Mozilla

Archive for the “Mozilla” Category

A Return to Founders as Mozilla Moves Forward

March 24th, 2014

I’m happy to welcome Brendan Eich to a new role at Mozilla, that of our CEO. I also want to thank Jay Sullivan for his dedication to Mozilla over the years and in particular as our acting CEO this last year.

Brendan has been an absolutely foundational element of Mozilla and our success for the past 15 years. The parallels between Mozilla’s history and our future are very strong, and I am very happy with this combination of continuity and change to help us continue to fulfill our mission, as Mozilla has big ambitions: providing a rich, exciting online experience that puts people at the center of digital life.

We exceeded our wildest dreams with Firefox when we first released it 10 years ago. We moved the desktop and browsing environments to a much more open place, with far more options and control available to individuals.

When I look back at the early days that led to Firefox, I think mostly of the personalities that achieved this great success. Mozilla was a small band of people, mostly volunteers and a few employees, bound together by a shared mission and led by Brendan and me as co-founders of the Mozilla project. We were an unusual group to have such huge ambitions. Looking at us, most people thought we would never succeed. But we did. We succeeded because like-minded people joined with us to make Mozilla so much stronger, and to create amazing products that embody our values — products that people love to use.

Today we live in a different online era. This era combines desktop, mobile devices, cloud services, big data and a social layer. It is feature-rich, highly centralized, and focused on a few giant organizations that exert control over almost all aspects of the experience. Today’s computing environment is deeply in need of an open, exciting alternative that shows what the Open Web brings to this setting — something built on parts including Firefox OS, WebGL, asm.js, and the many other innovations being developed at Mozilla. It is comparable to the desktop computing environment we set out to revolutionize when we started Mozilla.

Mozilla needs to bring a similar scope of change to the new computing era. Once again, Mozilla needs to break down the walled gardens of online life and bring openness and opportunity to all. Once again, we have the chance to build products and communities in a way that no one else will. Once again, we will build something new and exciting.

Over the years I’ve worked with Brendan, we’ve each had a variety of roles, and we have always had a great partnership. I look forward to working closely together in this phase of Mozilla’s development. I hope you’ll join us.

mitchell

25 Years of Human Potential

March 12th, 2014

The World Wide Web is the greatest tool for knowledge sharing and collaboration we have ever seen.  In the 25 years it has existed –  only a third of a modern lifespan– the Web has affected almost every aspect of life for much of humanity, and will do so for even more of humanity in the years to come.

The Web shows us the creativity and ingenuity and diversity of humanity.  The Web empowers all of us to try out new ideas and offer them to the world, without needing to ask the powerful for permission.    The rapid pace of innovation shows us what humanity is capable of when powerful tools are made equally available to all of us.

The next 25 years will show us whether this openness can be maintained in some significant degree or whether the Web will become “business as usual.”  Today many groups are working to tame this explosive openness and potential, some for very legitimate and understandable reasons.  Governments seek to limit or control the Web to protect their citizens, either from criminal activities or to protect cultural norms.  Some governments seek to regulate the Internet to protect and propagate their own positions.  Companies seek to tame the Web to build their business and return value to shareholders.

Mozilla believes that the full range of human potential must be represented on the Web.  We believe that the power of the Web is a global public resource, open and accessible to all. We will continue our dedication to building this portion of the Web and of online life.

Today on the Web’s 25th birthday, we are joining with the Web at 25 campaign and the Web We Want campaign to enable and amplify the voice of the Internet community. We encourage you to visit www.webat25.org to send a birthday greeting to the Web and visit our interactive quilt to share your vision for the type of Web you want.

Click below for thoughts from Mozilla CTO and SVP of Engineering, Brendan Eich on the 25th birthday:
https://brendaneich.com/2014/03/the-web-at-25/

A quick note

February 19th, 2014

I’ve been quiet since the Town Hall on Directory Tiles. That’s because I’ve been traveling and pretty wrapped up in the trip. I know there is a lot to think about with the Directory Tiles, a lot of good questions and topics raised.

I’m on my way to some more meetings in Europe and then Mobile World Congress. So I may be pretty quiet until MWC is over. Please don’t think that means I’ve zoned out on this topic. I know it’s important.

Content, Ads, Caution

February 13th, 2014

I’m starting with content but please rest assured I’ll get to the topic of ads and revenue.

In the early days of Firefox we were very careful not to offer content to our users.  Firefox came out of a world in which both Netscape/AOL (the alma mater of many early Mozillians) and Microsoft had valued their content and revenue sources over the user experience.  Those of us from Netscape/AOL had seen features, bookmarks, tabs, and other irritants added to the product to generate revenue.   We’d seen Mozilla code subsequently “enhanced” with these features.

And so we have a very strong, very negative reaction to any activities that even remotely remind us of this approach to product.  That’s good.

