Mozilla
5 Years of Firefox Cake at the Firefox Developer Day in Tokyo, Japan

5 Years of Firefox Cake at the Firefox Developer day in Tokyo, Japan

Firefox is five years old. We thought that we would celebrate that by talking about how the web has changed over the last five years and Firefox’s role in those changes.

Where We’re At

2009 has been an interesting year. We’re at a crossroads for the Internet. In the next 12 months or so we’re likely to see regulation of the Internet in the United States – possibly for good, possibly for bad. We’ve seen increased interest in the browser space with the entrace of Google with their minimalist Chrome browser. Mozilla put a vastly improved rendering engine into the hands of hundreds of millions of users with the release of Firefox 3.5. The EU is working with Microsoft to implement a ballot to make users aware of browser choice. No one could possibly say that things are boring right now. And this has only been over the last year.

But what has changed over the last five years? What are the main themes? We’ve picked a few to talk about and we hope that it helps put things into perspective for the next five.

The Rise of the Modern Browser

One thing that’s become obvious over the last five years is the wide gap that’s emerging between the field of modern browsers – Firefox, Safari, Opera and Chrome – with the world’s most popular browser – IE. The modern browser is built for the future of web applications – super fast JavaScript, modern CSS, HTML5, support for the various web-apps standards, downloadable font support, offline application support, raw graphics through canvas and WebGL, native video, advanced XHR capabilities mixed with new security tools and network capabilities.

Over the last five years we’ve been setting ourselves up for the next five. The web is moving faster, not slower, and modern browsers are set to handle it.

In this sense we’ve done our jobs at Mozilla. We were first on the scene with fast JavaScript, CORS, mixing HTML and SVG, WebGL is based on Canvas3D work we pioneered, we’re scripting hardware with geolocation and orientation. We’re helping to standardize and implement some new CSS capabilities that are being developed in other browsers, we’re leading the web towards a modern font system and giving web authors and users more security tools. Our job is to help keep the web rich and moving forward – this is a huge part of our public benefit mission. This is the opportunity that Firefox’s five years have offered us.

The browsers that are on the horizon aren’t just incremental changes – they represent the pieces to build the next generation web – rich with standards-based graphics, new JavaScript libraries and full blown applications.

Standards Won

Firefox’s growth on the web has had another important effect – bringing standards to the forefront of development. Very early in the Mozilla project almost half of the web’s HTML pages started using DOCTYPE in order to opt-in to standards mode for many web browsers. Developers signaled that they wanted to use a standards-based method for development.

That’s important. It set up the current frame for development on the web that we have today. It allowed Apple to take KHTML and turn it into Safari which then allowed Chrome to pick up that work and enter the market and render a standards-based web. Now we don’t have just one or two browsers, but many, and a lot of that has to do with the way that early web developers approached development.

Standards matter, and they should continue to matter. When they do those individual human beings we like to call users benefit with greater choice and fast innovation.

Customizing Your Experience

Led by Firefox’s add-ons system there’s been an explosion in the number of people who are customizing their experiences – both in browsers and on the web. Anywhere from one third to one half of Firefox users have some kind of add-on installed.

The web is unique, and was built to be hacked. No other widely-deployed system in the world delivers itself as source code like the web does. And this transparency has made it possible for the distributed innovation that we’re seeing in Firefox and on the web. People patching new UI into their favorite web sites, mashing up data from multiple sources or radically changing the feel of the browser itself – this is a source for inspiration for browser vendors and web site operators alike. For the first time individual people have the ability to take an active part in the future of their computing experience.

It’s also worth noting that Gecko and Firefox are unique in this space. The highly modular nature of Gecko mixed with the fact that Firefox itself is written in HTML and XUL (another UI-focused markup language) means that it’s the only browser that’s hackable like the web is. Every other browser is built as a monolithic desktop application from the last millennium. This natural advantage not only means that Firefox has the widest array of add-ons and developers, but is also a source of inspiration for most of the rest of the market.

RSS and Data

In the last five years one of the big changes we’ve seen is web sites offering up data and feeds. Feeds in particular have reached the point where even non-technical people know what they are and how to use them. The ubiquitous RSS icon, which was originally created for the Firefox browser and given away by Mozilla, now exists on millions of web sites offering users the ability to get updates on their terms.

