Pseudolocalization in Firefox

One of the core projects we did over 2017 was a major overhaul of the Localization and Internationalization layers in Gecko, and all throughout the first half of 2018 we were introducing Fluent into Firefox.

All of that work was “behind the scenes” and laid the foundation to enable us to bring higher level improvements in the future.

Today, I’m happy to announce that the first of those high-level features has just landed in Firefox Nightly!


Pseudolocalization is a technology allowing for testing the localizability of software UI. It allows developers to check how the UI they are working on will look like when translated, without having to wait for translations to become available.

It shortens the Test-Driven Development cycle and lowers the burden of creating localizable UI.

Here’s a demo of how it works:

How to turn it on?

At the moment, we don’t have any UI for this feature. You need to create a new preference called intl.l10n.pseudo and set its value to accented for a left-to-right, ~30% longer strategy, or bidi for a right-to-left strategy. (more documentation).

If you test the bidi strategy you also will likely want to switch another preference – intl.uidirection – to 1. This is because right now the directionality of text and layout are not connected. We will improve that in the future.

We’ll be looking into ways to expose this functionality in the UI, and if you have any ideas or suggestions for what you’d like to see, let’s talk!

Nitty-gritty details

Although the feature may seem simple to add, and the actual patch that adds it was less than 100 lines long, it took many years of prototyping and years of development to build the foundation layers to allow for it.

Many of the design principles of Project Fluent combined with the vision shaped by the L10n Drivers Team at Mozilla allowed for dynamic runtime locale switching and declarative UI localization bindings.

Thanks to all of that work, we don’t have to require special builds or increase the bundle size for this feature to work. It comes practically for free and we can extend and fine tune pseudolocalization strategies on fly.


If that feature looks cool, in the esoteric way localization and internationalization can, please, make sure to high-five the people who put a lot of work to get this done: Staś Małolepszy, Axel Hecht, Francesco Lodolo, Jeff Beatty and Dave Townsend.

More features are coming! Stay tuned.

Multilingual Gecko Status Update 2018.1

As promised in my previous post, I’d like to do a better job at delivering status updates on Internationalization and Localization technologies at Gecko at shorter intervals than once per year.

In the previous post we covered recent history up to Firefox 58 which got released in January 2018. Since then we finished and shipped Firefox 59 and also finished all major work on Firefox 60, so this post will cover the two.

Firefox 59 (March)

Firefox 58 shipped with a single string localized using Fluent. In 59 we made the next step and migrated 5 strings from an old localization system to use Fluent. This allowed us to test all of our migration code to ensure that as we port Firefox to the new API we preserve all the hard work of hundreds of localizers.

In 59 we also made several improvements to performance of how Fluent operates, all of that while waiting for the stylo-chrome to land in Firefox 60.

In LocaleService, we made another important switch. We replaced old general.useragent.locale and intl.locale.matchOS prefs with a single new pref intl.locale.requested.

This change accomplished several goals:

  • The name represents the function better. Previously it was pretty confusing for people as to why Gecko doesn’t react immediately when they set the pref. Now it is more clear that this is just a requested locale, and there’s some language negotiation that, depending on available locales, will switch to it or not.
  • The new pref is optional. Since by default it matches the defaultLocale, we can now skip it and just treat its non-presence as the default mode in which we follow the default locale. That allowed us to remove some code.
  • The new pref allows us to store locale lists. The new pref is meant to store a comma separated list of requested locales like "fr-CA, fr-FR, en-US", in line with our model of handling locale lists, rather than single locales.
  • If the pref is defined and the value is empty, we’ll look into OS for the locale to use, making it a replacement for the matchOS pref.

This is important particularly because it took us very long time to unify all uses of the pref, remove it from all around the code and finally be able to switch to the new one which should serve us much better.

Next come a usual set of updates, including update to ICU 60 by Andre, and cleanups by Makoto Kato – we’re riding the wave of removing old APIs and unifying code around ICU and encoding_rs.

