Firefox, Online Marketing and Community

150px-mozillafirefox-logo-white.pngI’ve been schooled. Asa Dotzler (community coordinator of many Mozilla Foundation projects including Bugzilla, the Quality Assurance Program, co-founder of Spread Firefox and fellow lover of astronomy) and I have been trading comments here on CPN regarding the FF browser and it’s community.

I’ve included the initial part of the post which stirred the conversation and the string of comments that followed.

It is more than worth the time it’ll take to read. Thanks to Asa for his thoughtful comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts as well.

As an aside, also see Firefox co-founder Blake Ross’ blog entry on why he distrusts Google in their “tips” on search results…

While advertisers compete to be first in a string of lookalike ads that are often shunted to the side, Google now determines the precise position and appearance of ads tips that are not subject to any of the same rules. Its ads get icons while others don’t, and if you think that’s small potatoes, you are not an advertiser: images boost clickthrough. Google can make a Picasa ad say “Easier to use than Kodak,” but Kodak cannot create an ad that reads “Easier to use than Picasa.”1 And the kicker: neither the highest quality ads nor the highest quality search results can replace these tips.

Back to the issue at hand… Here’s the initial part of the post and the comments follow…

[As an effort to show my cards and provide disclosure, I’m a hippie libertarian (deep down I think Shawn is too) teacher/student and online marketer who distrusts efforts to make knowledge (or access to knowledge) proprietary at heart and this post was made on the Drivel blogging platform (Gnome blogging platform) inside the Linux-based open source Ubuntu OS with links provided by the Epiphany web browser (a Gnome based browser similar to Firefox but more community minded). I listen to my music (non-drm) on a Rockbox hacked iPod Mini while reading my feeds on Liferea and chatting on Gaim.]

Asa Dotzler said,

December 26, 2006 @ 9:45 pm · Edit

I’m curious why you think that Epiphany is more community minded than Firefox.

I mean, Epiphany has a community that’s a tiny fraction of Firefox’s and it’s only available in one toolkit (gtk) which means it doesn’t play well on KDE or other non-Gnome Linux systems (not to mention a dozen other platforms where Firefox is a good citizen). Mozilla and Firefox, on the other hand, have a massive community of developers, testers, marketers. localizers, and extension and theme developers, it’s available for just about every platform under the sun, and on top of all that community, Mozilla provides code to many other projects including the overwhelming majority of the code that makes up Epiphany.

How have we managed to build such a massive community (I’m happy to provide numbers for both Epiphany and Firefox/Mozilla if you’re interested) if we’re not as community minded as the Epiphany project which has attracted a only tiny fraction of the participants?

– A

Sam Harrelson said,

December 26, 2006 @ 10:14 pm · Edit

Hi Asa-

I stand corrected… but I would like to get the numbers for both Epiphany and FF/Mozilla ( and figure out a way to tie that into a conversation about online marketing. That would be a fascinating piece if you’d like to provide that information as the foundation.

I know my readers here would love to read and take part in such a discussion as most are FF users (around 67%) when they visit and I suspect when they are working.

You’re right… that was an unfair comparison in terms of community development. I’m a fairly monogamous user of Gnome and tend to appreciate the simplicity there rather than the richer KDE interface, although I do appreciate what it provides to certain users (especially platforms such as Konqueror).

FF is definitely more flexible in terms of how it can be adopted to other systems. Epiphany is pretty much glued to Gnome, but being a Gnome-fanboy, I’m OK with that.

And you’re right that the Firefox community is just as vibrant as the Epiphany developer community. I’ve been a FF fan and lover since the first releases and I credit FF with helping me to realize there was a world beyond Windows and IE.

The real question, I think, comes back to defining community and realizing that different types and sizes of communities provide their members different resources and experiences. I’ve always been a fan of smaller and more concentrated communities, whether it’s my favorite bar or my favorite OS or my favorite browser.

For my own personal tastes, I’ve gotten a richer experience from my interaction with the Epiphany crowd rather than the FF crowd, but that is a completely objective assessment and I’m sure most would find a better experience with the larger FF user and dev crowd, and for good reason.

Thanks for your insights and your participation! Looking forward to that information and more of your thoughts-


Asa Dotzler said,

December 28, 2006 @ 10:58 pm · Edit

First, pardon my slightly ranty response above. Upon re-reading it, I see that I could probably have said my piece in a fraction of the words and included some actual data. But rather than correct my earlier mistake and opt for brevity in this post, (I’ve got a few minutes so) I’ll give you a bit of history and then some numbers.

