Home > Opera Mobile > Mozilla CTO talks about mobile browsing (updated)

Mozilla CTO talks about mobile browsing (updated)

March 14, 2007

mozillas-web-vision.jpg(See important update below)

In a panel yesterday entitled “Browser Wars Retrospective: Past, Present and Future Battlefields” at the SXSW conference, Mozilla’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Brendan Eich said he doesn’t believe people are going to browse the web on mobile phones. He added by saying “I don’t believe people want to use Wikipedia from their phone.”

I was very surprised to hear this from a top Mozilla official. Is he in denial on the fact that millions upon millions are already browsing the web using their mobile phones?

We at Opera have got the numbers to back it up. The tiny Opera Mini browser has become a star of its own with more than 12 million accumulative users in a little over 13 months.

Granted that here in the United States (US) mobile browsing is not widespread as is the case in Europe and other places in the world, but we’re definitely in an upward trend. Mobile browsing is especially popular in some developing countries, where it’s a cheaper method of getting online than with PCs.

Though mobile browsing has not replaced my regular PC browsing, I do find myself browsing on my phone using Opera Mini more and more often. It does come in very handy when I’m away from my computer.

I sincerely hope Brendan will clarify Mozilla’s position on the mobile web. Mozilla has done a lot of good to advance the web; they’re an important partner of ours in helping bring forward web standards.

Daniel Appelquist, from Vodaphone (whom I met at the Mobile Monday New York event a couple months ago) was surprised too about these comments. He wrote in his blog:

“This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about with regard to mobile, which is a bit sad because he’s obviously a smart guy in other respects. It’s typical of the willful denial that’s all too prevalent in the “Web” community about mobile, and it stems from a misapprehension about the nature of the platform.

Yes, the mobile is not suited to the kind of Web browsing that people are used to on the PC. It is suited to a different kind of Web usage and interaction model, a model that the WICD spec was built to service.”

Paul Walsh, one of the founding members of the W3C’s Mobile Web Initiative, had this to say about Mozilla on his blog:

“I’m absolutely amazed by Brendan’s view and I sincerely hope it’s his personal view and not Mozilla’s. Otherwise this $300m business faces the prospect of ending up in the bin alongside its parent, Netscape.

For a guy who’s incredibly smart working for an organization that has gained a market share of 10% to 12% of desktop browsers within 2 years, his comments are a little surprising to say the least. Brendan’s comments in my opinion, lack vision. Hell, they lack logic.”

(Thanks to Keith Waters, France Telecom, for the picture above)

Important update: Less than an hour after I published this post Brendan Eich, the Mozilla CTO, was kind enough to explain what he meant and what he didn’t say. He says of course he never said “I do not think people will browse the web on phones”, but rather that “phones do not fit the same tasks and interaction design as desktop machines; that people use the web on phones in more focused, task-specific ways. I generalized.”

I’m relieved to hear that you were misquoted; it frankly didn’t make too much sense to me. I apologize to Brendan for misquoting him; I was merely relying on Daniel Appelquist’s account of what went on at the panel. (I’ve updated the post title).


Categories: Opera Mobile
  1. March 14, 2007 at 10:26 am

    Of course I never said “I do not think people will browse the web on phones”, so kindly stop putting words in my mouth.

    I said, clearly enough to be heard by most people, that phones do not fit the same tasks and interaction design as desktop machines; that people use the web on phones in more focused, task-specific ways. I generalized. Try not to find an exception and claim it proves I’m an idiot.

    Why would anyone who was there think that I said “people don’t use the web on phones” when I held up my Cingular smart phone *at the panel*, and testified that *I* browsed the web on it?

    I suggest you change the title of this page.


  2. March 14, 2007 at 10:47 am

    Fee Fi Fo Fum
    I smell a turf war

  3. March 14, 2007 at 10:49 am

    Now I’m just waiting for all the Opera fans to descend and point out how childish and immature and trollish this post by Daniel is, as they kindly do every time Asa posts on ANYTHING related to Opera… 🙂

  4. Tadaaah!
    March 14, 2007 at 10:54 am


    Of course Mozilla doesn’t want mobile browsers. Their own browser engine is too bloated to be used as a mobile browser, after all 😀

    It’s the “we can’t do it so it isn’t important” syndrome 😀

  5. March 14, 2007 at 10:55 am

    Brendan, thanks for making it clear. See the update. 🙂

  6. wupperbayer
    March 14, 2007 at 10:56 am

    @Brendan: So, if you said that, why do other blogs also wonder about your statements? Opera Watch isn’t the only blog (mis)quoting you.

