More Mozilla FUD - This Time From An MIT Professor

Monday October 18th, 1999

Mike Cusumano, co-author of "Competing on Internet Time: Lessons from Netscape and Its Battle with Microsoft" and professor at MIT's Sloan School of Business Management has an article at Computerworld titled "Mozilla gambit reveals risks of open sourcing". Just another in a long stream of Mozilla articles written by someone who doesn't seem to be too terribly interested in verifying his assumptions.

Thanks to Luddite for the news.

#1 More Mozilla FUD - This Time From An MIT Professor

by dneighbors

Tuesday October 19th, 1999 7:41 AM

I am not much of one for fueling the hype, but I find a few things interesting about this article.

1. Mr. Cusumano, works for MIT. Don't get me wrong but did Mr. Bill Gates not just pour several million dollars into this institution?

2. Mr. Cusumano is also the author of the following book:

"Microsoft Secrets : How the World's Most Powerful Software Company Creates Technology, Shapes Markets, and Manages People."

Now how would you know M$ secrets if you were not a M$ insider?

3. In the whole article there is no mention of Mozilla. When was the last time this chump took a look at Netscape on the OpenSource front?

Bottom line is that I think this guy is more than the mere ignorant journalist. (Which is usually the case) I think this guy actually purposely wants to make Netscape/Mozilla look like a mistake.

What do you think?

I think XUL is too cool for this fool!

-Derek Neighbors

#2 What's truly bad here is....

by FrodoB

Tuesday October 19th, 1999 8:05 AM

What's truly bad here is that he makes some assertions of fact and covers them up with overt assumptions. I have to wonder how a person became a professor of management (or perhaps there's the crux; management doesn't understand software development?) at one of the leading technological universities in the United States by writing papers that are direct regurgitations of the articles from C|net, ZDnet, et al. that we've all grown to know and love.

(On the other hand, I also know the pressures that are inherent in university work; articles must be published to get tenure, with or without research. Both of my parents are professors at the university level and face that syndrome.)

#3 fed up...

by RvR

Tuesday October 19th, 1999 8:09 AM

i suppose i'm not the only one reader of mozillazine who is fed up with this trend of mozilla bashing... what do those so-called software experts really want ? to discourage people from contributing ? it's ridiculous that they try to convince their audience that mozilla is dead : Communicator 4.x is dead, not Mozilla. as far as i'm concerned, it only convinces me to get more involved and let other people know what really happens...

#4 License?

by Anon

Tuesday October 19th, 1999 8:20 AM

> > First, because Netscape remains the corporate owner of the source code, what Netscape does is not really "open." Netscape insists on owning and distributing the software on its own terms. As a result, few outside developers have been willing to spend a lot of time writing code for Mozilla because they can't control its distribution or usage. < <

This sounds more like the sun license than the mozilla one...

Most of this stuff sounds like he's talking about what happened months ago - when they were trying to use the 4.x code.

#5 More Mozilla FUD - This Time From An MIT Professor

by hto

Tuesday October 19th, 1999 8:40 AM

I wrote a reply to Mike Cusumano, trying to point out where he was in error and asking for some clarification. I will let you know if he anwers.

#6 More Mozilla FUD - This Time From An MIT Professor

by hto

Tuesday October 19th, 1999 9:52 AM

Mike Cusuman was fast... ;)

He apologized for not being up to date with his information and said he'd write another column to "try to dig myself out of the hole I am now in".

#7 Interestingly wrong...

by leafdigital

Tuesday October 19th, 1999 10:57 AM

I suppose this is the natural consequence of having Mozilla be the flagship, poster-boy, open source product. Everybody assumes that when it goes wrong or runs late, that's because of open source - when in fact, as those same articles often note, there has been relatively little impact from the open-source nature of the project and most of the core work is still internal to Netscape.

You can't have it both ways.

In this case, where the delay is quite clearly a product of a technical decision (to abandon the old codebase and rewrite from scratch), it's silly to blame "open source".

Mind, I think free software (not specifically open source) sucks, but I don't think it's an inherent cause of software inefficiency.

