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Mozilla: we tell you everything about the origin of Firefox

Firefox, Mozilla’s browser, was launched on November 9, 2004. It quickly became a phenomenon before losing ground to Chrome. Today, millions of contributors are redoubling their efforts to ensure that this free software regains its former popularity, particularly by improving the protection of user data. The opportunity to look back at the history of this browser. But to know its origins, we will also have to look at those of Mozilla.

Mozilla – a company born from a simple idea

The history of Mozilla begins around the same time that the internet was born. In those ancient times, the NCSA took advantage of the supremacy of Windows to position itself as a leader in the browser market. Marc Andreeseen – who will soon be one of the founders of what is now Mozilla – worked within this company. He contributes to the development of revolutionary NCSA features such as the img tag and online multimedia.

In 1992, Marc was assigned to the creation of primitive web browsers: the NSCA Mosaic. NCSA launched the alpha version in June 1993. From that day on, it was available on virtually all operating systems, including Windows and Macintosh. Very quickly, Mosaic became the leading navigation software in the United States and throughout Europe because of its ergonomic interface and its interesting options.

In 1994, Marc met Jim Clark, founder of Silicon Graphics. The two professionals see the commercial potential of Mosaic and all the possibilities to make it a powerful web browser. Immediately, Marc convinced Eric, another developer from NCSA, to leave the company to develop their own browser with his future partner Jim Clark. They also took the opportunity to poach a few programmers from NCSA. Paris won, because about a year after the launch of Mosaic, the trio then created their company called Netscape.

Netscape Navigator – well on its way to defeating Mosaic

Netscape’s browser was a complete rewrite of Mosaic. It wasn’t just to improve the software. The new company had no rights to the code their programmers had written while at NCSA. To avoid prosecution, they had to rewrite everything, from scratch. In the end, not a single line of Mosaic code remained.

The first version of the browser was released in 1994 and was called Netscape Mosaic, hoping to capitalize on existing users. But for legal reasons, this name had to be changed.

In this sense, Marc Andresson made it clear to his staff that Netscape’s new navigation software had to be a “Mosaic Killer”. Jamie Zawkinki, one of NCSA’s former programmers, suggested a nickname during a brainstorm. He had made a mix of “Mosaic” and “Killer” (killa in slang), all while trying to integrate the word “Godzilla”. And that’s obviously where the letter “Z” comes from. And the result was there: Mozilla! From that day on, Mozilla became a code name for the browser project internally. At that time, it was not yet a registered trademark.

Netscape Mosaic is therefore renamed Netscape Navigator and begins its rise. In a short time, it captured three-quarters of the market, quickly supplanting NCSA’s Mosaic. But during this time, the arrival of Internet Explorer made it vulnerable, and the strong competition marked the beginning of the “Browser Wars”. As the popularity of browsers has taken a hit, Netscape is focusing on commercial efforts. The crisis also creates an internal handicap, completely stopping the development of Netscape Navigator.

To restart the project, and thanks to Franck Hecker’s white paper, the team decided to create free software to benefit from the help of a community of programmers from around the world. And soon, in February 1998, Netscape announced that the code for Netscape Navigator would now be open source. As a nod to the browser’s internal code name, the founders name the independent organization that pilots the project “Mozilla Organization”. And Navigator becomes part of the Mozilla suite of applications.

Netscape becomes Mozilla and marks the debut of Firefox

It was four years after the release of Netscape’s source code. Of course, the browser is updated regularly. However, it was not until 2002 that the very first version of the web browser was released under the name Phoenix. Because, according to them, this new format was reborn from the ashes of a practically dead browser. And thanks to the support of programmers, the long rewriting work finally allowed the navigation software to be autonomous. It also gains speed and integrates all the latest web standards.

During this time, and for reasons unknown, Netscape was bought by AOL. The company’s focus has moved further away from the Phoenix project. To ensure business continuity, even without Netscape, the Mozilla Organization separated from the parent company and became a completely independent nonprofit organization. And now it’s called the Mozilla Foundation.

The strategy pays off, Phoenix continues its development and receives praise from users. But, against all odds, his affiliation with Netscape stuck with him. And despite its efforts, Mozilla will not obtain a registered trademark. Which explains its brutal rebranding in 2003 and the move from Phoenix to Firebird. However, the Mozilla team will soon return to the drawing board. “Firebird” happens to be a well-established database server in the United States.

Firefox – from its fanfare beginnings to its decline

Finally, November 9, 2004 marks the launch of Mozilla Firefox, as we know it today. Very quickly, he became a champion of the free software movement, overshadowing Internet Explorer. The software places a high priority on data protection and appeared at a time when Internet Explorer 6 had a flaw known to all.

For years, Mozilla Foundation has proudly displayed its logo in the form of a red dinosaur, designed by artist Shepard Fairey. The ferocious animal would later become Obama’s famous Hope poster. But after years of monopoly, the dinosaur will finally retire.

The year 2009 marks the high point from which Firefox experienced a dizzying fall from which it has still not recovered. This decline can be summed up in one word: Chrome. Google’s browser burst onto the scene in 2008, offering a cleaner interface and, most importantly, a faster loading time. Today, Mozilla Firefox’s market share is in free fall, falling from 30% in 2009 and 4% in 2020.

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Final words

It’s difficult to put into words the contributions of Mozilla and its army of contributors. If Mozilla had not taken up the challenge against Microsoft, today’s two billion Internet users would perhaps still be using IE6. We could go further and say that without Firefox, we would not have known Google, Facebook or Twitter. It’s thanks to Firefox that we have browsers that can do more than render images, basic CSS stylesheets, and a scrolling marker or two.

