Firefox OS/Connected Devices Announcement


(GeorgeRoter) #1

Today we shared a number of decisions around Firefox OS along with changes to Marketplace, foxfooding, and the Product Innovation Process. Below is the full email that was sent out.

Obviously, these decisions are substantial and we knlow there will be many questions. Mozilla staff will be monitoring this channel closely over the next 48 hours to answer your questions and concerns as quickly as possible.

You may also want to visit these wiki pages for more information:
http://wiki.mozilla.org/Marketplace
wiki.mozilla.org/Connected_Devices/Participation


Dear Mozillians,

The purpose of this email is to share a follow up to what was announced by Ari Jaaksi, Mozilla’s SVP of Connected Devices, in early December – an intent to pivot from “Firefox OS” to “Connected Devices” and to a focus on exploring new product innovations in the IoT space. We’re sharing this on behalf of Ari and the Connected Devices leadership group.

In particular, there are a few decisions that we want to share along with what will happen next. We’ll elaborate more below, but let us start by being very clear and direct about 4 decisions that have been made:

  1. We will end development on Firefox OS for smartphones after the version 2.6 release.
  2. As of March 29, 2016, Marketplace will no longer accept submissions for Android, Desktop and Tablet, we will remove all apps that don’t support Firefox OS. Firefox OS apps will continue to be accepted into 2017 (we have yet to finalize a date for when we won’t continue accepting these apps).
  3. The Connected Devices team has been testing out a new product innovation process with staff, 3 products have passed the first “gate” and many more are in the pipeline. Having multiple different product innovations in development will be the approach moving forward, and we’re hoping to open up the formal process to non-staff participation in the first half of the year.
  4. The foxfooding program will continue and will focus on these new product innovations (rather than improving the smartphone experience). We expect the Sony Z3C foxfooding devices to be useful in this, but we expect it to take until the end of March to figure out the specific design of this program.

Obviously, these decisions are substantial. The main reason they are being made is to ensure we are focusing our energies and resources on bringing the power of the web to IoT. And let’s remember why we’re doing this: we’re entering this exciting, fragmented space to ensure users have choice through interoperable, open solutions, and for us to act as their advocates for data privacy and security.

There are some exciting opportunities for you to shape this next phase through your participation – we’ve started to outline some of these below and will send more details in the days ahead.

Even after reading more below, you may have questions to ask and thoughts to share. For that reason we’re opening up a conversation here on Discourse and will have open office hours over the coming days. Please reach out.

And now more details…

We will end development on Firefox OS for smartphones after the version 2.6 release
Through the work of hundreds of contributors we made an awesome push and created an impressive platform in Firefox OS. However, as we announced in December, the circumstances of multiple established operating systems and app ecosystems meant that we were playing catch-up, and the conditions were not there for Mozilla to win on commercial smartphones. We have decided that in order to succeed in the new area of Connected Devices we must focus our energy completely on prototyping the future and exploring how we can make the biggest impact in IoT.

Therefore we are announcing our plan to end-of-life support for smartphones after the Firefox OS 2.6 release. This means that Firefox OS for smartphones will no longer have staff involvement beyond May.

We will continue to assess the stack to determine fit with new projects coming through the innovation process (outlined below). Of course, Boot to Gecko (b2g) always has been and will continue to be an open source operating system open to contribution.

Let us end this section with a massive and heartfelt thank you to all of you who poured your hearts into Firefox OS for smartphones. We added more than 30 WebAPIs and proved the Web is flexible enough to support products from smartphones to TVs. We learned a tremendous amount about how to partner with other organizations and develop products with our values in a hyper-competitive market. And it also stands as a great starting point to proceed to the next phase of Connected Devices.