Lastly, as we start looking more at aligning our language resources with CLDR, Francesco started sorting out our plural rules differences and language and region names. This is the first step on the path to upstream our work to CLDR and reuse it in place of our custom data.

Notable changes [my work] [intl]:

Firefox 60 (May)

Although Firefox 60 has not yet been released as of today, the major work cycle on it has finished, and it is currently in the beta channel for stabilization.

In it, we’ve completed another milestone for Fluent migrating not just a couple, but over 100 strings in Firefox Preferences from the old API. This marks the first release where Fluent is actually used to localize a visible portion of Firefox UI!

As part of that work, we pushed our first significant update of Fluent in Gecko, and landed a special chrome-only API to get Fluent’s performance on par with the old system.

With an increase in the use of Fluent, we also covered it with Mozilla eslint rules, improved missing strings reporting, and wrote an Introduction to Fluent for Firefox Developers.

On the Locale Management side, we separated out mozilla::intl::Locale class and further aligned it with BCP47.

But the big change here is the switch of the source of available locales from the old ChromeRegistry to L10nRegistry.

This is the last symbolic hand-over from the old model to the new, meaning that from that moment the locales registered in L10nRegistry will be used to negotiate language selection for Firefox, and ChromeRegistry becomes a regular customer rather than a provider of the language selection.

We’re very close to finalize the LocaleService model after over a year of refactoring Gecko!

Regular healthy number of cleanups happened as well. Henri switched more code to use encoding_rs, and updated encoding_rs to 0.7.2, Jeff Walden performed a major cleanup of our SpiderMonkey Intl source code, Andre added caches for many Intl APIs to speed them up and Axel updated compare-locales to 2.7,

We also encountered two interesting bugs – Andre dove deep into ICU to fix `Intl.NumberFormat` breaking on roundings in Persian, and I had to disable some of our bidirectionality features in Fluent due to a bug in Windows API.

Notable changes [my work] [intl]:


With all that work in, we’re slowly settling down the new APIs and finalizing the cleanups and the bulk of work now is going directly into switching away from DTD and .properties to Fluent.

As Firefox 60 is getting ready for its stable release, we’re accelerating the migration of Preferences to Fluent hoping to accomplish it in 61 or 62 release. Once that is completed, we’ll evaluate the experience and make recommendations for the rest of Firefox.

Stay tuned!

Multilingual Gecko in 2017

The outline

In January 2017, we set the course to get a new localization framework named Fluent into Firefox.

Below is a story of the work performed on the Firefox engine – Gecko – over the last year to make Fluent in Firefox possible. This has been a collaborative effort involving a lot of people from different teams. It’s impossible to document all the work, so keep in mind that the following is just the story of the Gecko refactor, while many other critical pieces were being tackled outside of that range.

Also, the nature of the project does make the following blog post long, text heavy and light on pictures. I apologize for that and hope that the value of the content will offset this inconvenience and make it worth reading.

Continue reading “Multilingual Gecko in 2017”

All Hands On Deck – How you can use your skills to contribute to Firefox 57 success

Firefox 57 in making

If you’ve been following Firefox development over the last year, you probably know that we’re hard at work on a major refactor of the browser, codenamed Quantum.

It’s been a very exciting and challenging time with hundreds of engineers bringing to life new concepts and incorporating them into our engineGecko. Those refactors, which will culminate in the release of Firefox 57, touch the very foundation of our engine and require massive changes to it.

We’ve moved the whole engine from a single to multi-process model which is perhaps the hardest possible refactor a major piece of software can go through. We’ve added a whole new systems level programming language, and we’re replacing major components of the engine such as styling and rendering systems. There are substantial changes to our networking layer and security layers as well as completely new components like a new extension ecosystem, virtual reality stack and APZ. We’ve added another new programming language as part of our JS engine and significantly remodeled our build process and infrastructure allowing for quick feature testing, telemetry analysis to understand how our changes impact users and many, many more things.

