The Uncertain Future of MDN

Mozilla laid off about 250 people yesterday, as announced in this smarmy, crisis-chic blog post. It’s come out on Twitter and elsewhere that the teams hardest hit—as in, absolutely decimated—include the writers for MDN, easily the best documentation set for the web’s core languages and APIs, and the team behind Firefox’s Dev Tools.

Exactly how this will impact MDN or the dev tools in Firefox remains to be seen, but Peter-Paul Koch is right on the money about how the “cult of the free” (as in beer), which arguably doomed Mozilla long ago, needs to die:

Small company gives away software for free. Large companies give away the same software for free, and to them the cost is essentially peanuts, and they own the platforms the [software] runs on. Therefore small company will lose, decreasing diversity in the browser market. Simple as that.

For my own part, I’ve pretty much stopped using any new mission-critical and even mission-pretty-important “free” tools. If I can’t find a donate button, or if I can’t subscribe or purchase a license, I move on.

MDN is absolutely mission-critical for both my own development work and the courses I teach. I wish so badly that MDN had hit up its user base the way that Wikipedia does with its own PBS-style pledge drives. I would have gladly paid—and I say that even as a fairly frequent contributor to MDN myself.

But now even that goodwill is gone, at least for the moment, because of the employees that Mozilla has screwed over and the developer community that it is absolutely taking for granted.