This is one of those cases.
Matthew Willis, who works for Flock and is a member of the Mozilla community, is posing an interesting theory: there's a "monetization conundrum" surrounding Firefox and its parent organization, Mozilla, and it's not an easy issue to resolve:
The problem of extension monetization is one that many would like Mozilla to take on and provide a solution to. Perhaps there is a market for a browser that takes Firefox or Chrome, builds a slick App Store into it, promotes it among developers, markets it well with consumers, and then can sit back and make a pretty penny for their VCs. Maybe, but I don't feel that is the job of Mozilla, nor are they well-suited for it.
One of the best ways to make a technology platform stronger is to make it profitable. Mozilla may not want that responsibility - - there must be a lot of headaches, as it is, honchoing the development of a free piece of technology. Overseeing a development community that has money on the line, and it kicks it into an entirely different level.
Daniel Glazman is another member of the Mozilla community who writes that he agrees with Willis' conclusions and offers some of his own thoughts:
. . . with a 800,000,000+ downloads mark, Firefox has not attracted a gigantic list of extensions developers like the iPhone did; granted, the Mozilla community is a large group, and it's a huge, remarkable achievement. An ecosystem. But the iPhone shows that the coolness factor - that both the iPhone and Firefox share - is not enough for Firefox. Please do not misunderstand me, I am not saying a single second Firefox and Mozilla failed here. I'm only saying that a larger, a MUCH larger, community should be targeted. We all know that experienced XUL developers are rare on the market.
Glazman missing a key factor: Money. Apple is in business to make it. Mozilla is not. Mozilla's raison d'etre: "We're a public benefit organization dedicated not to making money but to improving the way people everywhere experience the Internet."
It's OK that Mozilla has chosen not to cash in on Firefox or its platform. But why hasn't anyone else stepped up? The venture capital powerhouse, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers - - even before there was an Apple App Store - - put up $100 million to support companies that built iPhone applications. There's your "coolness factor," right there.
Think of the possibilities for a Firefox App Store: an extension, for example, that translates Turkish into English on the fly; another extension that brings the Aqueduct results to your browser in real-time; one that searches every "help wanted" site on the Web and brings new job postings to a PC the second they are posted; another that helps high school kids with chemistry homework. In each case, there may not be a gazillion people willing to pay for such a browser extension. But there will be some people who do. A Firefox App Store, or Extension Store, would certainly be a way to focus here.
And yet, nobody is leading the way.
It's clear that Apple is onto something big with its App Store. It's also clear that not even Apple seems to be able to cash in on the entire opportunity that exists. Is there anybody out there willing to try?
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