Samsung Internet at MozFest!

Last weekend, London hosted the 7th annual Mozilla Festival, “the world’s leading festival for the open internet movement”.

Our “Getting started with Virtual Reality for the web” session at MozFest (photo by Diego)

Set in the vast, airy floors of Ravensbourne College, so much goes on at a MozFest that it feels hard to describe — too easy to fall into a “you had to be there” refrain!

At the heart of MozFest’s vibe and culture is its inclusivity. Whereas other events may consider diversity and inclusivity as secondary to their major theme, at MozFest it’s the raison d’être. It’s the Open Internet and everyone participating cherishes that.

As part of this openness, anyone is free to propose and run a session at the event. Except for a few keynote talks, most of the sessions are not lectures — they are designed to get everyone involved. Group sessions, discussions and activities are the order of the day. As session facilitators, we were advised “don’t just consider what you can do for your participants, but what they can do for you!”. This sounds strange and back-to-front at first until you realise that it’s about getting input from everyone. Everyone can contribute.

My colleagues Ada, Diego and I ran two sessions: one on virtual reality for the web and one on progressive web apps.

For the WebVR session, we started with a few introductory slides and demos and then handed around cardboard VR viewers for people to try out.

We then encouraged the participants to create their own VR experience with A-Frame, making use of our demos, templates and on-hand advice to help. For those who didn’t have access to use/share a laptop, we had paper, pens, card and sticky tape for building paper prototypes instead. One of the teams constructed an amazing ski scene — I wish we had taken a photo of it!

For the progressive web apps session the next day we were joined by Salva de la Puente Gonzalez from Mozilla. It was brilliant to collaborate with a representative from another web browser — it helped us to make extra sure we were talking from the perspective of the web community as a whole.

Peter, Salva and Ada at our Progressive Web Apps session (photo by Diego)

We asked everyone at the beginning to write on post-it notes:

  • What are the best features of native apps?
  • What are the best features of websites?

Then we grouped them and started discussing them.

Web on the left, native on the right

Ada was in inspiring form, sharing how the web can already address nearly everything that people had written down in the ‘native’ category. Offline, fast loading, push notifications were all examples that are now misconceptions — we can do this stuff with the web!

We had prepared a few slides and resources for this session too but didn’t need them — the discussion flowed strongly, with lots of questions (each rewarded with a soft dinosaur toy, thanks Salva!) and great input from so many people. I hope everyone there enjoyed it as much as I did!

My other favourite part of MozFest was simply bumping into people around the venue — familiar faces, those I only knew via Twitter before, and amazing people I was meeting for the first time. MozFest is brilliantly diverse, but there’s one thing everyone has in common: passion for the web and protecting and nurturing it as a force for good.

It was genuinely a sad feeling saying goodbye to everyone at the end. What a lovely event and one that I’m proud we were involved in. Roll on MozFest 2017!