Davos Update

January 31st, 2007

Last week I attended the annual meeting of The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The World Economic Forum is “. . . an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging leaders in partnerships to shape global, regional and industry agendas.” Its annual meeting is by invitation only. This year Mozilla was selected as a Technology Pioneer for our innovative and effective work, and I attended as the Mozilla representative.

The annual meeting gets a lot of press, so I’ll comment only on the parts related to Mozilla.

First, the awareness of Firefox was phenomenal. I’d say 90% of the people to whom I introduced myself knew of Firefox instantly. Outside of deeply technical circles I’ve never been anywhere with this level of recognition and acceptance before. This made it much easier to describe our larger mission of keeping the Internet an open platform.

The other major thing I took from this gathering is that people think of a healthy Internet as a given. Here, “healthy” means available, ubiquitous, and providing a myriad of opportunities for people to plug in and participate in unstructured, decentralized ways. It’s a great vision.

This vision of the Internet is exciting, and optimistic. But it is not a given. It’s not something we can simply expect to happen. The Internet can be closed off in many ways, both by intentional and unintentional actions. It could become so unsafe that only the technically savvy can protect themselves from identity and information theft. The openness — open source software and open standards — that forms the basis of the Internet’s architecture could fade, leaving citizens in the dark about what is going on.

Creating a healthy, open Internet is the guiding mission of the Mozilla Foundation. Our first and most important tool today is Mozilla Firefox. Firefox makes the technical richness of the Internet available to the human beings who use it. In addition, Firefox embodies the principles of openness, transparency, community, and the primacy of the individual human end-user.

Firefox is a fundamental step, critical in its own right. Firefox has also given us an exceptional opportunity. This is the opportunity to be a voice promoting a healthy, open Internet, and to be heard. We have the opportunity to make a difference in the type of online life the world experiences for years to come. It’s a great challenge — who could hope for more?

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