But we’ve gone far beyond just simple feeds. Advanced APIs are now appearing for web sites so you can integrate native applications, build a Firefox extension or be able to pull your data out of a web site.

And we’ve also moved from the promise of XML to the reality of JSON as the data format of choice.

Video

It’s important to remember that Youtube didn’t exist when Firefox was launched. At that time your only options were native QuickTime, Windows Media or Real Player. (Anyone remember Real Player?)

In the last few years we’ve seen Youtube become one of the largest sites of the Internet, the launch of Hulu, and sites like Netflix offering premium on-demand video right over the Internet to web browsers and devices alike. We’ve also seen millions of people create their own videos and publish them to the web.

We’ve also seen the launch of open video and native video support in browsers to bring the creativity and hackability of the web to currently closed video platforms.

Users as Creators

The rise of the web is a story of anyone being able to create a web site. But that’s still a largely technical exercise, even with tools. What we have seen, thanks to tools like WordPress and blogger, is the growth of weblogs, feeds and data which make it possible for anyone with a web browser to become a publisher or journalist.

And it has moved well beyond just text. People with low-cost tools are making movies and posting them. Remix culture is alive and well, creating comentary and new and exciting creations – all in the hands of pretty normal people.

Mobile

The iPhone taught us that you could build a decent browser for mobile phones and that data was important. Phones, really just in the last five years or so, have shown us that access to data plans that look like what you can get to your house can unleash developer and user creativity.

In the last five years at Mozilla we’ve also made the commitment to build a browser for mobile devices. We’re still in an early pre-1.0 beta stage, but that browser is already getting excellent reviews.

So what about the next five years?

Mozilla has been at the heart of many of the issues of the Internet over the last five years. We’ve vastly improved the browsing experience for hundreds of millions of people around the world. We’ve managed to keep Microsoft honest and forced them to release newer versions of their browsers. Firefox’s presence was a large factor in Apple being able to ship a browser to its user base as the Mac came back to the market. We’ve made it possible for third party browser vendors like Google to enter the market. We’ve proven that people care about improving their experiences on the web. We’ve given over 330 million people the taste of what it’s like to use an open source product. And we’ve overseen the technical growth of the web through direct action and standardization.

It’s hard to beat that, but we’re going to try. We’ll continue to make competitive browser releases and improve people’s experiences on the web. We’ll continue to innovate on behalf of developers and bring those improvements to the standards space. And we’ll continue to grow our amazing global community of users, developers and activists.

Over the next five years everyone can expect that the browser should take part in a few new areas – to act as the user agent it should be. Issues around data, privacy and identity loom large. You will see the values of Mozilla’s public benefit mission reflected in our product choices in these areas to make users safer and help them understand what it means to share data with web sites.

Expect to see big changes in the video space. HTML5-based video and open video codecs are starting to appear on the web as web developers make individual choices to support a standards-based, royalty-free approach. Expect to see changes in the expectations around the licensing of codecs.

And over the next five years mobile will play an increasingly important role in our lives, and in the future of the web. The decisions of users, carriers, governments and the people who build phones will have far-reaching effects on this new extension to the Internet and how people will access information for decades to come.

Mozilla has a unique place on the Internet. Driven to help improve it as part of our mission expect us to express opinions on decisions that affect its future. We act both through direct action but also through indirect action – sometimes our effects are as important as our actions. We will continue to protect users and we’ll continue to do everything they can to make it possible for the next set of people to come along and build the next great web site.

It’s been a great five years. Let’s make it another five and keep the web moving forward for the benefit of everyone.

222 comments

Comments are now closed.

  1. Pandian wrote on November 8th, 2009 at 19:24:

    Good Run Firefox.. Keep going and do miracles..

  2. Brian wrote on November 8th, 2009 at 21:00:

    Happy Birthday Firefox! I’ve been using it since Version 1.5 and its awesome.

    As Pandian said, keep going and do miracles. Keep up the great work!