The changes are massive. This is the largest refactor to Gecko and Firefox in my 17 years of contributing to the project. But we’re not done yet…

Continue reading “All Hands On Deck – How you can use your skills to contribute to Firefox 57 success”

One year with the Firefox OS L10n framework

For several years now, the Localization team at Mozilla has been working on a modern localization framework based on the following set of principles and architectural choices that we consider fundamental for the next generation multilingual UI’s.

  • Principle 1: Localizers should be in control of translations. The localization framework should be grammar-agnostic, whether it’s about grammatical cases, genders, or tenses.  Localizers should be able to use the entire expressive power of their language to author translations which create the best experience for the users.
  • Principle 2: Language fallback should be robust and graceful. When a translation is missing or broken the user should be presented with a translation into the next best language, given their preferences. There might be more than one fallback language.
  • Principle 3: Translations should be isolated and asymmetric if needed. The source language of the application should not define structure of the translations (e.g. the lack of pluralization in English should not make it impossible for other languages to use plurals in a given message).
  • Principle 4: The framework should embrace the Web. Localization should react to changes of the runtime environment (e.g. resizing of the app’s window, change of orientation, incrementation of a number of unread messages) and should add as little overhead for developers as possible.

Exactly one year ago, on April 8th 2014, Stas landed the initial rewrite of l10n.js – the localization framework used in Firefox OS. This set us on the path to enable the vision of a modern localization framework driven by the design principles outlined above.

Since then, we have a dedicated, two person team, working full time on advancing this vision and learning how to improve upon it in the process.

The full year of work has resulted in many important features being developed for the platform, including:

  • Language packs: Small packages that decouple language resources from the application allowing us to extend language coverage dynamically when users request it, even after the device has been already released on the market.
  • Pseudo-locales: Programmatically built language resources that emulate different languages allowing developers to test their applications for any multilingual problems before localizers have time to provide translations
  • Asynchronous l10n: Major shift away from using synchronous API’s for retrieving localizations from JavaScript. This results in clean, condition race free code that is easier to write and maintain. It also sets us on the path to enable runtime language fallback.
  • Security: While not traditionally big thing in localization, having an open runtime ecosystem of localizations requires us to make sure that translations cannot accidentally or maliciously impact our code and break it.
  • Error reporting: We’ve made major advancements to help developers and localizers find potential errors early. We reject malformed strings, report missing strings and duplicates, recover from exceptions in our code.

A couple weeks ago we have finalized the work scheduled for Firefox OS 2.2 and begun development for the next major release. The clean and reliable API has given us a good base to start implementing the remaining components of the vision behind L20n in this cycle.

For the current cycle we have scheduled:

  • DOM Overlays: Ability for a localizer to use HTML syntax in their translations and also provide whole localized DOM Fragments to be merged with developer provided skeletons via a secure algorithm. This increases the system’s security and empowers localizers to provide better translations.
  • L20n format: One of the last remaining pieces of the puzzle is the new file format that is designed to store localization data like multivariant strings, entities with values and attributes and variant selectors. This will allow us to start introducing new features to the system that are impossible using the current data storing formats.
  • Lightweight l10n contexts: Together with the whole platform, we want to make a heavier use of the concept of multiple small localization contexts to replace the single-context-per-app approach. It will improve performance and isolation resulting in easier maintenance.
  • API 3.0: Our current API still contains remaining pieces from the old, synchronous API that we’d like to remove. Together with lightweight contexts and on the path to WebAPI we will want to make sure to organize our events, methods and objects to fit the design of other W3C APIs.

With ever-growing understanding of the environment and how the web stack matures, we are also getting close to start extracting the core of our framework to offer for standardization, and that’s an exciting opportunity to fulfill the vision of both Firefox OS and L20n and bring the modern localization framework to the whole web, making it more multilingual and global.

Stas & Zibi

Reducing MozL10n+Gaia technical debt in Firefox OS 2.1 cycle

Firefox OS is becoming a more mature platform, and one of the components that is maturing with it is the mozL10n library.

In 2.0 cycle, which is already feature complete, we introduced the codebase based on the L20n project.

