This week Mozilla laid off one third of their workers. This (sadly) supports the claim that tech is right now not really capable of maintaining non-profit structures for their main services. Free software works quite well for backend, but not really for frontend.
I just stumbled upon this interesting piece of a guy who used to work for Mozilla. He characterized Mozilla with the focus on Firefox as comparable to Bell Labs or Xerox Parc, which were large research labs funded by an basically endless stream of money coming in from other sources. If we nowadays think of infinite money, we think of GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple). They also fund a lot of research or open source software and actually also develop a lot of open source software. The issue still is: they of course do not fund their competitors. Google, the company developing Chrome is mainly funding Mozilla!
So, what is going on? We do not see a lot of open source software that is directly distributed to end-users that is funded well. If you want to develop open source software, best develop a product that GAFA also needs, but maybe be cheaper for them than developing it themselves.
Second, we, the users are not used to pay for this kind of software. We came a long way to pay for entertainment in the internet, but we still refuse to pay for end-user software. Mozilla tried to get away from this, but they failed. Which is actually really bad considering that it is the only other browser, which is the program most of use most of our time on our computer. One of the few good examples for a foundation and financing of a website is Wikipedia, but actually, if you look at the numbers, the development of MediaWiki and hosting of servers is ten times cheaper than running a cutting edge web browser on several platforms that probably has more complexity than operating systems.
So, what do we need? We need people pay and support for free software. Free software means freedom, not free beer. We, as users should think about this and support these projects because they are at the end all we have against a monopolized web. Last week there was also an article about state funding of Mozilla. I think this might solve the problem short-term, but not long-term. If you have funding from a state, you still rely on one massive income of money. I think the way to go is to get more income streams and be less dependent on big donors, however the making users pay for Firefox is probably also a bad idea. It stays a tough issue, but we should make sure that Firefox will survive.