Mozilla refocusing on Firefox and 'responsible AI', and cutting costs in other areas

Some mixed news coming out of Mozilla today.

  1. Renewed focus on Firefox (good in my eyes),
  2. Continued focus on 'responsible AI (also good in my eyes),
  3. No change to their commitment to working on better web standards (very good in my eyes)
  4. 60 layoffs (layoffs are always sad to see, I don’t have the necessary context/info to judge the decision yet though)
  5. Reducing spending in other areas, particularly standalone products in crowded markets (possibly disappointing, it depends on the details and we don’t yet have the details)

After installing a new interim CEO earlier this month, Mozilla, the organization behind the Firefox browser, is making some major changes to its product strategy, TechCrunch has learned.

Specifically, **Mozilla plans to scale back its investment in a number of products, including its VPN, Relay and, somewhat remarkably, its Online Footprint Scrubber, which launched only a week ago [this was a misunderstanding and has been retracted]. Mozilla will also shut down Hubs, the 3D virtual world it launched back in 2018, and scale back its investment in its Mastodon instance. The layoffs will affect roughly 60 employees. Bloomberg previously reported the layoffs.

Going forward, the company said in an internal memo, Mozilla will focus on bringing “trustworthy AI into Firefox.” To do so, it will bring together the teams that work on Pocket, Content and AI/Ml.

Mozilla started expanding its product portfolio in recent years, all while its flagship product, Firefox, kept losing market share. And while the organization was often sharply criticized for this, its leadership argued that diversifying its product portfolio beyond Firefox was necessary to ensure Mozilla’s survival in the long run. Firefox, after all, provided the vast majority of Mozilla’s income, but it also meant the organization was essentially dependent on Google to continue this deal. With these changes, it now looks like Mozilla may refocus on Firefox once more, something that will surely make many hardcore Firefox fans quite happy.

Read the *internal* memo

Scaling back investment With, we made a big bet in 2023 to build a safer, better social media experience, based on Mastodon and the Fediverse. Our initial approach was based on a belief that Mozilla needed to quickly reach large scale in order to effectively shape the future of social media. It was a noble idea but one we struggled to execute. While we resourced heavily to pursue this ambitious idea, in retrospect a more modest approach would have enabled us to participate in the space with considerably greater agility. The actions we’re taking today will make this strategic correction, working through a much smaller team to participate in the Mastodon ecosystem and more rapidly bring smaller experiments to people that choose to live on the instance.

Protection Experimentation & Identity (PXI): We’re scaling back investment in some of our standalone consumer products in the Security and Privacy space. We are reducing investment in market segments that competitors crowd and where it is challenging to deliver a differentiated offering. Specifically, we plan to reduce our investments in VPN, Relay, and Online Footprint Scrubber. We will maintain investment in products addressing customer needs in growing market segments. Hubs: Since early 2023, we have experienced a shift in the market for 3D virtual worlds. With the exception of gaming, education, and a handful of niche use cases, demand has moved away from 3D virtual worlds. This is impacting all industry players. Hubs’ user and customer bases are not robust enough to justify continuing to dedicate resources against the headwinds of the unfavorable shift in demand. We will wind down the service and communicate a graceful exit plan to customers.

Right-sizing the People Team
Given the reduction in staffing and lower headcount budget moving forward in MozProd, some roles have been consolidated in the People and other support services orgs so that we are offering the right level of support to our product portfolio. Optimizing our org to sharpen focus.

In 2023, generative AI began rapidly shifting the industry landscape. Mozilla seized an opportunity to bring trustworthy AI into Firefox, largely driven by the Fakespot acquisition and the product integration work that followed. Additionally, finding great content is still a critical use case for the internet. Therefore, as part of the changes today, we will be bringing together Pocket, Content, and the AI/ML teams supporting content with the Firefox Organization. More details on the specific organizational changes will follow shortly. Within MozProd, there are no changes within MDN, Ads, or Fakespot. There are also no changes to Legal/Policy, Finance & Business Operations, Marketing, or Strategy & Operations.


scaling back on a product that is just a week old is not a great sign and its a pretty awful thing to do to people who signed up in the last week. It also does not give me a lot of confidence in Mozilla to make good decisions, seeing how it is backtracking so quickly on a product.

