This week, Mozilla re-established its Mozilla Enterprise User Working Group, following last month's controversy over Firefox product manager Asa Dotzler's comment that, "Enterprise has never been (and I'll argue, shouldn't be) a focus."
At issue is Mozilla's lack of support for previous versions of Firefox, even as it releases new versions at a feverish pace. Mozilla released Firefox 5 only three months after Firefox 4, and announced it was end-of-lifeing Firefox 4. The organization will repeat the cycle in another three months when it releases Firefox 6. The problem for enterprises is that it can take at least 3 months to test required sites and applications against a new version of the browser.
Dotzler's comment about not supporting enterprise customers came in response to Mike Kaply, who quoted John Walicki. Walicki complained that he and his team had spent several months testing Firefox 4 only to learn the browser would not be supported any more:
The Firefox 4 EOL is a kick in the stomach. I'm now in the terrible position of choosing to deploy a Firefox 4 release with potentially unpatched vulnerabilities, reset the test cycle for thousands of internal apps to validate Firefox 5 or stay on a patched Firefox 3.6.x. By the time I validate Firefox 5, what guarantee would I have that Firefox 5 won't go EOL when Firefox 6 is released?
Mike, you do realize that we get about 2 million Firefox downloads per day from regular user types, right? Your 'big numbers' here are really just a drop in the bucket, fractions of fractions of a percent of our user base.
Enterprise has never been (and I'll argue, shouldn't be) a focus of ours. Until we run out of people who don't have sysadmins and enterprise deployment teams looking out for them, I can't imagine why we'd focus at all on the kinds of environments you care so much about.
As for John's concern, "By the time I validate Firefox 5, what guarantee would I have that Firefox 5 won't go EOL [end of life] when Firefox 6 is released?"
He has the opposite of guarantees that won't happen. He has my promise that it will happen. Firefox 6 will be the EOL of Firefox 5. And Firefox 7 will be the EOL for Firefox 6.
Mozilla confirmed Dotzler's comments in a statement to The Register.
Mozilla is free to do what it wants, but the argument that it wants to support customers that don't have enterprise IT support behind them makes little sense. Enterprise developers and admins are in a tough spot with regards to Firefox. Many organizations may prefer not to use Internet Explorer for security or other reasons, but with no support or sympathy from Mozilla it's Firefox is clearly not a good choice for enterprises.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has pledged full support for Internet Explorer 8 and 9 through 2020, though as The Register's Gavin Clarke points out, this will be extended, not mainstream support. Microsoft has been making inroads in browser security, and some IT admins already prefer IE for its integration with Windows Group Policy.
The olive branch of a working group seems like a small comfort without an official reversal in policy from Mozilla.
Will the enterprise working group make any difference? Or has Mozilla blown it in the enterprise?