Firefox OS is dead

Last week, after reading this article, I tweeted that Firefox OS is dead. There was some pushback, since despite some important updates the OS will continue to be developed. However, an OS can be functionally dead without development being ceased, and that’s what I meant in my tweet.

Firefox OS is a failure. The project started way too late, when all other players in the web ecosystem already had a mobile offering, and it didn’t catch up, either. Although the strategy of aiming at the low-end market was a good one for 2010, Mozilla missed its window of opportunity. Now cheap Androids rule at the low end, and why would any consumer move from Android to Firefox OS? (And don’t give me openness blah; consumers don’t care, except for your mother/girlfriend/other significant other who pretend they care because they love you; not openness.)

The first devices were supposed to hit the market in summer 2012 in Brazil — but nobody ever saw them. This pattern was repeated over the next few years, but nothing major ever came of it. During the last twelve months Firefox’s mobile market share (which includes Firefox on Android) never rose above 0.5%.

True, development hasn’t ceased yet, but the crucial bit from Mozilla’s statement as quoted in the article is this:

[...] we will stop offering Firefox OS smartphones through carrier channels.

Without carrier (Europe: operator) backing there is no life for you in the mobile market. In many countries carriers effectively decide which phones their clients buy, and the only company that is able to ignore them is Apple. And Mozilla is not Apple. So on mobile phones Firefox OS is dead.

An article straight from the horse’s mouth confirms that carriers are Out, but that Firefox OS will live on! It will be on TVs, and also — drumroll please — on the Internet of Things! Hurray hurray! A web-based operating system is exactly what all those Things need! Smart dustbins can browse securely now! Progress never ceases.

Translation note: “the focus has changed [...] to Connected devices” is industry speak for “our plans failed and we have no effing clue what to do next, or why we even bothered to do something in the first place.”

The Mozilla article gave me no reason to change my mind. Firefox OS goes off into the bucket of failed technologies, and about two years from now work will cease entirely because — surprise! — nobody turns out to be interested. With the possible exception of this branch, Firefox OS is dead.

The advantage of declaring it dead even when it hasn’t stopped moving yet is that we can all stop pretending that Firefox OS matters, and instead see it for the colossal waste of developer time — both within Mozilla and in the web community as a whole — that it was.

Especially during this year I got tired of nodding politely whenever a Mozillan brought up Firefox OS, smiling insincerely, pretending to be excited, and play-acting that their choices matter for the mobile world. Now all that’s over. We can spend our energy on something useful instead. Yay!

I don’t know about you, but for me it’s liberating.

This is the blog of Peter-Paul Koch, web developer, consultant, and trainer. You can also follow him on Twitter or Mastodon.
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