I think that with the whole fiasco, we're just witnessing once more the limit of the green/open/fair/inclusive discourse when it is essentially used as a smoke screen for commercial activities. For many years now Mozilla has used the model of running a non-profit org in front of their for-profit company. It's quite well documented and as such is not a surprising model, it is used by corporations to interface with different audiences, contexts, etc. There is however always a risk of cognitive dissonance with these models, and this is clear with Mozilla's PR right now, stuck between financial priorities and the need to maintain their image of social justice endorsers they have been working hard to promote until now.

In practice, even though they are often pitched one against the other, I see little difference between the marketing strategies used by
and Mozilla. And why should they be? They both come from the same context, they are part of the same dominant tech infrastructure, and they have used the same tricks to appeal to wide audience, build upon participatory and unpaid labour, and are constantly trying new, sometimes short lived, products to try to expand their market. It does not matter that Mozilla was presenting itself as defender of the open web when free culture was peaking, or was saying its was organic in the early days of food industry critique, or presented itself as a privacy safe harbour in post-Snowden times, or positioned its
community as inclusive and diverse more recently. It still remains a black box that needs to survive following the same logic and principles as any other tech company, specially if it is one that is not necessarily in the most powerful position and depends on the wealth of its competitors to provide most of its earning (basically whoever is paying Mozilla to be the default search engine).

Show thread

To be sure, I don't want to make it sound like Google or others are any better, but I just want to emphasize that we keep on being sold the same product, the same culture. It's just the packaging that changes, that's all. It also does not mean that what these companies are producing are systematically crap or should be dismissed. But it's unfortunate to realise that the good stuff is impossible to decouple from the crap, specially in an age where surveillance capitalism has been shaping the offering for the worse.

Show thread

There has been several threads about the possibility of turning Mozilla into a and I think that trying to imagine other modes of production, and dissemination of something as ubiquitous as the web browser is very important. In the most recent years there has been a growing concern that it has became impossible to enter this space given how complex the technical, economical and political landscape around such applications is. But what is presented is often an extreme scenario: giant companies on one side, and small projects lead by single or few devs on the other side. These small efforts are important and deserve attention, but surely there can be other options between these two opposites? Concretely, how many persons do you need to develop, maintain and support a web browser and its community? How much money is necessary for that? What kind of revenue model can be put in place to make it happen? How many paying patrons/supporters/subscribers would be needed to keep it affordable or free?

These are important questions I think, not because we are missing a third voice in the browser debate, but because we don't even have an alternative to start with! And for a piece of software that has became even more important than the underlying operating system it depends on, this is quite worrisome.

Show thread

@320x200 I think the only way to go forward longterm a non-profit developing a browser with native webpayments support. Browser development is financed by also being a payment provider. Native webpayments APIs allow websites to implement patreon-like sponsorships etc with minimal external stuff, browser gets a minimal service fee. Browser as a public utility.

@rra this would induce feedback loops/optimisations toward the payment system... decoupling the tool from the commercial aspect is the most important point imho : the future of the web is _not_ commercial, it's what has killed it (with the plateforms acting as intermediaries/pseudo browsers ...)
And that why this turn by Mozilla toward supposedly bankable projects is a lure from my pov @320x200

@Olm_e @320x200 perhaps one could equally make the point that the lack of direct monetization by independent sites/orgs/developers, combined with the fragility of the 'rough consensus running code' governance model has lead to the current situation.

@rra well, it would be a good idea to integrate such micro payment system as a "killer feature" but I really see a danger to link it's dev to it's commercial impact, as it's not the point at the base
(beware Libra !)

we could think EU would implement GNU-Taler in it ; and why not together with Duniter as base "glocal" money (in a fork if it needs)

but a base browzer as a way to "read and write" should be public funded and future proof as a "common" outside commercial threats imho


@rra @320x200

I find it interesting how often the suggestion comes up that the browser as a utility should be funded by the public and users. In general I agree, but how many donations did Mozilla get? Apparently not enough to focus on their non-profit narrative. The possibility for the browser to become supported by users or the public has been there all the time, but obviously didn't work.

