It takes many to build the Web we want

Mozilla is announcing today the creation of a WebRTC competency center jointly with Telenor.

Mozilla’s purpose is to build the Web. We do so by building Firefox and Firefox OS. The Web is pretty unusual when it comes to interoperable technology stacks, because it is not built by standards bodies. Instead, the Web is built by browser vendors that implement browsers that implement the Web, which in the end pretty much defines what the Web is.

The Web adds new technologies whenever a majority of browser vendors agree to extend it in an interoperable way. Standards bodies merely help coordinating this process. Very rarely do new Web capabilities originate in a standards body. New Web capabilities merely end up there eventually, once there is sufficient interest by multiple browser vendors to warrant standardization.

Mozilla doesn’t — and can’t — build the Web alone. What makes the Web unique is that it is owned by no-one, and cannot be held back by anyone. It doesn’t take unanimous consent to extend the Web. A mere majority of browser vendors can popularize a new Web capability, forcing the rest of the browser vendors to eventually come along.

While several browser vendors build the Web, Mozilla has a unique vision for the Web that is driven by our mission as a non-profit foundation. Whereas all other browser vendors are for-profit corporations, advancing the Web in the interest of their shareholders, Mozilla advances the Web for users.

The primary browser vendors today are Google, Apple, Microsoft and Mozilla. These four organizations have a direct path to bring new technologies to the Web. While many other technology companies have a strong interest in the Web, they lack the ability to directly move the Web ahead because only these four browser vendors develop a rendering engine that implements the Web stack.

There is one more aspect that sets Mozilla apart from its browser vendor competitors. We are several orders of magnitude smaller than our peers. While this might appear as a market disadvantage at first, combined with our neutral and non-profit status it actually creates a unique opportunity. Many more technology companies have an interest in working on the Web, but if you aren’t Google, Apple, or Microsoft its very difficult to contribute core technologies to the Web. These three companies have direct control over a rendering engine. No other technology company can equally influence the Web. Mozilla is looking to change that.

Jointly with Telenor we are launching a new initiative that will allow parties with a strong technology interest in WebRTC to participate as an equal in the development process of the WebRTC standard. Since standards are really just a result of delivering new Web technologies in a rendering engine, Telenor will assign Telenor engineering staff to work on Mozilla’s implementation of WebRTC in Firefox and Firefox OS.

The goal of this new center is to implement WebRTC with a broad, neutral vision that captures the technology needs of many, not just the technology needs of individual browser vendors.

Mozilla is an open source project where every opinion and technical contribution matters. The WebRTC Competency Center will accelerate the development of WebRTC, and ensure that WebRTC serves the diverse technology interests of many. If you would like to see WebRTC (or any other part of the Web) grow capabilities that are important to you, join us.

Yahoo and Mozilla Form Strategic Partnership

SUNNYVALE, Calif. and MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Wednesday, November 19, 2014 – Yahoo Inc. (NASDAQ: YHOO) and Mozilla Corporation today announced a strategic five-year partnership that makes Yahoo the default search experience for Firefox in the United States on mobile and desktop. The agreement also provides a framework for exploring future product integrations and distribution opportunities to other markets.

The deal represents the most significant partnership for Yahoo in five years. As part of this partnership, Yahoo will introduce an enhanced search experience for U.S. Firefox users which is scheduled to launch in December 2014. It features a clean, modern and immersive design that reflects input from the Mozilla team.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Mozilla. Mozilla is an inspirational industry leader who puts users first and focuses on building forward-leaning, compelling experiences. We’re so proud that they’ve chosen us as their long-term partner in search, and I can’t wait to see what innovations we build together,” said Marissa Mayer, Yahoo CEO. “At Yahoo, we believe deeply in search – it’s an area of investment, opportunity and growth for us. This partnership helps to expand our reach in search and also gives us an opportunity to work closely with Mozilla to find ways to innovate more broadly in search, communications, and digital content.”

“Search is a core part of the online experience for everyone, with Firefox users alone searching the Web more than 100 billion times per year globally,” said Chris Beard, Mozilla CEO. “Our new search strategy doubles down on our commitment to make Firefox a browser for everyone, with more choice and opportunity for innovation. We are excited to partner with Yahoo to bring a new, re-imagined Yahoo search experience to Firefox users in the U.S. featuring the best of the Web, and to explore new innovative search and content experiences together.”

To learn more about this, please visit the Yahoo Corporate Tumblr and the Mozilla blog.

