Mozilla Summit – Reframing the Enterprise Discussion

Recently, hundreds of Mozillians from all over the world gathered in three different locations for the Mozilla Summit. I had the opportunity to attend the summit in Toronto.

While I was there, I attended a couple sessions where the Firefox UX team talked about Firefox User Types in North America. The UX team did an incredible job framing the various types of Firefox users. It made me realize that the same thing is important to do for the types of people that need an “enterprise Firefox.”

When I say “enterprise Firefox,” the only use case that most people think about is big companies limiting what end-users can do. But there are very valid reasons why someone would need to configure Firefox in a very specific way.

Sometimes the reason is physical safety. Think about a browser on medical equipment or a factory floor.

Sometimes the reason is online safety. Think about a browser at an elementary school or shared by members of a family with different ages.

Sometimes the reason is legal or regulatory. Think about a browser at a bank or a securities firm.

Sometimes the reason is simply that the computer is shared by a lot of people. Think about a browser at a library or a nursing home or a web cafe or a homeless shelter.

I think for a lot of us, we tend to see other computer users exactly like ourselves. We need to realize that people (and organizations) use computers in completely different ways, ways that most of us don’t even know about. As long as we build software primarily for ourselves, we’re going to completely miss out on opportunities for Firefox.

Sometimes the user of Firefox is not the end-user. It’s the administrator or company that wants to deploy Firefox to their end-users. We need to make sure that Firefox is a great browser for them as well.

We need to balance end-user desires with administrator constraints.

Maybe what we need here is a new word? Enterprise doesn’t really capture the spirit of what I’m trying to do. Anyone have any ideas?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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15 thoughts on “Mozilla Summit – Reframing the Enterprise Discussion

  1. Only some of the use cases you describe were enterprise, but they were all specialized to fit certain constraints (and sometimes for a core purpose). Perhaps a term that encapsulates the idea of specialization.

    Hmm, “Jack of one trade” doesn’t really have a ring to it…

    Perhaps I’m struggling because I don’t know what context this name you’re looking for will find itself. Is it a “program”? Call it the “Specialty Program” and then have some core branches for customization? The Library kiosk branch, the content restricted branch, etc.

    Sorry, that’s probably not what you were looking for. I’ll show myself out.

    • I honestly don’t know where the name will end up.

      I just know that saying that we should make Firefox more enterprise friendly just doesn’t work well.

      Constrained Firefox 🙂

      My goal would be that features to enable this function go into core Firefox. I just need a better way to tell people why they are important besides enterprise.

  2. “Sometimes the user of Firefox is not the end-user. It’s the administrator or company that wants to deploy Firefox to their end-users. ”

    Another way of saying that is, “Sometimes Mozilla should spend it’s critical and limited resources on those who would take away the rights of the very end users that Mozilla exists to protect and support.”

    That sounds wonderful!!

    • I’m unaware of employees at a company having any rights as to what software they get to use on employer supplied hardware. Some employers grant those privileges, but I’m fairly certain that rolling in some business oriented control features to help unseat IE as the corporate development platform of choice would not lead to the wholesale breaking of the web.

      I’m fairly certain you understand this, but either feel there is some other hidden danger that the rest of us don’t see, or if you’re simply dislike the concept of any restrictions regardless of their intended purpose, use, and distribution. If it’s the former, I’d like to hear what they are. If it’s the latter, I would suggest that the very nature of compromise on extreme principles is what has enabled Firefox to flourish, as it is governed by multiple licenses that give a great deal of power to downstream code users to make their product very open, or to secure proprietary additions and that this position is hyperbolic and hypocritical.

    • if it where easier for one admin to deploy firefox in his/her environment, then you might get hundreds of new users this way, so that may be “critical and limited resources” well spent…

      the energy doesn’t always have to go into “taking away user’s rights” – if for example a way to enable automatic updates in limited user accounts had already found its way into the current ESR release this would have had quite a potential to deploy firefox in certain environments with advantages for all parties (users, companies, mozilla).

  3. Enterprise sounds too difficult for SMB to use, and outside the scope of education, and non-profits.

    Perhaps ‘Managed’?

    Maybe a way to show what features are being ‘managed’ (so users know what they can’t change, instead of going “why doesn’t X work, it works on my home copy of Firefox…”) – and so users know what rights the users still DO have. ‘Help->Managed {Features/Options}’, with a method to submit issues/requests/requests for help?