This reaction somehow became synonymous with other approaches that are not necessarily so helpful.  For a number of  years we refused to have any relationship with our users beyond we provide software and they use it.  We resisted offering content unless it came directly from an explicit user action.  This made sense at first when the web was so young.  But over the years many people have come to expect and want their software to do things on their behalf, to take note of what one has done before and do something useful with it.

In the last few years we’ve begun to respond to this.  We’re careful about it because the DNA is based on products serving users.  Every time we offer something to our users we question ourselves rigorously about the motivations for that offer.  Are we sure it’s the most value we can provide to our users? Are we sure, doubly-sure, we’re not fooling ourselves?  Sometimes my commercial colleagues laugh at me for the amount of real estate we leave unmonitored or the revenue opportunities we decline.

So we look at the Tiles and wonder if we can do more for people.    We think we can.  I’ve heard some people say they still don’t want any content offered.  They want their experience to be new, to be the same as it was the day they installed the browser, the same as anyone else might experience.  I understand this view, and think it’s not the default most people are choosing.  We think we can offer people useful content in the Tiles.

When we have ideas about how content might be useful to people, we look at whether there is a revenue possibility, and if that would annoy people or bring something potentially useful.  Ads in search turn out to be useful.  The gist  of the Tiles idea is that we would include something like 9 Tiles on a page, and that 2 or 3 of them would be sponsored — aka “ads.”  So to explicitly address the question of whether sponsored tiles (aka “ads”) could be included as part of a content offering, the answer is yes.

These sponsored results/ ads would not have tracking features.

Why would we include any sponsored results?  If the Tiles are useful to people then we’ll generate value.  That generates revenue that supports the Mozilla project.   So to explicitly address the question of whether we care about generating revenue and sustaining Mozilla’s work, the answer is yes.  In fact, many of us feel responsible to do exactly this.

Pretty much anytime we talk about revenue at Mozilla people get suspicious.  Mozillians get suspicious, and our supporters get suspicious.  There’s some value in that, as it reinforces our commitment to user experience and providing value to our users.  There’s some drawbacks to this as well, however.  I’ll be talking with Mozillians tomorrow and in the coming days on these topics in more detail.

Netscape, License, Me

December 18th, 2013

Yesterday I came across the image of the launch day version of Netscape Navigator 1.0 – the first commercial browser that set the World Wide Web on fire, and caused the explosion of Internet technology into everyday life.  Here’s an image of an early info Netscape provided — how to click a link, find things in that era, etc.  Some fun history of the early, early World Wide Web. It’s so early that the list of search engines does not predates Google.

The image has a link labeled “LICENSE.”  I found myself trying to click on the link.  Silly, but still I wanted to see it.  I wrote the license that link used to point to.  I wrote every end-user license in Netscape’s products for many years, until the mighty Liz Compton took over.  The licenses were complicated.  They reflected something new — free product.  Today we are used to getting consumer grade software for free, but Netscape was a pioneer.  Netscape Navigator was free until the 1.0 version, and then they were free to charitable organizations.  (This change was quite controversial among Netscape employees; I was not the decision-maker.)  That made for complicated business terms and license terms.  We had long negotiations with organizations that supplied code we integrated, explaining to them why Netscape would not pay them for every copy distributed.  Explaining that the software was sometimes given away led to astonishment at first, and long negotiating sessions.  I was responsible for all these negotiations with external vendors of software bits as well, so at least I knew how important it was.

One time I had to rewrite the license because our installer program had a length limit.  I think that’s when we combine the licenses for the free and the paid versions into one document.  Perhaps that was a good forcing function to shorter licensing terms, but it did require the business owners to take some risk with less specific language.

All these licenses were training for writing the Mozilla Public License 1.0 (now superceded by the 2.0 version). I see the MPL as the highlight of my time in the licensing world.  I had help, including  Liz and Harvey Anderson, both now with Mozilla.  Even so, I “held the pen” and by the time I was done I had memorized almost every clause.  Harvey had a big role in the patent pieces of the 1.1 license, which may have been the first open source/free software license to have a patent defense clause.  It’s the first I know of so far, and I know we didn’t work from examples, so at least it was an original creation.  (Ironically, original creation is not a patent defense although it is for copyright infringement.)

The idea of Mozilla was announced on January 22, and the project launched March 31, 1998.  I wrote the MPL within that period, as the engineering team got ready for the release and we all worked to figure out how the first iteration of Mozilla would work.  A bunch of today’s Mozillians have stories of that time.  Many people told us a license couldn’t be created, let alone in 2+ months, but those of us at Netscape just went ahead and did it.  We had public review via newsgroup — appropriately called 331.  If anyone has archives of that newsgroup I would love to get a copy.  Once again, a part of Mozilla’s history predates the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

(As a side note, the wondrous Internet Archive suffered a fire which damaged its building and its digitizing materials.  The fund-raising campaign to support rebuilding is underway.  Mozilla is contributing to this invaluable asset and we hope to see the Internet Archive fully restored as soon as possible.)

I still wish I could click that “LICENSE” link … “-)

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