Changes to Marketplace
As of March 29, 2016, Marketplace will no longer accept submissions for Android, Desktop and Tablet, and will remove all apps that don’t support Firefox OS. We will continue accepting Firefox OS apps into 2017 (we have yet to finalize a date for when we won’t continue accepting these apps). Apps that currently work on Desktop and Android will no longer function on those platforms since the Web Runtime (WebRT) will be removed and will no longer be able to install or launch apps. We will continue to allow submissions and updates for free Firefox OS phone apps, and there are millions of existing users that we will continue to support. For more information about the future of Marketplace visit the wiki here.

Product Innovation Process
For the past month, the Connected Devices team has been testing out a new product innovation process with staff to identify our 2016 IoT product programs.

This process pushes us to think about early-stage ideas as if they were tech-startup projects where teams advocating for them are required to demonstrate a clear consumer value proposition at all points (“gates”) in the development cycle. This will be the team’s approach moving forward.

As of today, we have 3 projects that have passed the first gate including SmartTV, and about a dozen more projects are prepping for review. You can learn more about the product innovation process here.

We’re hoping to open up this formal innovation process to non-staff participation in the first half of the year. The tricky part of this is how to navigate volunteer involvement in the inevitable reality of projects that don’t pass gates in the development cycle being wound-down quickly. If you are interested in helping design this kind of open innovation process for volunteer participation please get in touch.

The foxfooding program will continue and will focus on these new product innovations
Our push into the Connected Devices space will absolutely necessitate strong community support for our initiatives to be successful – and that means hacking on and testing new product innovations coming through the pipeline.

That means the foxfooding program will actually expand to engage community members early and often with new product concepts. We expect the Sony Z3C foxfooding devices in the existing program to be useful in this (since they are already packed with various sensors that may be used in the IoT space). We expect it to take until the end of March to figure out the specific design of this program.

**Start Building the Future right now! **
The possibilities, freedom and potential of the connected devices space make it particularly exciting. We want to empower as many people as possible to get involved! A full participation program is in the design phase and will be rolled out in the months ahead.

In the meantime, a volunteer-driven and lightweight Innovation Fund is being initiated by the Mozilla Reps Council. This fund is an experiment itself for the next 3 months, and will provide a lightweight and streamlined process to fund small projects that aim to experiment and prototype innovative ideas in the connected devices space. You can read more about this here.

The entire Connected Devices leadership is overwhelmed with appreciation for what we’ve built and accomplished working together – a deep, heartfelt thank you again. And we’re tremendously excited about what we will create together in the future.

We’ve put together some information about how you can get involved with Connected Devices here.

Please share all of your questions and concerns with us on Discourse where we will be regularly responding, and answering questions. You can also share your questions with John, George, Lucy or Brian directly by email.

Onwards,
John Bernard. Director, Collaboration, Connected Devices
George Roter. Head of Core Contributors, Participation


(Francesco Lodolo [:flod]) #2

Hi @george, can you clarify to which channels/population the email was sent? Just figuring out if we need to cover some more communication channels (e.g. mailing list for localizers).

UPDATE: I’ve just seen the message reaching dev-l10n, thanks!


(Michael Kohler) #3

The Wiki only lists SmartTV, what are those others? Are there contribution opportunities there?


(Flaki) #4

Sunsetting Firefox OS is one thing — but killing off a community effort that finally had potential by removing every single person on staff from supporting it is utterly sad and disappointing (although, not at all surprising, as it has happened before, with the Tablet Contribution Program, for example…). :disappointed:


(Marcus Cavanaugh) #5

Why do you think the Z3C foxfooding devices will still be useful? We won’t have usable new builds of Firefox OS for that phone, and none of the IoT projects in discussion require a Firefox OS device (and rightly so).


#6

How will we distribute apps for Firefox OS TVs when we will discount Firefox Marketplace?


(Rubén Martín) #7

The phones might not necessarily be running an Firefox OS build as we know it today.


(Jorrete) #8

Hi,

Why don’t you keep a really stripped down and maintained version of FirefoxOS with the essentials. I still believe that a version of FirefoxOS with service workers enabled is really interesting.