Just seems like they have decided they cannot be competitive in the privacy-as-a-service market which sucks. I do not feel like there are a ton of trusted brands to go to and, its near impossible for someone to protect their digital privacy on their own these days.


It might be. It really depends what is meant by “scaling back” though. It may affect customers directly, or it may be that some aspirational future plan has been shelved or put on the backburner, it may even just mean they won’t be marketing or promoting this product as heavily as they would’ve and its just a diminished advertising budget. (new CEO or not, it would be pretty weird to introduce a new product and then immediately reverse course). EDIT: Mozilla is not scaling back investment in its recently released data removal service, that statement was retracted by Techcrunch (who were the ones to report it).

From what I know about the service they just introduced. they contract with a service provider who provides this service on Mozilla’s behalf. So “scaling back” in this case wouldn’t directly affect development of the service (as it is not Mozilla who developed or administers the service directly). I do hope that more details are shared, that give more context about what this will actually mean.


It sucks, any business sucks, compared to their current main source of revenue: Google Search’s loyalty.

Getting free money from Google, half a billion every year, is bad for both the market and themselves, since there’s no push to explore new technologies, markets, basically, the lack of innovation, let alone hoping to lead anything in privacy space.

I think we know what it means…

Or am I supposed to believe those have nothing to do with each other?

Yes it would be but, I don’t see how its possible not to characterize this as that. Its not like the new CEO had no input on these decisions before becoming CEO.

Yeah that is the one good thing, most of these services they mention are just run by other companies with a mozilla brand slapped on such as their VPN. Considering how low effort, that makes these products, its even more odd they have to scale back.


I think what @xe3 was saying is that it’s unclear what “scaling back” means, so it could mean no change for consumers, just a readjustment of future plans.


We really don’t though. If we did, we wouldn’t be here speculating.

I’d suggest not you shouldn’t feel the need to believe or disbelieve anything at this point. There is zero cost to waiting for more information before forming an opinion on insufficient info.

With respect to layoffs, Mozilla has ~750 employees, ~60 are being laid off, many/most(?) from the “People Team” (is this Mozilla’s term for HR? or Outreach?). That is what is known, beyond that I think it is speculation.


Correlation does not imply causation…

Fair enough. Cut backs attached to layoffs just feels so familiar, I guess im a bit jaded.

Sure, I don’t see firing 60 people as one of your first acts as CEO getting me super excited for this readjustment… but like @xe3 keeps telling me, we should be patient.


Ah, sorry I was a bit confused on what you were referring to, I thought that you were talking about the new CEO being connected to the layoffs.

Well, we agree insofar as that the layoffs and cutbacks are clearly related (in the broader sense, that Mozilla is trying to refocus on Firefox and cut spending in other areas), its just not clear to what extent any one particular product or service will or won’t be affected, and how that will impact users, and in what departments these layoffs were made (best guess is mostly HR based on the internal memo).

My personal feeling is that Mozilla is in a perpetual “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” scenario:

  1. They were constantly criticized for being too reliant on Firefox and the search deal in particular for most of their revenue.
  2. But any attempts to diversify those revenue streams (a valid concern) are met with equally loud criticisms that they are “distracted” by other projects or “not focused on Firefox.”
  3. Now that they are announcing a stronger focus on Firefox (as critics demanded), people will likely jump to the defense of all these programs despite the fact that they had just previously criticized/characterized them as distractions.

I can’t say whether I think Mozilla is or is not on the right track (I don’t feel that I (we) are not in a position to make that judgement with any amount of confidence), but I will say that I think no matter what direction Mozilla goes, they will be criticized for it. It’s a no win situation for them, even when they do make the right choices.

And they stand alone as the only organization so far that has been able to persist in a market that is fundamentally weighted against them (or any past/future independent browser) for many reasons (There are 3 players in this market, Google (Chromium), Apple (Safari), Mozilla (Firefox). Mozilla’s revenue is 99.8% less than Apple’s, 99.7% less than Google’s, with a staff that is <99.5% smaller than Google/Apple. These two behemoths are the only other players in this market, and the board is very much tilted in their favor).


