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Hack 100. Help with the Future of Firefox

Much of the work done to make Firefox successful is volunteer effort. You too can help.

The Firefox browser is the end result of thousands of people's contributions. People contribute because they think that it's a good idea, a worthy cause, or perhaps just an enjoyable activity. If you care to participate as well, this hack explains how.

9.11.1. Deciding

In Giving It Away: In Praise of Philanthropy (Scribe Publications), Denis Tracy says that happy volunteers and successful philanthropists take many different paths when contributing to their favorite causes. Applying his ideas, any contribution to Firefox or Mozilla will be a blend of the following elements:


The Mozilla Foundation and its regional affiliates are grateful for any subsidization of their electricity bills and salary costs. Make a donation or buy their stuff.


Life is meant to be lived, not lost. Spend your time on things that matter to you. If Firefox and the Web happen to be on your list, then tinker with them.


If you have buckets of energy and nowhere to put it, you might care to direct it Firefox's way or toward the upholding of a free and public standards-based Web. You may not need a crusade, but you may enjoy having a cause.

Skill and knowledge

If your own time is limited but your expertise is not, a drop of advice or guidance can turn a poorly organized or poorly informed participant into a productive Firefox contributor.


Enthusiasm is a catalyst for action, and it's also infectious. Ignite other people with your passion if you care about Firefox.

9.11.2. Contributing Engineering Effort

Here are some more concrete strategies for making a contribution. The good news is that you don't have to be a hardcore C++ programmer to participate. There are plenty of other ways to contribute. These are the big four areas where you can help turn Firefox into better code:


When Bugzilla bugs are first logged, they are sorted by the triage team to see if they are duplicates of existing bugs or indicate other problems. Some are closed right away, while others are demoted in priority or severity. All you need to do is log onto Bugzilla, query all bugs logged in the last week or day, and go to work.

You must apply for extra Bugzilla privileges (log a bug to get them) in order to be able to dispose of other people's bugs.

Quality assurance

Part of this work is the testing of fixed bugs and running regression tests for new releases. In general, there's a lot of product reality testing that developers don't get around to. Read the QA pages at, and start testing.

Test-case reduction

Logged bugs often produce poorly defined or overly complicated test cases. If you enjoy seeing software fail, a useful contribution is to take triaged bugs and boil down any supplied test cases to the essential minimum. That makes it a lot easier for the final bug fixer to locate the problem lines in the source code.

Writing code

If you happen to be hot on programming, feel free to fix things. Note, however, that all you can do is propose fixes; it's up to the peer review process to decide whether your fixes are suitable. You don't have to fix Firefox code specifically; you can also fix Bugzilla code or any of the other small systems that run the Mozilla web sites.

All these tasks have review functions as well; you can provide review of anything that goes on in the Mozilla community.

9.11.3. Contributing Organizational Effort

Outside the code, there's also lots to do.

Documentation and web page writing and editing is one large area for contribution. The Mozilla web site's documentation is a massive archive in constant need of updating and redesign. Once you have access, you can pull it from CVS. Third-party web sites that don't work properly with Firefox, because they're too old or too poorly made, need to be politely asked for an update. Inaccurate and ancient fan documents exist all over the Web, and their owners should be helped with updates. The same goes for the Firefox Help system.

Another form of web activity is to propagate the Firefox brand. If you're network-oriented or evangelical, you can spend your time persuading others to put Firefox iconography on their web sites. See for details.

The MozillaZine forums are bursting with people, new and old alike, and it's a simple matter to sit in those forums and contribute answers to questions. That's an easy way of spreading Firefox education.

In summary, anywhere that Firefox activity occurs helps the browser. If you can't find a place to contribute, make such a place yourself, with a web site or a local special interest groupwhatever you see fit to do. Give a copy to your family and friends.

9.11.4. Contributing Creative Effort

Some of the best Firefox innovations come from unguessed-at quarters. The popular Tabbed Browsing feature was originally an enthusiastic experiment by programmers not associated with the main Mozilla project. If you have lots of creative energy, set up your own project and do something unexpected. Your output contributes to the diversity of the Mozilla community.

9.11.5. Contributing Professional Effort

Firefox is an emerging global brand, and astute professionals outside the programming industry would do well to take notice. There are cross-promotion opportunities to be had by contributing to the Firefox brand. It's a matter of history that professionals from public relations, marketing, design, illustration, and law have all benefited in public profile and business from their association with Firefox and Mozilla. It's only a matter of time before other professionals seize a Firefox-related niche as well.

9.11.6. Being a Fan

The simplest contribution you can make to the Firefox browser is merely to use it. Sit back (or forward) and enjoy. After all, Firefox is there to make your life easier, not harder.

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