Author Archive

Birthday, Open Data, SDK, Lab Kits, Test Pilot, HTML5, App stores, and more…

In this issue…

Happy Birthday Firefox!
The Mozilla community is excited to celebrate the 6th birthday of Firefox, the Web browser of choice for nearly 400 million people worldwide. “This year, to celebrate Firefox and the Mozilla community’s work promoting innovation, choice and openness on the Web, we ask for your help to showcase how people love and use Firefox in your part of the world. Just send us a postcard with your message about Firefox and your FoxCard will be featured in our Mountain View or Paris offices. You can even win Firefox goodies when you send in your FoxCard.” Check out the FoxCards page on Spread Firefox for more information.

Mozilla Open Data Visualization competition
The Mozilla Metrics Team, together with Mozilla Labs and the growing Mozilla Research Initiative, has announced their first Open Data Visualization Competition. “Using data from Mozilla’s own open data program, Test Pilot, we’d like to explore creative visual answers to the question: ‘How do people use Firefox?’ We are looking for compelling visualzations that tell detailed, meaningful yet easy-to-interpret stories about interesting user activities.” Read the announcement and official competition page for full details, and follow @moztestpilot on Twitter for news and updates.

New ways you can help Firefox users
The Firefox Support (SUMO) team has been working hard to improve how they can help Firefox users, and the Army of Awesome program has become a powerful new channel for this. In less than a month, more than 350 Firefox users have replied to over 2200 tweets from users who are having problems or need help with Firefox. The Army of Awesome page has also been improved, and a new website roadmap has been put together. If you would like to help out, head over to the Army of Awesome page to get started. The team is also looking for feedback on recent enhancements and planning, which you can do over on William’s weblog.

Feedback wanted: Add-ons SDK
The Add-ons SDK team has launched a survey for Add-on developers. “We’ve constructed a brief survey to gather feedback about your interactions with the Add-ons SDK. Specifically, we want to understand the experiences you’ve had with the APIs thus far, so be sure to choose the API for your answers that is either the most crucial to your development efforts or that you have worked with the most.” The survey is available here: Developer Survey.

New Firefox 4 beta for mobile
A new Firefox 4 beta has been made available for mobile devices. “We received a lot of great feedback on the previous beta and addressed many of the issues reported, including reduced memory usage, improved text rendering and a 60% install size reduction on Android. A few new things you’ll see in this release include a new theme, the ability to easily share links with your friends from the Site Menu and the ability to undo closing a tab. Learn more about the Firefox UI improvements from Madhava Enros, our Lead UX Designer.” For more information, please visit Stuart’s blog post, release notes, FAQ, or Support pages.

Mozilla Labs introduces Lab Kits!
“Mozilla Labs is pleased to announce an easy way for you to keep up to date with our latest experiments. With Lab Kit, Firefox will securely install add-ons that have been reviewed and approved by the Mozilla Labs team. We will make sure the contents of your Lab Kit stay fresh by automatically updating, adding or removing experiments. There is no complicated lab manual to get started. Just install Lab Kit on a Firefox 4 Beta. And that’s it; you don’t even need to restart Firefox.” More information is available on the Labs blog.

A Week in the Life of a Browser v2
The Mozilla Test Pilot team has announced a new “Week in the Life of a Browser” study. “This study is an update to the original Week in the Life of a Browser study, and adds some very important metrics, including memory usage over time and browser startup speed. The goal is to explore the general trends of browser usage over time, which can help us design a better browser. In addition to memory usage and startup speed, the study will collect data regarding session restore, browser startups/shutdowns/restarts, active/idle sessions, plugin and extension versions, age and size of profiles, private browsing time, and download and bookmark activities.” To learn more about this important study — including privacy and security issues, as well as how to take part — see the Mozilla Labs announcement.

