Archive for May, 2007

Search Process for Executive Director

May 24th, 2007

I’m working on defining a search process for the Mozilla Foundation Executive Director. I’ve put an outline of my thinking so far in the mozilla.governance newsgroup, as that seems a better place for discussion. Take a look if you are interested in this topic.

Community, Foundation, Corporation

May 24th, 2007

Chris Beard’s recent post on being “knowable” helped crystallize some thoughts that have been running through my head, trying to find some form for expression.

These thoughts have been on the nature of “community” and its role in Mozilla. Sometimes I hear people talk about the Mozilla Foundation and/or the Mozilla Corporation as somehow distinct from the Mozilla community. I see things like “the Foundation and the community” or the “corporation and the community.” Even more pronounced, sometimes people tie the product — say Firefox, to either the foundation or the corporation, and then talk about the community as something different. Or they tie Firefox to the Corporation and view the Foundation and community as different, or separate, or outside of Firefox.

I think this overstates the role of legal structure and underestimates the fundamental role of community in all we do. The Mozilla community is not separate from Firefox or from any of the other activities in which Mozilla engages. The Mozilla organizations — Mozilla Foundation, Mozilla Corporation, Mozilla Europe, Mozilla Japan, Mozilla China — have special responsibilities related to the resources they manage (Mozilla name and goodwill, infrastructure, revenue). These assets need to be managed for community benefit; the responsibilities need to be fulfilled as a member of the community, with two-way input and communication. None of these organizations can be successful by operating in a traditional sense.

This brings me back to Chris Beard’s blog. (Yes, there is a tie 🙂 ) Chris mentioned the problem that the word “corporation” has history and meaning that get in the way of people understanding Mozilla. People hear the word “Corporation” and then associate the Mozilla Corporation with other taxable corporations rather than thinking of the Mozilla Corporation as one of many tools for accomplishing the Mozilla vision.

This is unfortunate. We formed the Mozilla Corporation as a tool for accomplishing the Mozilla mission of an open and innovative Internet. It operates to promote the public benefit. It does not operate on standard for-profit principles. The Mozilla community (including those community members who are employees of the foundation and/or corporation) would not allow it to do so.

Our best estimates are that between 30 and 40% of the code in Firefox 2 was created by people who are not employees of any Mozilla organization. That’s a giant amount, particularly because we’ve hired a bunch of long time Mozilla contributors recently, and still the amount of code from non-employees is around a third of the product. Then there are the thousands of people who participate in related activities — testing, localizing, evangelizing — that develop and promote Firefox. There are also vibrant communities focused around other Mozilla activities, from Seamonkey to the Mozilla platform.

This set of people — volunteers and employees alike — is the heart of Mozilla, the life that makes us real and gives us impact. This community does not form to support a standard corporate endeavor. It forms to support the Mozilla mission. The legal organizations of the Mozilla world exist for the same reason. They are organizational centers to help the greater Mozilla community be more effective.

Mozilla Foundation Executive Director Role

May 22nd, 2007

As I mentioned a while back, the Mozilla Foundation is seeking an Executive Director. I’ve included the complete job description below. The search process for the Executive Director must be open, with significant community involvement. I’ll post a proposed plan for the search activities in the next couple of days for review and comment.

Information about the search as well as the job specification can also be found at the Mozilla Foundation website.

If you have thoughts on the job description, or on the proposed search process, please post them either as comments here, or as comments in the mozilla.governance newsgroup (available via newsreader or mailing list, or via the browser). And if you know anyone you think would be a good candidate, please contact Eunice Azzani at Eunice [dot] Azzani [at] kornferry [dot] com.


Executive Director


Mountain View, California


The Mozilla Project is one of the largest open-source software development projects in existence. Mozilla represents a user-base that is approaching 100 million people, paid and volunteer staff members, engineers paid by various employers to work on Mozilla, a volunteer population numbering in the thousands, a range of spin-off projects, and a set of companies using Mozilla technology to build products.

The Mozilla Project — which includes the Foundation and its wholly owned subsidiary the Mozilla Corporation — demonstrates that the open source development model is a vibrant addition to the traditional proprietary business models.

