Escaped Thoughts

A Follow-Up Comment on Camino's Future

Several people have asked (as people have from time to time even in less uncertain times): Why don't we all just work on Firefox for the Mac instead? I understand why people think that makes sense. Camino is a browser in the Mozilla family, Firefox is a browser in the Mozilla family. Both run on the Mac. Basically the same thing, right?

What the question is missing is an understanding of the sorts of things that motivate people to contribute to open-source software in their free time. I don't know everyone's motivations for working on Camino, but of those I do, none picked it by deciding that they wanted to work on a Mozilla-family browser and then flipping a coin. Even if it were entirely a question of project goals, Camino and Firefox don't have the same goals, once you get beyond the “make a browser” part. But speaking for myself, the project goals are only a small part of why I'm here.

Off the top of my head, major reasons I work on Camino:

  • I want to work on software I care about personally.
  • I want to build Mac-focused software.
  • I want to write Cocoa/Objective-C code.
  • I like working with a small group where I know everyone, and interpersonal politics aren't an issue.
  • I like having significant influence over the development of the project.
  • I like being able to reach decisions quickly, without bureaucracy.

Firefox offers me exactly zero of those things. So the simple answer to the question of why I don't just go work on Firefox is that it wouldn't be rewarding for me. And since since we're talking about my free time, that's the only reason that matters. And while I don't speak for everyone else, I'd be surprised if my list doesn't overlap heavily with most of the other Camino developers.

(I could also list several reasons I would specifically not want to do it, personally, but those are probably not as generalizable to others.)

Category: Camino

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Thoughts on Today's Camino Announcement

Today a major hurdle for the long-term future of Camino was announced on one of the Mozilla newsgroups. As our blog post suggests, there's a chance that Camino 2.1 will be our last release. It all depends on whether this new direction is something that will attract enough new developers for the work involved. And while our dwindling developer population has been sad on one hand, I think it is actually a side effect of something very positive: a huge improvement in the Mac browser landscape.

Pretty much everyone who worked on Camino (and before that, Chimera) did so because they wanted to build the browser they wanted to use, but couldn't find. We worked on Camino because it was the best browser out there (in our opinions), and we wanted to make it even better. And frankly, for a long time there wasn't much competition. Mac IE became more and more out of date until it faded into history. Safari started out anemic even by Camino's “keep it simple” standards, and didn't see a lot of change at first. Firefox felt like what it mostly was: a Windows app that happened to run on the Mac (and it was the only other open-source option). A small group of volunteers was, for a long time, able to keep up with—and even beat in many users' opinions—the other browsers.

But now we live in a very different world; one where there are good browsers pushing eachother to get even better, faster. Safari has closed the compatibilty gap and is focusing more on features. Mac Firefox (while still not my favorite) is now more of a Mac app built with a cross-platform toolkit than a Windows port. Chrome has come along and (in my totally unbiased opinion) made a compelling case as a browser that both offers power users power, while holding close to some of the same principles that are at Camino's core (and added another major open-source player to the field to boot).

On the web technology side, things are moving much faster these days too. We've fallen behind Firefox in shipping major Gecko revisions (not least because of the issues mentioned in our blog post); we're only now about to come to par with Firefox 3.6. Being a year behind wouldn't have been such a big deal for much of Camino's lifetime, but recently a year is a very long time in the web world. It's already reasonably common to see sites that don't support Firefox 3.0 (and thus Camino 2.0).

So while I am sad to see what could be the beginning of the end for the Camino project, I have to cheer at the underlying causes. And even if Camino does end with 2.1, there's no question that its legacy will live on. A number of Camino alumni are hard at work building those browsers that have changed the landscape. It's clear to me that without Josh Aas the Mac version of Firefox would not have seen the improvement that it has, and it's certainly no coincidence that Mike Pinkerton helped craft the browser that won my daily usage away from Camino. And let's not forget that Firefox started out as, essentially, the Windows version of what was to become Camino.

So whether or not there is a Camino 3, there's no doubt that Camino helped create the browser world that we live in now. I'm proud to have been a small part of that, and thankful to everyone who helped us along the way.

Category: Camino

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