Open Source and Tribalism

When Mozilla’s market share increases I don’t think “Ah well done, they’ve done well”, I think “Woo! go us!”. The community-driven nature of open source encourages a kind of tribalism and sense of identity even in those people like me who are right on the fringes. I’ve filed a couple of bugs, triaged a bug or two and recommended Mozilla (or Firefox) a couple of times to people. My contribution could hardly be any more minimal but I still feel somehow involved. Kind of similar to football in a way; fans (including me) say “We lost 1-0″ (as opposed to “they lost..”) even if they weren’t at the game.

I feel a bit uneasy about the way Firefox’s market share seems to be rapidly increasing at the moment though. I’m concerned that some of the people installing it are very inexpert users who won’t update to later versions as they become available. IE still has one great feature for such people: Windows Update. I know Microsoft don’t fix bugs in anything like the time frame of but in some kind of worst case scenario where there was a devasting flaw which was being very widely exploited, they could at least act. Mozilla could release a patch but it would rely on people to update themselves (at least on Windows) and as their userbase grows to less expert users that’s impractical.

Of course, the developers are one step ahead of me and Firefox is incorporating an automatic update mechasnism but it’s not fully functional in the latest “technology preview” releases, I just wish they’d got it working before all their recent positive publicity. Oh well, I guess we’ll just have to remind the people to whom we’ve previous advocated Firefox to upgrade if any major flaw is widely exploited.

I’m really looking forward to the 1.0 release. Go us!