About Yahoo

Yahoo is focused on making the world’s daily habits inspiring and entertaining. By creating highly personalized experiences for our users, we keep people connected to what matters most to them, across devices and around the world. In turn, we create value for advertisers by connecting them with the audiences that build their businesses. Yahoo is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California, and has offices located throughout the Americas, Asia Pacific (APAC) and the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) regions. For more information, visit the pressroom (pressroom.yahoo.net) or the Company’s blog (yahoo.tumblr.com).

About Mozilla

Mozilla has been a pioneer and advocate for the Web for more than a decade. We create and promote open standards that enable innovation and advance the Web as a platform for all. Today, hundreds of millions of people worldwide use Mozilla Firefox to discover, experience and connect to the Web on computers, tablets and mobile phones. For more information please visit https://www.mozilla.com/press

Yahoo is registered trademark of Yahoo! Inc. All other names are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

Firefox and Cisco’s Project Squared

Yesterday I was at Cisco’s Collaboration Summit where Cisco’s CTO for Collaboration Jonathan Rosenberg and I showed Cisco’s new WebRTC-based Project Squared collaboration service running in Firefox, talking to a Cisco Collaboration Desktop endpoint without requiring transcoding.

This demo is the culmination of a year long collaboration between Cisco and Mozilla in the WebRTC space. WebRTC enables voice and video communication directly from within the browser. This means that anyone can build a video conferencing service just using WebRTC and HTML5 standards, without the need for the user to download a plugin or a native application.

Cisco is not only developing WebRTC-based services that run on the Web. They have  also joined a growing number of organizations and companies helping Mozilla to build a better Web. Over the last year Cisco has contributed numerous technical improvements to Mozilla’s WebRTC implementation, including support for screen sharing and the H.264 video codec. These features are now shipping in Firefox. We intend to use them in the future in Mozilla’s own Hello communication service that we are bringing to Firefox.

Cisco’s contributions to the Web go beyond just advancing Firefox. For the last three years the IETF, the standards body defining the networking protocols for WebRTC, has been unable to agree on a mandatory video codec for WebRTC, putting ubiquitous interoperability in doubt.

One of the major blockers to coming to a consensus was that H.264 is subject to royalty-bearing patents, which made it problematic for open source projects such as Firefox to deploy it. To break this logjam, Cisco open-sourced its H.264 code base and made it available in plugin form. Any product  — not just Firefox — can download the plugin and use it to enable H.264 without paying any royalties.

This collaboration between Mozilla and Cisco enabled Firefox to add support for H.264 in WebRTC, and also played a significant role in the compromise reached at the last IETF meeting to adopt both H.264 and VP8 as mandatory video codecs for WebRTC in browsers. As a result of this compromise, in the future all browsers should match the capabilities already available in Firefox.

Mozilla will continue to work on advancing Firefox and the Web, and we are excited to have strong partners like Cisco who share our commitment to the open Web as a shared technology platform.

Let’s Encrypt: One more step on the road to TLS Everywhere

Principle 4 of the Mozilla Manifesto states: Individuals’ security and privacy on the Internet are fundamental and must not be treated as optional.

Unfortunately treating user security as optional is exactly what happens when sites let users connect over insecure HTTP rather than HTTP over TLS (HTTPS). What insecure means here is that your network traffic is totally unprotected and can be read and/or modified by anyone who shares a network with you, including random people sharing Starbucks or airport WiFi.

One of the biggest reasons that web sites don’t deploy TLS is the requirement to get a digital certificate — a cryptographic credential which allows a user’s browser to know it’s talking to the right site and not to an attacker. Certificates are issued by Certificate Authorities (CAs) often using a clumsy and error-prone manual process. A further disincentive to deployment is that  most CAs charge a fee for their certificates, which not only prices some people out of the market but also interferes with automatic issuance and renewal.

Mozilla, along with our partners Akamai, Cisco, EFF, and Identrust decided to do something about this situation. Together, we’ve formed a new consortium, the Internet Security Research Group, which is starting Let’s Encrypt, a new certificate authority designed to bring security to everyone. Let’s Encrypt is built around a few key principles:

  • Free: Certificates will be offered at no cost.
  • Automatic: Certificates will be issued via a public and published API, allowing Web server software to automatically obtain new certificates at installation time and without manual intervention.
  • Independent: No piece of infrastructure this important should be controlled by a single company. ISRG, the parent entity of Let’s Encrypt, is governed by a board drawn from industry, academia, and nonprofits, ensuring that it will be operated in the public interest.
  • Open: Let’s Encrypt will be publishing its source code and protocols, as well as submitting the protocols for standardization so that server software as well as other CAs can take advantage of them.