The 2.1 cycle we’re currently in is a major API cleanup effort. We’re reviewing how Gaia apps use mozL10n, migrating them to the new API and minimizing the code complexity.

Simplifying the code responsible for localizability of Firefox OS is crucial for our ability to maintain and bring new features to the platform.

There are four major areas we’re working on:

  • mozL10n.translate – with introduction of Mutation Observer, we want to phase out manual DOM translation calls.
  • mozL10n.localize – this function is extremely hard to maintain and does enough “magic” to confuse devs.
  • mozL10n.get – manual l10n gets are the biggest cause of bugs and regressions in our code. They are synchronous, not retranslatable and badly misused
  • mock_l10n – many apps still use custom MockL10n class in tests, some even use real MozL10n code in tests. This makes testing harder to maintain and develop new l10n features.

We’re working on all four areas and would love to get your help.

No matter if you are a Gaia app owner, or if you’ve never wrote a patch for Gaia. If you know JavaScript, you can help us!

All of those bugs have instructions on how to start fixing, and I will be happy to mentor you.

We have time until October 13th. Let’s get Gaia ready for the next generation features we want to introduce soon! 🙂

Localization framework changes in Firefox OS 2.0 and plans for 2.1

On Monday we branched Firefox OS 2.0 which is the first branch to contain a new localization library that has been developed by my team.

What landed for 2.0

Library landing and reactions

The library itself landed exactly two months ago. In order to avoid any potential regressions, we’ve put a lot of work to ensure that it matches the behavior of the old code that it replaced. I believe we can now claim a success, because with two months of baking on master we didn’t get any serious regressions that would require us to change anything in our code.

The new library comes with a lot of unit tests and is stricter than the old code, so we had to fix a couple of small bugs where code has been passing an object instead of a string to our API and one related to one test failing on old machine with too little memory. That’s been simple to catch and fix.

We also got a few requests to improve the console log output and error output that the library produces in order to simplify developers work.

New features


The major new thing that Stas completed in this cycle is the support for pseudo-locales. While this could be done with the old code, it was significantly easier with the new code thanks to some architectural decisions like separation of buildtime and runtime code.

Pseudo-locales allow developers to evaluate their UI’s localizability against an artificially generated english-like locale to catch any hardcoded strings. It also generates right-to-left locale for testing purposes. Before that, we’ve been relying on often outdated localizations that we kept with our source code. Now we can always test against fully generated pseudo localization.

mozL10n.once wrapper

Another new feature is the introduction of mozL10n.once wrapper. We identified that a lot of Gaia apps are waiting for localization to be ready before they initialize themselves. That makes sense since a lot of those apps want to work with UI and localized strings, but the challenge in asynchronous world is that you never know if your code has been fired after or before mozL10n is ready.

Because of that, simply setting an event listener and waiting for window.onlocalized event is not enough (what if it already has fired before your code was launched?). Developers were using mozL10n.ready wrapper, but the problem with that is that is has been designed to re-fire on reach retranslation which meant that your init code has been fired every time user changed language. That’s not an intended behavior, but admittedly a rare one. What’s worse is that we retained all the init code in memory.

Now, with mozL10n.once we can safely initialize code when l10n resources are available and free the memory right after that.

Uses of l10n API

On top of adding new features, we’ve been mostly busy investigating and improving how the default Firefox OS apps interact with localization API. That led to multiple design decisions including introduction of the described above mozL10n.once.

Once we got the new wrapper, we started analyzing bootstrapping code of each and every Gaia app and updating it to use the proper L10n API. Twenty two fixed bugs later, we’re done!

It’s incredible how much we were able to accomplish in just two short months. We feel much better right now about the bootstrap process and we have a clear picture on what we want to do next.

Use new navigator.languages API

Thank’s to Mounir’s work on navigator.languages API and implementation we were able to remove the only Mozilla specific API in mozL10n. That means that mozL10n should work in any modern browser now!

