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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