Mozilla

Beyond Sustainability

October 22nd, 2007

In this post I want to focus on two fundamental aspects of the Mozilla project. First, Mozilla as a giant, wildly vibrant open source project. Second, Mozilla as a force for building an Internet based on openness, choice, participation and public benefit. We’re a force in the lives of individual people and in the Internet industry as a whole. These two aspects of Mozilla are complementary; each strengthens the other. Either one alone would be a great achievement. The two together are a breathtaking accomplishment.

Today we are posting our audited financial statements and tax form for 2006. The highlight is that Mozilla remains financially healthy: we’re able to hire more people, build more products, help other projects, and bring more possibilities for participation in the Internet to millions of people. The Mozilla project is growing in almost every way — size, scale, types of activities, new communities, and in reach.

Financial Highlights

Mozilla’s revenues (including both Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation) for 2006 were $66,840,850, up approximately 26% from 2005 revenue of $52,906,602. As in 2005 the vast majority of this revenue is associated with the search functionality in Mozilla Firefox, and the majority of that is from Google. The Firefox userbase and search revenue have both increased from 2005. Search revenue increased at a lesser rate than Firefox usage growth as the rate of payment declines with volume. Other revenue sources were the Mozilla Store, public support and interest and other income on our assets.

Mozilla expenses for 2006 were $19,776,193. Expenditures remain highly focused in two key areas: people and infrastructure. By the end of 2006 Mozilla was funding approximately 90 people working full or part-time on Mozilla around the world. Expenditures on people accounted for roughly 70% of our total expenses in 2006. The largest concentrations of people funded by Mozilla were in California, Tokyo, Toronto, and Paris. The number of funded people and of multi-person locations continues to grow. As of October 2007 we have additional concentrations of people in Beijing and New Zealand, with announced plans to increase the number of people in Europe.

Mozilla’s revenue in 2006 exceeded our expenses. Our assets at the end of 2006 were $74,148,710, up from $52,396,387 at the end of 2005. In 2007 we expect our expenses to be significantly higher as we have continued to hire and fund more people and develop additional programs.

Of the people Mozilla funds, the largest single group works on the Mozilla “platform.” This includes all the underlying technology that individuals don’t manipulate directly — networking, layout, understanding content from websites, security, and so on. The work of the platform group supports all Mozilla products and most Mozilla projects. The next largest group is Quality Assurance, which provides formal verification for Firefox and Thunderbird, and informal assistance to other Mozilla projects. Other large groups are the Firefox application group, marketing and outreach, and IT or technical infrastructure. We have small but potent sets of people working on build and release, web tools, our websites (including add-ons), and other functions.

Mozilla’s technical infrastructure also grew dramatically in 2006. In late 2006 we served close to 600,000 Firefox downloads, over 2.1 terabytes of data and 25 million update requests — per day — making Mozilla one of the top 100 sites on the web. In addition, 2006 saw a vast increase in capacity and infrastructure reliability for all essential Mozilla services including the launch of a European datacenter, cutting server response time by 50% or more for much for Europe.

The improvements in infrastructure go beyond machines and moving bits. Our infrastructure for providing add-ons is an example. The add-ons site supports not only Firefox and Thunderbird but also the community projects of SeaMonkey and Sunbird. We’ve also spent a great deal of effort to make our sites multi-lingual, rather than simply “localized.” In the past, key sites such as addons.mozilla.org were English sites that could also provide translated content in other languages. Today add-ons has been rewritten to be language-neutral, meaning that the same service level is available to everyone. This was actually a very difficult and painful process. We did it because more and more non-English speakers are accessing the web, and we want to offer them equal ability to participate in the Mozilla world and the Internet in general.

The infrastructure work is an example of how revenue generated by Firefox is used to provide benefit to the entire Mozilla community. We now have a world-class infrastructure – machines that are tended and optimized constantly, prompt updates with security patches, on call response available when problems occur – which supports a range of Mozilla projects.