The Mozilla Corporation operates an extraordinarily transparent product development process and engages a global community of volunteer developers and enthusiasts to create and promote adoption for the browser. By harnessing the brainpower and creativity of a broad community, Mozilla has sparked a whole new wave of competition and choice on the Internet. At the same time, Mozilla has been able to provide Firefox users with a customizable and secure way to surf the Web — without the hassle of pop-up windows, adware and other nuisances.

Overview and Responsibilities

The Mozilla Foundation seeks an Executive Director with the passion to provide strategic leadership and vision for “an open Internet.” He/She should be motivated by the Foundation’s ability to connect people, technology and social possibilities.

The Mozilla community is made up of tens of millions of Firefox users, hundreds of thousands of contributors that are creating new technologies to ensure choice and promote innovation on the Internet. The Foundation with a current asset base of $35 million and the ability to leverage the work of Mozilla Corporation — is poised and ready to move to the next level which will focus on keeping the Internet open and accessible.


  • Serves as spokesperson for the organization and must be able to articulate and promote the Mozilla Foundation’s vision and mission.
  • Builds, motivates, and promotes a high quality staff.
  • Provides strong and innovative leadership in an open source environment with hands-on experience in running an organization, and developing and implementing programs.
  • Leads the long-range and strategic planning process of the Board of Directors, ensuring that benchmarks are established for measuring success and that the planning cycles recur as appropriate.
  • Implements and evaluates the action plan based on the approved strategic goals and opportunities.


  • A proven decision maker with the ability to set priorities, manage, and implement them.
  • Develops, establishes and maintains strong relationships with Mozilla Corporation and the Mozilla community.
  • Creates and develops programs within the Foundation to achieve the overall mission for Mozilla.
  • Develops strategic partnerships with appropriate organizations/people to advance the access and ease of the Internet.
  • Creates and encourages a collegial and participatory work environment where trust, integrity and open communication are valued.

Community and Board Development

  • Represents a strong cadre of volunteers, assuring their integration into the organization, culture, and leadership of the Foundation.
  • Provide avenues for full and open communication and collaboration with the community at large and promote an awareness of the diverse and changing needs of the community.
  • Initiates and encourages collaboration and cooperation among other organizations and leaders. Assists in building a shared vision of how to address and solve issues related to the Internet.
  • Develops Board meeting agendas, in collaboration with the Board Chair, and regularly provides information to the Board on activities in relation to the mission and progress toward the strategic goals adopted by the Board.
  • Provides information and recommendations to the Board for setting or revising the Foundation’s goals and objectives, operating policies, strategic planning and grant making priorities.
  • Qualifications

  • Ten years senior management experience in either the not-for-profit or for-profit environments that are technology driven.
  • Experience with open source environments is highly desirable.
  • Ability to channel and synthesize expectations and needs of multiple constituencies including users, developers and volunteers.
  • Should have an open and inclusive management style and be comfortable with working and resolving issues “in a fishbowl.”
  • Ability to manage personnel remotely.
  • He/she should have a high level of comfort and passion for technology and a sense of the possibilities of the Internet.
  • Experience in working with an international community of people and organizations.
  • A highly regarded professional stature and credibility, coupled with strong leadership skills.
  • Effective at leading and managing highly independent and self-motivated employees and volunteers.
  • The ability to prioritize and tackle multiple tasks and see the “big picture” are key. Maturity and sound judgment are essential.
  • Experience in setting strategic direction and driving it.

Personal Characteristics

  • Inspiring, creative and visionary about the Internet.
  • Entrepreneurial style and spirit.
  • Enjoys being in the company of technical people.
  • Excellent communicator with all people at every level, a leader and bridge builder.
  • Ability to work well under pressure and adapt easily to changing situations and priorities.
  • Good judgment and consensus building skills.


Bachelor’s degree or the equivalent in experience is required.


A base salary commensurate with experience plus attractive benefits.

The Mozilla Foundation is an equal opportunity employer.

Please send your resume or recommendations to:

Eunice J. Azzani

Eunice [dot] Azzani [at] kornferry [dot] com

Carl Malamud and Public.Resource.Org

May 22nd, 2007

Carl Malamud has started a new organization, Public.Resource.Org, that is “dedicated to the creation of public works projects on the Internet” with an initial focus of “increasing the flow of information in both directions between the U.S. government and people.”

