The Customer is Always Right…Except at Mozilla

I’ve been greatly concerned by Mozilla’s new “cookie clearinghouse” code that will be added to their latest Firefox update. The clearinghouse will automatically engage the 3rd cookie blocker on the browser, which could lead to a massive drop in revenue for internet-based businesses and change the flow of free information on the web.

Mozilla knows that engaging the cookie blocker as a default setting will have a negative effect on internet commerce. Their position is that anyone will be able to disable the cookie blocker at their own discretion. This may be true enough, but Mozilla also knows that only about 3% of Americans even know what a 3rd party cookie is or what it does. They understand that the majority of Firefox users won’t disable the feature because they don’t even know it’s there. Additionally, they know that run-of-the-mill internet users like me won’t have a clue how much their internet experience has been affected until it’s too late.

When I started covering this issue I believed it was important for Firefox customers to understand how such a little change could harm many small business owners. In this economy many Americans have turned to self-employment and individually creative endeavors to make ends meet; and they use the internet to do that. Americans can ill-afford a dampening effect on the free market of the internet. I wanted people to know that they can help stop this. Originally, I felt very positive about the possible results in this campaign. Traditionally I write about government and politics. Dealing with changing government policy is extremely complicated and difficult. Bureaucracy is so mangled in red tape it often takes a long time to affect change. However, this cookie clearinghouse controversy is a free-market issue and that gave me hope that opposing voices could be heard and taken more seriously. Mozilla is technically a non-profit organization, but they operate in the realm of the free market. Their organization depends on users…customers. Most businesses value the opinions of their customers and look at complaints as opportunities to offer better service. “The customer is always right” is not just a cliché, it’s the number one rule of a thriving business. There is no business without customers.

Unfortunately, it seems Mozilla does not seem to subscribe to the Golden Rule of business. I had hoped that upon hearing the very real concerns of its customers Mozilla would attempt to open up a dialogue with worried customers. After all, they’ve seen a marked drop in Firefox usage since their announcement of the new update. It seems the Google Chrome browser has picked up a lot of those drifting customers. Chrome has seen a remarkable increase in browser usage in the last 3 quarters. Coincidentally, Chrome also does not engage automatic cookie blockers. It seems customers are responding to Mozilla’s latest moves, even if they don’t realize that is what they’re doing.

Many customers have already expressed their disapproval with this move by Mozilla. In fact, while I haven’t seen much public outcry for a cookie clearinghouse program there has been a groundswell of concern by customers who truly don’t want Mozilla to make this change; and yet, I have been underwhelmed by Mozilla’s response (or lack thereof). Two weeks ago Mozilla hosted a Twitter chat with CEO Mitchell Baker about the new Firefox OS. I took this as an opportunity to make some noise and try to get a response from Mozilla. Dozens of tweets during the chat were dedicated to the cookie clearinghouse question but yielded no response. After the official chat was over the @Firefox twitter feed responded to my flurry of tweets.

That was the extent of their response.

Follow-up questions were ignored. I also received an email from Mozilla correcting me on a few “missed points” and leading me to links explaining the new Firefox update. In the hopes of giving Mozilla a chance to answer lingering questions from my readers and listeners I reached out for an interview but was told “We have said all we have to say on the matter”.

It is understandable that Mozilla has put their plans in place and don’t wish to shift course at this moment. However, it is inexcusable for the company to dismiss the very real concerns their customer base has about how their income and business will be affected.

What harm would it do to directly address the concerns of Firefox users? How could it hurt to allow users – the very browser users

Mozilla is losing in droves right now – to express their fears and hesitations about the new update? I may be a loud voice, but there are thousands of other customers like me who don’t understand Mozilla’s commitment to this update and would appreciate direct answers. Even if Mozilla has no intention of accommodating their customer’s requests, an open forum for users to ask questions would at least engender some good will and might even prove they really do care about their customers feelings. Which might in turn bring back some of the business they’ve lost over the few quarters.

Mozilla seems to have no interest in or no care for the very users who keep their products relevant. I’ve been asking this question all along: why? Perhaps the fact that Mozilla is a non-profit has a lot to do with it. Since they don’t need to turn a profit to be successful they can basically treat their customers like crap if and when they want to. They don’t need to improve anything or respond to their user base because at the end of the day they have no incentive to do that. It’s like dealing with the DMV or public schools. You (the customer) are not needed and barely wanted. You are a number but not much more. Which also begs the question – why continue on with the cookie clearinghouse under the guise of protecting the privacy of customers when you clearly don’t care what your customers think or are concerned about in the first place?

Shame on you, Mozilla. Shame on you, Mitchell Baker. If you keep treating your customers like you don’t need them, they’ll probably end up not needing you pretty soon.


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