Re: Bugzilla me!

by nonpareility <jbird3000@hotmail.com>

Wednesday May 5th, 2004 7:00 AM

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#22 Re: Re: Bugzilla me!

by bmacfarland

Wednesday May 5th, 2004 12:38 PM

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It sounded like he was talking about a vendor that made a specialized verion of Bugzilla available that was easily installable on a PC. It is this specialized version containing personal traits that I think would be interesting. How funny would it be to file a bug on your friend, "Bug #166737 -- annoys me when you talk about macro-economics". A developer with some spare time might be able to make the standard bugzilla into that, but I was looking for something out of the box as it was referenced in the article.

#8 Reply

by Racer

Wednesday May 5th, 2004 7:14 AM

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Quote: "The Apple Safari browser uses Mozilla/Gecko in the user agent to get the same web content that is exposed to Mozilla and they are working toward making Safari extremely compatible with the way that Mozilla renders content."

This is news to me. Its almost gratifying to see the Mozilla UA being spoofed :)

On another note, I thought the comment that multiple large companies were now deploying Thunderbird in their production environments, despit TBs mid-beta status.

#14 Re: Reply

by Grauw

Wednesday May 5th, 2004 9:16 AM

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Well, IE has Mozilla in the UA string aswell (though version 4.0 while Mozilla has 5.0)... :)

#31 Spoofing

by joeblakesley

Monday May 10th, 2004 8:31 AM

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It is not gratifying. Please no more....stop this madness...

Opera already identifies itself with the product token or UA string, "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; MSIE 5.5; Windows NT 5.1) Opera 7.0 [en]" .

In English, "this is Opera 7.0 on MSW XP, pretending to either be MS Internet Explorer 5.5 or MS Internet Explorer 6.0, pretending to be Mozilla-compatible which really means Netscape-Navigator-compatible, pretending to be Mozilla which really means Netscape Navigator".

According to a website I found, the Safari UA string is "Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; PPC Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/48 (like Gecko) Safari/48".

This is equally silly. The UA string is not the place to give language information and I thought the rendering engine for Safari was KHTML which is not even mentioned (as opposed to Gecko which is but isn't).

#12 mail v. browser

by pbreit

Wednesday May 5th, 2004 8:43 AM

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What a dumb question: "Why did you decide to split the Mozilla kit - browser, mail client separate?"

The better question is "Why were the mail an dbrowser apps combined for so long when it was clearly stunting the improvement of both?"

Now that attention is separately focused on FireFox and Thunderbird, they have become very impressive pieces of software. You wonder how much better they'd be by now had it started out this way 6 years ago.

#15 extension room

by jedbro

Wednesday May 5th, 2004 9:18 AM

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Nice article, although they spelled Extensionroom wrong ( <http://entensionroom.mozdev.org/> instead of <http://extensionroom.mozdev.org/>) O'well Anyone know how to contact he author?

#16 Re: extension room

by technobeast

Wednesday May 5th, 2004 9:43 AM

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Thank you very much. I am the author and the link was corrected.

Thanks again technobeast

#17 Re: extension room

by technobeast

Wednesday May 5th, 2004 9:44 AM

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Thank you very much. I am the author and the link was corrected.

Thanks again technobeast

#21 Re: Re: extension room

by jedbro

Wednesday May 5th, 2004 10:36 AM

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Thanks :)

#18 Hmmm

by technobeast

Wednesday May 5th, 2004 9:55 AM

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This thing posted my reply twice. Quite strange :)

#19 Hmmm

by technobeast

Wednesday May 5th, 2004 9:58 AM

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This thing posted my reply twice. Quite strange :)

#24 Re: Hmmm

by brokenvoice

Thursday May 6th, 2004 12:07 AM

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Now you're just having a laugh :)

#25 Were the editors asleep?

by slxception

Thursday May 6th, 2004 1:13 AM

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It was a good interview in my opinion, but were the editors asleep before this article was published? I guess I missed some of the errors, but there were plenty of errors that weren't caught.

#27 Do Research First!

by slugs

Thursday May 6th, 2004 8:57 AM

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I am a tech writer, and I feel technobeast has made the same kind of mistake I am guilty of, sometimes -- of making assertions based on outdated facts. He or she claimed that Mozilla interfacing is slow and memory exhaustive. First, what is interfacing? Is it the rendering of web pages? Second, I have been looking at my memory resource meter with every release of Mozilla browser, and I'd say the Mozilla engineers have done a marvellous job of cutting down memory leakage (except when opening PDFs within the browser). Otherwise, it's good that there's one more Mozilla article!