Archive for April, 2007

Ever More Global

April 26th, 2007

The Internet is increasingly global, and so is the Mozilla project. This is true of the user base, where we expect the number of people using English versions of Firefox to fall below 50% shortly. It is true of our development community, with increasing numbers of developers living and working on Mozilla from their home locales. It is true of our infrastructure, with the Mozilla add-ons site recently re-implemented to provide support for people creating add-ons in multiple languages. It is true in the increased coordination and cross-pollination between Mozilla Europe and Mozilla Japan and Mozilla contributors in the US.

In 2007 we plan to invest time and resources in making Mozilla an even more global project.

One particular area of focus is China. Mozilla has had an organizational presence in China since March of 2005, focused on building a bit of community around our technology. This year we plan to expand our understanding of China and activities in China. In particular, we hope to:

  • Listen and learn. There’s a lot happening in China today, there’s at least a small Mozilla community and user base, a blogger community and a range of other Internet-based activities.
  • Develop a dialog with the Mozilla community, together find ways to make Mozilla known to more people and expand that community.
  • Articulate how Firefox can help improve the Internet experience in China as it has elsewhere in the world and then act to deliver Firefox to consumers.
  • Offer our expertise – in open source, Internet software, community-building, etc., to Mozilla contributors in China.
  • Increase Chinese participation in the Mozilla project.
  • Increase the Mozilla project’s understanding of online life in China.

Doing this well requires someone focused on these goals. It requires someone who resonates with the Mozilla vision for online life and also has a good feel for China.

We are extremely fortunate to have found such a person in Li Gong. Li has a distinguished background: he graduated from Tsinghua University, China’s pre-eminent technical university, and earned a doctorate from Cambridge. He’s worked at the Stanford Research Institute, was Distinguished Engineer and Chief Architect of Java Security while at Sun Microsystems, was the general manager of Sun’s software organization in China and most recently was GM of Microsoft’s MSN organization in China.

The most salient point to me is that Li has been thinking about Mozilla, and about Mozilla in China since early in the Mozilla Foundation’s history. Li and I talked out a Mozilla China effort starting in 2004, and Li was the fundamental force in the creation of our current Mozilla organization in China. When we planned for Mozilla China in 2004 the Mozilla Foundation was small and young and extremely resource-constrained. Li introduced us to the Chinese Academy of Sciences and helped us form an organization compatible with the Foundation. Now that the Foundation is larger, stronger and more experienced, Li is the perfect person to help Mozilla expand the Mozilla project in China.

Just about a week ago, Li joined Mozilla full-time to lead our efforts in China. You’ll start to see information about what we’re learning, thinking and doing, as well as how to keep up to date and participate shortly.

Please welcome Li and help him find his way more deeply into the Mozilla project!

The Open Web and Firefox Focus

April 26th, 2007

The Mozilla Foundation’s Statement of Direction describes two complementary techniques for advancing the Open Web. One is to nurture a broad set of technology and community building efforts, centered around the Mozilla platform and values. The second is to focus more precisely on those areas with the greatest leverage for change. Today, this second technique translates into a focus on Firefox, the platform technology that underlies Firefox, and the Firefox ecosystem.

It is extraordinarily difficult to create the kind of impact that Firefox and the Firefox ecosystem now enjoy. The Mozilla community has done this, and the Foundation feels an acute responsibility to live up to the opportunities this creates. We have a rare point of leverage and must not let it slip away.