Carl is leaving the Mozilla Foundation Board of Directors and will be focusing his time on Public.Resource.Org. During his tenure, Carl has brought his fierce determination to benefit public access to information to the Mozilla Foundation. We are a stronger organization as a result of Carl’s involvement.

Please join me in thanking Carl for his contributions to the Mozilla world, and in wishing Carl the best with Public.Resource.Org.

Mozilla Community and Mozpad

May 21st, 2007

The Mozilla community is unbelievably vibrant and active. There is a long history of people interested in Mozilla clumping together to make things happen — this started way back in 1999 or so and continues today. Our QA effort is one example, Firefox is another, is another, Spread Firefox is another. In each of these settings groups of people decided something should be done to expand the reach of Mozilla, they made something good happen, and now they are integral parts of Mozilla.

The activities underway to inaugurate Mozpad are a contemporary example of the Mozilla community. There are a group of application developers using the Mozilla platform to build applications other than the browser. These developers start with Mozilla code, add other elements, and build applications and businesses. The developers get enormous value from Mozilla code, but it often does not meet all of their needs. The unmet needs might be changes to the core Mozilla platform, packaging and installation changes, or any number of other things.

A user’s group for these developers such as Mozpad is a great idea. And not only is it a great idea, but it is happening. And it’s happening through a classic Mozilla process — people see a need, self-organize, and improve the Mozilla world. Matt has come up with a name (always helpful), and is organizing an initial meeting. All those interested are welcome to attend.

Self-organizing, “doing,” and expanding the Mozilla world is a long-standing and fundamental aspect of the Mozilla community. It’s how many new things gain traction, often leading to more effective results than would come from a centralized planning effort.

As self-organizing activities gain scale and provide new benefits to the Mozilla world, Mozilla works to provide infrastructure and supporting resources. If there are ongoing activities coming out of Mozpad, Mozilla is more than happy to provide infrastructure — newsgroups, mailing lists, discussion sites, etc. — and to help get appropriate platform development requests incorporated into the general development process.

The vitality of the Mozilla community produces an astonishing range of self-organizing groups of people who move the Mozilla vision closer to reality. It’s unbelievably energizing to be part of such a community.

XUL and XULRunner investment

May 13th, 2007

I’ve been working on getting this post together for a while. Originally I had hoped to have more specific suggestions regarding mechanisms for interacting with other XUL developers. But the conversation about investing in the Mozilla platform is happening now, so I’ll start with this and we can think through specifics together.

Recently there’s been a fair amount of discussion about platforms for building “Rich Internet Applications.” Adobe’s Apollo demo and Microsoft’s Silverlight (WPF/E) effort generate significant attention. And Mozilla’s XUL offering is ever more widely used, in both relatively high profile projects like Joost and Songbird and in less well known but very interesting applications.

Here’s an outline of where the Mozilla Foundation plans to spend resources with regard to XUL and XULRunner. The plans below relate to the next 18 months or so as we develop an updated version of core Mozilla technology known as “Mozilla 2.” One of the goals of Mozilla 2 is to make it an easier technology to embed. We will revisit our XUL and XULRunner plans as Mozilla 2 comes to fruition.


  • The Mozilla Foundation will continue to invest significant amounts in XULRunner and the Mozilla “platform.”
  • The Foundations’ focus for XULRunner work for the next 18 months or so will be on browsing, Firefox and the Firefox ecosystem.
  • In addition, the Foundation will work to increase communication with XUL developers — both general understanding and specific API requests — and drive relevant information into our overall planning process.
  • Contributions that broaden XULRunner are more than welcome; these will be managed according to Module Ownership and other Mozilla policies.


  • “XUL” (pronounced “zool”) stands for “XML based User Interface Language” and is the language in which Mozilla applications like Firefox, Thunderbird, Sunbird and the multitude of extensions are written.
  • “XULRunner” is a packaging of the core Mozilla codebase including XUL, HTML, XML, CSS, Javascript and the rest of the Gecko rendering engine. In other words, XULRunner is the core runtime, including a set of libraries and APIs that provide basic functionality required by Web applications, but which does not include any actual user interface or “application” layer.
  • “Pre-packaged” or “productized” or “stand-alone” XULRunner. These are terms that have been used to describe an instance of XULRunner that various applications would expect to find on a machine and would share once found. This would allow distribution of a thin “application layer” only, which would then take advantage of a stand-alone XULRunner already on the target machine.
  • “Mozilla Foundation” as used here includes the Mozilla Corporation.

