Thursday, 19 June 2008

Hits And Misses

It feels great to bask in the somewhat erratic but generally glowing coverage of the Firefox 3 release. This Forbes article captures a big part of the reason why I do this work:

Firefox has become one of the most important pieces of software around today as consumers shift from using their PCs to run applications living on their hard drives to a communications device able to connect with applications living on distant servers.

I do have to laugh at this Fox News tidbit though:

... you could say the several hundred engineers working on Firefox have been busy. And their work has paid off.

I'm glad it looks like the work of several hundred engineers, and I guess if you count up every single person who contributed the tiniest patch over the last few years it might be several hundred, but that would be a very misleading picture. Mozilla Corporation's Gecko team is currently less than forty full-time developers and that's after rapid recent growth --- over most of the last five years it was more like ten to twenty. Non-MoCo contributors are great but their efforts combined add no more than 50%. I don't know the size of the front-end team but it's smaller than the Gecko team.

Normalizing for project scope, I think we're about the same size as Apple's Webkit team. I get the impression that the IE team is much larger than us at this point. (An officemate suggests that the reason they send us cakes is because we keep them in their jobs.) Not sure what Opera's development teams are like but Opera has about three times the total full-time employees as Mozilla today, and the ratio must have been much greater a few years ago.

I wanted to say that because I think a lot of people see Mozilla as a behemoth --- I hope because we punch above our weight in the market --- but we really aren't, far from it.



11 comments:

  1. How did you come to the conclusion that "if you count up every single person who contributed the tiniest patch over the last few years it might be several hundred" and "Non-MoCo contributors are great but their efforts combined add no more than 50%". This may very well be true, but I am just wondering what metrics you are using.

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  2. While not disagreeing at all with your major point, I think that having open source contributors - even in aggregate - count for 50% of one's coding efforts is phenomenal and to be lauded.
    No, we're not a corporate behemoth, but our community is quite large and effective!

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  3. > Not sure what Opera's development teams are like but Opera has about three times the total full-time employees as Mozilla today, and the ratio must have been much greater a few years ago.
    It takes a lot of people to put out a lifestyle magazine. (http://my.opera.com/community/blog/2008/05/22/opera-magazine)

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  4. "less than forty" suggests something about the age, rather than the number of developers ;-)

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  5. Robert O'Callahan19 June 2008 19:39

    Brian: pure guesswork, but you could compute numbers using bonsai queries.
    Mike: absolutely. Our community is awesome.
    Coop: !

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  6. I am not sure about Gecko code, but I suspect a lot of UI patches are checked in not by the author, but by proxy because the author does not have repos access. This is one way bonsai queries could be misleading.

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  7. Robert O'Callahan19 June 2008 20:18

    True.

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  8. Robert, I am a long time firefox 2 user and fan. Recently I upgraded to Firefox 3 and - unfortunately - started suffering eyestrain, headaches and even nausea. (Symptoms similar to playing old school 3D games!).
    As you are the main man when it comes to Firefox graphics/fonts :)
    1) Have any other users reported anything similar?
    2) Anything to do with the new cairo rendering? Any Firefox settings that can be tweaked?

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  9. Robert O'Callahan23 June 2008 23:18

    No idea. What platform?

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  10. Windows Vista.
    If it hasn't been noted by other users/beta testers then maybe it's just me. Thanks anyway.

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  11. I know I'm pretty late to this thread, but I just watched the video on the getfirefox.com page and I wanted to share what I found there. About halfway through the video, the narrator says, "And because Firefox is open source, THOUSANDS of good guys and gals are workin' every day. Making it even safer. And, creating thousands of ways to customize it".
    It may be an accurate statement, but it is also a bit misleading, especially considering that "every day" clause.

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