Mozilla WebThings Update

Greetings,

As we make our way into 2020 it is important for Mozilla to provide an update on our plans and roadmap for Mozilla WebThings. As was the case in 2019 (and 2018 before that), those plans can be thought of as being along two lines of effort – evolving the technologies that comprise the web of things as a broad, industry-wide platform, and pursuing possible product offerings Mozilla could bring to market.

Informed by our experience in 2019, Mozilla is making some changes in our overall approach for 2020. First, and perhaps foremost, we are suspending efforts to bring to market Mozilla branded consumer-facing products based on the WebThings code base. In 2019 we invested in exploring ways to incorporate Mozilla WebThings Gateway into commercial router products by integrating with the OpenWrt embedded operating system, including producing packaged distributions that could be installed on existing router products. That experience showed us the market, router product ecosystem, and our Gateway implementation wouldn’t together yield something compelling commercially even though we felt it might offer distinctive value to end users. As a result we have ended that work, ceased active development on that code, and removed reference to our router-based efforts from the Gateway web site.

More broadly, since we have no commercial product development plans for WebThings in 2020, there is no longer an active roadmap for WebThings Gateway and no plans for end-user feature development. However, we still plan to provide technical oversight for the WebThings Gateway open source code base and engage with the community that has grown up around it. In particular:

  • The infrastructure supporting WebThings Gateway deployments will continue to operate unchanged. Our tunneling service, update service, certificate handling, and other day-to-day services will still be available. The over twelve hundred Gateways running world wide will continue to operate unchanged, as well as any new Gateways that come online.
  • We will extend our packaging options to give developers more ways to incorporate the Gateway into their projects.
  • We will continue to answer questions and provide technical guidance on broader use of the open source WebThings code base.
  • We plan to continue engagement around the W3C “Web of Things” (WoT) standards effort to represent Mozilla’s perspectives on how the web is the ideal environment and platform for connected devices and “smart device” user experiences. We will do similar gatekeeping for other WoT formal and de facto standards (e.g., CHIP).
  • We’ll continue to review add-ons and pull requests in general, and are open to bringing other reviewers into that effort.
  • We’ll respond energetically to any issues that may arise in the security of the Gateway itself or any of the services that support running Gateways around the world.
  • We plan to make some adjustments to the current Gateway implementation so it is easier for contributors to provide new capabilities, including but not limited to new add-ons and device types. Even so, all the existing code will remain available so nothing is lost in transition. We’d also love to talk to developers interested in contributing to the core Gateway implementation itself.
  • We have plans to improve and extend documentation to make it easier to deploy and use WebThings Gateway, and continue to take part in community support conversations through our Discourse and IRC/Matrix channels.
  • You may see Mozilla carry out other explorations using WebThings Gateway as a platform, in related areas such as voice.

While we have no plans to produce commercial products in 2020 based on WebThings, we do still have a longer view that the web has a vital role to play in a day-to-day world full of connected things. We want you all – the early adopters who have responded so positively to Mozilla’s exploratory WebThings work – to continue to be able to collaborate at the community level in advancing that exploration.

You likely noticed our recent 0.11 WebThings Gateway release to make some of these updates available, with the rest to come in a follow-on 0.12 release planned for March 2020.

Thank you,

David Bryant
Fellow, Head of Advanced Development
Mozilla

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Thank you for the update @dbryant! :+1:

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As an EdTech entrepreneur, I’ll be promoting the WebThings Gateway in collaboration with educational training on how to build your own web things using the MicroBlocks IDE and its integrated “Web Thing” library. I love the idea of complete privacy around IoT development, plus independence from “big tech”, to be taught in schools.

And because of my extensive history on this project, if anyone is interested in pursuing commercial products, morphing it into niche use cases, or expanding into educational outreach, I’d be happy to lend my support or connections to help you out! (You can also find me on the chat.mozilla.org #iot channel.)

With the well-designed add-on flexibility, and Mozilla + community support to keep the core gateway stable, this web of things framework can be a solid foundation to launch numerous projects and products.

