We’d like to know why people leave Firefox. A survey on uninstall would help us find ways to make the software better in future versions.
This is interesting because I believe that a significant number of users will have no reason to run Firefox in Microsoft Windows Vista because that version of Windows will run Microsoft Internet Explorer version 7. MSIE 7 will have tabbed browsing and increased support for web standards, two of the reasons most popularly given for running Firefox.
Neither of these reasons is why I recommend one run a free software web browser, such as Firefox.
I recommend users run it because it respects the user’s freedoms to share and modify the browser (hence the “free” in “free software”). But this is not a view shared by the Mozilla Foundation. The Mozilla Foundation is a supporter of the Open Source movement which eschews software freedom and promotes a development methodology that says businesses ought to license their programs under an “Open Source” license because then the program will be developed faster, with fewer bugs, and all at remarkably little additional cost to the business.
Unpaid labor is certainly attractive to many businesses, but something that ought not appeal much to users (neither on the order of treating a business like a charity, nor because most computer users aren’t running businesses). Also, this is a set of claims which is easily disproven. There are plenty of so-called “Open Source” programs with bugs, or programs which are developed quite slowly compared to their proprietary counterparts.
The Mozilla Foundation talks about browser choice. The claim is one I’ve laid out here before, but it basically goes like this. Users deserve a choice in what browsers to use so that no one organization can dictate how things work on the WWW.
This would be okay as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far and it isn’t really true. Mozilla (the project producing the software we know today) didn’t offer users a choice in browsers. One only needs two alternatives to be said to have a choice, and therefore we can say that Microsoft and Opera offered WWW users a choice. And there’s nothing about a “choice” that requires software freedom. Netscape Navigator, MSIE, and Opera (once the most popular web browsers) are all proprietary programs. So there’s your choice, pick your master. This isn’t surprising, the Open Source movement only complains about proprietary software in that it is less efficiently developed than the software development model they advocate; there’s nothing there about how people ought to treat one another, how to build a better society by eschewing a dog-eat-dog society, and why we ought to value freedom for its own sake.
So long as the Mozilla Foundation remains silent on software freedom, they are ignoring the best reason to use Firefox instead of a non-free browser, and in so doing giving users no reason to stay with free software. Users have to learn to value software freedom for its own sake to have a reason to continue to use free software instead of a proprietary alternative.