If we have Service Workers and Manifest support the OS doesn’t need a marketplace to integrate apps/sites and I guess that gecko is gonna to keep developing such technologies.

Even if Mozilla doesn’t have resources to keep developing apps like Mail, Calendar, Gallery, Dialer, etc… (apps that a phone does need) You could move out those apps to external sites integrate as https site with service workers, stop worrying about security, let https sites access to all API. I mean it would be a geek project not a commercial one, anyone who runs FirefoxOS in his phone has the complete responsibility of what he is doing.

Also moving all but the system to externals repos could benefit to contributions. Now it’s quite intimidating to contribute to any app of FirefosOS because all happen in gaia repo.
Again I repeat my point, it would be nice to Mozilla keep a very simple version of FirefoxOS with the essentials. It wouldn’t need that Mozilla keep maintaining all the apps, even if the a OS for a phone can’t make calls.

If Service Workers have a good impact in the web world and bluethoot API gets tranction FirefoxOS would be useful to explore new concepts and a good way to interact with IOT.

Please don’t throw the towel on phones, it’s been slow and hard but to me it seemed that finally the OS was coming along nicely with addons and “pin the web” (SW and manifest).

It’s not realistic to expect that the community will keep FirefoxOS for phone without the Mozilla engineers as it is today.

Tanks!


(Fabrice) #9

We are looking at options to align the b2g stack more with the desktop one, by removing as much b2g specific code as possible. That should allow easier maintenance and evolution without paid staff involvement, but getting there is far from being a trivial effort.
Stay tuned!


(Gabriela) #10

So, how will the Z3C foxfooding devices be flashed or changed to the new Firefox OS build or whatever it will be called?


(Rubén Martín) #11

The team is working on the exact strategy, expect more new by the end of March.


(Andre Alves Garzia) #12

To Ari and the team,

Removing staff from involvement with Firefox OS after May is the same thing as killing it. I do believe this is an extremely poor decision for reasons that I will outline below, none of which have been dealt with so far.

  • The Connected Home will be mainly interacted with from mobile devices. We all have this fancy dream of a Web of Things where devices near us are discoverable and reached from web browsers. May they be a Firefox OS powered TV or your new Samsung Galaxy Laundry Machine. Without Firefox OS we don’t have a compelling hacker platform to create the meaningful control platforms needed for the the connected home. You just lost your hacker friendly platform, now you will always play second fiddle to native implementations on mobile devices. Android, iOS and WP stacks for the connected home will always have access to device APIs that they will make private. Our browser will not be able to play the same game. Just cue why phonegap was invented.
  • WebRT is great and we should be investing in it: I can’t believe how bad this announcement could go until I found out that you are removing one of the most compelling technologies in our browser. Just check out how popular it is to build software using Electron/CEF/NW.js, tons of good software are being built with webkit based runtime. Heck, the most popular editors for web development, Atom and Brackets and Visual Studio Code are all built with WebRT-like technology. Even Windows 10 is shipping a web runtime so that you can ship software with nothing but web technology and access to the device APIs.
  • We are keeping the foxfooding program but no one will be developing the OS: How more absurd this can be?! Why don’t simply tell we already have the phones so we’re giving them away anyway. It makes no sense to engage volunteers with a FRICKING PHONE OS TESTING PROGRAM IF WE HAVE NO PHONE OS PLATFORM ANYMORE. This will lead to burnout and attrition. People will leave. Also, why asking people to actively work on ports to other devices just to drop things like that. Why we had a hackathon in Paris this month and ported the SMARTPHONE OS TO NEW DEVICES???

This decisions will cause the web developer community to migrate to competing technologies. Without WebRT we don’t have a way to make desktop software and web software bridge. Electron will rule the desktop. Linux, Windows 10 all ship something similar to WebRT. Apple might just do the same soon, and we’re removing it, not only abandoning, we are actively removing features. Very bad job.

