Mozilla the Marketing Nightmare

[There's a newer marketing essay, with a new design for Mozilla.org: Taming the Beast: The Solution to Mozilla's Hidden Marketing Problem]

Recap

Let's begin with a recap. I stated in my previous essay that Mozilla and AOLTW's bond is detrimental to Mozilla. Then in the summer of 2003, AOLTW decided to throw Mozilla off the plank with a half-inflated life buoy of $2 million. Although I didn't have the foresight to see this highly erratic behavior on part of AOLTW (though I didn't rule it out completely either), I think I said it best: "[AOLTW] will turn on a dime if they have to. Teaming up with a corporation that doesn't care about its partner's goals is a fast way to failure."

Now Mozilla is completely independent of corporate influence. Mozilla's products are now targeted at the masses and the former slogan of Mozilla is not for end users™ no longer applies. Although I (among a few others) suggested both ideas before the present and was met with a hail of criticism from a mention of a possible lawsuit [link on andkon.com 1] to unwarranted personal attacks, I am glad Mozilla has embarked upon this new path away from corporate independence and towards mass appeal. However, Mozilla's lack of direction in this post-AOLTW era is rather staggering. History doesn't offer too many chances to redeem and correct past mistakes. Mozilla should take this time to define its goal instead of running around in disarray like a chicken without a head.

New Website Symbolic and Symptomatic of Problems

Mozilla's new website is a superficial mask that fails to address the problems of the new idea of marketing towards the masses2. The presentation is simply a means to achieving the organization's purpose, not merely an end unto itself. However, from a casual glance at the page, no definitive purpose is given explicitly or implicitly. Only a vague statement about "maintaining choice and innovation" is found. While Mozilla should be focusing on web standards, only a small fraction of the Internet cares. Mozilla should promote how its browser and email client are better than Microsoft's products since that's where all the would-be converts are. Upon closer inspection the website shows symptoms of Mozilla's ineffective marketing which will be discussed later.

Solution in a Few Words

Mozilla.org tries to be all to developers, tech savvy consumers, and now the uneducated masses. It has gone from appealing to developers and the tech savvy to simply appalling. The website is a disservice to all three groups. The simple solution is that Mozilla needs to have separate websites for all three groups.

The old solution of grouping the tech-savvy3 and developers together worked but still had its downfalls ("the Mozilla browser is not for endusers clashes", etc). So, why not use an already established website to handle the development of everything that isn't directly related to the browser and email client? Such as mozdev.org. The website is already there, it's already defined as being for developers. Mozilla.org should rewrite a few documents and associate development that isn't related to the browser and email client with mozdev.

The tech-savvy site needs to have what the old site had for testers: nightlies, alphas, betas, etc. Mozillatech.org?

The public/mass consumer site needs to appeal to the lowest common denominator as far as Internet user intelligence is concerned. Most people don't need a bloated Mozilla with browsing and email capacity. This only confuses and alienates the consumer: if he doesn't want email, he might shy away from the product. So basically, market Firebird and Thunderbird separately. (The stable releases of these two aren't technology "previews" that have major bugs.) The end result would be that the only products that should be downloaded from this consumer site should be the browser and the email client. Also, both products need to come with a self-installer: none of this zip and folder mess with Firebird.

Serious Problems:

The current site has tons of fundamental problems involving marketing which contribute to people not downloading Mozilla.