The history is obviously colored by the teller and the “roughness” of the stats reflect my mild impatience with the tools and the disparity between my familiarity with the people involved in Mozilla and people involved with Epiphany. Still, I think you’ll find the overall picture interesting.


We were not always this large of a community. When I first got involved with Mozilla, back in the middle of 1998, “the community” was essentially non-existant. There were about 100 or so Netscape software engineers and about 30 QA engineers with next to no real volunteer base. Their management, and even the handful of people that made up the mostly independent Staff group, were overwhelmingly focused on bringing what they called “external” or “outside” _developers_ into the project. Back then, Open Source was about developers, nearly exclusively.

I came to the project looking for a way that a non-technical person like myself could get involved. There really wasn’t an opportunity for people who weren’t software engineers. Back then, Mozilla only provided source code and no binaries, so you couldn’t even download Mozilla and check it out unless you had a compiler, a powerful enough computer, and the skills to set up a pretty crazy build environment.

I spent a most of 1999 putting in 20-30 hours a week volunteering on Mozilla with the explicit goal of opening up the process and finding ways to involve other non-developers. In that time, we got Netscape to start shipping daily binaries for testers and we increased the number of regular volunteer testers from a tiny handful to hundreds — going from just a few thousand active Bugzilla accounts to about 15K by early 2000 when I was hired. I happily take a lot of credit for the building of and and the subsequent care and feeding of that early testing community — and Staff’s decision to hire me to work full-time on building community for Mozilla seemed to validate that.

After getting hired as a community person at Mozilla, I started work on opening up the project management process to a larger community. As part of the group, I worked to solicit product requirements from all of our participants and build those into our technical roadmap. I was instrumental in designing the systems (first keyword based then using the new Bugzilla flags features) for community input into defining release requirements and making sure we could track progress on and hit those targets.

In early 2002, working in my evenings as a community coordinator with Blake, Dave, Ben, and Joe on a side project called “m/b”, I started building a new, more focused community of testers and developers, around what would eventually become the Firefox web browser. We ramped quickly to add a few more engineers but most importantly, we started to attract a new community of users and activists who mostly weren’t even aware of what open source was. These users, testers and advocates grew from just a few dozen people who found out about the first m/b updates at my weblog to literally thousands of active participants and millions of happy users well before we shipped the first release version of Firefox.

By the end of 2002, Netscape was pretty much no longer contributing any resources to the Mozilla project. In April of 2003, the Mozilla Foundation was started with 10 employees that included an engineering team of one Firefox developer, two Gecko developers, and me doing half-time QA. There was no path to sustainability, much less success, that didn’t require growing a thriving community of contributors — and quickly. It was around then that we shifted from the old Mozilla browser to what would become Firefox with a community that was quite discreet from the older Mozilla community.

In the lead-up to Firefox 1.0, Blake and I launched yet another community called Spread Firefox — to give our thousands of fans, active advocates and marketing volunteers a tool suite for spreading the word about the upcoming release. Spread Firefox grew to tens of thousands of active members in short order and launched groundbreaking community marketing projects over the next two years.

OK. That’s a quick history of how our communities came to be and the various roles I’ve played.

Here are some rough estimates on community size I extracted from the two projects’ Bugzillas (btw, we — our community — make Bugzilla too, which is probably the most important community coordination tool for literally hundreds of open source projects) and from the two projects’ Bonsai tools (another project from Mozilla that lets non-technical and technical people alike examine the changes to files in a CVS source code repository) as well as some reading elsewhere and in project documentation.

Both projects go back to about the same time so this info covers participation at any time on the project.

Community Metrics:

Browser Developers

Firefox Developers who have checked into our CVS source code repository number around 140. There are also an additional 250 or so people who have submitted patches that were checked in to Firefox by someone else. Based on my quantitative and qualitative analysis of how many people could be considered “serious” Firefox code contributors since the beginning of the project, I’d put the number at around 90.

There’s another 700 or so developers who have checked significant code into to Mozilla’s Gecko rendering engine which is a core Firefox component and not included in the Firefox numbers above (Gecko also a core Epiphany component, responsible for everything inside the content area). There are also about 600 people who have contributed Gecko code that was checked in by someone else. While the Gecko developers essentially contribute to Epiphany (and several other browsers) I don’t believe I’ve seen any significant or ongoing contributions in the other direction (not to discount the few patches that have come to Mozilla) so I’m going to call them Firefox community.

