I think that with the whole #Mozilla 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 #Google
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 #browser 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).
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.
There has been several threads about the possibility of turning Mozilla into a #coop 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.
@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
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?
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.
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