This is really more a story about software developers and our mindsets (good and bad) than it is about Pixar, per se, but as I said, its almost timely :)
A few years ago, a few friends and I were at SIGGRAPH, and we attended the Ray Tracing Roundup (yes, yes, I know, we are tres cool - you know you wanna hang with us). This was still in the early(ish) days of 3D HW acceleration; it was around and games were doing a lot with it, but it was still new and a lot of the discussion was about software v. hardware - scanline renderers v. raytracers, etc.
The folks from Pixar, of course, were the dudes - they did a lot of pontificating, mostly on point, but definitely were the center of attention. At some point someone (else) argued that software stuff was more flexible, allowed for more differentiation, more tricks and specialization etc. (These days, of course, its all software - just a question of which processor in your PC is best for the task at hand ;P)
The Pixar guys went into a big long diatribe about physical correctness, the importance of research and specs and physics and light - blah blah, and - in support - some guy from ART started describing how they had followed the Pixar spec, had implemented a raytracer in HW, that procedural graphics could be HW accelerated, etc - kind of a Turing complete argument for 3d.
If there's one thing engineers probably dislike more than being disagreed with, its being agreed with :)
So one of the Pixar guys - no names required - truthfully, we've all been there; stick with me - you'll see... so one of the Pixar guys then proceeds to just dismember the guy. They've learned so much over the last 10 years, graphics has come so far, the spec is stale, what were they thinking (kinda just generally missing the point - which was NOT about specs IMHO but programmability - but that's ALSO neither here nor there).
This continued for a long enough period that I still recall the increasing embarrasment we all felt for the ART developer...
And then, from the back of the room, a somewhat quiet, tad bit nebbishy guy stands up (who turns out to be Dan Ward - sorry Dan :)) - and says the following:
"If I understand correctly, what you're saying is that over time things change and progress - we all learn a lot and grow, but the one thing that stayed constant is that you're still right."
HAH - point. The room exploded - it was fun....
That's kinda what all the Firefox arguments remind me of... yes, its nice to have access to the code; yes its a nicer engine in a lot of ways, but the question is: is it really better in ways that still matter?
I'll dive into the questions (security especially) in the near future, because I know what a lot of my tech brethren think, but my main point was this - oy and yeesh - relax with the rhetoric already :)
All that aside - I am glad it exists, and that we (royal AOL we here) helped pay for it; keeps everybody else honest.