Developers checking into the Epiphany project number about 30. There are an addition 20 or so that apparently don’t have cvs access but have submitted patches that were checked in to Epiphany by others. Further analysis suggest that about 8 of these people could be considered serious code contributors since the beginning of the project and the bulk of the code seems to have come from 2 people.

Extension developers

Firefox has over 1000 add-ons developers responsible for nearly 2000 Firefox extensions.

Epiphany seems to have about 18 extensions most of which are written by the same core team of 8 or so Epiphany developers.

QA Testers and Bug Reporters

Firefox has roughly 50,000 people that have filed bugs. (add another 20K for people who have filed bugs exclusively on Gecko.) There are about 3,000 people that make up the core bug reporters for Firefox.

A quick scan of Epiphany bug filing shows that fewer than 2,400 people have ever filed a bug on Epiphany and the active bug filers (those responsible for the majority of bug reports) number about 150.

Advocacy and Marketing:

Firefox has just under 200,000 people signed up at Spread Firefox, more than 70,000 of them have posted Firefox buttons and banners at their websites and weblogs resulting in tens of millions of Firefox downloads. Firefox has wow’d not just the open source software world but the mainstream and especially the marketing pros with events like the New York Times celebration that raised more than $100,000 from around 10,000 fans who gave small donations to take out two full pages in the NTY to announce the release of Firefox 1.0. Other major marketing successes that came from our volunteer community were the nearly 300 Firefox Flicks 30-second videos, 4 of which — thanks to firefox fan sponsorship, are playing on television as we speak. And just a couple of months back, a team of volunteers carved out a 40,000 square foot crop circle in Oregon which got coverage in nearly every major tech-focused website, as well as major magazines like BusinessWeek, Inc., Fast Company, Wired, and more.

Epiphany’s community marketing page seems to be completely blank but they do offer a button/badge somewhere on their site.


Firefox has an installed base of around 100 million users with tens of millions of daily users. Most webstat companies put Firefox usage at between 12 and 25% (mostly depending on geopgraphy. We’re as high as 40% market share in some parts of Europe, but down around 8% in Japan.)

Epiphany has a fraction of the Linux desktop which seems to account for between 1 and 2% of the desktop market. Epiphany doesn’t register at all on any of the major web stats lists.


Firefox is massive. The Firefox communities dwarf not only those of the other browsers, Epiphany included, but they dwarf the entire Linux ecosystem in terms of both size and impact on today’s consumer desktop. That sounds pretty arrogant as I type it but it’s basically the truth.


As far as marketing goes, I’d love to talk with you more about that. I’ve been intimately involved with Mozilla’s marketing program since before we had a marketing program and I’ve had my hands in not just the organization of this community but the actual projects and campaigns we’ve been running. Unfortunately, for now, my time has run out and I’ve got to go get some other work done :-)

Take care and have a happy new year!

20 Replies to “Firefox, Online Marketing and Community”

  1. phentermine cod…



  2. phentermine cod…



  3. buy cialis…



  4. buy cialis…



  5. hydrocodone…



  6. hydrocodone…



  7. […] Not sure if anyone else picked up this blog conversation between Asa and Sam Harrelson about online marketing and open source. IMO, Asa does a nice job discussing with Sam the size, vibrancy and contribution of Mozilla Community. […]


  8. […] Not sure if anyone else picked up this blog conversation between Asa and Sam Harrelson about online marketing and open source. IMO, Asa does a nice job discussing with Sam the size, vibrancy and contribution of Mozilla Community. […]


  9. buy phentermine…


  10. buy phentermine…


  11. cialis…


  12. cialis…


  13. viagra…

    ixoxoya uij…


  14. viagra…

    ixoxoya uij…


  15. Harrye72…

    I do think you right on the spot with this post, i could use a lot a struff for my new study thank you very much.
    Greets …


  16. Aerus Electrolux…

    CostPerNews » Firefox, Online Marketing and Community Aerus Electrolux Aerus Electrolux The fiber reinforcement and cog design of this belt to fit the Aerus/Electrolux. Aerus Electrolux If your power nozzl…


  17. Aerus Electrolux…

    CostPerNews » Firefox, Online Marketing and Community Aerus Electrolux Aerus Electrolux The fiber reinforcement and cog design of this belt to fit the Aerus/Electrolux. Aerus Electrolux If your power nozzl…


  18. i still stick to firefox no matter what its easy to use and for me its also marketing minded.


  19. hemantchahar88 March 22, 2010 at 00:35



  20. hemantchahar88 March 22, 2010 at 00:35



Leave a Reply