In 2006 we began giving grants and funding programs. One area of focus has been improving accessibility for people with disabilities, including people with low vision, mobility and learning disabilities. This work includes accessibility for Mozilla products and also accessibility in general. For example, funding to date has included better accessibility of AJAX-based dynamic web applications and support for building better open source accessibility infrastructure technologies on Windows and Linux. In addition to the accessibility related programs, Mozilla’s other major areas of expenditure have included support of third-party developers of add-ons, and support of a trial program at Seneca College exploring student participation in Mozilla development at colleges and universities. We have also made a series of grants to individuals making contributions to Mozilla projects. This includes hardware, funding travel to allow face-to-face meetings for our distributed community of participants, providing tools and infrastructure (machines and hosting) for community members. We also provided assistance to Creative Commons.

In 2006 Mozilla contributed approximately $300,000 to these efforts. This is a small first step as we learn to spend money without causing unintended consequences in our community. We expect the amounts to expand significantly in 2007 and beyond. For example, so far in 2007 we provided a grant to the Open Source Lab at Oregon State University for its ongoing operations in support of open source projects and the Participatory Culture Foundation for improving open source-cross platform video on the Internet through its Miro Player project.

We’ve started an FAQ and will add to it if new questions come up.

Our financial status allows us to build on sustainability to do ever more. More as an open source project, and more to move the Internet overall increasingly towards openness and participation.

Growth as an Open Source Project

Mozilla is a gigantic open source project and still growing. Tens of thousands of people are involved in the Mozilla project. Over 1,000 people contributed code to Firefox 2. Mozilla employed around 50 of those people. In 2006, approximately 10,000 people downloaded nightly builds every day; this number continues to grow. Sixteen thousand people reported bugs or potential issues in our bug-tracking system; something like a thousand comments a day were added to the issue-tracker. Our new, more precise distributed testing system gained approximately 2000 participants in the first months after its deployment. Tens of thousands of people test our beta and security releases before we offer them to the general public. The Spread Firefox referral program had over 65,000 participants displaying Mozilla or Firefox content (buttons, etc.) on their websites. Uncounted numbers of people participate through promoting Mozilla and helping others learn about Mozilla.

The geographical distribution of Mozilla contributors and usage has expanded significantly. In November of 2006 we shipped Firefox 2 in 37 languages. That’s unprecedented. Comparable products ship in as few as 1 language, with some tools available for a handful of other languages. Thunderbird 2.0 shipped in 33 languages. We’re adding more languages all the time; Firefox 2 is now available in 44 languages and Thunderbird in 36. The translation and localization work for these languages is overwhelmingly done by volunteers who want to see Firefox and Thunderbird optimized for their culture and then vetted through our Quality Assurance team. This is demanding work, often done on a tight time frame. It reflects much of what makes Mozilla great: people’s willingness, even eagerness, to commit time and energy to create something worthwhile. The results bear out the importance of this work: today about half of Firefox usage is in a language other than English.

Mozilla is best known for the Firefox web browser, but the Mozilla community creates many other things as well. This includes the Thunderbird mail client, and a set of other significant projects such as Bugzilla, SeaMonkey (cross platform browing and mail integrated product), Camino (Mac-only browser), Sunbird (calendar application), and Lightning (calendar add-on for Thunderbird). Thousands of people create new functionality for Mozilla products through the mechanism known as add-ons. In addition, people and companies are using Mozilla technology to create whole new applications, ranging from video browsing to music to specialized “in-house” applications.

Impact in the Industry

The Mozilla mission is not simply to be a successful open source project. It is also to develop an Internet where choice, innovation, participation, individual empowerment and public benefit are integral to the fabric of online life. It’s a big vision, and we’re making progress. Already about 120 million people use Firefox and enjoy a safer, more personal browsing experience. Millions use the Thunderbird email client and enjoy an open email experience.

This userbase makes Mozilla relevant to the Internet industry. We’ve always had high mindshare but combining mindshare with a significant number of users makes an enormous difference. As a result, good things happen. For example:

1. Web content is increasingly written to be accessible through Firefox and other standards-focused browsers. This is a fundamental requirement for keeping the Internet a good place. It’s a prerequisite for individuals to have choice and for commercial players to have room to innovate.