Because Firefox has such leverage today, the bulk of the Foundation’s resources are devoted to promoting Firefox, the Firefox ecosystem, the underlying technologies that make modern browsing possible, and the various communities that participate in these efforts. In more concrete terms this means:

  • Focus most where we have the greatest impact — Firefox and “browsing” broadly defined — that is, browser-based access to web content and applications
  • Focus on the XUL platform that underlies Firefox to keep the Open Web competitive against closed/proprietary platforms
  • Assist other Mozilla participants and projects, but not equally with Firefox and not at significant cost to Firefox
  • Be exemplary Mozilla participants (this has historically been explicitly not doing whatever people ask for, but providing evaluation, review, module ownership, etc., with a focus broader than a single product)

Clearly these expectations are very broad — what does it mean to “focus on the XUL platform that underlies Firefox?” How much is specific to Firefox? To what extent are more general platform needs incorporated as “assist other Mozilla projects, but not equally with Firefox and not at significant cost to Firefox?” This level of detail should generally be worked out by the technical leadership through the module ownership system.

And clearly there are a range of other activities which the Foundation could undertake to promote the first goal above — encouraging a broad set of Mozilla-based participation, whether or not any particular effort becomes a global general consumer product. As noted in the Statement of Direction, the Foundation intends to do so. There will be more on this topic before too long.

The “Open Web” as Platform

April 19th, 2007

We often talk about the “platform” or “a platform” or the “Mozilla platform.” It turns out people use the concept of “platform” to mean different things. There’s the platform for creating web-enabled desktop applications known as XULRunner. (There’s an earlier version of the platform known as “Gecko.”) There’s Firefox as a platform, both for people creating additional features through add-ons, and for web developers. Each of these has value, yet all of them are but parts of a whole.

The basic platform is the Web itself. The most important thing Mozilla can do is to help create a Web that is open, inter-operable, portable, innovative, decentralized, participatory and competitive with closed systems that operate on the Web. I’ll call this the “Open Web.” Everything we do should be evaluated against this goal.

The ability to impact the Open Web should be a constant factor in determining our priorities. Firefox, XULRunner, Thunderbird, other projects — both as products and as platforms — are important as projects themselves. But their long term viability and strategic value lie in their ability to enhance and promote the Open Web.

The Web itself is the great prize, the fundamental platform that determines the degree to which the Mozilla vision can be realized.

Welcome Thunderbird 2!

April 18th, 2007

Today the email experience for millions of people gets even better. Mozilla’s prize-winning Thunderbird email client celebrates the release of Thunderbird 2 today.

New features. Improved security and privacy. Open Source. Available in more than 30 languages thanks to the efforts of our amazing localization communities. Personalizable. Customizable with extensions. Access to web mail services.

Thunderbird 2 has arrived. Try improving your email experience today!

Mozilla Foundation Executive Director

April 18th, 2007

One of the great strengths of the Mozilla project is the dedication of its participants. Many people participate over a period of years — sometimes as volunteers, sometimes as employees — figuring out new ways to contribute.

Frank Hecker is one such participant. Frank has been active in the Mozilla project since the very beginning, helping with the project’s launch in 1998. He then participated as a volunteer for many years. When the Mozilla Foundation needed an Executive Director, Frank agreed to take on that role, becoming an employee of the Foundation. Frank has just noted his desire to change his role, to remain active with the Mozilla Foundation, and to help the Foundation identify its next Executive Director.

On behalf of the Mozilla project I want to thank Frank deeply for serving as the Foundation’s Executive Director and providing a much-needed anchor. The Mozilla Foundation would be far weaker without Frank’s dedication and efforts, which represent much of what is great about the Mozilla project. I am looking forward to working with Frank in the future. I suspect he will continue to do much of the same work he has been doing, particularly in the accessibility and grants area where he has been leading such great efforts.

The Mozilla Foundation has engaged an executive recruiter to help us identify good candidates and to conduct a healthy process for identifying, evaluating and ultimately deciding on the right person for its next Executive Director. We haven’t yet mapped out exactly what that process will look like, but we know it will be open, public and highly interactive.

Our recruiter for this selection process is Eunice Azzani, who has a great deal of experience in recruiting both non-profit and for-profit leaders. She specializes in finding “out of the box” individuals that want to make a difference and have a strong passion for the work they do.