@despens probably because coders don't want to "get political" and if you want public funding you need support by political people/parties and so take a political stance !... it's a hell as they (politics) always search to use your cause and let you aside, but if noone is taking the digital space as a democratic space to be taken into the realm of public funding and governance, it is/will be that "far-west" you had in the 19th but far worse! (it had no trillionaire at that time !) @rra @320x200


@rra @320x200

I don't think that's the root cause. Personally I donate to internet non-profits like Mozilla and WMF although I disagree with many of their actions, but I know everything would be much worse without them. The minimal "political" act required is explaining that software and other digital products cannot be created without funding.

@Olm_e @rra @320x200

The structural issues seem to be the "free culture" as explained in "Free" by Chris Anderson, and that most computer operations are designed to be totally transparent/invisible. The browser has probably seen the most radical move in that direction, with discussions going on of even removing the URL from the interface. The browser is incredibly complex but also treated as something not even existing.

@despens @Olm_e @rra @320x200 Its funny how this happens at a time where the corporate world is rapidly moving toward being almost completely open source as they are sick of lock-in, maintenance contracts and want sustainable, customizable stuff¹.

On the individual "consumer" side, it has gone the other way, with a tendency to just wait and see what the biggest, most popular packaged product is and never consider your own judgement or needs. A lot of this relates to the abstraction/invisibility @despens mentions.

Business people have figured out that this will get them slow, brittle, expensive shit but the consumer seems stuck on glossy conformity.

If somebody is going to pick up the pieces here it will likely be a coalition of big companies that don't want to let google control everything. I am not so thrilled by that prospect. Maybe we need to strategize now to think about how to keep that from turning into another disaster. Are there other ways of putting together enough collective identity to make it work? Is WikiMedia a good example? Blender? Coders sans Frontiers?

1. zdnet.com/article/red-hat-find

@praxeology blender was build by it's niche users in a niche market with niche but powerful features so not an example
wikimedia is contributed by non technical specialist so it's easy to understand the funding scheme for lambda ppl
public funding could be assembled from either EU, state or a coalition of regions/cities needing a secure browser for public operation
It would cost some ~150 M€ to "buy/copy Mozilla" rn really so I don't understand it's not already done Oo

@despens @rra @320x200

@despens to be clear : by "public funding" I mean funding from public institutions / state , by the public tax system / social security that redistribute wealth - _not_ by the "general public" alone at home that needs to make an idea and sort the credit card - that he/she may not even have .....

and be understood as a public infrastructure as the other like water, road, electricity distribution, sewers, hospitals etc are ... (or can be)

if that is understood it can get leverage
@rra @320x200

@Olm_e @despens @rra I think we got quite close to this at some point, or at least it was being discussed quite a bit a while ago. Of course Pandora's box was already open (re: previous comment about NSFNET allowing commercial traffic on the net in 91 or 92, and marked the end as the net as public utility in the US, and if we take into account telco's history both in US and EU, maybe the box had been already open at the infrastructure level as @vfrmedia was saying about Viewdata/BT), but there was definitively a good momentum again with free software 10 years after. Not sure why it did not lead to much in the end. Commercial software vendors lobbying too strong? Disappointment in the free software offering? Licensing conflicts? Difficulty to coordinate existing free software communities? Competition and personal agenda clashes at the level EU funding seeking?

@despens @Olm_e @rra @320x200 Apparently Mozilla (the foundation) doesn't even use the donations they get to develop Firefox (which is developed by the Mozilla *corporation*). https://foundation.mozilla.org/en/initiatives/ lists what they do with it (mostly advocacy stuff?), https://donate.mozilla.org/en-US/faq/ also mentions the Corporation (financed e.g. by default search engine) vs Foundation

@rra @Olm_e @320x200 So what about those of us in Academia?