"What is Mozilla?" "The Mozilla project [...] and technology"
By virtue of its position on the page, this is the first thing people would read. Notwithstanding the problems with grammEr, the meaning is pure garbage. I replaced the word Mozilla with BLAH BLAH and asked a few friends if they had any clue as to what they thought the product was. Here are the answers in no particular order: web cam, tshirts & mugs, no clue, spam blockers, virus, I don't know, virus, useless software. If supposedly "wired" teens (!) would get such a bad (and mistaken) first impression, then what about the rest of the population?
When most people get the word browser and search engine mixed up, "web and email suite" (straight out of computer science jargon) is clearly not any more helpful. Most people think Internet Explorer is the only way to get to web. So why not use this to Mozilla's advantage? The "What is Mozilla?" mumbling should be replaced with "Explore the Internet without any annoying pop-ups, with fewer crashes, and without cluttered windows. All for free!"
Since Internet Explorer should be the focus of Mozilla's competition, why not have quotes reflecting Mozilla's superior status? "Beyond Bliss" isn't very helpful when people think (ironically) it's a virus they are downloading. "Leaves Internet Explorer in the dust" is much less abstract and much more defined.
Chaotic website organization
As the lack of any good menu proves, there is no website organization. Subdirectories are whimsically organized.
There is a news section on the front page, an archives news section, and a press section that isn't accessible from the frontpage. All three should be integrated. Since Mozillazine.org already writes news, they should be in charge of writing news feeds for the consumer site, periodically informing users of patches, new releases, and new features.
There is a general about section, about the foundation section, and a different contact section. Why not consolidate all sections into one that explains the basic intent of the organization?
There are too many menus (top right, bottom above copyright, and left column on most pages), but all are no good. Links go everywhere from everywhere. Redundancy and too many options can get new users disoriented on this online maze. Simplification is needed.
"Need Help?" "Affordable telephone support for Mozilla 1.5 is now available."
Since Mozilla is free, there's nothing better than to scare a few people off by offering $39.95 telephone support. The only person who would use this help option would be the tech guy of company where Mozilla products were used. In my book, that goes under the developer site. No regular guy is going to spend $40 on support. This just scares people away. Also, it implies that you WILL need help at an "affordable" (but nonetheless monetary) price.
"Order CD" "Save time downloading, and receive valuable software..."
Save time by waiting for days instead of a couple-minute download? Receive valuable software in the mail as opposed to downloading it? The last statement implies that valuable software is exclusive to the mail order scheme. Once again, a good way to scare away users.
Lack of Branding
I feel great that the communist imagery of the past is gone, but what replaced it (from a marketing standpoint) is just as terrible: lack of any branding. There's a metallic M, the dino that's a holdover, Firebird's fiery F and the world, an envelope and some blue flame thing, etc. Mozilla's new artwork lacks a harmony that displays a jungle of unprofessionalism. Ideally, a line of related products need to have some sort of bond with each other. This means that each product icon or logo should be similar enough to be identified as the same family. Mozilla's products (from the depressed Bugzilla bug to the metallic M) fail to suggest themselves as belonging to the same line of products.
As I suggested with the replacement of communist imagery, Mozilla should announce some sort of contest. I'm pretty sure many talented individuals would love to be able to say that they designed Mozilla's artwork. Having these random images that seemingly change a bit every few months is not a great strategy to reinforce brand.
Website coherence and color coordination
When I first saw the new colors and layout of the website, I though WOW they are as random as my own. However, my excuse is that I'm not depending on visitors to survive as I continue on no matter what. Regardless of that scary thought, Mozilla on the other hands needs to attract and keep as many visitors as it can. As with the images, the colors do not reinforce any brand: they are just random light colors thrown together. In fact, the current design can be thought of as 6 different sites in one. There's the
  • R Mozilla logo
  • A Top Menu/Search Bar
  • N Help/CD/Latest News Column on Left
  • D What is Mozilla?
  • O Mozilla 1.5/Tech Preview/Other
  • M Seemingly Random Menu Above Copyright Notice
While a website doesn't need to be lacking in spontaneity (like as this very page), the current Mozilla.org design is all over the place. While it's not horrible, an organization that's already in a state of lack of self is not helped by it at all.
Horrible taglines for Technology Previews
First off, the Technology Previews need to be in a website for tech-savvy people.
Firebird is "lightning fast in every way"... Looks like the creative brains at Mozilla Marketing Department have been watching too many AOL commercials... Even I, the critic, could think of better things to say about Firebird than something that resembles the placebo effect.
Camino was "recommended by c|Net for advanced security setting and privacy features". Hurray! Except no one knows what exactly Camino is. We can deduce that it's only for Macs. Also, what's the point of competition in the same organization between two browsers (Camino and Firebird)? Mozilla.org needs to decide which one to fully endorse and ditch the other one.
Marketing towards the masses doesn't have to equal vague messages: "Explore the Internet without any annoying pop-ups, with fewer crashes, and without cluttered windows. All for free!" says what Mozilla is loud and clear. It identifies the top three problems of Internet Explorer (as perceived by most people) without explicitly saying, "IE sucks, use Mozilla."

