Every so often, you just have to read Slashdot, to keep in touch with the least clueful, most knee-jerk bunch of techies you could ever hope not to find.
Today, Firefox Lead Engineer Ben Goodger announced that his paychecks are now being signed by Google, rather than by the Mozilla Foundation. The Slashdot comments predictably show little understanding of how Mozilla works, little understanding of how many of the heaviest contributors are already working fulltime on Mozilla while being paid by other companies, and also, surprisingly, little understanding of how little more room there is for Firefox to sell out to Google: we already have a keyworded bookmark for Google, it’s number one in the toolbar search box, and if you mistype a URL or just type random keywords or select some text and right-click to search, you go through Google.
But what I find funniest, in 378 comments so far, mostly talking about how evil it is for Google to buy Firefox like that, is the fact that searching the page for “Apache” only finds the section link in the sidebar, and searching for “Greg Stein” finds nothing. Hey, Tinfoil Hatters: Google already owns the soul of the Chairman of the Apache Software Foundation! And yet, oddly enough, Apache’s httpd still serves up pages with links to search.msn.com without rewriting them into links to Google, almost like they really aren’t particularly evil.
I am a little disappointed that this seems to shoot my prediction for 2005, though. Before it became so innundated with spam comments containing hundreds of links without any spaces that it will actually stall Firefox trying to load it (it’s the classic ASP “everything’s nested in a table inside a form”, not our strongest suit), I was going to link to Don Box’s first prediction for 2005:
Firefox’s browser share will be surpassed by new non-MSFT HTML browser for Windows.
Yes, Firefox is nice, and more importantly, isn’t yet a target for malware. And yes, a lot of people who work near the corner of 156th St. NE and NE 40th Ave. expect Google to release a browser any day now. Despite all of this, my money is on Apple taking Safari to Windows and quickly becoming the browser to beat.
I don’t find Safari for Windows very persuasive, because it doesn’t seem to meet any need that Apple has. If it’s the best browser on earth, then who needs a Mac? If it isn’t, then Apple’s programmers suck, and who wants a Mac? iTunes for Windows, tying into the iPod and the iTunes Store, makes perfect sense, but a browser just doesn’t seem useful for them.
The rumors back around the time that future Google employee Ben must have been starting to set up the Firefox default home page hosted by Google, that Google was going to release a GBrowser based on Firefox, also didn’t seem at all reasonable: all it could be is a branded and slightly behind version of Firefox itself, with more ads and desperate pleas for attention. Netscape has already shown (and is now showing again) just how poorly that works.
But what made sense to me was what works for Google: find something that’s a great idea, does good things for the web, and can be lightly tied into other Google properties without being too horrible, something that could be greatly improved if it just wasn’t quite so desperate for cash. Blogger and Picasa make sense to me, and having seen just how great the latest beta would be if it wasn’t quite so desperate for a buck, I was ready to see Opera become GBrowser. Now? I don’t have any predictions at all.