At bigger universities, up until about the mid-90s it was quite normal to have a bunch of staff programmers and researchers who worked on important IT infrastructure software: OS, filesystems, networking, instant messaging, bulletin boards, course-ware, distributed data, routing, etc. etc. It was mostly FLOSS and while there was rivalry and competition, there was also a lot of collaboration and exchange. And these systems mostly won out over the "big iron" proprietary mainframe systems to become (ironically) the basis for all the "cloud" platform junk we have today.

The universities (in the US at least) then entered a crazy management growth phase and saw IT as being outside their "core competencies". With dollar signs in their eyes, they let the old nerds retire and bought PaaS apps.

Maybe it's time to rekindle this line of development. Those of us at art schools are not exactly at the apogee of power but a coalition that periodically threw some collective effort into a different application domain every couple of years could make some real progress no?

@praxeology @rra @Olm_e In theory yes, but that seems like an impossible task. First like you say, the context has changed a lot. From my experience IT departments in uni/academies are essentially now an in-house first-line support deskhelp for whatever software vendors the uni/academy boards have decided to have a contract with (namely MS, Google, Apple and a bunch of few others for specialised services). Then, staff is getting less and less research time (if any at all!) to develop/maintain in-house tools (basically all the cool stuff keeps on being reinvented and abandoned, unless you decide to maintain things on your free time). External funding is always an option and not an impossible things to achieve, but it so much rooted in promoting potentially disruptive crap to open new markets, that it's just impossible to have support for actually maintaining, consolidating, and essentially support a long term vision as opposed to making some bullshit for 2-3 years while the hype is high, and then moving on to the next one. I think the only way to change that is to reach a position where you have actual decision power?

@320x200 @rra @Olm_e Yeah it that sums it up really. I think the browser problem is too big a whale for me.

But in more specific contexts, I am starting to hear a lot more grumbling, at least here in germany, from a lot of art schools that they are increasingly annoyed with Adobe licensing and bored with the tools. Theses standard applications are based on initial analog metaphors and old (non-networked) workflows from the early 90s. Especially now that the kids are expected to do all their work at home on their laptops, quite a few people are balking at paying for so much cloud.

I admit, I'm being perhaps too optimistic, but if even a few schools banded together and put in a fraction of the money they throw away for licenses every year, you could get a lot of dev work done. It would also start to incorporate teachers and students more into the projects and FLOSS culture generally.

And we all know that the difference between "disruptive innovation" and "maintenance and refinement" has far more to do with the language you use to frame the work than what you actually do.

@Olm_e @rra The relationship between web and for-profit stuff is a tricky one. If you look at the history of NSFNET, they are the ones who changed their terms to allow commercial traffic on the net, and the same year the www was started to be introduced a bit everywhere. It was a perfect storm for e-commerce, and the developments of content driven services and portals, and this has shaped pretty much everything we see now with platforms. AFAICT many were very happy with that, it was argued a few times (O'Reilly a.o. I think) that many groups saw the rise of commercial ISP and the use of VC as the only way to support the growth of the network. I wonder how things would have turned out if the would have stuck with their original terms while the web was slowly becoming adopted and was getting developed in this context.


you just reinvented brave's BAT system

which while i used the browser mostly had its ads for financing user website donations - which could theoretically be bought by anybody - bought by amazon

@Valenoern I think what @rra meant is a less intrusive generalisation of this and not specific to ads or a specific crypto currency. But to have instead any form of payment processing in the browser itself instead of going through third party payment platforms (regardless if novel or not).

@rra @320x200

However Mozilla is one of the founders or grantfortheweb.org ...

@rra token_word + style Internet with the devs getting a cut from every micro payments from the transclusion process :)

@320x200 What do you think about research institutions? They manage big projects and big budgets and are generally only judged based on outcomes and not income.

@praxeology research institutions? You mean linked to academia? Or organisation that are funded through state/EU/etc channels?

