Guidelines for commercial relationships

May 5th, 2005

A while back I wrote a bit about search. One of the comments to that post was a suggestion / request that it would be helpful if the “Mozilla Foundation published some sort of guidelines about the processes they go through when considering and entering into these relationships.” Rather than wait until we have a full set of guidelines I think I’ll just plunge in with the first and most obvious and then keep adding.

The first and most basic guideline concerns the source code development itself: The Mozilla Foundation does not enter into agreements that try to affect what goes into our shared source repository.

The source code is a community resource. A relationship between the Mozilla Foundation and another organization cannot try to control the source tree for the benefit of that relationship. The source code is developed by a set of people far broader than the Mozilla Foundation. The Mozilla project has a long history of distributing authority to module owners, reviewers and other respected people. The job of the Mozilla Foundation is to provide coordination, guidance and leadership to these groups to produce the best possible shared resource.

The Mozilla Foundation does make decisions about the branded versions that the Mozilla Foundation distributes and might enter into agreements regarding the branded version. We would do this sparingly with a focus on user experience and user choice, but we might make some agreements about our branded versions. Future posts and resulting discussions will work through the guidelines for how we think, and should think, about this.

But the basic principle is that any such agreement do *not* bleed over into the unbranded source repository. What goes into the source tree is a community-based decision. I’ve had a number of conversations with various businesses interested in Mozilla technology, the Mozilla project and how the Mozilla Foundation operates. One thing comes through loud and clear: the Mozilla community generates respect. People often don’t understand the details of how we operate, or how leadership and distributed authority work in practice. But they do understand that the Mozilla community is greater than the Mozilla Foundation, and that working with this community is critical.

This is a big change from when I started having these discussions years ago (before the Mozilla Foundation). It reflects the growing awareness of our development methodology, and the respect for what the Mozilla project has accomplished.

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