The fiery fox will forever leave its traces in the web sphere. It represented a legacy that went through six changes, three different companies and two complete rewrites during its ten-year history.

Mozilla: the defender of Internet privacy

mozilla firefox

Since its founding in 2003, the Mozilla Foundation has been an advocate for data protection and privacy on the internet.

Learn everything there is to know about Mozilla and its fight for privacy.

Mozilla is perhaps best known for its popular Firefox web browser.

However, Mozilla is also a nonprofit organization that has long advocated for a free and private Internet. Learn how the Mozilla Foundation is trying to protect your data in this issue…

What is the origin of the name Mozilla?

The term Mozilla is an acronym for “Mosaic Killer”.

This is short for Netscape Communication’s original web browser, Navigator. It is also the name of the public open source collaboration formed in particular to produce Navigator.

AOL purchased Netscape in 1998 and would continue to support the Mozilla browser until 2008. The Mozilla Foundation now manages the Firefox browser and other Mozilla products and services.

The history of the Mozilla Foundation

The Mozilla Foundation was founded as a nonprofit organization on July 15, 2003, in Mountain View, California.

AOL (America Online) contributed $2 million in financing and transferred intellectual properties.

This foundation creates Mozilla products such as Firefox, Thunderbird, and Bugzilla. These articles are all freely available and adhere to the principles outlined in Mitchell Baker’s 2007 Mozilla Manifesto.

The aim of the manifesto is to “preserve choice and innovation on the Internet”.

Mozilla’s ten data privacy principles

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyyoz3yGqrw

Mozilla’s central concern, and therefore its priority, is privacy.

Mitchell Baker, the foundation’s president, created and published the Mozilla Manifesto in 2007. It outlines the guiding principles of the Mozilla Foundation and its community.

These principles dictate how it produces goods and services, processes user data, and selects and interacts with its partners. The manifesto will be amended in 2016 to incorporate additional principles.

The first principle establishes the Internet as an essential component of society.

The second principle states that the internet should remain a free public resource open to all, while the third principle states that it should enrich everyone’s lives. The fourth concept is that of basic security.

The fifth principle states that everyone should have the opportunity to shape the internet and how they use it. Mozilla then calls for full interoperability and encourages open software to ensure the Internet remains a public resource. The foundation also wants total transparency.

The ninth principle is a balance between commercial and public interests. Finally, the last concept aims to expand and spread the benefits of the Internet to everyone.

Mozilla’s privacy offerings

All Mozilla products are built on the concept of privacy.

The Firefox browser, for example, is configured by default to block many data trackers. More than 2000 unique trackers are immediately blocked.

However, this function can be configured manually. The Firefox Monitor is another tool created by Mozilla.

It allows you to quickly determine if your email address has been compromised following a known data breach. So you can take immediate steps to secure your data.

Firefox Lockwise Password Manager is the third privacy-focused flagship.

It remembers encrypted usernames and passwords on all devices associated with a Mozilla account. This means you can automatically enter your credentials on the websites you visit while keeping them secure.

A battle for the future of the internet

Mozilla has been fighting and pushing for a free and secure internet since its founding.

Marking Mozilla’s 20th anniversary in March 2018, CEO Mitchell Baker spoke on the company’s official blog.

According to her, the world has observed the “power of an internet exploited to amplify divisions, incite violence, promote hatred and willfully alter facts and reality” over the past decade. That’s why, in an addition called “Pledge for a Healthy Internet,” she added four new principles to the Mozilla Manifesto, calling for equality and diversity on the Internet.

Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Mozilla also launched a petition calling for data protection by default on Facebook at this time.

This war for the future is also taking place in the courts, where Mozilla is fighting for an open and fair Internet. It specifically targets Google, Facebook, Apple and other GAFAM.

The foundation will collaborate with Women Who Tech as part of the Women Startup Challenge Europe in July 2018.

President Mitchell Baker serves on the jury and evaluates startups based on their use of concepts such as privacy, openness and accountability.

The Observatory by Mozilla project

The Observatory by Mozilla project, open access since 2016, aims to help developers, system administrators and security professionals configure and test their websites securely.

This initiative was inspired by the fact that many security methods available on the internet were underutilized.

To use this tool, simply enter a website link, and the Observatory will analyze it, give it a score and recommend improvements.

How does Mozilla generate revenue?

Google earns revenue from its users’ data through ad targeting in its Chrome browser.

Therefore, you might wonder how Mozilla makes money without monetizing this data.

Nonetheless, Mozilla earned more than $451 million in 2018. In fact, royalties from advertising money generated every time someone uses Firefox’s built-in search engine account for 95% of these tremendous earnings.

This is what allows Mozilla to remain profitable, despite the fact that its revenues have nothing to do with those of Google.

In comparison, the Californian behemoth earned $134.81 billion in advertising revenue in 2019.

The rest of Mozilla’s money is generated through user donations or sponsored new tab styles.

How Mozilla broke away from Google

Google was Firefox’s default search engine from 2004 to 2014.

This agreement allows Mozilla to generate 90% of its royalties, which represent the majority of its revenue. However, this convention did not correspond to the principles of the foundation.

It then chose to enter into multiple agreements with other search engines based on their location: Yahoo! in the United States, Yandex in Russia and Baidu in China.

In Europe, however, Google will continue to be Firefox’s default search engine.

In 2016, Mozilla announced a partnership with the search engine Qwant.

The latter has the same vision as the first in terms of protection and confidentiality of Internet users.