A week after the International Day Against DRM, Mozilla has announced that it
accepts the W3C DRM proposal and will actively support DRM on the Web. So
we've lost another battle against DRM. All major Web browsers now officially
accept DRM on the Web.
I find the following Mozilla explanation scary: "Every other major browser
vendor has already implemented EME, and as it becomes the norm, we want to
avoid the possibility that people will be unable to access key Internet content
such as streaming Hollywood movies via Firefox. We also do not want to create
a situation where Firefox users must use other browsers for key Internet
I don't consider Hollywood movies being "key Internet content" and I don't want
to access any DRM content in Firefox. Whenever I need to use DRM or a similar
broken system, I do so on platforms where privacy and security are already
compromised (such as Google Android or proprietary operating systems).
So what's the problem when using DRM in Firefox is going to be voluntary? For
first, Hollywood demanded to put control on the users and the W3C and all the
creators of major Web browsers have accepted that. For second, Mozilla has
recently demonstrated several times that freedom is not very high among its
priorities: It promotes non-free add-ons (without informing users about their
licenses on mobile platforms), it failed to resist the outrage of political
lobbyists and now it supports DRM. We all know the situations when we have to
make hard choices and make decisions we are not proud of, because of our
cowardice, lack of alternative choices or because we think we do the least
evil. It's a dangerous game we don't want to play but we can't avoid it. And
it can lead us to crossing all limits.
When Mozilla says that "every other major browser has already done that and it
becomes the norm" I'm alerted. The fact is that every other major browser is
designed to serve interests of its creator and not the interests of the users.
This is the primary reason I use Firefox and not another major browser. But
when Mozilla conforms to what other major browsers do and what is "the norm"
then what's the difference? I have to ask some serious questions such as
whether Mozilla will sell users' data or whether it will close some parts of
its source code or will switch to a hostile license when that looks like an
effective way to fulfill "interests of Firefox users" and to save the market
share. My answer is such things may happen. So I can't trust Mozilla anymore.
(As a precaution I disabled sending Firefox reports to Mozilla from my mobile
devices and of course I use my own Firefox sync server instead of the one
provided by Mozilla.)
Retracting from certain principles typically doesn't bring the expected good.
When my country was sacrificed to Hitler, it was applauded as saving the world
peace. The next year World War II has started. When Netscape offered its
proprietary Web browser as free meal, users have accepted it instead of making
a free Web browser. Some years later Netscape has lost the war of browsers and
turning to the Mozilla project has saved us from the worst in the last minute.
The years of Netscape dominance had nevertheless made serious damages to free
software which I hoped were recently finally recovered. But I was mistaken, we
actually tightly depend on a single free software product apparently ready to
sacrifice the principles of freedom just to conform to "the norms" and retain
some users. Maybe Mozilla changes its attitude and instead of making definite
steps against user freedom and vague claims about supporting it it will act in
the opposite way. But maybe things get worse and we must be prepared for that.
It's time to start preparing for the worst, i.e. loosing the last free major
We need a major free Web browser, sufficiently separated from direct commercial
interests and with high respect to users' freedom and privacy. We should start
with properly maintaining a freedom aware branch of Firefox (perhaps the GNU IceCat project, the GNU version of Firefox, might be a good start). In case
more bad things happen with Mozilla we should be ready to start a complete
Firefox fork. Otherwise we may end up with a completely proprietary Web.