Open Source

Is Mozilla snubbing open source or embracing the future?

Jack Wallen sounds off about Mozilla joining Adobe to bring DRM content through the flagship open-source browser Firefox.

Mozilla EME

Mozilla recently announced it was going to be partnering with Adobe to enable Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) in Firefox. This announcement brought up much fire and brimstone from Free Open Source Software (FOSS) and open-source communities. From their eyes, it looks as if Mozilla is simply following in the footsteps of Microsoft and Google -- at the expense of freedom and standards.

What is driving this? Streaming content and media -- those beasts that are currently (and may always) drive the internet. There's no escaping DRM with the likes of Netflix. In fact, if you want to be on board that juggernaut's train, you'll have to play the DRM game. There's no way around it. It's only when DRM gets involved with the likes of books and music (items people actually pay for and should own) that logic and opinion get a bit murky.

As a long-time author, I see all sides of the d20. Even so, I do not apply DRM to my books. Why? It makes no sense. If someone buys one of my books for their Kindle, they have every right to transfer that book to their new Kindle (when they inevitably upgrade). They also should have the right to back those books up to their PC for safe keeping. DRM would say those consumers only "rent" those books and can't do with them as they please.

But even though I oppose DRM for such digital media, I get it. Authors, musicians, and other digital artists need to protect their work, especially when said work provides their income.

And this is sort of where I veer slightly from the standard opinion toward Mozilla's move.

Everything evolves. The state of digital media and the internet is pushed forward by an energy and momentum unknown by traditional media. It will not and cannot be stopped. And if those around it -- the suppliers of technology to make it happen -- do not keep up with the change, they'll fall behind in such a way that they may never catch up.

Such is the case with Mozilla (and Linux). The FOSS community needs to accept that evolution must occur in order to grow. Although that evolution must not break the moral compass that guides the foundation of the group, that same compass must not be so rigid as to prevent the whole from seeing the big picture. And there is a very big picture out there -- one that says "You deliver or people will turn their backs."

For example, Linux has struggled to get anything close to out-of-the-box support for Netflix. The reigning king of streaming media supports Windows, Mac, and Chrome OS -- but not Linux. However, with the help of HTML5 and EME, Linux will finally get the out-of-the-box Netflix support that it has cried for all of these years. Yet, at the same time, those who have cried out for such support are condemning Mozilla for joining the DRM/EME hayride.

Technology is not going to step into the way-back machine and return to the 90s. It's going to continue forward at an ever-increasing pace. Instead of letting this move by Mozilla set open source back, the communities involved should embrace it and make it their own (if that's even possible). The FOSS community could go so far as to create their own EME and release it under the GPL (again, if that's even possible).

The new agreement between Mozilla and Adobe should been seen as an attempt to keep the open-source browser in line with current content demands. Should Mozilla refuse to work with EME, that browser would likely wind up falling way behind Chrome and even (gasp) Internet Explorer. From where I stand, anything that prevents users from getting their fingers on IE is a good thing. And although EME isn't ideal, it will bring more options to Linux (such as Netflix). That is a win for the open-source platform from almost every angle.

But, should you still refuse to accept Mozilla working with Adobe and EME, there are plenty of other browsers for you to use. That's part of the many wonders of Linux and open source -- there are always alternatives. Unfortunately, those alternatives may no longer bring you the entirety of the content available to the masses. Fear not, in a year or two, everything will have further evolved, and this point will probably be moot.

So, let's not condemn Mozilla for accepting a fate they could hardly avoid and move forward knowing Linux will soon enjoy even more content that it once could. Is it ideal? No. Is it the right move for Mozilla and Firefox? Probably. Is there another solution? Not yet... but give it time.

What do you think? Should Mozilla have turned its back on EME and Adobe? Or did they make the right decision for the greater good?

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

18 comments
janitorman
janitorman

There's got to be a solution to bring DRM material and proprietary formats to Open Source for free without using DRM or having to pay for content, nor having to install proprietary software. 

THAT is what would drive people to Linux. Get rid of the proprietary software idea, or that anything digital has any monetary value, and either Microsoft and Adobe and the like will then fold, or start producing things for free.

knuthf
knuthf

FYI: Mozilla use now the Chromium source, the same as Chrome and Opera. IE and Safari is not part of this - check it out at chromium.org - the purpose is to get an open source out way ahead of Internet Explorer and this contraption. We do not want this - nobody, including Google that has the most devices now. MS is rattling, and they should, they have no influence any more.