    So did one blog misinterpret you and spread this interpretation around the blogosphere or did all bloggers get you wrong on their own?

    Despite that, I can clearly more agree on your now posted words than on your (mis)quoted ones.

  7. March 14, 2007 at 10:59 am

    Tadaah: we’re big-boned ;-), but we don’t confuse reality with necessity. My words were not sour grapes, they were an argument about design points (mobile devices, desktop/laptop computers — yeah, it’s more a spectrum) being widely separated enough that, e.g. Firefox may not support WICD.

    wupperbayer: how long have you been around the Internet? People echo all sorts of falsehoods all the time. See Dan’s blog for the source of the germ in this case, and some fresh comments.


  8. March 14, 2007 at 11:01 am

    wupperbayer, I wasn’t at the panel (unfortunately) — I was quoting Daniel Appelquist, who was at the panel. Paul Walsh, the other blogger I mentioned, was also quoting Daniel Appelquist.

  9. wupperbayer
    March 14, 2007 at 11:02 am

    Too bad I can’t edit my comments, thanks for making things clear, Daniel. So someone misquoted Brendan and this misquote spread throughout the blogosphere…

    @David Naylor: Well, Asa is seen as a troll even by some of his colleagues at Mozilla; Daniel apologized for his mistake, Asa doesn’t do this ever. He had too much to apologize…

  10. Jonathan
    March 14, 2007 at 11:04 am

    How controversial. I mean the very first version of this legendary post. But this great, big fat, All-American man does have a point, hasn’t he (see image above)?

    I don’t think people will browse the web on a phone the same way they do on a desktop computer. Naturally (silent nod to Opera Mini). But, this doesn’t mean that Mini solves all-your-problems.

    He is mean to you, because you’d rather use Opera 9.1 Full Desktop Edition. Just because it is bigger…. much more easier-to-use (more familiar) …. and of course, handy for people with a not so hot eyesight (yeah, you can blow up a page in Mini. Although I have never had the pleasure, and I don’t think it would be quite like the Desktop Edition, right?

  11. March 14, 2007 at 11:18 am

    It’s strange that troll wars should exist when there is no room for doubt that Opera kicks ass.

  12. KeMiSa
    March 14, 2007 at 11:21 am

    I have an older cel phone, not one of those new ones with all them fancy features (Yumpin’), but damn doesnt my browsing with opera mini loads pages faster than people i know with their smart phones.

  13. March 14, 2007 at 11:23 am

    @David Naylor: Well, Asa is seen as a troll even by some of his colleagues at Mozilla; Daniel apologized for his mistake, Asa doesn’t do this ever. He had too much to apologize…

    I’m sure if he actually misquoted someone he would set things straight. I can see that Asa comes across as very trollish, but usually I feel he has a point, even if he is seldom very diplomatic in his woring.

  14. March 14, 2007 at 11:29 am


  15. March 14, 2007 at 11:31 am

    Glad to know it was a misquote. Coming straight off of Brendan’s post, The Open Web and its Adversaries, it didn’t seem like it could be the same person.

  16. March 14, 2007 at 11:45 am

    This is a rather funny incedent. It brings up three very important points:

    1. People do not always say what they mean in quite the way they mean it.

    2. People have a tendency not to hear the meaning behind what’s said, no matter how carefully it’s worded.

    3. Stories tend to change with each person who tells them.

    Language is such a limited thing, isn’t it… 😉

  17. wupperbayer
    March 14, 2007 at 11:50 am

    @David Naylor: “I’m sure if he actually misquoted someone he would set things straight. I can see that Asa comes across as very trollish, but usually I feel he has a point, even if he is seldom very diplomatic in his woring.”

    Ahem… he *did* actually set things straight, look at the update 🙂

    And about Asa, well, yes, *sometimes* he might have a point, but usually it’s just plain trolling (for example as he tried to make Mozilla look to have had tabs earlier than Opera had).

  18. March 14, 2007 at 11:56 am

    I was at the panel too, and have my own take on the discussion which I’ll write about later. Unfortunately, I did not make a recording of the panel, but here’s an article from PC Magazine that apparently includes a direct quote of what was Brendan actually said: http://www.appscout.com/2007/03/sxsw_browser_wars_redux.php#more

    (Can anyone independently verify?)

    I don’t think there’s any need for hostility. Beyond the matter of who misquoted who, there’s a hugely interesting discussion that needs to happen. I’d hate to see the conversation stop just because someone may have been misquoted once or taken out of context, when that context is so juicy.

