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Enough of the doom already

December 12, 2011 3 comments

A couple of weeks ago, a blogger at ReadWriteWeb wrote about the demise of Mozilla and Firefox, claiming that the loss of market share and lack of availability on mobile devices — and the departure of Google sponsorship — could lead to Mozilla’s downfall.

Like lemmings, other tech commentators followed along with the same message: Firefox? Stick a fork in it.

SCALE 10XLast week, Hewlett-Packard decided to give WebOS its freedom. Apparently, they let it into the FOSS wild without as much as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But HP’s intention, I hope, is that they’d like developers to flock to it and help this Linux-based operating system achieve its true potential.

Cue the lemmings again: Most of those providing the tech commentary around this development in opening WebOS have been tripping over themselves to strangle WebOS in the proverbial cradle. Or, as they say in sports circles, they’re risking injury by jumping on the bandwagon.

But while some tech commentators are locked in a battle to the death to see which of them can bury both Mozilla and WebOS — especially WebOS — the deepest, allow me to point out something they might have overlooked: Firefox is still going strong, despite losing market share (and, were I a gambling man, I’d bet that Google stays the course with Mozilla sponsorship despite having their own browser) AND, under better conditions than are currently available to it (and conditions that can be altered and goals achieved), WebOS might just have a shot surviving in the FOSS wilderness as a sort of Davy Crockett of Linux.

You know, kids: Davy Crockett. King of the wild frontier? OK, look him up on Wikipedia.

In any case, I’m going to let Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier drive here, explaining why Mozilla is not on the way out. Brockmeier concludes in his post:

“Even if Firefox remains third in the market, that’s a far cry from “doomed.” We’ve come a long way from a Web that is hostile to any browser that isn’t Microsoft Internet Explorer. Firefox can easily thrive with 20 percent of the market. But I wouldn’t count Team Mozilla out just yet, and though I’ve had my share of frustrations with Firefox I’m not ready to throw in the towel. When you look at the major players here, Mozilla is the only organization that’s I fully trust with my data and a commitment to the open Web. If Firefox is doomed, I’m afraid that would not say a great deal for the future of the Web.”

Which brings us back to the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, er . . . I mean, WebOS.

Let’s go back a bit to square one: After blunders (yes, blunders, plural) of historic proportions this year around their hardware from which they can hopefully recover, open-sourcing WebOS is probably the only thing that HP could have done to save it, and in typical 2011 HP fashion, they fumbled that. That ball is still rolling on the ground.

If — and this is an enormous IF — a community grows around what had been established around WebOS when it started, clearly they’ll have faster development than if they were developing in-house, which obviously is how things in open source work. So from an HP standpoint, that’s a good call. Of course, they could have made this transition a lot more smoothly, but it’s out there now. Arguably, WebOS advocates could be facing the digital equivalent of executing a “Hail Mary” pass to bring back the operating system, but it can be done. Ask Roger Staubach or Doug Flutie (and as a University of Miami Hurricane, bringing up the latter is painful)

I have used WebOS on a Palm Pre 2 while I had it, and I liked it. HP had planned to put WebOS on consumer hardware before, well, you know what happened there. I even went as far as to download the WebOS SDK, which I found my way around fairly easily.

I certainly don’t have the developer skills to do anything other than simple things to make me go, “hmmm.” But others do — some who might benefit from wanting to take this program from certain death at the hands of digital scribes and bring it back. The task ahead of them is herculean, but not impossible.

So in my book, rumors of WebOS’ demise are somewhat exaggerated.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)

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