2. We are able to drive innovation into the open, interoperable layer of the Internet rather than see it end up in the closed, controlled communities of commercial platforms. An example of this is video. We are working publicly on a shared specification that allows videos to be manipulated in the browser like other content. We have the technology working already. By “manipulate” I mean much more than watching a video, a la YouTube. I mean being able to combine, rotate, overlap, cut and paste video just as we do text today. You can see the possibilities here. This might seem obvious until one realizes that there are commercial initiatives underway to demonstrate that video should be manipulated not so much through the web, but through closed, proprietary development environments and plug-ins. An environment where a single software vendor controls the formats, and ultimately controls whether people using Firefox or other browsers can see the content that results.

3. Innovation is flourishing. Thousands of people have created and tested improvements to human interaction with the Internet. Some of these have been significant commercial successes, such as StumbleUpon which started with a Firefox-specific product and later moved to other browsers.

4. Mozilla’s voice is stronger when fundamental decisions about Internet technology – particularly protocols and standards – are decided. We’re also a force for making these discussions more transparent. For example, the ongoing work on ECMAScript 4 (generally known as “JavaScript 2″) is becoming publicly available for review, comment and participation. A more general example is Mozilla’s involvement with the WHAT Working Group (“WHATWG”), which is pushing development of web standards into open, public forums.

5. Safety and security of Internet life can be improved. Firefox users have been at risk far, far less frequently than people who use the dominant browser. Mozilla is regularly cited as an example of how to respond when alleged safety issues are uncovered. Our approach to security allows more people to do more to protect themselves and others.

6. Public benefit, civic and social value become components of the Internet’s future, complementing the creation of private economic value.

7. Millions of people who would not otherwise know of or care about open source software are exposed to it and experience its power.

Mozilla is a global community of people working together to build a better Internet. We work to build an Internet that is open, participatory and exciting. We create a portion of the Internet that is a public asset, forever dedicated to public benefit.

We do this through by building communities of people who believe in this mission and enjoy working together to make this happen. It’s an inspiring task. It’s hard work. It’s rewarding. It’s fun. And it’s growing.

Mozilla is growing because people choose to join us, because individual human beings make a decision to take action. People participate in a myriad of ways, from building our software to telling others about our goals.

We can make the impact of the Internet on our lives better — better than it will be if Mozilla doesn’t exist; better than we can imagine.

If you are already a Mozilla participant, I urge you to take a moment and reflect on the contributions that together we are making to online life. If you’re not yet a participant, now is a great time to join us.

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26 comments for “Beyond Sustainability”

  1. 1

    Chase said on October 22nd, 2007 at 9:39 pm:

    Mitchell,

    Thank you very much for releasing this information. I look forward to the discussions it will generate.

    Regards,
    Chase

  2. 2

    Brian Aker said on October 22nd, 2007 at 10:32 pm:

    Hi!

    Thanks Mitchell for posting these numbers. They look great, and its wonderful to see the project thriving.

    Cheers,
    -Brian

  3. 3

    Gary Kwong said on October 22nd, 2007 at 11:24 pm:

    It’s great to hear this piece of news. It makes the role of the community all the more important in development of software, such that it has now become the driving force behind the open source model, initially in source code, but now financially (through the search engine deals) as well.

    The future looks bright for Mozilla!

  4. 4

    Ami Ganguli said on October 23rd, 2007 at 2:02 am:

    Thanks for the update. It’s great to see how well the project is doing.

    One comment on strategy from an outsider…

    Beware of letting the organization grow too big. It’s hard keeping large groups of people focused on a single task and all pulling in the same direction.

    It might be better to continue with more spin-offs in the spirit of Thunderbird, but for more core technologies. I could imagine “Tamerin.org” and “Bugzilla.org”, for example, as independent projects. Eventually it might even make sense to split Firefox from Mozilla, so Mozilla would produce Xulrunner, and Firefox would use that as a platform.

    Just an idea.

    … Ami.

  5. 5

    FP said on October 23rd, 2007 at 3:16 am:

    Very inspiring post, thanks.