@320x200 Both I guess (and those odd hybrids too). A few non-academy ones that come to mind: CERN, NASA, DIN, Max Planck Institute, Fraunhofer (i want my mp3!), various national health institutes, the Human Genome Project. Then there's all the military research stuff that turned out to have more application for civil use.

@320x200 I think the organization worth inspecting would be the GNOME Foundation.

It's a registered non-profit, fully democratic, and provides shared infrastructure (and in some cases paid developers) for a ridiculous number of projects.

I wouldn't say it's perfect or the model everyone else should follow, but it would be a good starting point.

@320x200 this is the only true way to achieve sustainability for any project. Any commercial interference/relationship undermines the ultimate goal. The outcome is always the same:(

@320x200 I see the open document fundation (libre office) budget is <1M€ ... and also I see no government (public fund, else) is supporting neither libre office nor mozilla directly while some use them extensively. (I know some develop/patch libre office for their own use though)

I think it would be a such small amount to scrap from states to fund a public version of those essential tools with an open governance and no ties to commercial predatory group ... European countries should invest !

@Olm_e @320x200

>European countries should invest !

when I did work experience at British Telecom in 1987, this old engineer who was also the CWU union activist quietly told me that was exactly what had been intended to happen with Viewdata (existing networks were meant to be linked across UK, FR, DE, NL and others and delivered over ISDN) but Thatcho had refused to fund the project as BT had been part privatised; so already an opportunity to do this was lost 33 years ago...

@320x200 I mean, Mozilla is probably about as small as you can get for an independent browser implementation that keeps up with current standards. Let's be conservative and estimate that a quarter of their employees actually work on Firefox. Your average C++ programmer supposedly makes about $70k/yr, so about $1.75m in salaries alone assuming 0 overhead.

@320x200 You might be able to trim that down by firing all of your UX designers and having the Notzilla foundation purely develop Gecko and Spidermonkey, leaving it to the community to build browsers out of it.

Bear in mind that this is just to *maintain an existing standards compliant browser*. The cost to develop a new web engine, if I had to guess, is in the billions and will take 5+ years, which is why nobody has done it since the turn of the millenium.

Minor correction: The last web engine written which has supported all contemporary standards was KHTML, which became stable with the release of KDE 2 in 2000. It had been worked on for 2 years at that point.

@ari TBH I don't know what's an accurate figure, someone more knowledgeable of browser development like @alcinnz would probably know better about the minimum requirements and possible directions? And like you hinted with the possibility of leaving out the web engine, and focus only the user application instead, there can be many different ways to go about it.

@320x200 @ari I'm sorry, I don't have a more accurate figure.

The numbers I do know is that @sir measured that the specs are over 114 million words long growing at 4 million words per year. So unless we had a conversion between that and C++ man hours, I don't know.

And such a conversion would probably be highly dependant on the qualities of the standards organization.

@320x200 @ari Oh, yeah. I can also state: WebKit implements most of those standards within about a million lines of code. Whilst WebRTC takes them another two million lines of code sourced from Google.

That does not count their partial reimplementation of the C++ standard libraries, JavaScript (standardized outside the W3C, with basically all the effort going towards making it fast enough for real webpages), WebInspector, WebDriver, and I/O & embedding components.

@320x200 can you honestly say anything after xhtml was even worth doing?
@icedquinn @320x200 tl;dr web is bloated; the guys dominating it are even more bloated.
@GNUxeava @320x200 yeh i think we shoulda just gone to webassembly and never upgraded javascript.

you can implement a shitty webassembly machine easy. and there's not so many cases that you can't put it through rigorous testing. like, it's just a handful of stack machine commands and you can throw shit like afl at it to make fairly damn sure your runtime isn't going to get owned.

all the risk and nonsense of compiling asm can be taken by the person making it.
Sign in to participate in the conversation

Welcome to post.lurk.org, an instance for discussions around cultural freedom, experimental, new media art, net and computational culture, and things like that.