Mozilla Foundation Activities (Part 1)

June 20th, 2006

What kinds of activities should the Mozilla Foundation undertake? When I think of this I look at three major areas that provide input. The Mozilla Foundation could take on additional tasks as well, but there are three that seem fundamental to me. I’ll describe each area in some detail below, but the summary is:

  • Project governance and community dynamics — keeping the project healthy
  • Promoting open source software and Mozilla software; and
  • Promoting development of the Internet as an innovative, accessible universal platform

A. First, the Mozilla Foundation is the home of the Mozilla project. The Mozilla project existed long before the Foundation. The project was founded in 1998, and developed a community, a governance and implementation model, a set of projects and a great deal of software, expertise and best practices. This was done through informal arrangements based on community norms and participation, without the assistance of a legal home for the project. Those active in project governance had long wanted a legal organization for the project and that goal was achieved in July of 2003 with the creation of the Mozilla Foundation. The Mozilla Foundation enjoyed a high degree of continuity with the organizational structure. Key leaders remained in essentially the same roles. Key processes remained in place, particularly the ways in which developers interact with each other and create software. The Mozilla Foundation became the natural and long-awaited official home of the Mozilla project. Some things fall out pretty clearly from this role as home of the project.

One critical piece of the identity of the Mozilla project is tied to how we build software — an open source, distributed model with delegated authority. So a critical aspect of what the Foundation needs to do is to maintain healthy project dynamics relating to how we build software. Historically this was done by staff; it’s time to integrate the Mozilla Foundation and community-based leadership.

B. Second, because it is a public benefit corporation the Mozilla Foundation has a specific legal reason for existing which is set out in its Articles of Incorporation “The specific purpose of the Corporation [here meaning the Foundation] is to promote the development of, public access to and adoption of the open source Mozilla web browsing and Internet application software.

C. Third, the Mozilla Foundation’s tax-exampt status is governed by the exempt purpose approved by the IRS and the State of California. This purpose in the IRS application is: “The exempt purpose of the Foundation is to serve the general public by undertaking activities to (1) keep the Internet a universal platform that is accessible by anyone from anywhere, using any computer, and (2) promote the continuation of the innovation on the Internet (which as already affected the lives of more than 500 million Internet users). Specifically, the Foundation’s exempt purpose is to develop (a) open source, standards-compliant, free Internet applications that will be usable by (and made available free-of-charge to) tens of millions of users, and (b) foundational technologies that will be used by content developers and software developers to develop standards-compliant online content and open source Internet software.”

In my next post I’ll translate this into a set of more specific activities.

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