What we’re working on for 2.1

2.1 will be as ambitious for us as 2.0 was. The hashtag of the work is still #cleanup, but now it’s much more about modifying our API so that it’s more transparent to developers and requires less manual code in their apps.

entity.attributes become node attributes

First thing we were able to land is the transition away from assigning l10n entity attributes as node properties. We cleaned up the hacks that have been used and switched to entity attributes as node attributes.

DOM overlays

Next, we have one leftover from the previous change and that is an infamous innerHTML. We currently don’t have any clear way to inject localizable DOMFragment in Gaia. Fortunately, we have one that fits perfectly in L20n. It’s called DOM Overlays, and we’re working on getting them into mozL10n. That will allow us to further secure L10n API and remove any innerHTML calls.

Mutation Observers

Majority of localizability code in Gaia apps is related to localization of DOM nodes. With Mutation Observers we will be able to significantly reduce the amount of manual calls to mozL10n API and make majority of calls be just about settings data-l10n-id attribute with Mutation Observers doing the rest.

Not only will it reduce the use cases of mozL10n.translate and mozL10n.localize, but I expect to be able to cut by over 50% the number of manual mozL10n.get calls and manual operations that are currently used to set the result of that call into the node.

Mutation Observers will simplify Gaia code, reduce the amount of bugs related to language switching and get us closer to runtime l10n API that we want to offer for Gecko.


There are still some interesting edge cases around how code boostrapping relies on particular pieces of environment. Does your code need DOM to be interactive? Does it need l10n resources to be loaded? Or maybe you need DOM to be localized? All those events happen asynchronously and we currently do not have a clean way to guard against any combination of those that your init code may require.

We’re working on a bootstrapping wrapper that will allow app developers to simply define which pieces of environment should their initialization be blocked by.

That will further secure the app boostrapping process and limit the risk of condition races.


One part of the bootstrap puzzle is how we fire event when certain bootstrap things happen. Right now we fire window.onlocalized event that means that mozL10n resources have been loaded, but doesn’t tell us anything about if document’s DOM has been localized (and is ready to be displayed).

With the work on the new event, we’ll be able to remove the global one, and settle on triggering on event on document and one on mozL10n object. Did I tell you that we’re still cleaning up? 🙂

Move mozL10n to document

We originally placed mozL10n object as a property on navigator object. Because our API is transitioning to be per-document, it becomes an inconsistency and an obstacle to keep mozL10n API on navigator object. It hardly fits the world with iframes, ShadowDOM and HTML Templates. We’re going to move it to document.mozL10n.

Remove inline l10n

One of the built time optimizations that we have in Gaia is called inline l10n. We store some portion of the l10n resources within each HTML file in order to localize the UI before it is displayed. It’s not very scalable, costs us memory and performance, but historically helped us prevent flashes of untranslated content. We hope to be able to remove this optimization in this cycle which will significantly simplify our internal code and give us some small memory and performance wins.

Is this L20n yet?

While we introduce L20n concepts into mozL10n, we’re still pretty far from being able to say that we support L20n API in Gaia. There’s a lot of work to do and it’s going to be a challenging work as we port L20n concepts to Gaia, and merge lessons we learned while working on Gaia into L20n spec and implementation. What we hope to end up with is a single codebase used in Gaia and offered to web developers.

It’s an exciting journey and I’m so happy to make Firefox OS’s localizability the most modern among all OSes!

Wymyślanie Sieci na nowo

poniższy post jest tłumaczeniem postu Mitchell Baker “Reinventing the Web

W zaledwie 20 lat Sieć stała się jedną z najważniejszych infrastruktur współczesnego życia. Dziś dostrzegamy szansę, by Sieć, przez kolejny skok, stała się jeszcze bardziej użyteczna, przyjemniejsza, by otworzyła nowe szanse przed biznesem i mogła lepiej służyć celom społecznym.

Wyobraź sobie bogactwo i wolności Sieci płynnie zintegrowane w urządzeniach mobilnych. Wyobraź sobie, że to wszystko działa i to działa niezależnie od tego czy używasz aplikacji do specjalnego celu czy przeglądarki by odkryć swoją własną drogę.

