Mozilla Labs Closed And Nobody Noticed - UPDATE Mozilla Responds
Written by Ian Elliot   
Tuesday, 23 September 2014

A blog post by Ian Bickling conveyed the news that Mozilla Labs has closed. A big and disturbing event for web development. But this happened months ago and this is the first we had heard about it.



When Google Labs closed there was an outcry. How could an organization just pull the rug from under so many projects?

At least Google announced what it was doing. Mozilla, it seems since there is no official record, just quietly tiptoes away - leaving the lights on since the Mozilla Labs Website is still accessible.

It is accessible but when you start to explore the website you notice it is moribund with the last blog post being December 2013 with the penultimate one being September 2013.

Dig a little deeper and you discover that the person who made the very last blog post, Justin Scott, left Mozilla in March 2014 writing on his personal blog (the last entry to date):

"After 8 incredible years at Mozilla, the time has come for me to discover new ideas, meet new people, and explore more of what’s out there. "

March 2014 was the month in which Brendan Eich become CEO of Mozilla, only to resign within a couple of weeks on account of his personal (but unfortunately very public) views on gay marriage which was seen as counter to Mozilla's ethos of inclusiveness. But the axing of Mozilla Labs had obviously happened before this furore.




Blogging in mid-March about his new appointment as VP of Product at Mozilla Foundation, David Ascher, who was Head of Mozilla Labs sounded relieved - even jubilant:

I have a new job!  Still with Mozilla, still doing a lot of what I’ve done in the past, just hopefully more/better/faster. 

Aaron Druck, whose work as a Designer at Mozilla Labs included TogetherJS work is now with Google.

TogetherJS, which was launched in October 2013, see Mozilla's TogetherJS - The Easy Way To Collaborative Apps, can be seen as a successful product of the now defunct Labs.

So what of the other Labs Projects?

The one that heads the list of Featured Projects is Mozilla Popcorn and it now seems to be split between two new homes, and PopcornMaker, under the WebMaker umbrella. Both of these are Mozilla branded sites.

Open Badges, another Labs initiative that gather a lot of attention, is also fully fledged with a Mozilla site of its own. Other, less well-known, projects appear to be abandoned. 

Another important question is what has become of the Hatchery, the incubator that invited new ideas from all and sundry. The website makes it look as is if it still solicits applications. I think this is probably misleading. 

One of the big advantages of open source is the ease with which a project can be started. One of the big disadvantages of open source is the ease with which projects can be allowed to die - often without any clear cut time of death. It seems Mozilla applies this to groups and initiatives as much as projects. This isn't good.  




Even though I Programmer hadn't noticed Mozilla's action when it took place, Mozilla noticed our belated news and CTO Andreas Gal issued us this statement:

"In February we integrated Mozilla Labs staff more closely into product teams instead of maintaining Mozilla Labs as a separate team. This allows each team to better sponsor research and innovation for their products. Within those teams, staff are creating faster, reacting more quickly to change and doing their best work. One example of a project formerly under Mozilla Labs is Mozilla Appmaker, now part of the Webmaker team. This is an experiment designed to provide a mobile experience which encourages free, decentralized, functional content creation and we are actively seeking new contributors to the project. Because we work in the open, you can continue to see the progress of all experiments begun under Mozilla Labs in places such as GitHub and we welcome anyone who believes they can contribute to get involved by visiting the Mozilla Developer Network."


In case you missed it "integrated more closely" means "closed".

Yes you can put a positive spin on anything but the reply still leaves open the question of why it was done without an announcement and why close something you once thought worth opening?

Mozilla may work in the open, and yes this is an important and laudable thing, but working in the open doesn't mean you don't have to occasionally point out a decision that would otherwise go unnoticed. Especially so if it might be important to all of the people giving their time to open source projects under the Mozilla umbrella.

Sometimes it is not enough just to not hide something.

Sometimes you have to speak up. 



ACM Awards For Contributions in AI and ML

Bernhard Schölkopf and Stuart Russell are the joint recipients of the 2022 ACM-AAAI Allen Newell Award. They share the $10,000 prize, co-funded by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial In [ ... ]

Microsoft Announces Fabric Data Analytics

Microsoft has announced Fabric, a new data analytics product that combines elements of Microsoft Power BI, Azure Synapse, and Azure Data Factory into one unified software as a service (SaaS) platform. [ ... ]

More News






or email your comment to:

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 02 January 2019 )