Ev Williams, the founder of Medium, recently shared that the ‘Internet is broken’ in an NYT report (May 2017). Williams also blogged that the business model behind ad-supported media online was a “broken system” (January 2017).
Firstly, the various current platforms may be set up to allow for and reward interesting and possibly, bad user behaviors such as the propagation of inaccurate news reporting and fake news as well as spoof sites which do not make for a net positive good. Secondly and most importantly, Williams opined that the current ecosystem and the model of how the internet works for content creation, distribution and monetization can fare better.
Is there a better way for companies to help effect good user behavior, and build and ‘run’ a better Web?
Mozilla thinks so.
State of the Internet Health
In Mozilla’s inaugural State of the Internet Health Report (published in January 2017), the open source initiative aims to help prevent ransomware infections and data breaches as well as help stem the proliferation of inaccurate news reports (or fake news).
And in 2015, Mozilla launched Let’s Encrypt in collaboration with several parties. Let’s Encrypt provides a new certificate authority that makes it easy and free to add HTTPS to any website, helping to protect the privacy of users, and giving internet users some assurance that they are not visiting spoof pages. Through this initiative, 24 million websites are now ‘certified’ safer for use.
Mozilla also has Rust, an open source programming language it developed with 1,500 contributors, specifically to ensure that several major types of security vulnerabilities are prevented, such as the infamous Heartbleed vulnerability.
Harish Pillay from the Internet Society Singapore Chapter shared his thoughts on the state of the internet and internet security, “The Internet is fine — the design of keeping the intelligence at the end points is what makes is successful. Security of end points — browsers, servers, laptops etc need to continue to be the focus by way of education and training. This is the challenge we are all having to face. It is one thing to jump to the next new shiny tool, but another to know if it is indeed properly built and secure.”
“The very rapid advances of container technologies and platforms (OpenShift, Kubernetes etc) will change how we consume technology in providing value. Knowing what is in the container that you are using by checking the security credentials automatically will mean that we can mitigate and keep at bay the bad actors as well as mitigate inevitable mistakes.”
Building the ‘Best Browser’
Operating as a non-profit, Mozilla believes in advocating for an internet where users can shape their own experience, and where everyone is empowered, safe and independent — riding on an open source platform and values of trust and transparency.
In this regard, Mozilla, best known for its Firefox browser, continues its quest to make the Web a better Web, and a Web that’s accessible to all, by continuing to build the ‘best browser’, as it cites in its vision.
“Firefox is my default browser on all of my devices — Android, Fedora laptop/desktop. I do particularly like the mission — they are doing the good work on making the web better. It is not easy. But lots of battles from years past — the use of Flash etc — is now a historical footnote. I am hopeful that their continued focus on doing the right thing will make the difference that we need,” said Pillay.
With an existing market share of 15% of the world’s addressable internet users and a scale of 300M Firefox users, “Mozilla is built on the principles of online privacy, data protection, and user trust. Besides being faster and more stable, Firefox version 53.0 also offers users greater privacy and security and facilitates the move towards a healthier Internet,” said Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, Chief Marketing Officer of Mozilla at its recent press tour in Asia.
Mozilla, in announcing its strategic plan, will lean on mobile growth as its core strategy, and move away from just being known for Firefox by investing in emerging technologies research.
Firefox for IOS, launched in November 2015 is its fastest growing product in its portfolio with users in 155 countries and in 50+ languages while Firefox for Android, launched in December 2012, has over 175 million downloads and localized in 80+ languages with the latter rated the top browser on Android and the most customizable mobile browser.
As a staunch advocate against data tracking and mining, its Firefox Focus mobile web browser launched in Nov 2016 for iOS users allows users to block ad trackers by default and erase one’s browsing history, including passwords and cookies with a single tap. It is now available in 27 languages and an Android version is set for release in the coming months. The Android version’s small download size is optimized for emerging markets.
In late 2016, Mozilla kicked off Project Quantum to develop Mozilla’s next-generation Web engine with the goal of delivering “quantum leaps” in performance and other major improvements to users by the end of 2017. Mozilla has begun shipping out a core part of its browser engine with the launch of Firefox version 53.0, which also includes WebAssembly, which allows web applications to run in browsers without a plug-in.
All the technologies Mozilla is developing for the Next-Generation Open Web are helping it to solidify its effort to build a better and safer internet for all. Nevertheless, companies have a role to play in this ecosystem — placing ‘profits-only’ interests aside, more industry leaders need to consider proactively taking up the mantle and incorporate contributing to building a better internet as part of their business’ interests.
Vanessa Radd is a founding member of the XR Alliance. The XR Alliance builds tech alliances that push the boundaries in VR/AR/XR for the industry @xrforce.
Writes about VR/AR/MR, emerging technologies, smart nations, technology leadership and Aikido