While I often feel that this site and its readers are not objective enough about Mozilla (ok, it's an advocacy site, we're all pro-Mozilla, but ignoring flaws [pretending it'll be infinitely wonderful and IE is infinitely bad and half the world will realise that and switch right after mozilla is released] won't achieve anything), *none* of the recent news articles have hit the mark in their criticisms and this one is worse than most.

Incidentally, we can conclude from this one genuine disadvantage of open-source development: too-early publicity. People first heard of Mozilla at the start of the development process, and there was a lot of media interest then. This means that the press inevitably see it as taking a long time for the software to be developed, because they're waiting through the whole development process. I imagine most "closed" developments aren't announced until somewhat later in the project when a significant amount of the work has actually been done and there will be less time to wait until release. You can't wait like that if you need to open the project up for external help/scrutiny.


#8 More Mozilla FUD - This Time From An MIT Professor

by Anon

Tuesday October 19th, 1999 11:03 AM

I'd sure love to talk with Mr. Cusuman for this new column. Or to volunteer someone else from staff to do so.

Forgot my password somewhere in my travels ...

Mitchell Baker lizard wrangler

#9 More Mozilla FUD - This Time From An MIT Professor

by Anon

Tuesday October 19th, 1999 11:03 AM

I'd sure love to talk with Mr. Cusuman for this new column. Or to volunteer someone else from staff to do so.

Forgot my password somewhere in my travels ...

Mitchell Baker lizard wrangler

#10 That shows Mozilla *is* a threat.

by samig

Tuesday October 19th, 1999 11:17 AM

Okay,let's suppose that Mozilla is a failure like these guys say,then why is every Big-Company-Sponsored-or-bandwagon-rider-market-expert-wannabe bashing it instead of just ignoring it like something that has been? because in fact,it *is* important.And thank God for that. The real importance of Mozilla is not,IMHO in the PC browser market,it's far more,as the Nokia deals show,the real future is embedded systems-cell phones,palm computers and the like,and in special purpose hardware like kiosks.It has all someone in this field desires: Modular,Small,Cross Platform and Open Source,i.e anyone who has enough experience can hack it into his hardware. p.s: And a cool desktop browser too :-) -Mohamed

#11 Clueless Business Professor

by Anon

Tuesday October 19th, 1999 12:22 PM

I'd never listen to a **BUSINESS** professor talk about such computer science things as open source. I don't care whether he/she is highly accredited, teaches at MIT, or any merits of that sort. Business professors are simply NOT ABLE to think in a way that is proper for open source and computers.

Some of you may know the "packers and mappers" idea. Well, business is a packer's game, while computer science is a mapper's game. And the two don't mix.

#14 Clueless Business Professor

by beastie

Tuesday October 19th, 1999 2:19 PM

"I'd never listen to a **BUSINESS** professor talk about such computer science things as open source."

Your view of open source is a very limited one, then. Open source is not just a method of getting a product developed, it's an entire business model. It's commonly accepted that Netscape is going to release their own branded version of Mozilla. Part of the interest from a business point of view is how they're going to make this fly.

#12 open secrets?

by punkrider

Tuesday October 19th, 1999 1:07 PM

Mozilla = no secrets... Microsoft = who knows what the hell is going on in there...

It's very easy to see in and pick on the guy who doesn't have tinted windows in his brand new Jaguar. To go ahead and ridicule an environmental hog like the Ford Expedition (where the damned thing is so big you can't see in the windows anyway, especially tinted), is something not many people are willing to step up to.

Praise be to the Lizard God!

#25 secrets? well there are some

by locka

Wednesday October 20th, 1999 2:59 AM

None of the crypto stuff is going into Mozilla due to the export regulations.

This means the part of Mozilla that needs open peer review the most is not going to get it.

#28 In Netscape's product, yes

by leafdigital

Wednesday October 20th, 1999 4:00 AM

I thought some people were working on a Mozilla with crypto code included and open-source (from outside the US).

Anyone know if this project is still active, or the URLs etc.?

#29 Cryptozilla

by beastie

Wednesday October 20th, 1999 12:24 PM

It used to be at I don't know if it still is or not, since I can't reach the site right now. The project was out of Australia, and I remember reading a couple of quips in the media when it surfaced about its organizers potentially being prosecuted for exporting a Weapon of Mass Destruction, or something like that.