  3. Pingback from Around The Interwebs with (jeff)isageek – November 8th | (jeff)isageek.net on November 8th, 2009 at 21:02:

    [...] Shared 5 years of Firefox. [...]

  4. Pingback from Firefox 5 周年,分享你所使用的扩展 - 小众软件 – Appinn on November 8th, 2009 at 21:16:

    [...] pic via [...]

  5. makuchaku wrote on November 8th, 2009 at 22:15:

    Well said and well written… just cannot imagine the web without Firefox :)
    Tons of luck to Mozilla team!


    Maku

  6. Mark Brown wrote on November 8th, 2009 at 22:19:

    The web owes a lot to this browser. You have used your powers for good and not evil – and the web has won.

  7. Comanici Paul wrote on November 8th, 2009 at 22:27:

    Happy birthday FireFox and keep up the great work. See you at 10 years old :D

  8. Brian wrote on November 8th, 2009 at 22:56:

    Oops sorry for double comment, but I’ve actually been using Firefox since Version 1.0.

    Thats a great looking cake. I want some. :D

  9. John wrote on November 8th, 2009 at 23:35:

    This is an amazing post…thanks for summing it all up and putting it in such great perspective!

  10. Balakumar Muthu wrote on November 8th, 2009 at 23:38:

    WOWWW :)…. really wonderful to see the amazing growth of Firefox. Still remember the great Firefox party we had 3 years back:

    http://www.i5bala.com/2006/10/mozilla-firefox-party-live-action-from.html#planetearth

  11. Alexander wrote on November 8th, 2009 at 23:40:

    Happy Birthday! With love, from Belarus =)

  12. Pingback from 火狐五周岁──记录互联网变化的五年 < MJiA on November 9th, 2009 at 00:14:

    [...] 文章翻译自hacks.mozilla.org,纪念火狐诞生五周年,大家也可以去Spread Firefox上的纪念页面上看看,做得相当漂亮,:) [...]

  13. Pingback from Celebrating Five Years of Firefox! :: The Mozilla Blog on November 9th, 2009 at 01:56:

    [...] From your desktop to your mobile device, Mozilla is committed to building an open and participatory Internet. We’ve come so far in the past five years and we’re incredibly excited about the next five. For a more comprehensive look at where we’ve been and where we’re headed, check out Chris Blizzard’s excellent post on hacks.mozilla.org. [...]

  14. Pingback from Celebrating Five Years of Firefox! | Buddy's Blog on November 9th, 2009 at 01:59:

    [...] From your desktop to your mobile device, Mozilla is committed to building an open and participatory Internet. We’ve come so far in the past five years and we’re incredibly excited about the next five. For a more comprehensive look at where we’ve been and where we’re headed, check out Chris Blizzard’s excellent post on hacks.mozilla.org. [...]

  15. mult wrote on November 9th, 2009 at 02:17:

    You the best! ;)

  16. darkden wrote on November 9th, 2009 at 02:20:

    Gratzzz! Good Luck!

  17. Pingback from Happy 5th Birthday, Firefox on November 9th, 2009 at 02:49:

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  18. Richard Le Poidevin wrote on November 9th, 2009 at 02:55:

    Well done to everyone who has been part of making Firefox what it is.

  19. Tristan wrote on November 9th, 2009 at 03:48:

    Great post, Chris, really! Happy to read stuff pretty similar to what I’m putting in my deck for tonight :-)

  20. Pingback from wirefresh » Firefox is five years old on November 9th, 2009 at 03:51:

    [...] on hacks.mozilla.org , Christopher Blizzard sees the browser focusing on privacy, video and mobile in the future (or [...]

  21. Pingback from 谋智社区 » Blog Archives » 火狐五周岁──记录互联网变化的五年 on November 9th, 2009 at 04:31:

    [...] 文章翻译自hacks.mozilla.org,纪念火狐诞生五周年,大家也可以去Spread Firefox上的纪念页面上看看,做得相当漂亮,:) 日本东京举行的火狐开发日聚会上的火狐五周岁蛋糕 [...]