Look at WBMC - if Netflix want to deliver, they have to adhere to this, or they will take the same direction as all other companies that started with proprietary technologies, in a year or two, they will be gone.

knuthf
knuthf

I have a very simple question, because I have a degree and a proper thesis in math, and have done extensive work in encryption: How do we know that Microsoft or Adobe protects anyone? Is it not better to write a new protection algorithm, publish this as open-source for everyone to view, criticize and get right?


Stand up and explain to me how I cannot decipher the MS and Adobe code. I know how and decline to publish. I have had my work copied enough, if they want to steal it, they do it and get away with it, if you "violate their rights" you know what will happen. When can we put an end to this racket?

mcwise
mcwise

I agree with Jack.  Being open source doesn't mean being Only opensource.  Many Linux releases I have used include some demo, trial, time or feature restricted software that has "if you like it, buy it", conditions.  If the open source community comes up with a better copyright/patent alternative patterned after the GNU GPL's (https://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html).  Perhaps that could be used so developers, writers, musicians, ,,,  can enjoy the fruits of their work.  My personal distress is with products priced at "what the market will bear".  I may not always agree with Google's products approach, but I appreciate their efforts to provide as much as possible without restricting or violating a company or person's product rights.   Good discussion.

Ubuntu4ever
Ubuntu4ever

Let's be real. How many of us have ran a Linux box without installing "restricted extras"? How many of us enable .mp3 support because our other devices don't recognize .flac or .ogg? I for one am stoked that Mozilla is making it possible for me to have Netflix support that lasts longer than the amount of time between install and the next Silverlight update. I live in the real world where usability and accessibility are king, which led me to (instead of away from) Open Source.

MrEu Ro
MrEu Ro

open-source for ever!

jdcnservices
jdcnservices

This may be the first time I've agreed 100% with Wallen.  Some things are do or die.  The challenge for the FOSS community (not just Mozilla) is if you don't like it, come up with something better and will appeal to users.  However, to just ignore it is pretty much tantamount to cutting off your nose to spite your face.  Sure, it might make a statement, but people will still avoid you.

MisterNonsense
MisterNonsense

@janitorman  Your asinine suggestion that anything digital should not have any monetary value is precisely why many people regarded FOSS movement as a joke. Sorry, but money is what spur products, not generosity.

MisterNonsense
MisterNonsense

Open-source is really nothing more than the product of disgruntled employees, leftists, and those who hate the idea of private property.

MisterNonsense
MisterNonsense

@Ubuntu4ever  Quite the contrary, I'm an anti-troll and it's been my experience that the biggest trolls are FOSS zealots. Even sane FOSS advocates would agree with me (with great reluctance, of course).

cecilwilhelmina
cecilwilhelmina

 

@MisterNonsenseThe reason you have 'not once been bitten by a virus' probably has more to do your idiotic views than anything on your computer someone might want to corrupt/steal. 


Windows itself is spyware - more a dumbass plague than a virus, admittedly - where have you been for the last 18 months?


Malcontents, leftists, and people who hate the idea of private property. You forgot people who aren't overly keen on sharing everything they write with anyone who can hack into their machine - Microsoft, Google, government agencies, journalists, etc. But then you right-wingers haven't quite made the connection between private property and intellectual property just yet, for some strange reason.


janitorman
janitorman

@MisterNonsense I hate the idea of "proprietary digital content" You can't patent software, and everything on the internet is free. Now if we could just get rid of the advertising on the web, we'd be fine.

If that means only 1% of the population would then use computers, fine. We did fine without all this stuff our entire history. Why do we need it now?

jos
jos

@MisterNonsense  how many viruses did you have on your open-source desktop?  

MisterNonsense
MisterNonsense

@jos @MisterNonsense  I don't use open-source desktop. I use proprietary desktop (i.e. Windows) and not once have I been bitten by a virus. The fact is that virus infection is usually the result of user's poor security ethics.

MisterNonsense
MisterNonsense

@NickNielsen @MisterNonsense  I expect nothing less from a typical FOSS advocate.

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