Let’s Encrypt will be issuing its first real certificates in Q2 2015. In the meantime, we have published some initial protocol drafts along with a demonstration client and server at: https://github.com/letsencrypt/node-acme and https://github.com/letsencrypt/heroku-acme. These are functional today and can be used to issue test certificates.

It’s been a long road getting here and we’re not done yet, but this is an important step towards a world with TLS Everywhere.

VP8 and H.264 to both become mandatory for WebRTC

WebRTC is one of the most exciting things to happen to the Web in years: it has the potential to bring instant voice and video calling to anyone with a browser, finally unshackling us from proprietary plugins and installed apps. Firefox, Chrome, and Opera already support WebRTC, and Microsoft recently announced future support.

Unfortunately, the full potential of the WebRTC ecosystem has been held back by a long-running disagreement about which video codec should be mandatory to implement. The mandatory to implement audio codecs were chosen over two years ago with relatively little contention: the legacy codec G.711 and Opus, an advanced codec co-designed by Mozilla engineers. The IETF RTCWEB Working Group has been deadlocked for years over whether to pick VP8 or H.264 for the video side.

Both codecs have merits. On the one hand, VP8 can be deployed without having to pay patent royalties. On the other hand, H.264 has a huge installed base in existing systems and hardware. That is why we worked with Cisco to develop their free OpenH264 plugin and as of October this year, Firefox supports both H.264 and VP8 for WebRTC.

At the last IETF meeting in Hawaii the RTCWEB working group reached strong consensus to follow in our footsteps and make support for both H.264 and VP8 mandatory for browsers. This compromises was put forward by Mozilla, Cisco and Google. The details are a little bit complicated, but here’s the executive summary:

  • Browsers will be required to support both H.264 and VP8 for WebRTC.
  • Non-browser WebRTC endpoints will be required to support both H.264 and VP8. However, if either codec becomes definitely royalty free (with no outstanding credible non-RF patent claims) then endpoints will only have to do that codec.
  • “WebRTC-compatible” endpoints will be allowed to do either codec, both, or neither.

See the complete proposal by Mozilla Principal Engineer Adam Roach here. There are still a few procedural issues to resolve, but given the level of support in the room, things are looking good.

We believe that this compromise is the best thing for the Web at this time: It lets us move forward with confidence in WebRTC interoperability and allows people who for some reason or another really can’t do one of these two codecs to be “WebRTC-compatible” and know they can interoperate with any WebRTC endpoint. This is an unmitigated win for users and Web application developers, as it provides broad interoperability within the WebRTC ecosystem.

It also puts a stake in the ground that what the community really needs is a codec that everyone agrees is royalty-free, and provides a continuing incentive for proponents of each codec to work towards this target.

Mozilla has been working for some time on such a new video codec which tries to avoid the patent thickets around current codec designs while surpassing the quality of the latest royalty-bearing codecs. We hope to contribute this technology to an IETF standardization effort following the same successful pattern as with Opus.

10 Years of Firefox and Innovation for the Web Platform

Today we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of Firefox and as a birthday present have lots of exciting new technologies for developers to try out.

Over the last 10 years Mozilla didn’t just build Firefox, we also helped build much of the Web that users experience today through Firefox and other browsers.

The Mozilla Project was created to wrestle control over the Web from Microsoft. Through its then dominant 98% browser market share with Internet Explorer 6, Microsoft had almost total control over the evolution of the Web. Mozilla didn’t tackle this situation merely through advocacy–telling the world why it is bad if a single corporation has disproportionate control over an ecosystem as important and central to our lives as the Web. Instead, we went to work to create a better, more powerful Web and a better, more powerful browser: Firefox. The competition and innovation Firefox brought to the Web has dramatically changed the open Web and browser landscape over the last 10 years.

Today, no single browser vendor has the same dominant market share Microsoft had. Users can choose from a number of browsers made by Microsoft, Google, Apple and of course Mozilla. The competition in the browser space is one of the clearest signs of the success of our mission over the last 10 years.

At Mozilla we don’t just build a consumer browser, we also build the Web itself. To overcome proprietary ecosystems the Web has to match or exceed the capabilities and performance of native platforms. Over the last 10 years we have pioneered many new Web technologies, and contributed to standardizing them.

Gaming

Gaming has become an important form of entertainment for many. In the past, gaming in the browser was dependent on plugins, restricting developers from distributing content widely on the Web. Mozilla has pioneered a number of new technologies to unlock the Web as an immersive platform for games, including WebGL, which is now ubiquitous among all modern browsers. And we created asm.js, a new JavaScript extension that enables near-native performance for game engines.