Smaller Problems:

Latest News
The double links only lead to confusion and only serve to clutter up the page with links. Ideally, the date should link to a separate page where the story is further explained.
Need Help repeated again at the bottom.
There's not much reason for that, now is there? Such redundancies plague the Mozilla site.
<title> "mozilla - home of the mozilla, firebird, and camino web browsers"
Apart from thinking "no shit" when i first read it, the title is restrictive and confusing. Mozilla.org is not only the "home of browsers." In fact, the "What is Mozilla?" section (which itself is horrible) defines Mozilla as a "web and email suite." In the title it's called a browser. Perhaps "mozilla.org - explore the internet for free" would be a better title.
Not Fully Semantic HTML
While the site now fully validates, it's missing an easy-to-fix <h1>. (Put <h1> around the Mozilla logo and have the alt="Mozilla.org".) While it's not a big deal, I'd expect that the makers of a standards-adhering browser to fully know about semantic HTML.

When it comes down to it, the Mozilla Project/Organization/Foundation (highlighting yet another marketing problem: old documents still reflect the Mozilla Project and Organization while some newer docs mention Mozilla Foundation) is a technocracy without any real leadership. If Mozilla wants to survive, someone or some people need to step up to the plate and plan for better marketing (as outlined here).

Mozilla Store...

So far this essay has been neither abusive nor arrogant enough like any of its predecessors. So let's talk about the Mozilla store. Where to begin with this bucketload of crap... I know! Here:

<html>
<head>
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1">
<title>MozSource</title>
<script language='JavaScript'>window.status='Loading...';</script>
<script type='text/javascript' src='/javascript/NLUtil.jsp__majver=9&z=f9152b7fc8.nlqs'></script>
<script type='text/javascript' src='/javascript/NLUIWidgets.jsp__majver=9&z=f9152b9350.nlqs'></script>
<script language='JavaScript'>window.status='';</script>
<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN">
<title>Untitled Document</title>

[...]

Ain't she a beaut? Mozilla.org is "maintaining choice and innovation" by this garbage? Ummm... Am I the first person to notice that there's two <title>s? But let's look at some even funnier garbage:

function MM_swapImgRestore() { //v3.0
  var i,x,a=document.MM_sr; for(i=0;a&&i<a.length&&(x=a[i])&&x.oSrc;i++) x.src=x.oSrc;
}

function MM_preloadImages() { //v3.0
  var d=document; if(d.images){ if(!d.MM_p) d.MM_p=new Array();
    var i,j=d.MM_p.length,a=MM_preloadImages.arguments; for(i=0; i<a.length; i++)
    if (a[i].indexOf("#")!=0){ d.MM_p[j]=new Image; d.MM_p[j++].src=a[i];}}
}

[...]

At this point, I am laughing my ass off: Mozilla.org uses Dreamweaver to make its online store. That's only one degree away from Microsoft FrontPage on the irony-o-meter or hypocrisy-meter. Psssst... Guys... My greatest Mozilla pal Daniel Glazman (the foremost authority on Inglish litterature) has a thing called Composer. But I guess as an article (linked from Mozillazine) shows, Dreamweaver is the number one web development tool. I personally prefer Notepad. The irony of it all is so overwhelming.

