Cannot +1 hard enough.http://blog.gerv.net/2014/06/success-is-not-inevitable/
As a Googler, I'd phrase this in terms of our company's first principle: "Focus On The User". Mozilla's greatest chances for success, and for influencing the web, lie in making the products that best serve their users.
In the distant past -- before Firefox, in the days of the Mozilla Suite -- Mozilla seemed not only to not be focused on the user, but actively proud of not having an official "end-user product", as if making products was a dirty thing. Firefox changed all that, and I believe its initial laser focus on removing everything in the Suite that wasn't great for users led directly to its early success.
However, it's always been tempting for Mozilla to stop treating Firefox as a product to serve users, and start treating it as an idealistic expression of where the web should go, a way of leading by example. People hired to work at Mozilla have, in some cases, seemed to care more about what they believe the internet should be than what their users actually need and want.
Don't get me wrong here. I'm idealistic as well (one of the first pieces of advice I received after arriving at Google was "pick your battles", which offended me mightily), and I respect Mozilla for being an organization with principles. There's nothing inherently wrong with being principled or seeking to advance causes you believe are noble.
But Gerv is right here that success in advancing one's principles relies on having the influence to do so, and that in turn only comes from having successful Mozilla products. That means that, if for no other reason, Mozilla has to consider its users' needs carefully in order to continue to be relevant to the question of what the internet should look like.
We've seen this play out recently in Mozilla's decision to implement EME, something they believed was against their principles, but was necessary for their users. I'm not qualified to say whether those evaluations were correct, but assuming they WERE correct, Mozilla clearly made the right decision. And the many people who excoriated them for it largely did so without any apparent understanding of the fickle nature of influence and success.
At a deeper philosophical level, we idealists should ask: why, in the end, do we hold the principles we do? Isn't it because we believe they are better for everyone? Don't we strive to create the best possible world? And if so, doesn't it behoove us to continually listen to our users' needs and desires along the way, since it's ultimately for them and not just us that we act? If we place our principles in opposition to what our users want, are our principles really correct? Perhaps they are, but we need to be very careful to avoid arrogance and hubris (precisely the sorts of sins Google employees have often been accused of committing).
In the end, too many of us idealists are guilty of believing so firmly in our principles that we're convinced that, if only we state them clearly to the rest of the world, everyone will inevitably agree, awestruck by the supreme rightness of our viewpoints. Gerv's post is a good reminder that this simply isn't the case; that listening to others, picking one's battles, and having some humility is in the end the best way to actually make the world a better place.