Performance Improvements

I am proud to say that Mozilla’s JavaScript engine now leads the market on JavaScript performance in pretty much all categories, offering a best in class gaming experience in the browser. We also enabled process separation in Nightly builds, providing additional performance and security benefits to Firefox users. And if you are using a 64-bit capable version of Windows, we will start shipping 64-bit builds of Firefox to Windows soon (on Mac we have been offering 64-bit builds for quite some time).

Advancing Audio and Video

Audio and Video on the Web are also making big leaps forward with the help of Mozilla. We are one of the leading proponents of WebRTC, a new Web API for real-time communication via audio, video and data channels. Together with our long time partner Telefonica, we are  bringing Firefox Hello, a WebRTC-based audio/video chat feature to Firefox soon. Firefox Hello allows people to communicate in real time without the need to download software or create an account.

Building out the Web

Our volunteer community continues to have a big role in advancing Firefox and the Web. Andre Natal from our Brazilian community has been contributing speech recognition functionality to Firefox and Firefox OS. This will allow users to interact with their desktop browsers as well as Firefox OS devices by simply using their voice. This Web Speech API is currently being added to our rendering engine Gecko.

Firefox Developer Edition

If you are a Web developer and excited to try out some of the technologies above, we have something special for you in celebration of our 10th anniversary. While we build the Web, it is developers who build the content and experiences the Web enables. In recognition of their efforts and our ongoing commitment to the Web developer community we are releasing a dedicated Firefox Developer Edition, made specifically for Web developers with many features that developers want enabled by default. The developer edition streamlines development workflow and adds new features that simplify the process of building for the entire Web, whether targeting mobile or desktop across many different platforms.

What the Future Holds

10 years ago, Mozilla started a long journey to set the Web free of Microsoft’s proprietary control, and today we have largely achieved that goal. The next phase of the struggle for an open Web is mobile where a new duopoly has arisen: iOS and Android. Just as we took on Microsoft 10 years ago with Firefox, we are looking to unseat Google’s and Apple’s dominance over the mobile space by creating a new smartphone OS that is built of the Web: Firefox OS. Since its launch last year Firefox OS has now spread to 24 countries all over the world, including our most recent launch in India. If you are using our Firefox OS developer phone, we are releasing a new developer build of Firefox OS 2.0 today.

We are also advancing the fundamental technologies of the Web through Servo and Rust. Servo is a new rendering engine for the next generation Web with advanced support for parallelism as well as improved security and reliability. We are able to accomplish this thanks to Rust, a new systems programming language which we have been building and which is gaining strong community support.

And, we have also started to explore the next frontier of the Web: Virtual Reality. We are pioneering new capabilities for VR on the Web and we are launching mozvr.com as a platform for technology demos and a place for developers to learn about how to bring VR experiences to the Web.

HTML5 reaches the Recommendation stage

Today HTML5 reached the Recommendation stage inside the W3C, the last stage of W3C standards. Mozilla was one of the first organizations to become deeply involved in the evolution and standardization of HTML5, so today’s announcement by the W3C has a special connection to Mozilla’s mission and our work over the last 10 years.

Mozilla has pioneered many widely adopted technologies such as WebGL which further enhance HTML5 and make it a competitive and compelling alternative to proprietary and native ecosystems. With the entrance of Firefox OS into the smartphone market we have also made great progress in advancing the state of the mobile Web. Many of the new APIs and capabilities we have proposed in the context of Firefox OS are currently going through the standards process, bringing capabilities to the Web that were previously only available to native applications.

W3C Standards go through a series of steps, ranging from proposals to Editors’ Drafts to Candidate Recommendations and ultimately Recommendations. While reaching the Recommendation stage is an important milestone, we encourage developers to engage with new Web standards long before they actually hit that point. To stay current, Web developers should keep an eye on new evolving standards and read Editors’ Drafts instead of Recommendations. Web developer-targeted documentation such as developer.mozilla.org and caniuse.com are also a great way to learn about upcoming standards.

A second important area of focus for Mozilla around HTML5 has been test suites. Test suites can be used by Web developers and Web engine developers alike to verify that Web browsers consistently implement the HTML5 specification. You can check out the latest results at:

http://w3c.github.io/test-results/dom/all.html
http://w3c.github.io/test-results/html/details.html

These automated testing suites for HTML5 play a critical role in ensuring a uniform and consistent Web experience for users.

At Mozilla, we envision a Web which can do anything you can do in a native application. The advancement of HTML5 marks an important step on the road to this vision. We have many exciting things planned for our upcoming 10th anniversary of Firefox (#Fx10), which will continue to move the Web forward as an open ecosystem and platform for innovation.

Stay tuned.