Chapter Twenty Eight. Firefox and the Worry-Free Web

Blake Ross

AS THE PRIMARY BARRIER BETWEEN MILLIONS OF UNSUSPECTING WEB USERS AND THE CON ARTISTS who want their credit card numbers, Firefox developers are acutely aware of the challenges in securing the Web. And so, it seems, are our users. More than 15 million people downloaded Firefox 1.0 in its first two months—a gold rush driven by Firefox’s speed and reliability, no doubt, but also driven by the barrage of media warnings against online identity theft, data loss, and continuing security problems with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE).

Usability and Security: Bridging the Gap

The Mozilla Foundation has undergone a profound transformation during its short lifetime. It began as a loose organization responsible for shepherding the open source community to help develop Netscape 6. In those formative years, the foundation was a technology provider, working primarily with technology vendors like ActiveState and IBM. Although the foundation’s work was significant, its developers were always at least two degrees away from the customers who would eventually use its products.

Enter Firefox, the organization’s first-ever product designed for and marketed directly to end users without any middlemen. The factors and circumstances that motivated such a tremendous shift in direction make for an interesting business case study, but aren’t really of interest here. What is relevant is the attitude shift that the change necessitated.

As a technology ...

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