  22. Pingback from Firefox turns five years old today – congratulations! - Robert's talk on November 9th, 2009 at 05:01:

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  23. Pingback from Happy 5th Birthday, Firefox! on November 9th, 2009 at 07:33:

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  24. Nicolas D wrote on November 9th, 2009 at 07:48:

    Happy B-DAY Firefox, hope to see more and more

  25. Ido wrote on November 9th, 2009 at 07:52:

    Thank you Firefox for making our web a better place.

  26. Can YILMAZ wrote on November 9th, 2009 at 08:06:

    Happy birthday FF. I hope that “The Mighty Beast” will be in out lives for many many years.

  27. Tharaka Devinda wrote on November 9th, 2009 at 08:33:

    Happy Birthday Foxy…!
    Yes, as your article states FF has shaped the web, and it has done it more than anything out there. In my view, FF was the next thing to hit after Navigator in the history of web.
    Have you guys ever wondered when coding, that you actually write history? I mean, think about it. You wrote the best browser out there and it goes to the books. Congratulations about that.!

    One last thing, Keep this article with you. Display it five years from today! We will see what we could achieve and what we could not! Five years is not a long time. Keep Rocking Foxy, we love you!

  28. Diego Veras wrote on November 9th, 2009 at 10:21:

    Great job, Firefox. You do make our life as web developers easier.

  29. Pingback from Happy Birthday, Firefox : ajaxremix on November 9th, 2009 at 11:10:

    [...] for the future, Christopher Blizzard over at hacks.mozilla.org has some idea about that; it can be summed up in three words: privacy, video, and mobile. From the [...]

  30. Pingback from Firefox Turns 5 | Mitchell's Blog on November 9th, 2009 at 11:24:

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  31. oldbluekid wrote on November 9th, 2009 at 11:27:

    Thank you developers!, you are trying to make this world a better place!
    Protect the users!

  32. Viking KARWUR wrote on November 9th, 2009 at 11:55:

    Happy Birthday Firefox… Warm greetings from Jakarta, Indonesia…

  33. Pingback from Who Knew Firefox Was A Scorpio? | Tech Startups on November 9th, 2009 at 12:29:

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  34. Pingback from Mozilla goodness on November 9th, 2009 at 13:01:

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  35. Pingback from Celebrating Five Wonderful Years! « Chicks Who Click on November 9th, 2009 at 15:16:

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  36. michal wrote on November 9th, 2009 at 15:23:

    you good people are doing excellent work! many thanks!

  37. skierpage wrote on November 9th, 2009 at 16:28:

    Belated *10-year* anniversary best wishes for the Mozilla M4 release on 1999-04-15. (Kickin’ it old school Y2K-style ;-) ).

  38. Israel Piña wrote on November 9th, 2009 at 17:31:

    feliz Cumpleaños Firefox!!!!!
    desde México :D :D :D

  39. narayan wrote on November 9th, 2009 at 17:35:

    Many Happy Returns… It’s been fantastic run. I have used firefox for pretty much whole of last 5 yrs and I am sure many more to come.

  40. jezza wrote on November 9th, 2009 at 18:44:

    nice bit of looking back to see what’s ahead. fun – made me dig up this timeline http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/74/Timeline_of_web_browsers.svg – keep that orange line going strong!

  41. AngeiltX wrote on November 9th, 2009 at 19:54:

    i no iba a ser para menos!… un gran navegador que como kernel tiene a una gran comunidad colaboradora y eso es lo que lo hace ser el mejor navegador… :)

    Saludos, abrazos y felicidades a todos los que hacen sin ninguna retribucion Firefox!

  42. WampaKing wrote on November 9th, 2009 at 20:50:

    Congrats on 5 years. I still fondly remember installing Firefox (Firebird) 0.7 on my Blue & White PowerMac G3 in college. I loved that I could get the same browser experience in multiple platforms and I am glad that holds true still today. Great job everyone, but no slacking! IE is still the big dog (less big, but still big) so keep the innovation coming and go get ‘em!

  43. Tomaz wrote on November 9th, 2009 at 22:01:

    Congrats, firefox! Keep the awesome flowing! Thanks for saving us from the dark trecherous thing that was the web (and ie). I’ll join the crusade as soon as i have my coding skills up and running. Cheers!