*It should be Google (Chrome) — not Chromium. Otherwise, you would need to also Apple (WebKit). Yet, you referred Safari to Apple correctly.

My understanding is that, both Chrome (proprietary) and Chromium (the open source base), are Google led and Google controlled projects,

I think this ^ is a misunderstanding. (Chromium is not comparable to either Safari or Webkit)

  • WebKit is (Apple’s) browser engine, Google’s equivalent is called Blink and Mozilla’s is Gecko
  • Chrome is Google’s proprietary browser, and Chromium is the Google led open source project upon which chrome (and other browsers) are built. Their licensing is different but they are both Google led projects.
    • Both Chrome and Chromium are effectively led, developed, maintained, hosted by, and for the most part controlled by Google. Others can and do contribute but Google has ultimate control over the direction of Chromium, and what is and isn’t included in Chromium.
      • Google’s contributions to Chromium account for 92.1% of total contributions, all other contributors combined account for just 7.9% of the ~40 million lines of code. And of this 7.9% only one other company exceeds 1.5% (Igalia).

Tangentially related fun fact (if you use Linux): Both Apple and Google’s browser engines (Webkit and Blink) originally came from Khtml, which was a Browser Engine built by the KDE project.


Still, it can’t explain why you didn’t compare Chrome to Safari. I could be wrong, but I feel like you were trying to misled people to think that Chromium as a browser has a vast market share, but, in fact, the market share belongs to Chrome, not Chromium. Maybe, you’re already agreed with some of my corrections:

I still don’t understand your point. Sure, Google has influence over Chromium or Blink if that matter. But I am sure Apple also has influence over WebKit, which other (WebKit) browsers are built upon. What is the difference that would make you to intentionally referred Chromium, instead of Chrome, to Google? Misleading?

Sure, you can also lead your point like this: Google (Blink), Apple (WebKit), Mozilla (Gecko).

Nonetheless, Chromium is the most successful open source project out of the three. And it benefits many successful forks, including Brave, Edge, Vivaldi, and maybe more. Whether the forks can surpass Chrome market share in the future has nothing to do with Chromium, as the forks could lead and divert from Chromium however they want. Google simply has no control over it. Otherwise, people would be mad about Ubuntu simply because it’s Canonical’s project. In reality, the forks could do whatever they want with it, e.g. removing Snap.

I would like to know what percentage of WebKit’s code that is Apple’s contributions. Maybe, in other projects as well, Firefox - Mozilla, Ubuntu - Canonical, Pop!_OS - System 76, etc. I think it doesn’t matter due to the license. My point is that it won’t make Chromium an evil project. I don’t see myself support Mozilla’s worse job (Firefox/Gecko) because of this.

Hoping they won’t cut too much on the new Thunderbird for android /k8 app, as well as the previously renewed effort of Thunderbird desktop.

There is a non-zero amount of people online that are actually mad at Ubuntu simply because it’s Canonical though, this is a bad example.

Look, for all intents and purposes, Google is the company that is in charge of the Chromium project, it’s primarily Google devs working on it, and they retain a high level of control; no one is hard forking Chromium and maintaining a separate branch of it, they just go with whatever Google pushes – the main example of this is no one hard forked Chromium in its entirety after MV3


The point is not about whether there’s people like that, as I’ve explained in my previous post that this wouldn’t make any sense. The point is it shouldn’t matter whether it’s Chromium, Ubuntu, etc.

Why is that Google’s fault? Do you blame Mozilla that no one hard forking Firefox?

Mozilla also adopts manifest V3, see they even have a documentation about it:

Okay, so you agree that Google has undue influence over the web, since even Moz is adopting MV3, right?

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I don’t necessarily agree with it. My point is that Firefox is not the solution to all these problems.

“These problems” being…? If not Google’s (and to a lesser extent, Apple when it comes to mobile) dominance of the web, what issue are we talking about then?

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