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As one just familiarizing with Gateway, the Feb. 27 update makes me wonder if it can be a base for a profitable service assisting people to acquire and maintain an open-source smart home system - those who value their privacy and are not in a position to do it themselves.
It appears so far that Mozilla-IoT Gateway has a valuable architecture and careful core implementation, while probably needing enhancements prior to widespread use. Such might include robustness, additional connectivity (e.g. cell), a range of well-supported use cases, and remote install and support.
Perhaps a consensus can be developed as to the practicality of this and a planned program launched on an open source basis.

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Although the project does not have mainstream consumer polish, nor the operational redundancies consumers might need and expect, I do think it might work as a framework for people to build smart (home, office, lobby, apartment,…) service businesses. Reminds me of the early days of mom and pop ISPs. Basically, each small, regional business would need to support their customers, since consumers would struggle if they had to go it alone. Another analogy or possible provider are businesses that offer outsourced IT. The IT experts gain their knowledge from these forums, from chat, and from GitHub interaction with Mozilla and the WebThings developer community. Their expertise would then be used to drive successful smart service businesses for others to benefit from.

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After rereading the OP a few times. I am getting the awful feeling this project either received a major budget cut or is about to be discontinued. I certainly hope this is not the case as this is a rather fine project. Sure, it is not the most popular Home Automation IoT project out there, but it is certainly the most user friendly of all of them.

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It did receive a major budget cut in terms of full-time employees working on the project, you are correct. However, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be discontinued.

Mozilla have decided they don’t want to turn WebThings into a consumer product themselves, at least for the moment. But an open source project is only really discontinued when the community around it (that’s us) loses interest.

There’s currently still a lot of interest in WebThings from its community of volunteers, and while Mozilla don’t have an interest in taking a product to market based on their own technology, there are certainly other companies (e.g. Candle) who do!

Although I’m no longer a Mozilla employee I also have a potential consulting client of my own who is interested in taking their own product to market in Southern Europe, based on WebThings.

There may also be other sources of funding coming down the pipeline to pay for further development on the project, so stay tuned.

So yes, things have changed, but open source projects are very hard to kill!

Until two days ago, people also thought B2G was dead! :wink:

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Well this is certainly good to hear, well not the fact you are no longer a Mozilla employee as you have been very helpful to me and many others. I am just saying it is good the project will continue. I checked the Candle website. Interesting. I sincerely hope this project will eventually have many forks to work with. I cannot imagine using anything else at this point. Thank you for the heads up, Ben.

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Sir, thanks for sharing such valuable information and updates with all of us. This will be surely keep up to date

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So, I just found Mozilla IoT… so promising at first look… hum, should I really take time to understand in depth this open source project??? What’s about its future? Seems promising at first but such a roadmap is not very comfortable to assume… My company is very sensitive to privacy since - but not only - we are involved in healthcare. Such a project could have solved many issues…
A company does not seriously grow on bet… Any clues (I mean facts) to help us change our mind of a dark future of Mozilla WebThings? Thanks

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I’d say that the OKdo collaboration announcement is a good sign. :slight_smile:

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I had a look and looks good, I’ll point my sister at it.

It could be completed by offering a Zigbee or Z-Wave option, as many of the devices out there are not Bluetooth or WiFi

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Curious. Does OKdo do any actual development on M-IoT, or are they planning to at some point?

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No mention of doing development occurred during initial collaboration between Mozilla and OKdo. OKdo is a hardware sales and distribution company, not a sw development company.

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That is a bit of a shame. If I was going to sell hardware with preinstalled M-IoT, I would certainly add some things to offset it from the free stuff just to make it more appealing and customer driven. Kinda like the GPL Ardour project that has commercial versions derived from it called Harrison Mixbus, and Waves Live. Even if just a new skin to differentiate it from M-IoT. I don’t know the details of the Mozilla license but I am sure they could work under it constraints.

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