Mozilla Foundation Plans and the Role of Module Ownership

The Mozilla Foundation plans outlined below live within the content of Mozilla policies relating to Module Ownership, code review, source code commit access, etc. These policies state that individuals to whom authority has been delegated have responsibilities to the Mozilla project itself, unrelated to employment.

The policy on Module Ownership is particularly relevant to this discussion. Module owner responsibilities are outlined in the Module Owners Roles and Responsibilities document. I’ve excerpted a particularly relevant paragraph below:

Module owners are not tyrants. They are chartered to make decisions with input from the community and in the best interests of the community. Module owners are not required to write code because the community wants them to. (Like anyone else, the module owners may write code because they want to, because their employers want them to, because the community wants them to, or for some other reason.) Module owners do need to pay attention to patches submitted to that module. However “pay attention” does not mean agree to every patch. Some patches may not make sense for Mozilla; some may be poorly implemented. Module owners have the authority to decline a patch; this is a necessary part of the role. asks the module owners to describe in the relevant bug their reasons for wanting changes to a patch, for declining it altogether, or for postponing review for some period. We don’t ask or expect them to rewrite patches to make them acceptable. Similarly, module owners may need to delay review of a promising patch due to an upcoming deadline. For example, a patch may be of interest, but not for the next milestone. In such a case it may make sense for the module owner to postpone review of a patch until after matters needed for a milestone have been finalized. Again, we expect this to be described in the relevant bug. And of course, it can’t go on very often or for very long without some review . . . .

It is an explicit expectation of the Mozilla Foundation that all its employees (whether employed by the Foundation directly, the Mozilla Corporation, or any other Mozilla entity) who are module owners or have other authority (super-review, etc.) exercise this authority as stated in relevant policy documents.

Mozilla Foundation Plans

1. XUL as language

The XUL language remains fundamentally important to Mozilla. The Mozilla Foundation will continue to invest in the development of the language. We will also continue to work towards standardizing key aspects of the language, such as the “flexibile box layout” which is in process with the W3C. Our focus with XUL language development will be what’s necessary for Firefox, but of course all Mozilla module owners have a responsibility to respond to contributions that address other products and broader needs. That responsibility is described above. Specific examples of how this works in practice have been the inclusion of thread-safety patches and graphics patches beyond Firefox requirements in order to meet the needs of the Songbird project.

2. XULRunner to Support Firefox and Browsing

XULRunner also remains fundamentally important, both for Firefox itself and for our efforts to keep the web itself competitive as a platform against closed / proprietary platforms. The Mozilla Foundation will continue to invest quite seriously in developing XULRunner. The primary focus of Mozilla employees will be developing XUlRunner as a robust platform for the open web as viewed via the browser. In other words, on developing XULRunner to meet the needs of the Firefox ecosystem. XULRunner improvements should benefit a range of other applications but the focus of Mozilla employees will be on browsing. This focus will remain for the next 18 months or so.

3. XULRunner to Support Other Applications

For the next 18 months or so the Mozilla Foundation plans a targeted investment here. (This is not a commitment to invest heavily here after 18 months, it is a statement of what we know today.) For the next 18 months or so, we plan to do the following in addition to work related to Firefox needs:

A. Develop a mechanism to:

  • Improve two way communication with the XUL application developer community.
  • Gather undocumented requirements, information about bugs and desires for new or improved APIs for XUlRunner.
  • Help developers get these bugs, API and feature requests into the Mozilla development worldview. In more concrete terms, get this information turned into discussions in the appropriate Mozilla newsgroups, and /or turned into “bugs” in our bug tracking system.
  • Monitor progress and response level of requests, prod developers when appropriate. For example, clearly understood bug fixes should be a good candidate for immediate check-in whether or not the bug affects Firefox or any other Mozilla Foundation application.
  • Assist XUL developers to evaluate whether their work could / should be contributed back to the main development effort and if so, how to do so effectively.

