Archive for May 11th, 2007

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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