Analyzing Firefox’s Success

September 30, 2013

Not all open-source projects are created equal. Some are kilobytes, some are gigabytes. Some last just a couple months, some last decades. Some are organized poorly, others are paradigms of the collaborative process.

Firefox has been around for quite a long time. Its roots are in Netscape, a browser which helped drive the idea of competition with the behemoth Internet Explorer. In 2004, Firefox’s 1.0 release didn’t immediately affect a lot of people. At that time, dial-up was still a significant source of Internet access in America, World of Warcraft was just getting started, and Internet Explorer 6 reigned supreme.

Today, Firefox is the third-most popular browser, having been overtaken by Google Chrome in 2011. But the effects Firefox has had on the Internet and open-source software are immense. Firefox showed that a group of people can come together and making something fantastic, and they didn’t need to be employed by a 30 billion dollar software company to do it.

I was part of a group that analyzed the quality of Firefox from an open-source development standpoint. How well the project meets various “good” standards, how to contribute, and how many people contribute, among other things. It’s interesting to see how the project has evolved over the years. Ohloh.net has a variety of statistics about this, which are definitely worth a look. Our group also created a report and presentation discussing the project.

We concluded the Firefox is a great example of an open-source project. It has a low coefficient of fail, large number of contributors, extensive documentation, an open community, and Firefox itself is a heck of a browser!

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