Posted April 18, 2008 9:29 am by with 16 comments

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Want to know the latest craze in radical transparency?

Calling out your competitor publicly, and embarrassing them into making a change.

Don’t believe me it works? The most recent example comes from the Mozilla’s public condemnation of a new practice by Apple–which sneakily installs the company’s Safari browser on Windows computers. Mozilla owns the Firefox browser and so its CEO, John Lilly, went public with his concerns over the practice.

The result? Apple has now changed the way it presents the Safari install, as you can see below:

I’m sure Apple didn’t make the change only because of Lilly’s public tongue-lashing–others complained too–but it does demonstrate how the governance of your reputation isn’t just in the hands of your stakeholders.

Mozilla doesn’t have a stake in Apple, but it does have a vested interest in the company’s reputation. So long as Apple plays by the generally accepted rules of the browser industry, Mozilla will keep quiet and face the competitor on a level playing field. However, as shown in this instance, once Apple breaks the rules, Mozilla has the right to cry foul and bring the infraction to the attention of everyone else that has an interest in Apple, Mozilla, and the browser industry.

So, what can you learn from this?

  1. Monitor your competitor’s every move. Not only do you need to know about its news and developments, you need to know when it’s breaking the rules.
  2. Think twice about your own actions. As we mention in Radically Transparent, there are many types of online detractors, and your competitor is one of them. Step out of line and you may only face criticism from your customers (a problem enough) but you might also find your competitor weighs-in–and it may have the ear of mainstream media.
  3. Don’t cave to competitor, only your customers. As a business owner, I wouldn’t advise acknowledging a change in your actions, because your competitor called you out. Instead, focus on what your stakeholders want and appease them. That might be in line with your competitors demands, but Apple shows it doesn’t have to be. The company did make changes to the way it installs Safari on a PC, but didn’t go as far with the changes as Mozilla would have liked. While Mozilla can call this “a good first stepm” it’s voice has pretty much been muffled. Apple compromised, and so Mozilla knows that to continue pressing for further changes, will only make it look like a whining competitor, rather than the guardian of industry standards.

Any other observations? You know where to leave them. Thanks!

  • Elections guy

    Mozilla has all industry standards now. Apple can’t fight with it.

    Elections guy’s last blog post..South Park: Canada On Strike

  • Seologia

    Saw this screen yesterday. Didn’t update since last time I updated a Mac App my iTouch was stripped from all my downloaded apps :(
    Maybe I should’ve read a little better before clicking that “Hell, yeah!” button. Oh, well.

    Seologia’s last blog post..Keyword research para armar una estrategia de SEO efectiva

  • Nicole

    This has been a win win situation for both the parties. So, why do anything further? Apple has shown grace, and Mozilla has made a point. Matter rests.

    Nicole’s last blog post..eBooks – Another Way to go Green!

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  • Paul Baranda

    Seems like Mozilla kept their pimp hand strong… SLAP! Great observations to keep your competitor in check.

    Paul Baranda’s last blog post..2 Simple Must Haves For Every Makeup Bag

  • Dude

    “This has been a win win situation for both the parties.”

    Both the parties, huh? What about… you know… what’s his name again… oh yeah, the user? From this perspective, nothing has changed, Software Update is still pestering people.

    You marketing gurus are a funny bunch. You care about perception, not about the user or customer.

  • A Mozilla contributor

    “Mozilla owns the Firefox browser”

    Wrong. Mozilla is a software and a project. There are also companies called Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation. Neither of them own Mozilla or Firefox. It’s written and owned by many people, and many are volunteers. Statements like these show a profound misunderstanding of Open Source and volunteer efforts in general. Not everything is a company or commercial interest.

  • Dan Villiom Podlaski Christiansen

    Mozilla does indeed own Firefox, or rather the brand. Distributing a browser under the Firefox trademark requires the browser build is approved and sanctioned by Mozilla.

    Dan Villiom Podlaski Christiansen’s last blog post..Neglect

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  • NextInstinct

    I saw in the adwords header of a Gmail inbox:

    “Apple eases aggressive software updates tactics”
    linking to the story,
    and figured;
    If you preach “We love the Open community”,
    and have the fanboys to show for it,
    you better get transparent.

    @ A Mozilla Contributor
    That’s tacitly understood in so far as it means anything.
    You’re parsing semantics in lieu of reality.
    Trust me, if I build out a hugely successful Firefox branded browser,
    I know just whom I’ll face in court.
    Mozilla “owns” Firefox.

  • Andy Beal

    @Nextinstinct – thanks for “You’re parsing semantics in lieu of reality.” I thought the same thing, but didn’t want to feed the troll. 😉

  • Jayson

    @Dude – I think the entire situation was about the user, a lot of Andy’s readers are marketing professionals (execs, business owners etc..), or they’re interested in marketing. Andy was probably just trying to post something his “users” would be interested in.

    Mozilla spoke out appropriately IMO – I know my mom would flip if she found something on her computer that she didn’t “knowingly” download!!

    The situation shows the power of publicity and the end result gives Mozilla a little more security.

  • Web Marketing Man

    Poor Apple…their browser is hardly popular, and now Mozilla, who owns about 30% of the search market, vs 60% for IE6 & 7, is picking on them! Would rather see Mozilla standing up to Microsoft and their bundled browsers.

  • Steven Bradley

    One thing I would suggest if you’re planning on calling out competitors about their mistakes is to not overdo it.

    If company A consistently points out the flaws in company B, at some point the perception is that company A is just a complainer. Company A could be right in its complaints 100% of the time, but they’ll still suffer some backlash.

    Use in moderation.

    Steven Bradley’s last blog post..Remarkable Is…

  • Andy Beal

    @Steven – I agree with you on that. Besides, companies should focus on their own strengths more than their competitors’ weaknesses.

  • Waleof Suous

    “Wrong. Mozilla is a software and a project. There are also companies called Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation. Neither of them own Mozilla or Firefox. It’s written and owned by many people, and many are volunteers. Statements like these show a profound misunderstanding of Open Source and volunteer efforts in general. Not everything is a company or commercial interest.”

    You are WRONG here. Firefox (the browser) and Gecko (the engine) are two different things. Mozilla owns Firefox just like Apple owns Safari. Mozilla doesn’t own Gecko just like Apple doesn’t own WebKit. Gecko is free, Firefox is not, it contains proprietary works. You should think more about the reason of Debian and others have to make IceWeasel and IceCat. Next time read the Mozilla EULA, Mozilla owns Firefox, period.