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Songs on the Security of Networks
a blog by Michał "rysiek" Woźniak

On Mozilla, DRM and irrelevance

This is an ancient post, published more than 4 years ago.
As such, it might not anymore reflect the views of the author or the state of the world. It is provided as historical record.

A sad day has come – Mozilla has announced they are bringing DRM EME to Firefox, due to fears that without it, its users will not be able to access some content, and hence will turn from Firefox towards other browsers.

And while Mozilla goes to great lengths to band-aid this situation as much as possible, a spoon full of sugar won’t make the medicine go down.

Defective by design

First of all, let’s state the obvious: DRM never really works. It can’t – it’s like trying to show something to a user without showing it to the user. The very idea is absurd, and in the digital world unworkable. What DRM does great is creating problems for paying users, for free software community, and beyond.

Mozilla knows this, they’re techies. Hence all the effort to make it seem as “detached” from Firefox itself, as possible.

Mozilla Chromium

What they do not appreciate, apparently, is that for a long time there has been less and less reasons to use Firefox instead of, say, Chromium (other similar browsers). From the end-users’ perspective, Chromium is faster, leaner, it has many of the same extensions available… And between the interface changes (copycating Google and bringing grief to those of us who took the time to customize their Firefox experience), and versioning scheme changes (copycating Google and bringing grief to those of us who have to support it in their infrastructure), Firefox is becoming more and more a Chromium look-and-feel-alike, instead of the groundbreaking web-browser it used to be.

Why use the copy if you can get the real deal?

A question of trust

For me that reason always was freedom and trust. I trusted Mozilla to protect and defend my freedoms on-line. And I supported this, as many like me, for instance by using Firefox and installing it for my family members and friends. For some time now, Mozilla is making moves that strain that trust. And for me personally, introducing DRM to Firefox might just be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

That means that as soon as I find a fitting, freedom-preserving replacement, I might start installing that for my friends and family.

Will they complain that some websites do not work, that some videos do not play? Yes they will. But we’ve been through that already – years ago, when Mozilla was taking back the web. Back when Mozilla was about making the web more open, fighting walled-gardens of content, upholding the principles of open web.

And back then, we’ve won.

The value of Mozilla

Mozilla never seemed to be about the numbers, and accounts, zeroes. Mozilla was about values, even when that meant some content was harder to access on Firefox. Those values – not numbers of users, and not sponsorship deals! – were what made Mozilla relevant.

Mozilla and W3C have got things backwards, it was Hollywood that needed to worry about being irrelevant. – Will Hill’s comment in a Diaspora thread

A decade ago we’ve been able to make a change by promoting an open and standards-compliant browser in the world where the whole Internet seemed written for a closed, non-standard blue E. We’ve been able to do that by standing up for Mozilla each time we noticed a website that didn’t work.

Today, Mozilla is not standing up for us in a world where choice and control are at risk.

And in the grand scheme of things, what the free and open Internet really needs more is not yet another mobile operating system, but a browser that respects and protects the values and ideas that are at the very heart of the open web.

Mozilla needs to stand on a principle, or it will not have a standing at all.