Mozilla, the creators of Firefox have been accused of ripping off the design from a site owned by design firm called Meta Lab Design for a UI mockup of Jetpack, a Development framework for Firefox Add-ons development.
The Next Web pointed out a blog post written by the Meta Lab team sarcastically titled as "Meta Labs Goes Open Source", which talked about the blatant design theft from Mozilla, including the images.
As you can see from the screenshots above, Mozilla completely ripped off the design for Jetpack from Meta Labs and put it up on their wiki. Incidentally, Meta Labs was had also bid to design the Jetpack site design and were rejected by Mozilla.
This is a definite embarrassment for Mozilla, who have a huge following and are the brains behind the second largest browser in the world. Quite sometime back, Microsoft too had to face a similar controversy where they were caught copying design and code from a Chinese social networking site, Plurk.
This makes me wonder, why these companies do not spare some time to hire proper UI designers so that they can get things done in-house, rather than having someone rip off someone else’s design and creating a controversy.
Update: Mozilla has clarified the design mockup’s and have also tendered an apology to MetaLab
At issue are early mockups for one of the Jetpack developer tools that included design elements from the MetaLab web site. While the design direction being implemented does not utilize these design elements, we inadvertently included the early mockups in our blog post and video announcing the next phase of development for the Jetpack SDK.
We’ve since removed all of the early mockups from our web sites, and updated the videos and screenshots with the correct content.
We sincerely apologize to MetaLab for incorporating design elements from their web site in our early mockups and for posting them publicly without proper attribution.
In many ways extensions are what defined Firefox and helped it carve out an identity for itself. Extensions are the reason why many early adopters and opinion makers switched to Firefox in the first place. And extensions continue to remain the reason why so many opinion makers and tech enthusiasts continue to swear by Firefox.
Firefox’s extensions are almost infinitely powerful and allow users to truly make the browser their own. However, extensions have their own disadvantages. First of all, developing and maintaining extensions for Firefox isn’t easy. Maintaining a popular extension requires significant amount of time and energy. The other problem is that, extensions have a considerable overhead and can be responsible for major issues including instability, UI quirks and memory leaks.
Google Chrome recently introduced their own extensions gallery, which was generally well received by both developers and users. Chrome’s extension architecture is a lot more restrictive than Firefox’s. While this potentially limits what you can achieve through extensions, there are several advantages. To begin with, Chrome’s extensions have little or no impact on browser performance. They are also significantly easier to develop and maintain.
Mozilla has been experimenting on similar lines with Personas and Jetpacks. Jetpack is basically an API which permits development of Firefox extensions using existing web technologies, while Personas are light-weight skins for Firefox. Mozilla hopes to significantly boost Firefox’s developer ecosystem by simplifying the development process.
Firefox Architect Mike Connor discussed the benefits of Personas and Jetpacks at length in a recent blog post. He also revealed that Firefox wishes to move away from extensions and emphasize more on Jetpacks in the future. However, don’t get worried. Your favorite extensions aren’t going to vanish all of a sudden. This is only a general direction Firefox wishes to take in the future. If and when, this change happens, most of your favorite add-ons should be already available on the new API.
It is likely that Mozilla has been contemplating on this switch for a long time. There are tradeoffs to be made. XUL overlays will have to go. Although Jetpack add-ons are faster and lighter they lack tight and polished integration with the UI. It’s not surprising that many Firefox fans resent even the suggestion of ditching the current extension architecture. However, the success of Google Chrome extensions has undoubtedly emboldened Firefox.