I actually am going to make a comment at the bottom of the comment section defending Pale Moon dropping support for Firefox extensions that aren’t specifically ported to Pale Moon after I post this, so I am not just saying what I am about to say out of a knee-jerk negative feeling about the browser, I’m trying to be objective (If you combine the two posts and average them out).
However, I do think there are issues with the public relations skills of both Tobin (Who’s issues are pretty obvious to anyone who has spent much time in an online community he’s been part of.) and MoonChild.
What I’m about to say about MoonChild (the project’s lead developer and copyright holder of the intellectual property assets of Pale Moon [name, logo, that sort of thing]) is something I don’t feel violates GHack’s rules against personal attacks because it is simply relaying a public stance he holds that he has repeatedly stated in his public capacity as the face (Figuratively speaking) of the Pale Moon project on Pale Moon’s official forums and has never (At least to my knowledge) retracted. He seems to think it’s an alright stance to take publicly, so it should be alright to discuss.
Since others have started to cover Tobin, I’ll just mention that MoonChild pretty vigorously asserted that anyone who wasn’t donating money to the project while using the browser was a “freeloader”.
It was talked out with him and he was given a bunch of opportunities to back off that stance gracefully or explain it away, and he declined to do so. It was brought up to him that maybe he shouldn’t include people who reported bugs, spread the word about the browser to other users, generated revenue through their search deals, and/or contributed code to the project in his “freeloader” category. He reaffirmed his stance anyway (With the possible exception of code contributors, he may have backed off counting them, but he definitely counted all the others as “freeloaders”).
Someone asked him, okay, fine, if you feel like the browser really needs more donations that badly, could he provide some basic financial information for the project like official expenditures, income to the project by general source (donations, seach deals, etc.- not asking for donors’ names or anything), and the salary he pays himself and/or others- just a small portion of the type of things that would be in any publicly traded company’s annual report, nothing too person to be in the sort of report that’s mandatory for larger companies that are structured a bit differently.
He declined to disclose any financial information for privacy reasons, but it was pointed to him that he was basically in a sense saying that someone who was dirt poor had a moral obligation to finance MoonChild’s salary if said person used the Pale Moon web browser, without knowing what that salary was that the CEO was getting and whether it was higher or lower than the salary of the person he was asking to donate on pain of otherwise being considered a “freeloader”, whether it seemed reasonable for a person of his skill set to get for doing what he was doing, and so on and so forth.
I would say that it wouldn’t have mattered if that type of information is disclosed or not if he had just said “Give if you want. The project depends on user support to continue, and donations allow me to work on it full time instead of as a hobby. I understand that not everyone can give money, though, and I’m glad you choose to use my web browser anyway.”. That would have been fine. Doesn’t really matter in that scenario what he makes off of it, how much money comes in to the project in general, or how much of the revenue goes back into paying project-related expenses. People where that’s as far as it goes are being offered a chance to help the people who provide software they enjoy, which is cool. People who don’t want to help out, want to help out in other non-financial ways, or who can’t afford it aren’t guilt tripped or insulted in that scenario. It’d just be an opportunity to give if you want- or not if you don’t (or can’t). That’s how most projects that offer the ability to donate approach it, and that’s alright in my book.
However, once he started insulting people who used a freely offered open-source web browser as freeloaders if they didn’t donate monetarily, even if they helped the browser in other ways, then I think it’s fair to ask for more information. Frankly, I don’t think calling your users free loaders is appropriate anyway. They’re not pirates. It’s offered from his official site as a free download. However it would be *less* offensive (albeit still a little bit) if he opened up the project’s finances and/or perhaps exempted more groups people from his broad categorization like people who make less than he does, people beneath the poverty line, or whatever.
That also made Pale Moon the only browser I know of that has gone on record and said, essentially, “If you don’t give us money, you’re a freeloader”. No other browser projects I know do that, including small ones that rely on donations in full or in part.
These guys at Pale Moon understandably really rub some people the wrong way, and I think it does limit their user base. Even some people for whom the browser may be perfect (or as good as other options) could be put off from trying it, or be put off from continuing to use it, if they feel like every time they open the thing it’s going to remind them of these really nasty thing one or more of the developers said about them or about other people.
When it comes to a browser, it’s features, security, user interface, customizability, extension support, and various other things matter, but I think what matters most, especially to a non-technical crowd, is how using the browser makes them feel. If the branding is off to the point where people really have significant issues with public comments from the top brass in their capacity as the top brass that make them feel less positive towards the browser, that probably does cost them users. Some people can ignore that stuff, but others can’t.