Thoughts on Mozilla using Closed-Source Software

For one thing, they surely haven’t “always” been used by Mozilla compared to how long I am in this community (since 1999) as many of those things didn’t even exist back then.
For the other, I was on staff for 5 years from 2011 to 2016, and so have an interesting insight into systems that were accessible to me back then and which aren’t now even though I’m under NDA. I also watched Mozilla switching to closed systems in those 5 years and afterwards - including for example one system that was closed from the public recently that I created myself, intentionally as an openly accessible system, and which even I as an NDA Mozillian can’t access now.

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I want to be short because is a long discussion that we had often inside many group in Mozilla.

I am the first one that want to use open source but we had to admit a fact that not all the open source solution suites for our needs as community in a short time with a real support and Mozilla doesn’t have the resources to put developers to create specific suites.

About Google Forms is a long discussion already done on Discourse (Activate Mozilla - new unified impact form and Tech Speakers activity).

About blogs I am for WordPress (I am a contributor in that project) but I understand that medium is the actual trend and is very easy to promote and we have to no forget that mozilla have already many wordpress websites.

About nextcloud for documents is not the mainly problem but all the docs. Collabora actually doesn’t have all the features in google docs like the comments and the multiple editing.

About Slack (Internal chat structured for a community) so this discussion was already done we need only to reuse or look on discourse for discussion that have points about it.

The same discussion is also for Vidyo, there is an open source alternative that support phones, channels and let to have in a channel 60 people with an easy to use software for user and administrator and that registers the calls? Actually not so much.

I say that and I am a vice president of an Italian association that do promotion of open source for companies so I know about what I am talking. Open source cannot fit everything we need as community and we cannot do so much without lost months behind a project to let that to be suitable for us.
Maybe if we had more developers that contribute on that project the situation can change. I don’t know how many people look on the page about contribute in Mozilla and doesn’t say to contribute only to Mozilla but also to projects that Mozilla use like WordPress and Django. I don’t know how many people follow the Moss project but in the past helped with donations to introduce features that Mozilla needs.

So Mozilla is working in that direction as we can as foundation, volunteers, employee. Also we have to not forget that Mozilla is not so strong as number of employee like the competitors that in the same time is involved in too many projects that are not only about software.

In few words Mozilla is doing what is possible but we need to help (as already suggested where we can in the other projects and explain case by case. As an example with Google form there was the issue of localizations so there is people that is working on an alternative so guys keep an eye on discourse because this discussion already happen there!

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Hey Daniele,
thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Which makes me think: does Mozilla strive to follow existing trends or does it exist to lead major changes related to internet freedom and open access?

Closed-source software also used to be a trend decades ago. Well, not that much anymore since people decided to change this.

Yes, some open-source solutions might be missing extra features, others might be missing key features. Perhaps the workflow won’t be as efficient when key features are missing, that’s totally understandable. But, what about when open-source solutions are missing tiny, little details?

I would suggest exploring what our needs truly are and evaluating whether open-source software can replace our existing closed-source infrastructure solutions. Enterprise-class open-source cloud software is evolving constantly - together with our feedback and help (i.e. upstream contributions), we can sincerely co-lead open innovation.

I believe Mozilla is much stronger in terms of budget, volunteers and employees compared to other open-source projects - yet some of those other open-source projects are consisted of thousands of volunteers while completely standing with open-source, dismissing closed-source solutions for their infrastructure.

I disagree Mozilla is doing what is possible. To me, doing our best is embracing open-source solutions whenever possible in accordance with our Manifesto.

I agree we need to help and this is the reason I wrote this open letter.

Thanks once again for your thoughts!


Everyone when as to migrate from something to something prefer to not lose their previous feature because sometimes are very important for a specific workflow. We can talk about how many people had Firefox OS but wasn’t using as daily also for tiny details.

I don’t think so much as coder, else our project will became amazing but is easy to see what happen on Mozillians or Remo where few people do patches. Actually from my point of view mozilla is full of volunteers but developers that contribute in mozilla projects are very few especially when are web platforms. So before talking about new softare tot use we have to improve the ones that we are using.

It is doing the possible because we are discussing publicly on discourse and volunteers are doing evaluation of every software based on the actual needs and not only because there is an alternative.
Also Gimp is an alternative to Photoshop but without an evaluation of every needs (as usually I do for work to my customers) is impossible to say that Photoshop is used for cut the photos or because has cool filters.

So the Open letter is good of course but without understand the needs is difficult to continue and do the next step because actually mozilla is involved in many important projects and doesn’t have resources to put on it to evaluate a replacement of every software.

So the issues actually are two for us:

  • understand the needs of every software to evaluate an alternative and how much time is required to switch it
  • what the community can do for it

I’m happy to provide you with a demonstration of NextCloud + Collabora’s ability to do both collaborative editing and commenting on content if you like - contact me via - I maintain a system for the New Zealand Open Source Society on

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I am surprised that nobody from the Mozilla Leadership has posted an official statement.

Does this have the attention of the Open Innovation Team/Participation Systems?