Mozilla Services Proposal

Thursday June 24th, 1999

Xplo Eristotle writes in with his proposal for new functionality for Mozilla.

Xplo writes, "I've had an idea for an addition to the Mozilla UI which I call 'Mozilla Services' (or MZS for short). It doesn't really affect Mozilla itself, but it could potentially mean a lot for Mozilla users. I've put up a web page describing it."

It's an interesting proposal, even though it would be "Mozilla only" functionality. My opinion? Well, since you asked! I think that any "proprietary" functionality that is extraneous to the HTML of the page is fine. It's when the functionality starts showing up in HTML and breaking pages on other platforms and browsers that the browser-specific stuff becomes a problem. This seems to be a case of the "extraneous" functionality - similar to Flash panels and plaintext content parsed by other webpages.

#6 This is a very, very bad idea

by Anon

Monday June 28th, 1999 3:01 PM

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As soon as I saw the first paragraph of the proposal -- `... MZS would serve to demonstrate the power and flexibility of Mozilla ... It would also piss all over Microsoft' -- I got a horrible feeling that this was going to be awful.

And it is.

`Mozilla Services', when you strip away all the fluff, is this. There would be a special button in the Mozilla UI. Web sites would be able to activate this button using JavaScript. Clicking on the button would then open a new window containing fancy stuff.

Here's why this is dumb.

(1) BROWSER LOCK-IN. This feature proposes building something into *Web pages themselves* which is Mozilla-specific. And as much as we at MozillaZine may all love Mozilla, putting stuff that requires Mozilla into Web pages is just as dumb as putting stuff that requires IE into Web pages. (Requiring standards compliance from visitors' browsers is good; but requiring a *particular brand of browser* is evil.)

(2) BREAKING THE WEB. You just *know* that there are going to be some Webmasters who will, because they happen to be using Mozilla, assume that everyone else is. So they'll put essential stuff (as opposed to snazzy extra stuff) in this extra window. Mozilla should be encouraging good Web site architecture, not discouraging it.

(3) HUMAN FACTORS. A major contributor to the spread of the Worm.ExploreZip worm was that even though the worm attachment is an executable, Outlook Express's warning that it is an executable gets ignored by most users. Why? Because Outlook Express pops up such warnings so often that people get used to blindly clicking the `Ok' button, ignoring what the dialog says. The UI becomes useless.

Why is this relevant? Because exactly the same thing will happen here. The Mozilla Services button is going to be disabled so much of the time that Mozilla users are subconsciously going to start ignoring it -- especially since we (naturally) expect Web-site-related stuff to happen inside the page frame, not on the toolbar. So if a site supports this feature, it wouldn't get noticed -- unless the site says `Mozilla users, look! you can click the Mozilla Services button!!!'. And if they needed to spend time doing that, they'd use the space to do an A HREF TARGET="_new" tag instead.

(4) CLUTTER. Let's just assume that this feature gets implemented. Only a very small proportion of Webmasters are going to (a) want something like this, and (b) be silly enough to use `Mozilla Services' (rather than more browser-universal JavaScript, for example) to do it. And if the feature's going to be used that infrequently, I don't want it bloating my copy of Mozilla, thanks very much. Neither do I want it taking up space on my default UI, so that I then have to spend time extricating it.

So, Xplo: thanks, but no thanks. Forget fancy browser-specific functions in Web sites. Let's just have a nice flash-panel implementation of HTML 1.0's LINK tag instead, shall we? Thanks very much. Bye now.

-- mpt