  19. Tadaaah!
    March 14, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    “I can see that Asa comes across as very trollish, but usually I feel he has a point”

    Actually, he usually doesn’t. His “Opera falls into line behind Firefox again” crap is repeated all the time, for example.

  20. March 14, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    “Ahem… he *did* actually set things straight, look at the update :)”

    I was refering to Asa there, not Daniel. I saw the update.

  21. March 14, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    David Naylor

    I for one find the post baiting (well, particularly the picture), because before I got to reading the “Update” at the bottom, I had already made up my mind that the distinguishing semantics should be between “browsing” and “focused task”…then the update and Brendan’s post clarified it exactly. (The only thing I disagree with is that I consider a wikipedia lookup a focused task as well)

    I would have called for the clarification had it not already occured before hand, just like I did on some of DG’s other posts in the past- (see: http://operawatch.com/news/2007/01/the-usage-of-the-opera-browser-grew-by-67-in-2006.html)

  22. March 14, 2007 at 12:57 pm

    Great to hear that! 😉

  23. March 14, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    Eddie: my example that most people will prefer to do on the desktop, not in a mobile device browser, was *editing* a wikipedia entry, not looking something up.


  24. March 14, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    So now that we have all clarified the meaning and context of “the quote.” Can we put that quote back into perspective/context of the question that was asked? (implement the WICD specification)- does that mean Firefox doesn’t plan on supporting it? I’m still going through all the comments and posts.

  25. March 14, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    Brendan- Thanks for the context. Seems to be missing in spades.

  26. March 14, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    Lawmune: even that PC magazine “quote” is a paraphrase, probably from notes. No one recorded and transcribed what I said in full. You’re right that the context is juicy, but too many people want to fly off the handle about how I dissed Opera or some such nonsense.

    I did not disrespect Opera, and of course we are working productively in the WHATWG and W3C with Opera. But I repeat that mobile devices are sufficiently different in hard ways from desktop machines. This is obvious: we have Flash Lite, not Flash in full; J2ME, not whatever giant Java config desktops get; etc.

    When I first got a smartphone, I ran up a huge bill browsing (yeah, bad deal with the carrier, fixed now). I browsed like a desktop user while on vacation, in order to keep up with the usual fora. It was and remains painful compared to using a big screen desktop machine with a standard keyboard.

    To jump from this to “Mozilla thinks you should carry around a desktop machine on your shoulders” is not fair (funny image though!).


  27. March 14, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    I have to agree with Brendan in one way here, that a desktop will always have a different use than a cell phone.

    Mostly because of it’s user interface. Keyboard is essential here. It would take me ages to write down a blog entry, and do styling before posting on a cell phone, mainly to poor keyboard and mouse support (and maybe screen size for old 🙂 people). But then again reading the news, or a blog on my cell is if not better at least not worse. Well the screen is small, but who really cares about all the “bling bling” while reading up on news anyway. As long as I get the info I need with as little effort as possible thats enough for me. I would even go so far that it is less strain on the body in any way to use my cell to read the news or look up a word in the dictionary or Wikipedia. I can do it with one arm while lying, sitting, standing, even walking back and forth from the bus. I can change arm if I get tired. I can lean back as I want. Even have a beer in one hand while cell in the other. And BTW, what is your battery life time on your laptop? 3 hours, maybe 4. I guessed so, it even last longer on my cell.

    I got quite a few other advantages too. But I was really saving them up for a blog post, and this comment is way too long to be called a comment already.

    PS: At times like this it is hard to chose what browser to post with. I feel that every post in this thread is coloured pretty bad by the browser sniffing Daniel 🙂

    PPS: I really wish we could leave personal attacks to private conversations. You can say what you want about technology or what ever, but direct attack…?!? People have stated their opinion before while later been proven wrong, and guess what, they where still great people.

    – ØØ –

  28. zoom
    March 14, 2007 at 5:45 pm

    Let’s face it – Mozilla failed to create a mobile browser (Minimo IS a failure). That’s why they try to make it look like the Web on mobiles doesn’t work. Well, it works – but in Opera (and a few other browsers not based on bloated Gecko engine).

  29. March 14, 2007 at 7:03 pm

    Zoom, you do realize that no one actually made the claim you’re spouting off on, right? You did read the “important update” before commenting, didn’t you?

    Who wants to bet this “quote” will still be floating around six months from now (or longer), trotted out to “prove” some negative claim about Mozilla?

  30. March 14, 2007 at 7:06 pm

    China’s mobile phone users is astounding, evidenced by Google’s stats: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1230747464670307641#2m1s

  31. March 14, 2007 at 7:19 pm

    I too was a little harsh with Brendan. I’m glad however, that he clarified his view on my BIMA blog. I’m pointing to this because Daniel has pointed to my Segala blog.