  6. 6

    David Naylor said on October 23rd, 2007 at 5:11 am:

    Great read! I’m glad to see Mozilla is continuing to flourish! (67 000 000 USD… Quite a revenue stream that! Take good care of it!)

  7. 7

    Kendall said on October 23rd, 2007 at 6:49 am:

    As the other commenters said, thanks for sharing not only the financial data but also the expanded vision of what Mozilla is looking to do and doing. It’s good to hear about your financial success and the aspect of giving back – particularly to OSU “Go Beavs!”

    I’ve been using Mozilla since 2004 and had wondered if due to limited donations from the few of us if it were a bunch of rags and pourage programmers making this happen. Sounds like you’ve got enough to at least keep them in fresh clothing and fed. ;-)

  8. 8

    Jan said on October 23rd, 2007 at 7:09 am:

    So why are you cutting thunderbird lose than?

  9. 9

    Tristan said on October 23rd, 2007 at 7:48 am:

    Jan: Where did you read that Mozilla is getting rid of Thunderbird? It’s actually just the opposite, with more investment than before. See http://ascher.ca/blog/2007/10/17/i-just-really-want-to-know-what%e2%80%99s-going-on-with-thunderbird/ for more details

  10. 10

    Perry said on October 23rd, 2007 at 9:55 am:

    I suspect there is (or should be) over the dominant reliance of the organization on financing from Google. Clearly, there is one “interested party” which all but decides how well you can sustain operations.

    What does the organization do to retain autonomy and independence?

    Are there techniques which should be contemplated to diversify revenue streams from one partnership?

  11. 11

    Asa Dotzler said on October 23rd, 2007 at 10:24 am:

    Perry, search in the browser is our primary revenue stream. The bulk of that comes from Google because that’s the search service our community thinks is best. The revenue isn’t tied to Google so much as it is tied to whatever search service is the default in Firefox.

    As far as retaining autonomy, there’s just nothing going on that would challenge our autonomy. Mozilla and its leadership, a distributed group of module owners and peers are making decisions about the future of Mozilla based on what’s best for the code, the community, the people using Mozilla products, and the longterm health of the Internet. It’s been that way for going on 10 years now and I really can’t see that changing.

    - A

  12. 12

    Boris said on October 23rd, 2007 at 10:48 am:

    Perry, diversifying revenue streams is definitely good. That said, part of the answer to your question of “What does the organization do to retain autonomy and independence?” is “have enough money in the bank to operate without a revenue stream for several years if necessary”, which is where Mozilla is now, if I compare the asset figure ($74 million) to the expenses figure ($20 million a year).

  13. 13

    Paul said on October 23rd, 2007 at 5:59 pm:

    It’s great to see that Mozilla is able to stay financially healthy, I hope it stay this way. I will continue to support its products.

    However, I’m concerned with the revenue channels especially when largely of the % of earnings comes from just one company, Google. Other than Firefox, Thunderbird, Bugzilla, Sunbird and Minimo all are products with great potential. I hope sufficient resources and development are allocated to this projects to make it just as successful as Firefox.

  14. 14

    Smiley said on October 23rd, 2007 at 7:46 pm:

    This is tight Mitchell, really good to see such improvement!

  15. 15

    La Monte H.P. Yarroll said on October 24th, 2007 at 5:45 am:

    Should Mozilla perhaps start looking at the notion of creating a permanent endowment? It would be nice if Mozilla were permanently independent of the fiscal health of a small number of active financial contributors. It seems that a goal of $200M to $300M in assets is achievable as long as the organization does not attempt to grow too quickly. That kind of capital is large enough to be self-sustaining.

  16. 16

    Pierre said on October 24th, 2007 at 9:16 pm:

    Starting in 1995, Microsoft was spending well over $100 million a year to develop Internet Explorer (http://www.news.com/2009-1032-995681.html).

    In 2007, 10 years later, you are doing a much better job for only $20 million, one fifth of the price.

    Congrats to you all.

