“What a marketing coup that would be…”

If Bart Decrem could ever pull this off, he’d have earned his salary from the Mozilla Foundation for a year. At least.
I’m beginning to think that Mozilla Firefox will really take off only after one major Internet Service Provider specifically offers it as an alternative to Microsoft Internet Explorer.
The security and stagnation issues have been well-publicized. Unfortunately, I believe these ISP’s (AOL, PeoplePC, Juno for three I’ve used) either have contracts that prohibit them from offering other web-browser programs, or, equally likely, they feel that their customers want IE and don’t care to have confusing alternatives offered to them. Many people want a simple Internet.
It’s a clout issue. Convince one of these major (or even minor!) ISPs to offer Firefox as an alternative to their customer base, and you’ll have scored the marketing coup of the decade. If just one of these heavy-hitters offered Firefox, the others would take notice.
Branding a Mozilla-based product doesn’t sound that hard. Gervase Markham’s Patch Maker (a tool I still use all the time when I hack Mozilla) gives as a sample instructions on changing the browser’s main title. It’s time-consuming and requires a dedicated team of chrome hackers (MozDevGroup, anyone?) to do it right, but it’s eminiently feasible. If for no other reason than it’s been done before.
It’s also a clout issue in that if a major ISP suddenly offered a branded Mozilla Firefox, web developers (myself included) would also take notice. We’d be happy about all the features Mozilla Firefox supports (DOM 2 namespaces, traversal, range, events just to name a few that I care about) that IE doesn’t. It would go a long way to convince people who write web pages to support standards a bit better.
In short, I think getting this done would break a hole in the Hoover Dam of web standards.
Now, I don’t want to tell Bart Decrem how to do his job. I’ve met him, and he’s got a tough job that he does admirably. (I’ve tried my hand at marketing before. I know what it’s like.) But I’m wondering what the community at large can do. The press has been raving about Mozilla Firefox well before the 1.0 final release. Millions of people have downloaded it and use it on a daily basis. It’s reached a de facto 1.0 status unofficially. But if we can’t get a major conduit to the general public to offer Firefox (not outright replacing IE, since I don’t think any sane ISP would consider that at this stage!), then Mozilla Firefox will probably remain a niche browser that Microsoft and friends can safely ignore. If a certain Firefox marketing site were to ask its visitors to politely request their ISP’s offer Firefox, who knows? The beancounters would probably shrug, as both browsers are free to the public.
What a marketing coup that would be: to get an ISP to offer a branded Firefox to their customers.
UPDATE: I should clarify that I don’t want people to push a product “before it’s ready”. I’ve never wanted that. This blog entry could be misconstrued as saying, “Let’s do this now,” when it’s not supposed to be. My only goal here, as in other blog entries/editorials, is to get people thinking about things like this.

5 thoughts on ““What a marketing coup that would be…””

  1. It’s reached a de facto 1.0 status unofficially.

    But not officially. And that’s the point. It would be counter-productive to set up or request distribution deals until we’ve got the best product we can have – i.e. 1.0 is released, we’ve stopped working on the Aviary branch and moved back to the trunk.
    As for Patch Maker, it’s really not exactly the right tool for ISPs to be customising Mozilla. We need a new CCK (“Client Customisation Kit”), which can take a build, unpack it, mess with the chrome and prefs, and repackage it as required, along with good instructions as to how to use it.
    (From Alex: The only point I’m trying to make is that we as a community should start thinking about it. Pushing a product “before it’s ready” has led to major blunders in the past. I remember Netscape 6 as well…)

  2. Before people are could really ask their ISPs something should be done to some branding-bugs to make branding of Firefox painless for them.
    https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=252361
    https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=254203
    Otherwise an ISP would reach http://www.mozilla.org/roadmap/branding.html and will not be very happy.
    On SpreadFirefox someone posted some comments about how to brand Firefox in the current situation, but I cannot find this comment again. This could be used as a prelim Firefox branding document instead of the current Mozilla branding doc. And during the time waiting for some Mozilla Firefox Customization Kit (or what it would be named).

  3. Convincing schools and universities is also working in the big numbers.
    They are easier to change than most companies,
    plus the young ones there will convince their parents.

  4. I agree. Patch Maker is not the tool we’d want folks using to brand Firefox. What we need is something akin to the Internet Explorer Administration Kit (IEAK) with a bit more flexibility in altering chrome…

  5. ISPs will also have to deal with the huge amounts of sites that don’t work with Gecko, Gecko’s slowness, and Firefox’s not Windows nativeness
    (From Alex: Gecko’s slowness? As I understand it, Gecko is usually faster than IE these days… care to back that comment up via e-mail to me? ajvincent at gmail)

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