Add-ons Manager design update
Jennifer Boriss has posted an extensive update about the Add-ons Manager redesign that is part of Firefox 4. Changes include Add-on specific notifications, global add-on notifications, hiding browser navigation widgets, downloading Add-ons within the Manager, and the Add-on installation process. Boriss’ post includes details and numerous screenshots and mockups. If you’re interested in seeing the ongoing development work on the Add-ons Manager, grab a copy of the latest Firefox nightly.

Drumbeat Festival: Open Video Lab
David Humphrey, long-time Mozillian and Seneca professor, took part in the recent Drumbeat Festival in Barcelona, working with Brett Gaylor to run the Open Video Lab. “Our goals for the Open Video Lab were simple to state, harder to guarantee: show people what you can do with HTML5 video, canvas, audio, CSS3, etc; link film people with developers with storytellers with designers with educators; and to, as Mark Surman is fond of saying, ‘help people build cool s*** using the open web.’ Thanks to the amazing people who came to the festival, we did all that and more.”

Changes to HTML5 video/audio load() function
Chris Pearce has posted about some changes that will be happening to the HTML video/audio load() function in Firefox 4. “I’ve updated the media load() implementation in Firefox 4 to match the current WHATWG media load algorithm specification. There are three main changes that web developers using media elements should be aware of. Firstly, error reporting has slightly changed. Secondly, when the load begins has changed. Lastly, the media element’s events now no longer bubble.” Chris’ blog post has a lot more detail about these changes.

How to prototype and influence people
Aza Raskin has posted a video of his “How to Prototype and Influence People” talk, in which he puts together a quick demo while explaining his priniciples of prototyping. “The hardest part of software isn’t the process of creating software, it’s changing culture and influencing organizations. One of the strongest tools we have in our repertoire in convincing others is prototyping and video: turning ideas into high-bandwidth communication artifacts. The goal of a prototype is to sketch an idea and to inspire participation: you are creating a narrative. To put it another way, the value of an idea is zero unless it can be communicated.” Watch Aza’s talk to learn how he goes about creating prototypes and communicating his ideas to others.

Why you want a world with multiple app stores
Pascal Finette has been thinking about and working on ideas related to an Open Web Application ecosystem for quite some time now, and has most recently blogged about why having multiple app stores is a good idea.

“Having a single app store makes life easy, but comes with a very high price,” he writes. In addition to the difficulties for developers related to arcane approval processes and a lack of competition, there are steep downsides for users as well. “From an end-user perspective a single store nearly always results in limited innovation — there is simply no strong economic incentive for the store operator to go out of his way to provide a great user experience for the customer. Current stores suffer from poor search functionality, lack of social discovery features, lack of pricing features…In a world where stores compete with each other, one can be confident that these problems will be solved.”

“It’s a somewhat bizarre artifact of the times we are living in, that we accept an app economy that is flawed on so many levels. We wouldn’t accept this world when buying shoes, books or our entertainment products. So let’s not accept it — let’s build something better.”

Software releases
* Firefox 4 beta for mobile

Upcoming events
* Dec 4, Online, International Open Data Hackathon
* April 9-10, Bulgaria Web Summit 2011

Developer calendar
For an up-to-date list of the coming week’s Mozilla project meetings and events, please see the Mozilla Community Calendar wiki page. Notes from previous meetings are linked to through the Calendar as well.

About about:mozilla
about:mozilla is by, for and about the Mozilla community, focusing on major news items related to all aspects of the Mozilla Project. The newsletter is written by Deb Richardson and is published every Tuesday morning.

If you have any news, announcements, events, or software releases you would like to have included in our next issue, please send them to: about-mozilla[at]


Rainbow, MDC, Multitouch, Processing, QMO, Thunderbird, Feedback, hacker challenge, and more…

In this issue…

Rainbow: audio + video recording in the browser
Mozilla Labs has released a new experimental Firefox add-on called “Rainbow”. “The Rainbow add-on for Firefox is an early developer prototype that enables web developers to access local video and audio recording capabilities using just a few lines of JavaScript. The add-on generates files encoded in open formats: Theora (for video) and Vorbis (for audio) in an Ogg container. The resulting files are accessible in DOM using HTML5 File APIs, which may be used to upload them to a server.” More information about Rainbow, including examples and information about how to get involved, is available at the Labs weblog.