#30 Cryptozilla

by beastie

Wednesday October 20th, 1999 12:26 PM

Slight bug in the link parser here on MozillaZine. The link I gave should be

(no period after the last "/")

#32 I can't get to the site

by locka

Friday October 22nd, 1999 8:45 AM

But I have been there before and I don't recall any updates being made after an initial flurry of activity following the release of the original Mozilla 5.0.

I think in all likelihood that Cryptozilla is a dead project.

Besides, most people don't want a vanilla Mozilla and a Crypto-zilla. Both should be one and the same.

Mozilla should have sufficient hooks that crypto can be added to the vanilla Mozilla simply by adding a few more DLLs to the components subdirectory. Then Netscape (and/or a international group of volunteers) can release the necessary binary DLLs that people can plug in to give security to the product. In the case of the international version, it's obviously necessary that the source be available too for inspection.

#13 The best response to FUD ...

by Anon

Tuesday October 19th, 1999 2:15 PM

... is good product. As much as this guy might suck, a lot less people would beleive him if 5.0 was a reality on their desktops.

My stake in it is that I design webpages, and the sooner my audience gets a compliant browser, the sooner I can (safely) use all of the nifty bells and wistles that were in the specs last year.


by Anon

Tuesday October 19th, 1999 2:21 PM

Who sets schedules in Mozilla? Who decides if a feature is in or out? Who decides if code is checked into the CVS server? Who decides which people can get CVS accounts? These are all commercial decisions, and the commercial product "Netscape Communicator" is the driver in the process. All other non-Netscape interests are secondary. Netscape has too much control of Mozilla and Mozilla won't be a true open source project until the commercial control of this project is removed and the Mozilla organisation becomes more democratic and representative of all the people involved and interested in Mozilla, not just Netscape's commercial interests. Sure, Netscape has so far contributed most of $ in this project, but open source thrives best with the "survival of the fittest" ideas approach within a large community of contributors, not a "survival of the fittest ideas that suit the commercial interests of a public listed company". This later approach will only throttle the success of the project due to an alienation of non-Netscape contributors who idea's have less weight in the overall scheme. This is the failure so far of Mozilla and the reason it has had trouble attracting and maintaining more than a small group of contributors. I only hope things will change because Mozilla has a lot of potential as an open source project in the long term, if only it wasn't constrained by the current controlling interests.


by Anon

Tuesday October 19th, 1999 3:33 PM

Who sets the schedules in Linux? Who decides if a feature is in our out? Who decides if code is checked into the CVS server? These are all Linus' decision, and Linus' product "Linux" is the driver in the process. All other non-Linus interests are secondary. Linus has too much control of Linux and Linux won't be a true open source project until Linus' control of this project is removed and the Linux development team becomes more democratic and representative of all the people involved and interested in Linux, not just Linus. etc. etc...


by Anon

Tuesday October 19th, 1999 3:45 PM

True, and Linux might be a better project if a group of experts instead of a single person reviewed all contributions and made decisions about what got check in. The difference is that Linus's decisions are not clouded by commercial interests (to any perceivable extent). He has nothing to gain other than a better Linux by accepting or rejecting contributions. Netscape decisions are purely commercially based and reflect corporate imperatives. In Mozilla it is not a survival of the fitest like Linux, but a survival of the most valuable for Netscape's bottom line. It's a shame.


by Anon

Tuesday October 19th, 1999 4:27 PM

Well, if you truely believe that Netscape has too much control over Mozilla, why not take a copy of all the source code and start up your own distribution point? You can be the master of MyMozilla's destiny, or you can set up a committee to decide - however you like. I mean, the source is all *there* right, so what's stopping you?

Same goes for Linus/Linux, btw..

Ok, you're right - it'd probably be a lot of work, but why not get some people to help you. If you can't find anyone, then I guess it's not important enough (but that doesn't stop you from doing it). I'm not trying to be a smartass, but it seems I've heard this line of too-much-netscape thinking a lot lately. Maybe you're right - maybe there have been decisions that have been made about mozilla's future because of netscape's bottom line rather than the elegance of a given solution. And if there is a specific design choice that's bugging you, become active and get it changed, or release your own patch, or round up a group of anti-netscape developers and change it. I look forward to it.