  32. m1scha_m
    March 14, 2007 at 8:22 pm

    Mud sticks, so even if what was said was correctly heard, it is more likely that what was said to be heard, is the version that will be remembered.


  33. dawpa2000
    March 14, 2007 at 11:12 pm

    Love the picture

  34. March 15, 2007 at 1:08 am

    Re. Mobile vision…

    Obviously there is a market for mobile Web. One can’t leave home without it…

    However, to improve Web experience, the pocket devices must be optimized for browsing. Larger single screens or small double screens, will do the trick (given more power and speed).

    Opera has come a long way. MINI rocks on 240 x 320, DS shows huge potential, and M9 will close the gap further…

    The vision becomes a reality, when the big players agree… there’s more fun surfing… at the beach 😉

  35. KeN
    March 15, 2007 at 5:25 am

    I think that we should consider other’s thoughts and stop critisizing unless we have more than one source and if in any event the publisher/speaker of the comment apoligises/rectifies his/her statement it should be accepted. I think we are all striving for a better web community and the Mobile market is rapidly becoming part of it and web standards are important!

  36. teachernz
    March 15, 2007 at 6:35 am

    …and I just read this blog on my phone!

  37. March 15, 2007 at 10:08 am

    Hi Brendan,

    As an Opera employee who was present at the talk, I know that you intended no disrespect towards Opera, so we’re all good

    Regarding the mobile browsing experience, I use Opera on my devices all the time, and I find the experience to be pretty good, but I know it could be improved and I’m glad that my colleagues are working to do just that (and that devices are getting more powerful and usable all the time).

    In my situation, I guess I’m more optimistic than most about the future of mobile browsing, but I agree that some skepticism is healthy too, especially with regards to specific visions of the future which may or may not bear fruit.

    We might disagree a little bit about what people (in the US and elsewhere) want to do, actually do, and will eventually want to do using mobile browsers, but we can all agree that developing good browsers for devices is a difficult but worthwhile challenge (which is why Opera has Opera Mobile and Mini, and Mozilla has the Minimo project). In working towards an open Web, we’re all in this together.

    Prior to SXSW, I had only talked to one Mozilla employee in person (Jessie Ruderman, and we got along well). Now, I know several more, and I’m happy to say they all seem like great and fun people, and I’m hopeful we can work together towards our common goals.

  38. Hugyos Józsi
    March 15, 2007 at 10:38 am

    Although the iPhone web browsing experience will wipe its ass with Opera’s offers!

  39. March 15, 2007 at 11:00 am

    Please see this this picture: http://bartosslajos.atw.hu/letoltes/opera/kepek/error.png
    This post have a little bug, with opera, ig i use the panel…

  40. March 15, 2007 at 11:03 am

    opera10, what’s your screen resolution?

  41. March 15, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    Daniel, I got the same view on my 800 x 600. However, fit to width takes care of the issue 😉

  42. Steve Barker
    March 15, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    Lots of posts to scroll through on my Nintendo DS lite…..

    Browsing where its convenient!

    Steve B

  43. Ilgaz
    March 16, 2007 at 6:48 am

    Does it have something to do with the fact that Mozilla still couldn’t come up with a clean/compressed/zero redundancy engine like Opera did?

    Don’t tell me I can run project something on a 1 gig RAM PDA, it doesn’t count as handheld.

    Especially Wiki reference… I can’T imagine how many times I looked up to Wiki about something with my Cell phone using Mini. Not a surprising thing that Mini got Wiki search enabled by default.

  44. Ilgaz
    March 16, 2007 at 6:51 am

    The “tone” of Mozilla team and their fans are the number one reason I stay away from that browser while crazily supporting Camino browser on OS X which is based on same engine.

  45. March 20, 2007 at 6:44 am

    I think both the Opera and the Mozilla staff are reasonable enough to gain good judgement on the needs and must-haves of mobile users. OTOH, Opera has a USP on small screen devices without much competition so I think it is quite fine for Opera to see it’s only relevant competitor lurk from far behind.

  46. Zaghawa
    March 22, 2007 at 8:01 am

    the picture is so lol 😛

  47. March 23, 2007 at 12:38 am

    LOL talk about overkill, though With 12GB of SD & CF memory, Opera mobile 8.65, and a Dell Axim X51v. It’d be alot easier on the back and a hell of alot lighter…

    Opera Mini is good but Opera mobile has put the desktop esc power in my hand with the latest release. I really have few reasons to eye down my desktop’s Opera unless I’m home and near it. :p

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