  17. 17

    stelt said on October 24th, 2007 at 9:55 pm:

    Hire someone to help your SVG developers so Firefox 3 will support SVG images in HTML’s IMG tag, and a few other highly requested SVG features. Just a few can make all the difference, making it a “anything but IE does SVG (natively, properly)” . Wouldn’t cost millions.

  18. 18

    Favorite Browser said on October 25th, 2007 at 8:40 am:

    Great increase. More users – more searches – more profit.

    Thanks for the info.

  19. 19

    Janet Meiners said on October 26th, 2007 at 12:00 pm:

    I’m curious if you have stats on the number of volunteers and hours contributed. It seems like that is key to keeping costs low. From what I understand you get many volunteers from businesses as well as universities. And, you don’t just get revenue from Google, you collaborate on projects.
    I’m preparing a story for Marketing Pilgrim and looking for this information. So far no luck. Any tips?
    Thanks
    Janet

  20. 20

    gypspy said on October 30th, 2007 at 10:55 am:

    I get the idea the corporation is all about the old browser wars. Well now Firefox 2.0.0.8 is as bloated and much more unstable than IE7. If I am doing something important I’ll always use Netscape or IE7 before Firefox. Could we please have an improved version of 1.5 PLEASE!

  21. 21

    AC said on November 11th, 2007 at 7:24 pm:

    How about funneling some money into the Internationalization efforts. As it is, it’s pretty painful to get translations for Mozilla even when the translation work is done (due to commit process). How about creating the framework so that translations are like skins or add-ons, just something that you can download from a third party?

    Thanks

  22. 22

    Podm said on November 12th, 2007 at 7:23 am:

    “We do this through by building communities of people who believe in this mission and enjoy working together to make this happen. It’s an inspiring task. It’s hard work. It’s rewarding. It’s fun. And it’s growing.”

    How can you believe in the Mission if the management messes around and cuts developer resources? Thunderbird and Sunbird are perfect examples how mismangement and over-management ensures that an association with money does less than before without a whole lot of money.

    Mozilla is one of the richest Open Source projects but it does not invest in open source. Did we raise funds for an association that leaves the developers in the cold?

  23. 23

    Kiroset said on November 14th, 2007 at 5:34 pm:

    “In 2006 we began giving grants and funding programs. … In addition to the accessibility related programs, Mozilla’s other major areas of expenditure have included support of third-party developers of add-ons…”

    Other than hosting extensions at Addons.Mozilla.org, are there any other incentives/grants/supports being given to add-on developers?

    In my opinion, Mozilla could be doing much more in this area. I have a close friend who develops one of the oldest and most popular firefox extensions. He spends hours upon hours of his free time (he has a real job!) to support and develop for the 1000000+ firefox users that have his extension.

    I noticed that his extension doesn’t yet work with the upcoming firefox 3 and asked him about it – his reply:
    “I’ve had to nearly completely rewrite the thing because firefox 3 changed their interface and broke it”
    I asked him how long that will take:
    “I’m nearly done after ~150-200 hours spent on updating it” (!!!)
    I tease him about doing all that work for free and he admits that he can get burned out having to work on it all the time.

    Without all the unique extensions for firefox, it would just be another browser and I think it is in Mozilla’s best interest to do more to keep add-on developers engaged and happy.

  24. 24

    George said on November 21st, 2007 at 10:21 pm:

    It give important two points. Firstly, Mozilla as a giant, wildly vibrant open source project. Secondly, Mozilla as a force for building an Internet based on openness, choice, participation and public benefit.

  25. 25

    Megan said on December 1st, 2007 at 1:20 am:

    I’m concerned with the revenue channels especially when largely of the % of earnings comes from just one company, Google. Other than Firefox, Thunderbird, Bugzilla, Sunbird and Minimo all are products with great potential. I hope sufficient resources and development are allocated to this projects to make it just as successful as Firefox.

  26. 26

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    [...] report, Mozilla made $66.8 million in revenue in 2006, quite a bit of it from Google (GOOG). As former Mozilla Corp. CEO Mitchell Baker explained in a post to MozillaZine: As in 2005 the vast majority of this revenue is associated with the [...]

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