Future look of MDC
The Mozilla Developer Center (being renamed to the MDN Documentation Center) is being redesigned to better match the rest of the MDN website. The design has gone through a few iterations, and Eric Shepherd has shared the most recent on his weblog. “There are still some iterations to be done on nailing down final details, but the scripting work has largely been done for the first draft, and we hope to have a version of this skin staged on a test version of MDC soon.”

Game On 2010 example code: multitouch gestures
Jono Xia has released another batch of sample code that could be of interest to developers participating in the Mozilla Game On 2010 Open Web game development competition. “The UI designer in me is chafing at the bit to start giving people web-apps with multitouch-based interfaces. The possibilities are enormous, and the advantages of multitouch UI — rich input, direct manipulation, natural mappings, fewer widgets, instant feedback, and a certain fun factor — are many. Unfortunately, since this is still an emerging technology, it’s not exactly a standard yet. So far, I’ve only been able to make it work using the Firefox 4 beta and only on multitouch-enabled computers running Windows 7 — which drastically limits the audience that will be able to try out this demo.”

Processing, Mozilla, and Seneca: a year later
A little over a year ago David Humphrey and Frank Hecker sat down to make a plan for how Mozilla and Seneca’s Centre for Development of Open Technology would support further development on Processing.js, an “open programming language for people who want to program images, animation, and interactions for the web without using Flash or Java applets.” The resulting project has been a phenomenal success, and David has written about the work done over the last year. It is a remarkable story about what open source and open development make possible, and it is a showcase project for the growing Mozilla Drumbeat movement. Read more at David’s weblog.

Awesome Bar word completion experiment
The first of the Prospector series of search experiments has been released, which helps you get back to websites you have already visited by building on top of the Awesome Bar feature of Firefox. “Instead of just showing you a list of sites as you type in the Awesome Bar, with this Prospector experiment, Firefox will automatically fill in suggestions for the rest of the word and give you results based on your recent browsing. For example, if you are typing ‘in’ for ‘investing,’ Firefox will fill in the rest of the word and give you sites related to ‘investing’ instead of any site that happens to match ‘in’. But remember that this smart filling is based on your personal browsing history, so Firefox might fill in the rest of the word as ‘internet’ or ‘inception’ if those words are more relevant to you.”

Plans for QMO in 2011
Aakash Desai and Al Billings have been working on plans for QMO (, and have posted their 2011 roadmap for the site. The revised mission for QMO is two-fold, “to become the source of updates and activity within QA’s teams and community members,” and “to identify and elevate the level of involvement of QA community members.” Aakash includes outlines for the next five QMO development milestones and a rough timeline for those over the next year.

Thunderbird survey, part II
In a follow-up to the first part of the Thunderbird contributor survey posted last week, Dan Mosedale has posted Part II which talks about the most significant frustrations and rewards uncovered by the survey. The two questions covered are, “What are the things you find most unpleasant or frustrating about contributing to Thunderbird?” and “What are the things you find most enjoyable or rewarding about contributing to Thunderbird?” Dan is looking for further feedback and insights about the data and the conclusions he has drawn from it, so head over to his blog to grab the data, read his summaries, and dive in to the discussion. planning
“For those that have used the Firefox Betas (Desktop and Mobile), you’ll have noticed a set of smiley faces that allow you to tell Mozilla if you’re happy or sad and why. What we’ve seen is that our beta userbase is a whole lot more talkative than we initially thought (at the time of this post, we’re at 597,438 pieces of feedback received). In order to deal with the scale, we’ve had to furiously develop features that help siphon through the masses of messages received. Those features have lead triagers to identify over 50 bugs, help get a great feedback loop into our weekly meetings and even change the displays in our offices to see the constant feedback coming in from our users.” Over the next nine months the Feedback team is going to be working on making the mass of information more useful and usable. If you have ideas or would like to help, join the #input IRC channel today!