Eunice has interviewed Mozilla Foundation and Corporation Board members, and is talking with a few other long-time and active contributors to get a general idea of a job description. We hope to have that description drafted shortly. The job description will be posted for public review and input. From there, we’ll figure out what’s a good process to make sure candidates are identified and evaluated in a way that represents the Mozilla communities. The Executive Director is responsible to the Foundation Board of Directors in an organizational and legal sense; and to the Mozilla community in a leadership sense.

If you have suggestions about how to run an effective, open process please raise them in the mozilla.governance newsgroup (available via newsreader or mailing list, or via the browser). For example, one early step I’ve been thinking of is to set up a method — IM, podcast, conference call, whatever — for community members to talk with Eunice directly. If you have suggestions about candidates or specific questions for Eunice, you can reach her at: Eunice [dot] Azzani [at] kornferry [dot] com.

The Mozilla Foundation has an enormous opportunity to improve online experience for tens of millions of people. The Executive Director we seek will have internalized the possibilities and bring both expertise and passion to achieving the Mozilla vision.

Project-Wide Activities

April 16th, 2007

A couple of weeks ago, I informally asked Mozilla Corporation employees what types of work they do that are “project-wide” or not related to Firefox. Here’s a summary of the results.

  • IT Support and Build
    • Hosting of tinderboxes for all Mozilla projects, including Thunderbird, XUL, etc. This includes both application and server support.
    • Support, hosting and maintenance of basic infrastructure — IRC, Bugzilla, CVS, etc. for all Mozilla projects.
    • Provision of ftp services for many of the other projects — often a large amount of traffic that would be cost prohibitive to any of the smaller projects.
    • Support of the community giving network, which hosts infrastructure (Bugzilla, localization) for a range of projects, including Seamonkey, Camino, etc. Build, development and production machines as well as network capabilities are hosted, in both the San Jose and Amsterdam locations. For example, in Q1 2007 the build team spent a good deal of time to get community build Macs set up for each of the Seamonkey, Camino, and Sunbird/Lightning teams.
  • Thunderbird: build, release, QA, marketing, PR and a range of other activities.
  • Web Services: supports extensions for Firefox, Thunderbird, Seamonkey, and Sunbird.
  • Talkback support for Thunderbird, Sunbird, Camino and Seamonkey. This includes the creation of reports for new releases as well as server and symbols management work.
  • The Community Giving program has provided support to the calendar and Bugzilla projects as well as the Oregon State Open Source Lab.
  • The Mozilla Developer Center includes content and documentation for a range of technologies; including XUL platform documentation to help XUL developers.
  • General module owner activities relating to code review and patch management.
  • Mozilla Store operational support.

I doubt this is a conclusive list. Even so, it gives an idea of the types of activities beyond Firefox that happen on a daily basis.

Mellon Foundation Awards for Open Source Projects

April 2nd, 2007

The Andrew Mellon Foundation sponsors awards of $50,000 and $100,000 for “not-for-profit organizations for leadership in the collaborative development of open source software tools with particular application to higher education and not-for-profit activities.”

The deadline for this year’s applications is April 16th. The requirements for these awards are rather specific. The core requirements are below; more details on the requirements can be found here.

If you think you or any organization(s) you know of meet these criteria, and could make use of the grant, please visit the Mellon award site or contact: Christopher J. Mackie at (for full disclosure, I am a member of the Awards Committee).

The overview of criteria for these awards is that the organization “must have contributed its own financial and human resources to a software development project which meets all of the following criteria:

1. Is in public release (not just development) as an open source project, with source code actually available.

2. Provides a direct and demonstrably significant benefit to one or more of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s traditional constituencies. These constituencies are: higher education, with a special emphasis on the arts and humanities; libraries and scholarly communications; performing arts; conservation and the environment; or museums and art conservation.

3. Meets the Foundation’s strict standards for excellence.

4. Includes the development of intellectual property that is freely available to the academic community under one of the approved open source licenses.”

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