Wyobraź sobie, że pobierasz aplikację i ona działa na wielu urządzeniach, niezależnie od jakich producentów pochodzą. Wyobraź sobie, że możesz wybrać czy chcesz kontaktować się z dostawcą aplikacji bezpośrednio czy przez Apple, Google albo Microsoft.

Wyobraź sobie, że masz wybór tego kto kontroluje Twoją tożsamość. Logujesz się na stronę i wszystko co zrobiłeś w sieci staje się dostępne dla świata? A może logujesz się i tylko to co Ty uznasz za publiczne staje się dostępne dla świata?

Wyobraź sobie poczucie bezpieczeństwa kiedy jesteś online – kto cię śledzi, kto sprzedaje informacje o tobie, kto cię chroni i jak możesz ochronić siebie sam.

Wyobraź sobie, że rozumiesz Sieć, poczucie kompetencji by robić rzeczy, by zmieniać te które istnieją i tworzyć kolejne, które spełniają twoje potrzeby. Wyobraź sobie, że uczenie się Sieci jest fajne i wykracza poza świat programistów obejmując zwykłych ludzi.

Mozilla tworzy ten świat. Mamy jego wizję, architekturę, technologie i plany produktów. Te produkty tworzymy właśnie teraz. Mamy zasoby finansowe, by zrealizować te cele. To ekscytujący i bardzo produktywny okres. Spójrz w nasz raport roczny, aby zobaczyć co zrobiliśmy i co jest na horyzoncie. Dołącz do nas, by razem budować ten świat.

L20n command-line toolchain

While we do hope that most of the work around l20n installations will have visual, GUI web tools, we also recognize that it’s important to provide simple, robust command-line tools that will cover the entire workflow.

For the l20n workflow to happen, we want to have a complete command-line toolchain that will automate common tasks required to operate and maintain localizations.

Behind this toolchain we provide a powerful API that localization and release tools will use, but the first consumer of those API will be the command-line based environment for l20n.

For this toolchain, we have three personas in mind:

  • a localizer
  • release driver
  • developer


Localizer should be able to start a new localization, stay informed about the status/completeness of his localization and have easy way to learn about updates. On top of that, he should be aided in navigating through the changes like new, modified or removed entities, get help in maintaining his localization between releases and work with the build team on marking which localization version is ready to be shipped.

Initially we want to provide four elements that will enable this:

  • on demand activated shell prompt customization that will provide contextual information while the localizer navigates around the l10n project
  • bootstrap command that will help initialize a new localization sandbox for a project
  • set of diagnosis tools like validator, completness check and localization status, all of which will analyze given localization and provide detailed information or what remains for the localization to be completed
  • an automated update tool that will help localizer keep the localization structure in shape, helping adding new strings, removing obsolete and provide information on the updated ones

The latter two concepts are powerful, and we have to be very careful when we design them. Each operation may harm the system, since we can easily loose the ability to review changes made by localizers in VCS history view if we apply changes that the localizer did not work on, or we can hide from the localizer the contextual information by removing entities that became obsolete, but their value has been reused in a new entity added just next to the old one.

All this kind of stuff has to be taken into account and we want to aim for a balance between simplifying day-to-day localization work, and maintaining VCS friendliness and sense of control that a localizer must have over his localization project.

Release driver

As with a localizer, we want to provide methods to automate common tasks, like selecting locales for a release, learning about status and progress of multiple locales at once, accepting new locales from localizers and batch updating locales with changes.

In order to achieve that, we want to provide:

  • a custom shell prompt that will aid release driver while he navigates between localization projects
  • scripts that will make it easy to analyze the status of localizations and validate them
  • tools that will allow release driver to maintain the list of locales and their version, to be released with a given version of the product
  • a script that will take a small “l10n patch” like a number of new entities, or value changes, and apply it across multiple locales


For the developer, we want to make sure that it’s easy to make his code localizable and maintain it that way.