In my very first essay I made the giant mistake of claiming that mozilla.org didn't follow standards because the website didn't work on my old site, which formerly used document.all (Microsoft proprietary JavaScript). As I have progressed in my knowledge of standards, mozilla.org obviously regressed as the Mozilla Store uses the same sinful document.all everywhere in external .js files. And a few IE-only HTML attributes. And a few <font>'s here or there. And a few mile long URL's. And then my brain explodes at the incompetence of all that is Mozilla because I obviously lost the memo explaining how backwards compatibility (especially with proprietary code from the rival corporation) was somehow part of Mozilla's scheme of "maintaining innovation and choice."

Most importantly, why is the Mozilla Store trying to merely imitate the new website? Is CTRL-C and CTRL-V that hard? Someone please tell me why the new site has to be imitated in crappy HTML (which I would argue isn't HTML) when it could be easily adapted with a few keystrokes? This tabled situation is certainly ironic. In Mozilla newsgroups and forums, Mozillians are continually complaining about banks, e-shops, and other websites that don't support browsers that follow standards (e.g. Mozilla). Using Mozilla Firebird 0.7, some parts of the Mozilla Store are clumsy and non-working. Hmmm... Mozilla users locked out of a Mozilla site. The irony of it all!

Epiphany

Then it hits me like an AK-47: Mozilla is running out of money. Why have the "cheap" ($40/call) support and BUY the CD for only $3.95 (plus $4.25 International S&H) so clearly advertised? It can't all be just marketing that could have been done by a half retarded chimpanzee. The brain trust at Mozilla HQ feels the noose getting tighter every single day. And why shouldn't they? The Mozilla Foundation has only a few million dollars. With $40,000 as a modest salary for anyone involved in programming, that amount of money isn't enough for all programmers Mozilla needs even for a year. However, making a few cents off CD's and a few bucks off support isn't going to rake in the thousands needed to run an organization of this size. Mozilla's only hope of survival is providing/helping corporations with tailor made applications based off Mozilla code. The only way to attract business which would spend big money on Mozilla is to show its applications (browser and email client) can survive in the real world with mass consumers. Finally, the only way to attract the masses is to market effectively.

Solution Summary

Suggestions for Improvement for Mozilla.org:

Contact

My email is andraskonya@hotmail.com and my aim screenname is kickasscomputer. All questions and comments regarding this essay are appreciated, except for the idiotic personal attacks, anonymous harassment, and other cowardly behavior.

Footnotes

1Mozillazine.org, being the only major outlet for continuous Mozilla news, has a monopoly which they fully appreciate by censoring Mozilla's critics, or rather critic, or me. The former posts written by me and threads about me were saved to this site because I knew that Mozillazine's censorship would make the posts inaccessible to the public (quite ironic and hypocritical to the whole concept of OPEN source). Because I was banned from the site and can't get access to such member's only areas, I'm not even sure if the old posts are even online or are deleted.

2Ironic considering its previous artwork (as critiqued by me) was considered "of the masses." However, Mozillians lack of understanding of the real life users of the Internet is even more clearly illustrated by quotations from the Book of Mozilla: "followers of Mammon [Microsoft's Internet Explorer] shall tremble" and "followers of Mammon cowered in horror". The presumption of these two quotes is that IE has a following. It doesn't. There really aren't people who go around evangelizing IE. Thus, assuming that people who use IE are making a conscious choice is incorrect. Most people use it because it's there and they don't know any better. Thus, to market Mozilla in a way that assumes this is also incorrect.

3The tech-savvy sub-species of Mozillians include two tribes: the testers and advanced users. While the tech-savvy website should cater to testers (as they produce some of the bugs), advanced users who aren't afraid of a few crashes obviously would also download from the site. To help with lowering the number confused users who slow down forums, downloading could be restricted to a free membership. This way confused users wandering around wouldn't download without knowing that some programs are a bit buggy.