  44. Pingback from Celebrating Five Years of Firefox! « shiva's Blog on November 10th, 2009 at 00:58:

    [...] From your desktop to your mobile device, Mozilla is committed to building an open and participatory Internet. We’ve come so far in the past five years and we’re incredibly excited about the next five. For a more comprehensive look at where we’ve been and where we’re headed, check out Chris Blizzard’s excellent post on hacks.mozilla.org. [...]

  45. Flo (french) wrote on November 10th, 2009 at 01:38:

    Joyeux Anniversaire !!!
    Merci pour tout et bonne continuation !

  46. Kanu wrote on November 10th, 2009 at 01:38:

    Hey Great Job Done Firefox people….CONGRATS!!!

  47. Tinh wrote on November 10th, 2009 at 01:39:

    Happy Birthday to FireFox, I love you!11

  48. Originalme8(FireFox User) wrote on November 10th, 2009 at 01:45:

    It wasn’t long after I got my first DSL line installed at my home, the same year that I discovered Linux (command line Slackware) which started my love for Open Source software, and I had just got my first LCD screen(lets just say it was a good year XD). I remember my neighbor bringing over a CD-ROM Disc and telling me I had to see what was on it. Before even thinking, I popped it in my, at the time, 5-year-old gutted Gateway tower and began installing something I had never heard of. I remember asking him what it was and his response was simply: “You are going to love this, trust me!”. He wasn’t kidding, I didn’t know it at the time, but this simple disc held the software that I would soon fall in love with. Contained on that ordinary and simple disc was the not-so-ordinary FireFox beta. At first, honestly, I wasn’t impressed, I laughed and told him, “Ok…looks a lot like Netscape to me, what’s the big deal?”. He told me to play with it for a while and give a chance, so I did. To this day I still don’t know where he got it, nor do I really care, but it opened my eyes. By the end of the week I had said goodbye forever to IE and Netscape (Anyone else remember the old Netscape?). FireFox quickly spread across the net. More and more people were tweaking it and releasing addons, and I downloaded every single one in the beginning. I couldn’t get enough and my poor little FireFox was soon overburdened with so many addons it would barely launch. It was then that I realized that I didn’t need everything and I started to pick-and-choose what I used. I still don’t think I have it perfect, but as more addons come out and I add and subtract as I go along it get’s closer every day.
    I have stuck by my little FireFox and with every new release I gain a little more respect and love for the little browser. FireFox hasn’t always been perfect, but I suffered through the bad times with it so I could reach the better times ahead. I remember the greatness of the 1.0 and 2.0 releases and the small fan groups I was with when they were officially release. There were 6 of us for the 1.0 all waiting for it to go live on the Mozilla site. I still have the disc I won from the Mozilla store that has the original 1.5.04 version of Firefox and Thunderbird(Looking back those were my favorite days of using the browser, when everything was still new and fresh). By the time 2.0 was released there were about 40 or so people gathered at a friends house for the official release, it wasn’t the smartest thing to do actually, took us forever to download it sharing one connection, but we waited “patiently” together for the bar to finish its slow movement across the screen. Big cheers went up when one finally finished.
    I had moved by the time 3.0 was released so this update I spent alone, it kind of fit 3.0′s release. FireFox 3.0 brought a lot of problems to the browser for me. On both my Mac and my Windows box it would crash often, especially when dealing with JavaScript. I couldn’t figure it out. After a few months I was tempted to try another browser, but I decided that I would stick with it and simply reverted back to an older version of FireFox and patiently waited.
    It didn’t take too long before FireFox was back on my desktop, and back in my Dock. Now my little browser is back where it belongs and it is stronger than ever. I was there near the begining and I will be there till the end, as long as it is around I will use and love FireFox! I will always be a fan and supporter!
    Forever a FireFox user!

  49. Bit32 wrote on November 10th, 2009 at 01:52:

    Happy birthday Firefox! :D

  50. Viktor wrote on November 10th, 2009 at 02:02:

    Alles Gute zum Geburtstag! Auf weitere 5 erfolgreiche Jahre!

    Viele Grüße aus Deutschland

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