This means that we want to make it easy to add new entities manually and verify that they work with tests, that we can extract entities from code where possible (like – XML), and it’s easy to spot hardcoded strings.

For this, we plan to provide the following tools:

  • a validator that outputs unit-test readable outcome statuses, so that unit-tests can be written against localizable code
  • an extractor for simple extracting and maintenance. The extractor should be able to help developer clean l10n files by removing strings that are no longer used in the code.
  • a tool that generates dummy test locale which enables the developer to visually find hardcoded strings

We want to make the whole environment project independent by allowing each project to define how process like bootstrapping, extracting should exactly work, where the l10n resources are stored and others.

The first set of tools will be aimed to help localizers, then we’ll work on tools for release managers and developers will come after that.

We’re in the process of writing API’s and designing the syntax for those commands. You can find the document with a proposal and the current source code here.

“Definiowanie własności” autorstwa Paula Grahama

Marzec 2012

Jako dziecko przeczytałem książkę z opowieściami o słynnym osiemnastowiecznym sędzim z Japonii o imieniu Ooka Tadasuke. Jedna ze spraw które rozsądzał została wniesiona przez właściciela baru z jedzeniem. Biedny student, który mógł tylko pozwolić sobię na ryż, jadł go, jednocześnie delektując się zapachami z kuchni dochodzącymi z tego baru. Właściciel chciał, by student zapłacił za zapachy, które dawały mu przyjemność. Student kradł jego zapachy!

Ta historia przypomina mi się za każdym razem, gdy słyszę o RIAA i MPAA oskarżających ludzi o kradzież muzyki i filmów.

Brzmi dla nas absurdalnie, by traktować zapachy jako własność. Ale mogę wyobrazić sobie sytuację, w której ktoś mógłby żądać opłat za zapachy. Wyobrażcie sobie, że żyjemy w bazie na księżycu, gdzie powietrze sprzedawane jest na litry. Mogę sobie wyobrazić dostawców powietrza dodających aromaty za dodatkową opłatą.

Powód, dla którego wydaje nam się absurdalne, by traktować zapachy jako własność wynika z tego, że taki system by nie działał. Na bazie księżycowej jednak, mógłby.

To co jest uznawane za własność zależy od tego co jesteśmy zdolni uznać za własność. A to nie tylko może się zmieniać, to się zmienia. Ludzie zawsze (dla pewnych definicji człowieka i zawsze) traktowali małe obiekty noszone przez osobę za własność. Ale ludy zbieracko-łowieckie nie traktowały ziemi, na przykład, jako własności w takim rozumieniu jak my. [1]

Powodem, dla którego tak wiele ludzi uznaje, że własność ma jedną, niezmienialną definicję, jest to, że ta definicja zmienia się bardzo wolno. [2] Tak się jednak składa, że znajdujemy się właśnie w środku takiej przemiany. Koncerny muzyczne i studia filmowe dystrybuowały to co tworzyły jak powietrze przez tuby na stacji księżycowej. Ale wraz z nadejściem sieci, przenieśliśmy się na planetę, której atmosferą możemy oddychać. Dane przenoszą się teraz jak zapachy. Koncerny i wytwórnie, przez połączenie myślenia życzeniowego i krótkoterminowej zachłanności, ustawiły się w pozycji tego właściciela baru, oskarżając nas wszystkich o kradzież ich zapachów.

(Powodem dla którego używam określenia “zachłannośc krótkoterminowa” jest fakt, że prawdziwym problemem z wytwórniami i studiami jest to, że ludzie, którzy nimi kierują są wynagradzani premiami, a nie akcjami. Gdyby byli nakręcani akcjami swoich firm, szukali by sposobów by wykorzystać przemianę technologiczną, zamiast walczyć z nią. Ale tworzenie nowych rzeczy trwa zbyt długo. Ich premie zależą od przyszłorocznych przychodów, a najlepszym sposobem by je podnieść jest wyciągnięcie więcej kasy z tego co już robią.)

