A Tale of Two Perspectives Or Two Web Giants Prove Once and For All Star Rating Systems Suck

First two reviews on in Google Play Store for Mozilla’s Webmaker

Mozilla’s Webmaker app just exited Beta recently and users across the globe have the ability to publish content, licensed for re-use, free of silos. Most importantly a community of volunteers lead localization efforts for the Webmaker App. Now people who have never used the web do not face the tyranny of a monolinguistic web.

Naturally the reviews poured in. I checked Google Play store and can’t lie I chuckled when I read Kevin Marks’s review. It is a classic from the thinker who called infographics a plague.

Across the way Chris Lawerence, Vice President of Mozilla Learning Networks, left a five star review. In fact most of the early reviews of the App came from paid contributors. Nothing new in the world of app reviews.

So we have one review influenced by an employee and one review influenced by a deep commitment to marking up content on the web. Yet anyone who has spoken to Chris or listened to Kevin Marks knows they both share the same goal of keeping the Web open and free.

(The answer of course lies somewhere in the middle...(5+1)/2=3, maybe star reviews work after all.)

I followed the nightlies for webmaker for quite some time. Feature after proposed feature was stripped (read Stefan’s review for some background and a critique similar to Kevin’s). The focus became laser like on localization.

I must admit when I opened webmaker for the first time I thought, “we are losing Popcorn for this?” It’s just another slide deck, but I dug deeper into some of the motivations. Mozilla, like everyone had to go mobile first.

The Growing Web

While development on Webmaker continued the Mozilla Foundation embarked on an ambitious research project. Lead by Laura de Renyal the team documented the web journey in developing markets like Kenya and India.

Some of the key findings: an English only Web threatens the open Web. In an English only web denies many people, especially disadvantaged classes, the opportunity to even use the web.

Furthermore social networks threatened to quarantine developing markets into content silo that left few options to write the web, let alone control your data. For much of the world Facebook=Internert.

In the last two years Mozilla Foundation has invested heavily in the next two billion coming online. People in places far flung from Silicon Valley needed the ability to create content available on the web in their own language.

Make no mistake the goal is just as much about Mozilla’s future as it is the goal of universal web literacy. Firefox, even with the recent slate of public Chrome abandonment is losing browser share in a desktop browser market that is shrinking. Furthermore Android controls 91% of the marketshare in India. If Firefox as a mobile browser or FirefoxOS does not get installed by a enough of the next billions online much of this effort will be for naught. Mozilla is a non-profit, but a non-profit dependent on advertising revenue and fundraising.

So the product and the mission have to align. One lesson I learned being involved in a variety of open source projects that cross over into the education field: product and mission have to align. I begrudgingly accept that this also includes brand alignment. When you look at images from makerparty or read the Linkedin pages of contributors being associated with Mozilla brings social capital to places and people that desperatley need it.

One of these missions for Mozilla is to preserve an open web for makers new and old. The Webmaker app focuses on the new. Stefan and Kevin are right. The current version of webmaker isn’t yet “webby” enough. Yet if you read the roadmap for the Webmaker app you see a unified version that allows users to get their code. I am hoping for a “send my project to Thimble” button (The upcoming re-release of Thimble, built on top of a Bramble backbone, is kick ass but that’s for a different post).

Webmaker might just be a remixable and localized slide deck on a mission. And for now that is what the world needs to #teachtheweb.