    I could picture many uses for home-users to manage it:
    -helping my grandma (who uses it for 3 things, so doesn’t need addon-installation-capability, but I can’t always drive up or remote in to change settings)
    -wanting to lock-down a machine/user used for online banking or other security-sensitive uses, but wanting to avoid the client settings being changed by a virus/malware, should some get in.

  4. While Mozilla isn’t investing a lot of resources into managing browsers outside of a single home user scenario, there is support and it wouldn’t take a lot of effort to make it seemless.

    What do all the Firefox users do when the go to work and have to use IE or Chrome because of corporate policy? All of the infrastructure we build for supporting sync is useless if the employee isn’t going to use it at the office. While it works great for the casual hacker, it doesn’t work well for the corporate hacker.

    I know Mozilla doesn’t want to support restrictive policies that some corporations enforce, but do you just tell the millions of workers out there Mozilla doesn’t care about them because of one or two little details?

    At my last company all developers ran Firefox and we tested our product by using Firefox, but we sold our product to other companies with other concerns (corporations, universities) and the majority of them wouldn’t support Firefox. In the end we had to run IE as a primary development and testing browser.

    By not supporting corporate requests we are actually not giving users choice and forcing them to use a single browser. To me that sounds contradictory to the Mozilla mission.

  5. ‘Task Continuity’ may be the term you’re looking for! Here’s some more great work done by Mozilla UX that you should definitely check out!

    See also:

    Personally, I think the browser is the wrong place to surface functionality for organizations. The browser is the User Agent and it should stay that way.

    Organizational policies are typically applied to either roles and/or identity.. and identity is the very area Mozilla is about to unlock all sorts of new opportunities for innovation. Once we figure out how Persona works in relation to attached services for users, we will have new avenues for exploring how multiple identities+data can be managed with respect to organizations.

    I think when organizations offer Persona-based IDPs for their employees/members, internal equivalents to Firefox Accounts will be the place where policy/security/etc needs will be met. The browser will remain the user agent in every way, but users will be able to log in to their browsers with whichever identity gives them the contextual capability to meet their needs in the moment.

    • But you still need to manage the browser itself. The idea that Firefox is a “one size fits all” is simply wrong.

      Organizations needs things as simple as “don’t let the user change the desktop background”.

      You need to be able to prevent that at a browser level. If it is identity based, that’s great. That’s what Chrome is doing to day with Google Apps based identity and Chrome login.

      But it also needs to be computer based. For cases where a computer is needed by multiple users.

      • There should definitely be surface area exposed within the browser to enable enforcement of policies, but I suppose what I’m advocating for is a fully services oriented approach to making this happen.. and it seems like there are still a lot of unanswered technical questions on what this should look like even for individual users.

        From a UX point of view, the Task Continuity frameworks have some great things to say about fluid identity focused around the individual, but doesn’t yet explore the notion of group identity. I’m hoping this becomes one of the things UX researches next.

        • how does identity solve proxy servers and custom update servers? What if an admistrator wanted to turn off geolocation? I am still having trouble grasping identity as a whole, so this could be something already thought of and I haven’t caught on yet.

          • Not sure about the first two, but if you consider that WebAPI permissions and settings can be synced to Firefox Accounts, they should also be changeable via the web. These use cases you mention may call for as of yet unproposed WebAPIs with certified level security.. and that work -is- browser side.

            One of the responsibilities Mozilla will have is setting sane defaults for WebAPIs and related permissions. If a change needs to be made for whatever reason, I imagine some of this will eventually be administerable through Firefox Accounts. (Someone chime in if I have this totally wrong!)

            So, I’m imagining a day in which an enterprise offers their own IDP with sync+services management where the enterprise can control the level of control they share with users. If the enterprise owns the identity infrastructure, they essentially have the same remote control a user would of any browser/device logged in with their identity.

            The biggest potential hole in my thinking is not knowing the specifics of how the Mozilla/OEM relationship operates. If OEMs are the ones who push updates rather than Mozilla, then there may need to be some work done to build functional relationships between OEMs and organizations to enable some of what we’re discussing.

        • The problem with a services model is it requires organizations to use Mozilla’s identity service or setup their own identity servers.

          This was easy for Chrome to solve because they already have identity through Google Apps which a lot of companies are already using.

          We need to use existing things like Group Policy to solve this problem, not create yet another solution.

          I think there are definitely ways to leverage services to do cool stuff for users, but I don’t think it’s a good solution for enterprise.