I am really extremely disappointed at with this decision and the rationale behind it. I don’t think the decision makers involved in this understand what Firefox OS and WebRT and its WebAPIs are to Mozillians and the developer community. It may have failed to gain traction with end-users, the carrier/OEM partnerships might not have worked the way we wanted but if there is one group that was not complaining about our system and was actually quite happy fiddling with it was web developers, mozillians and hackers. Now, we’ve just sidelined them.


(Yousef Alam) #13

Since the foxfooding program was pretty vague in the first place I guess you could change it to include connected devices, but right now it’s entirely smartphones. What I’m hearing is foxfooders should keep using their smartphones while we don’t work on the smartphone experience. Who wants to be a part of that? Either kill off foxfooding smartphones entirely or support the entire smartphone. TCP got stuck in a similar situation and it just drove away contributors.

Also, if people are contractually not allowed to flash builds on their device, how are they supposed to get new versions if there are no staff to build them? (The difference between 0 staff and 1 isn’t much however)

On a side note, if these decisions were being discussed, why are we still handing out Z3Cs? We gave out almost 100 at FOSDEM which are now pretty much useless in terms of data collection (not to mention we probably won’t get them back).

So I’m contracted to use the device as my daily driver, which will no longer get any useful updates, to test a sensor? Again, why would I want to do that?


(Adrian Custer) #14

Does ‘involved’ mean ‘doing the work we at Mozilla do not want to do’ or are you actually thinking of running an open, collaborative project now? The FirefoxOS project so far has been run with Mozilla doing whatever it wants to do, talking to itself, and announcing decisions (much like this announcement). There has been no consultation with external contributors as to what the core priorities of the project should be. Hence Mozilla lost a year on the change to the ‘vertical homescreen’ then launched into the ‘new security model’ neither of which addressed the core issue users and developers faced: the inability to upgrade and consequent fragmentation of the platform.

For outsiders, participating in FirefoxOS sucks: there is no point of contact for communication, there is no one who can make decisions which benefit the community outside Mozilla, discussions are run internal to Mozilla rather than out in the open, and on, and on. Absent a credible signal of a change of approach (as in listening rather an announcing), my recommendation is for outsiders to steer clear of this project. Since FirefoxOS is an internal initiative of Mozilla, wait until they finish or give up before putting in the time to learn and work on it.


(Abhiram R) #15

Does that mean we can stop testing the current build on our Sony Z3C devices? If the current build isn’t going to be used, then I do not see a logical reason to continue sending test logs.

Thanks for your time!


#16

Will we still use “Firefox OS” as brand or not?


(Jbernard) #17

Michael, I’ll put more details here on them in the next 24 hours.


(Jbernard) #18

Flaki, there will lots of people on staff for Connected Devices. Community effort and collaboration with the Participation team is one of the main three pillars of the Connected Devices strategy…so think of this as a pivot to new and different products/services to continue giving consumers a choice.


(André Fiedler) #19

? For what? Buying a new TV every 10 years? Or trying to figure out, why the new washing machine running Firefox OS is not connecting to Apple HomeKit or their Android phone? Why should I consider using Firefox OS for my connected devices project, if Firefox OS for phones was dropped this “fast”? There are more “stable” tools I (as a developer) can choose right now. Arduino, Raspbian, Windows 10 IoT Core … Microsoft didn’t give up Windows Phone/Mobile since years. Makes more sense to invest into this platform?


(Andre Alves Garzia) #20

Let us be clear on one thing:

Firefox OS is the only mobile operating system that is open source, developed in a transparent way and receptive of contributions, that has shipped devices

Android in the form of AOSP is basically source dump. Roadmaps are not public, contributions rare. We are throwing away something unique and important. WP, iOS, BB10 are not open.

I hope that Ari knows this. That we are Mozilla and we used to care about having open source, free software alternatives. Not everyone has a computer or a tablet but smartphones are always increasing their market share. Now, after Firefox OS demise, there will be no truly open mobile platform for the Web to thrive.

I hope everyone involved understand that.