I’ve been working on Web browsers with Mozilla for 15 years, the first couple of years as a volunteer, and full-time since May of 2000.
When I came to the project, the “Browser Wars” were still in full swing, though it was pretty clear by early 1999 that Microsoft was taking the lead. With Microsoft’s (then) excellent 6th version of IE starting to make the rounds in March of 2001, the browser wars were pretty much over. Microsoft, with Internet Explorer 6, was set to dominate the Web for the next half decade.
It was in this climate, one of complete Microsoft hegemony, that Mozilla’s leadership launched the Mozilla Foundation and crafted the Mozilla Manifesto. Microsoft, through a combination of better technology and various unsavory and illegal tactics, had come to dominate the Web and the world seemed pretty much OK with that. Everyone except Mozilla.
In November of 2004, the Mozilla Foundation released Firefox 1.0 to the world.
Within just a few months, Firefox grew to tens of millions of users. In just a couple of years, Firefox was empowering hundreds of millions of users with a great new experience of the Web and challenging the once dominant Microsoft to modernize the very old and very broken Internet Explorer.
Microsoft responded to the speedy IE market share erosion. They built and shipped Internet Explorer 7, which copied Firefox’s tabbed browsing and integrated search, and made minor improvements to their Trident rendering engine. Then they shipped IE 8 which copied Firefox’s Find toolbar, phishing protection, and private browsing features. And they fixed a few more CSS and DOM bugs in Trident. It was progress. Very slow progress, but progress none-the-less.
While the David vs Goliath battle made for good press, and, thanks to the awesomeness of Firefox, the tech world was starting to care about web browsers again, IE 7 and 8 were not serious contenders and Microsoft knew that. It would be a few more years and few more big re-writes before IE could be called a “modern” browser. (Internet Explorer 11 shipped this October and I’m happy to be able to say that it is finally a solid, modern browser.)
But it wasn’t until the biggest Web company in the world shipped the Chrome browser in late 2008, that it was finally clear to me that Mozilla definitely had succeeded in a key piece of the Mozilla mission, to promote browser choice and Web platform innovation for users and developers the world over.
The global community of Mozilla contributors made Web browsers and the Web platform matter again and I’m very proud to have been a part of that. With Firefox, Chrome, and IE each pushing the boundaries of what’s possible on the Web, while also pushing each other to improve, we finally have the robust competition and user choice on the desktop that we set out to deliver when we created Firefox and launched the Mozilla Foundation.
My first 15 years at Mozilla have been unimaginably amazing and there’s no doubt in my mind that the next 15 will be even more so.