Mozilla deciding against an open web
19 May, 2019
Mozilla has been using IRC as their main communications platform for over two decades now. But on April 26th Mozilla Community Manager Michael Hoye announced their plans to move away from IRC. According to Hoye, IRC cannot meet Mozilla's expectations anymore. Using IRC would create an unnecessary technical barrier for newcomers. Which is a valid argument, considering that many young developers have never used or heard of IRC.
However, Mozilla's plans concerning products which could replace their IRC server are rather vague. Yes, Mr. Hoye explicitly said:
We are evaluating products, not protocols.
Mozilla seems to have forgotten there is a reason why IRC was adopted in the first place. IRC was meant to be a public and open protocol, accessible by everyone. A product however is under complete control by a third party. A third party which is under control over uses their product and may decide to place abitrary restrictions upon their users.
Following Mozilla's statement, the Rust project which used Mozilla's IRC server announced their migration to Discord. Officially Mozilla is still evaluating products, but if they were to also move to Discord, this would be problematic due to a number of factors. First of all, Discord violates several directives of Mozilla's own mission statement like Principle 6:
The effectiveness of the internet as a public resource depends upon interoperability (protocols, data formats, content), innovation and decentralized participation worldwide.
Discord is it's own centralized ecosystem, regularly banning people for using different clients than their official proprietary one. Discord is also well known for collecting data on their users.
Mozilla should be reminded of their mission, to ensure the web stays a global, public and open resource which is accessible by everyone.