B. Utilize this information in planning and implementation of ongoing platform development work, including Mozilla 2. Note that this does not mean all wishes are valid, or even if valid will be undertaken directly by the Mozilla Foundation. This is a focus on learning and evaluating requests, not on necessarily meeting everyone’s wish — lists. And of course, participation by XUL developers will help make things faster.

C. Make incremental improvements and accept contributions that module owners believe are understood, move XULRunner forward and don’t include undue risk.

D. Revisit these plans periodically (but not constantly) to see if changing circumstances should cause a change in plans.

4. Stand-Alone XULRunner.

The Mozilla Foundation does not plan to invest in a pre-packaged or stand-alone XULRunner at this time. We plan to re-evaluate this as we approach the release of Mozilla 2. Specifically this means we are not producing supported XULRunner builds and we do not plan to ship Firefox3 on top of a stand-alone XULRunner. (If someone contributed the patches to make this happen we would evaluate them, but anticipate the risk associated with such patches would almost preclude their incorporation into Firefox 3 unless they landed and tested well during the alpha release cycle.)

The rationale for this decision is that the primary advantage of packing XULRunner as a runtime is to allow for the download and distribution of small applications that can use a pre-installed copy of XULRunner. However, several problems prevent this from being a viable solution in practice:

  • As we’ve seen with the JVM, CLR, and DLL settings it is often the case that applications will need to bind to a very specific version of the runtime. In this case the application may still require downloading its own XULRunner version.
  • Many existing users of XULRunner are adding their own extensive customizations to the platform and thus could not use a standard build. We are eager for developers to contribute back generally useful customizations so that their work improves XULRunner for everyone. However, we anticipate some patches will be particular to a developer or class of developers. These may not be contributed back, may not desirable for a general distribution, or may involve enough risk that extensive testing and timing requirements will be necessary.

A stand-alone XULRunner is a potentially significant and disruptive amount of work and the practical benefits in the real work setting of the Web are difficult to assess given the versioning problems described above. The Foundation will focus its resources on problems where we’re more certain of the scope of positive impact.

Application vs. Platform Focus

May 11th, 2007

I’ve been working on a statement about investment in the XUL platform. It’s been in the works for a while as I wanted to make sure of the facts. I’ll post it shortly. It wasn’t written specifically as a response but serves pretty nicely as a next step in the conversation that’s underway.

Before then I thought I’d describe informally my own personal views on the question of investment in the platform vs. the application.

The platform is critical. We invest an enormous amount in the platform technologies; probably more than in any other area. The platform technologies — known as XULRunner — are rich, flexible, and open like the web. They are what give Firefox its power. They also provide a powerful foundation for other applications, and we are seeing an increasing number of other applications built on XULRunner.

This is awesome. It provides an ever-increasing number of applications built on open source and shared technology, and increases the amount of the Internet accessible through open alternatives.

This raises the question: should Mozilla focus mostly on the platform as a general purpose platform? Should we drop our focus on “browsing” and focus instead on a platform for any and all web-enabled applications?

To me the answer is clearly “no.” Imagine a world without Firefox, or where we built platform technologies for Internet applications in general. Without the tens of millions of Firefox users, how would we keep web-based content open to multiple browsers? Without the testing of the platform provided by an application like Firefox, how would we achieve the necessary quality? Without an application like Firefox, how could the Mozilla participants satisfy the passion to touch human beings, to improve the Internet experience for actual people? Without touching people how could we build the communities of thousands — in some cases tens of thousands — of people who see and promote the Mozilla mission? How do we build and sustain a community sufficient to provide the technology itself?

It may be possible to find answers for any one of these questions. But touching human beings and helping individual people is a fundamental part of what many contributors do. Take that away and one takes away much of the vitality.

The Mozilla Foundation will continue building the Mozilla platform. And application developers who have high quality improvements to make are very welcome contributors. But the idea of the Mozilla Foundation de-emphasizing applications in order to transform ourselves into a general purpose “platform” organization — giving up the fundamental focus on the human being a application focus provides, reducing our ability to help individuals directly — seems an absolute non-starter to me.

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