Co to znaczy? Czy ludzie nie mają prawa, by naliczać za to co tworzą? Na takie pytanie nie istnieje prosta odpowiedź typu tak lub nie. Ludzie mają prawo naliczać za kontent kiedy naliczanie za kontent działa.

Ale przez “działa” mam na myśli coś bardziej subtelnego niż “kiedy im się uda”. Mam na myśli kiedy ludzie mogą naliczać za kontent bez zakładania kaftanów bezpieczeńśtwa na całe społeczeństwa, by móc to zrobić. Ostatecznie, firmy sprzedające zapachy na księżycu mogłyby nadal to robić na Ziemi, gdyby udało im się lobbingowo wymusić prawa zmuszające nas wszystkich do oddychania przez ich tuby także tutaj, choć nie jest nam to już konieczne.

Szalone kroki prawne, które podejmują te wytwórnie i studia właśnie tak wyglądają. Gazety i magazyny mają podobnie przerąbane, ale one przynajmniej odchodzą z wdziękiem. RIAA i MPAA zmusiłyby nas do oddychania przez tuby gdyby mogły.

Ostatecznie, wszystko sprowadza się do rozsądku. Kiedy naruszasz system prawny przez próbę wykorzystywania masowych pozwów przeciwko losowo wybranym ludziom jako formy przykładowego ukarania, albo lobbujesz za przepisami, które zepsułyby Internet gdyby udało się je przeforsować, to jest to ipso facto dowód, że używasz definicji własności która nie działa.

To właśnie w tym miejscu okazuje się, że fajnie mieć działające demokracje w wielu niezależnych krajach. Gdyby świat miał jeden, autokratyczny rząd, wytwórnie i studia mogłyby kupować prawa definiujące własność jako cokolwiek by chciały. Ale na szczęście są wciąż na świecie kraje, które nie są koloniami praw autorskich Stanów Zjednoczonych, a nawet w USA, politycy nadal obawiają się obywateli, jeśli tych zbierze się wystarczająco dużo. [3]

Ludzie, którzy rządzą USA mogą nie być zachwyceni kiedy obywatele lub inne kraje odmawiają nagięcia się do ich woli, ale ostatecznie leży to w naszym interesie, aby nie istniał jeden punkt, który ludzie chcący opakować prawo, by służyło ich interesom, mogliby zaatakować. Własność prywatna jest niesamowicie potrzebną ideą – możliwe, że jednym z największych wynalazków. Dotychczas, każda jej nowa definicja przynosiła nam rosnące bogactwo materialne. [4] Wydaje się być rozsądnym, by założyć, że najnowsza też to uczyni. Byłoby katastrofalne gdybyśmy wszyscy musieli korzystać z przestarzałej wersji tej definicji, tylko dlatego, że kilku potężnych ludzi jest zbyt leniwych, aby przejść na nowszą.


[1] Jeśli chcesz dowiedzieć się więcej o ludach zbieracko-łowieckich, polecam książkę Elizabeth Marshall Thomas “The Harmless People” oraz “The Old Way“.

[2] Zmiana w definicji własności jest zazwyczaj wynikiem postępu technicznego, a ponieważ postęp techniczny przyspiesza, można założyć, że tempo zmian w definicji własności również. To zaś oznacza, że tym ważniejsze jest dla społeczeństw, by mogły łagodnie reagować na te zmiany, ponieważ będą one następować coraz szybciej.

[3] Z tego co wiem pojęcie “kolonia praw autorskich” (ang. copyright colony) zostało użyte po raz pierwszy przez Mylesa Petersona.

[4] Stan technologii nie jest wyłącznie funkcją definicji własności. Każde z nich zawiera się w drugim. Ale pomimo tego, nie możesz mieszać w definicji własności bez wpływania na (i prawdopodobnie szkodzenia) stanowi technologii. Historia ZSSR daje nam żywy przykład iluistrujący taką sytuację.

autor: Paul Graham
tłumaczenie: moje (wersja do edycji)