Because although I can agree that netscape excerts influence on mozilla, I don't see the point of slagging them over it. If it wasn't for Nescape releasing their sourcecode, you wouldn't have an opensource project to whine about.

There *is* a common misperception is that mozilla must be a netscape-only shop. But the way that that perception changes is by more people getting involved, not bitching about how mozilla would be a better place if only it weren't for that annoying netscape. (you know, the guys that started the whole thing)

For the record, I am not affiliated with Netscape...


by Anon

Tuesday October 19th, 1999 5:22 PM

Hopefully the Mozilla community will evolve and expand to a point where a single party such as Netscape doesn't have the dominant influence over all Mozilla decisions (not just design decisions, but schedule, feature set, etc). This is the problem, and it is limiting outside interest and involvement I think. True, you can start your own Mozilla subproject but it is not worth the trouble until you have a stable version of the code to branch from (ie. Mozilla 1.0). So we wait until Netscape finish their first version of Mozilla, and hopefully things will improve from there. I can only hope that the Netscape influence on Mozilla decreases over time and the project comes to reflect the interests and ideas of the wider community. Why waste time making unpaid contributions to a project whose goals and decisions are made by a corporate entity until this happens? By doing so you are just becoming an unpaid Netscape worker, since anything you contribute that isn't in Netscape's interest is discarded.

#23 Get Real

by asa

Tuesday October 19th, 1999 8:29 PM

Could you please step out of the f*@#&!g hypothetical for a minute and give me an example where "netscape influence on mozilla" failed to support the interests of this "wider community", or where some contribution was discarded because "decisions are made by a corporate entity". Your theory is fine and f*@#&!g dandy except for the simple fact that no one has been harmed. And without some demonstrable harm I see little in your words but FUD.

#31 Bruce? is the you? (N/T)

by SomeSmartAss

Wednesday October 20th, 1999 1:12 PM

sorry, couldn't help myself


by Anon

Tuesday October 19th, 1999 5:10 PM

And here I thought that the preceding message was satirical.

Linux and Mozilla are both open source. The since point of decision isn't a liability, it's a necessity -- if multiple people could check in changes, there would be (at least) redundant changes.

Also, if a comittee ever took over Linux, Linux would die. Haven't you ever heard of design-by-comittee? Good products are invariably from the mind of one talented person. If a team produces a good product, you can be certain that it's utterly dominated by a single person.


by Ben_Goodger

Tuesday October 19th, 1999 9:58 PM

"non-Netscape contributors who idea's have less weight in the overall scheme."

I for one don't appreciate baseless comments. If these are, then you are very, very wrong. Please cite an example where anything that you have had to contribute has been rejected unreasonably. When I say unreasonable I mean your contribution fit the scope of the project (as opposed to adding a giant picture of an elk to the toolbar).

Mozilla has to fit certain guidelines, all hell cannot break loose. However, if you have zany ideas, for instance, you really want that giant elk picture, then feel free to create your own elkzilla.

#26 Produce your own version of Mozilla

by locka

Wednesday October 20th, 1999 3:30 AM

If you're that unhappy with the direction of Mozilla. Set up your own CVS server and develop an alternate version.

The licence allows anyone to do this if they want.

#16 More Mozilla FUD - This Time From An MIT Professor

by abraham

Tuesday October 19th, 1999 3:08 PM

The basic observation is that AOL cannot depend on the community for reaching specific goals, but has to use their own employees. This is true. Cygnus is a bit in a similar position with regard to gcc, allthough to a much smaller degree.

He also mention to of the benefits, bug fixes and feature suggesitions (better design). He did miss the non-essential, but still nice, AOL gets for free, such as the ports to minor platforms and translations to minor languages.

So the conclusion should have been that going open source with a key product doesn't give you a free ride or anything close to it, but it does give you a better product for the same money.

#20 Don't Bother Reading This One

by Anon

Tuesday October 19th, 1999 5:00 PM

Don't even waste your time reading this article. It offers nothing new, and is just a re-hash of FUD from the past. Mozilla is a worthwile project regardless of what some unknown guy at MIT thinks.

#27 Says a not only unknown but *anonymous* guy..? ;)

by Anon

Wednesday October 20th, 1999 3:58 AM