Mozilla contributes to GNOME accessibility
The GNOME Foundation recently announced an additional $10,000 grant from Mozilla to support their accessibility work. “Mozilla is helping to fund improvements in the Orca screen reader. The Mozilla Project has helped to identify performance problems when Orca interacts with Gecko-based applications and other desktop applications. The funds will be used to perform a review of Orca performance bottlenecks and help fix problems that are identified. Orca is an extremely important tool for users of GNOME with reduced vision.” The full GNOME Foundation press release is available on their website.

Why app stores are broken
Pascal Finette gave a talk at the recent play conference about app stores, why the current model is inherently broken, and how he believes it can all be fixed through Mozilla’s work on the Open Web App Ecosystem. “Today, apps are extremely popular — they’re easy to use, easy to find and attractive. However, this new world of apps is extremely flawed — and the growth and potential innovation of the current app system is held back by closed development models, vertically integrated experiences without competition and obscure approval procedures for developers. There is a better future — it’s called the Web, it won before and it will win again.” Pascal has posted both the video and slidedeck for his talk.

Web Hacker Challenge: 50 visualizations of Life’s Things
David Humphrey has issued a challenge to web hackers everywhere: take an Ogg version of the track “Life’s Things” (CC licensed), and — using the Audio API, JavaScript, Processing, canvas, HTML, CSS, or whatever other open web technologies you like — create something new. “The web that’s coming when Firefox 4 launches is a web where music is a first class, scriptable citizen. You need to know how to code it, visualize it, generate it, mutate it. Now is the time to start.” David’s blog post includes links to the track, the most recent Firefox 4 beta, and a bunch of example code.

Open Video Alliance video
Jacob Caggiano made a fantastic summary video of the recent Open Video Conference in New York. It features interviews with Mark Surman (Mozilla), Nicholas Reville (PCF), George Chriss (, Leah Belsky (Kaltura), Ethan Zuckerman (Global Voices), and Sam Gregory of WITNESS. Grab the video through Planet Drumbeat!

Visualizing source repos with gource
David Humphrey has used gource — an OpenGL SCM visualization tool that allows you to visualize git, hg, bazaar (and possible CVS/SVN) logs as animated graphs — to create a video of the processing.js git repository from initial release by John Resig and onward. It’s a really fascinating illustration of the evolution of an open source project from an initial seed idea developed by a single person into a full-fledged and mature project with a host of contributors.

Open Data Hackathon
David Eaves is organizing an international Open Data Hackathon to be held on Dec 4th, 2010 and is looking for help, feedback, and participants. “There are a growing number of places that now have open data. My sense is that we need to keep innovating with open data — to show governments and the public why it’s serious, why it’s fun, why it makes life better, and above all, why it’s important. Let’s get some great people together with a common passion and see what we can do.” If you’re interested in open data and the possibilities it represents, check out David’s full proposal, sign up on the etherpad, and find out how to get started.

Software releases
* Firefox 3.6.12 and 3.5.15
* Thunderbird 3.1.6 and 3.0.10
* Camino 2.0.5
* SeaMonkey 2.0.10

Upcoming events
* Tomorrow Nov 3, Korea, Future Web Forum 2010
* Nov 3-5, Barcelona, Drumbeat Festival 2010
* Nov 5-7, Gothenburg, FSCONS
* Dec 4, Online, International Open Data Hackathon
* April 9-10, Bulgaria, Web Summit 2011
Developer calendar
For an up-to-date list of the coming week’s Mozilla project meetings and events, please see the Mozilla Community Calendar wiki page.  Notes from previous meetings are linked to through the Calendar as well.

About about:mozilla
about:mozilla is by, for and about the Mozilla community, focusing on major news items related to all aspects of the Mozilla Project.  The newsletter is written by Deb Richardson and is published every Tuesday morning.

If you have any news, announcements, events, or software releases you would like to have included in our next issue, please send them to: about-mozilla[at]


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