Archive for October 18th, 2005

Mozilla Foundation and Corporation

October 18th, 2005

Yesterday one of the folks at the Mozilla Corporation mentioned that he still has trouble describing the relationship between the Mozilla Corporation and the Mozilla Foundation cleanly and easily. He asked me to write something. I tried out a description David Ascher had suggested a few weeks back, and a discussion followed. I’ve tried to capture the gist below. Many thanks to David for providing the first two sentences, which of course frame the discussion.

The Mozilla Corporation is a private corporation with a single shareholder. That shareholder is a 501( c) (3) non-profit dedicated to the public benefit. This means that the Mozilla Corporation — like all corporations — focuses on satisfying its shareholder(s). In this sense organization is very standard. However, in most cases a corporation satisfies shareholders by producing a financial return on investment — dividends and / or higher stock price. This is where the Mozilla Corporation and its shareholder differ from the standard model. The goal of the Mozilla Foundation is to promote the health of the World Wide Web itself by providing free, open source client software. In other words, to serve the public good. So the Mozilla Corporation satisfies its shareholder by promoting this public benefit, not by seeking to maximize revenue.

The Mozilla Corporation should be a professional, run well organization. It must continue to work with and lead the open source community in our shared efforts to create great software and enable growth and diversity on the web. It must work well with commercial entities using Firefox and building on Firefox. It should treat its employees with respect and be a great place to work. It must recognize and support the contributions of non-employee contributors who play such a critical role. It should generate revenue to support the Mozilla project where appropriate.

So some of our activities will look business-like — that’s how one works well with commercial entities, and this is critical to long term success. Other activities will not look at all like “business as ususal.” They will be driven by our open source DNA and our community. And our ultimate goal is most distinctly not business as usual; it is supporting the health and vitality of the web itself.

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