2007 has been another year of extremely high growth for Mozilla and thus for the Mozilla Corporation. The number of Firefox users has grown to approximately 125 million. Mozilla’s mindshare in the industry continues to grow. We’ve launched both a number of significant new initiatives: a mobile effort, an innovation focus in Mozilla Labs, an integrated, ambitious support effort (support.mozilla.org) and a range of new outreach and evangelism programs. We’ve launched a serious effort in China and are vigorously supporting the new mail related Mozilla organization. We continue to build and ship great software, as the recent Firefox 3 betas demonstrate. Our contributors are increasing around the globe. Employees are increasing around the globe. We’re doing this in a Mozilla way, with a tiny number of employees for the work, distributed authority and tens of thousands of people contributing to create a more open and participatory Internet.
Our accomplishments are remarkable; the opportunity in front of us is enormous. To meet this opportunity we need to execute really, really well. And we need to make the best use of our resources, most notably people.
Today both John Lilly and I are spending a lot of time in classic “CEO” activities– organizational structure, employee well-being, budget and resource allocation, representing Mozilla products (especially Firefox) in discussions with other industry executives and the press, monitoring the progress of our product efforts, and overall execution of MoCo (our shorhand for the Mozilla Corporation). In addition to this work, I spend another chunk of time on overall organizational issues, in particular the relationship of the Mozilla Corporation to other Mozilla entities — The Mozilla Foundation, Mozilla Europe, “MailCo”, and the Mozilla community. I’m starting to spend time thinking about Firefox as a springboard in the Internet industry for bringing participation to areas not directly touched through using a browser– for data, for understanding what’s actually happening with the Internet. I spend time on Mozilla Foundation activities and project wide policies, including recruiting an Executive Director and filling in somewhat until we find someone. Each of these areas needs more time than it gets, and each will need even more time in the future.
So I’ve asked myself repeatedly: what is the best use of my talents? Not the use that is known, or that fits a standard model or is most glamourous. Those are all fine criteria, but not for Mozilla and not for me. More recently I started framing the question a little more precisely, asking myself: what am I doing that someone else could do as least as well? Are there unmet aspects of the opportunity in front of us that I could do a particularly good job of moving forward if I focused more on them?
I have some unique attributes within the Mozilla world. I’ve had a leadership role since the early days and along with Brendan Eich I’ve been involved in — and often instrumental in — almost every major strategic and organizational decision following the launch of Mozilla. My focus ranges across the Mozilla world, and no one title captures the scope of what I think about and where I try to lead. I have a vision of the Internet and online life and a positive user experience — and of Mozilla’s role in creating these — that is far broader than browsers, email clients and even technology in general. Mozilla has shaped me during this first decade of my involvement; constantly astounding me with the ingenuity, commitment and excellence of our contributors. And I’ve undoubtedly had a hand in shaping Mozilla.
Framed like this, a couple of things jumped out at me. One, I want Mozilla’s influence on the industry to go beyond the bits we ship as software. More particularly, I want to use the impact Firefox gives us in the market to get openness, collaboration and user control embedded in other products, services and aspects of online life. I’ve listed a few examples of what I mean below. You’ll see they are not yet precise and detailed. That’s why I want to dive into them– I can sense the enormity of the opportunity and a general sense of how to approach it, but I don’t have detailed project plans, and I’m not aware of anyone else who does. Some examples are:
- Making the standards process more effective.
- Encouraging more hybrid organizations like the Mozilla Corporation — organizations which serve the public benefit but support themselves through revenue rather than fund-raising.
- Making “security” understandable enough that people can help protect themselves.
- Providing individuals with the means to control their data and the content they create.
- Making the public benefit, distributed and collaborative nature of Mozilla and Firefox more generally understood.
The second thing that jumped out at me is that John Lilly is the right person to guide the product and organizational maturity of MoCo. John has been doing more and more of this since he took on the COO role in August of 2006. John understands Mozilla, is astonishingly good at operations and has an innate facility for our products and technologies and the directions in which they should develop. John has been instrumental in developing an organizational structure for MoCo that is both embedded in Mozilla and open-source DNA and which can function at the extremely high degree of effectiveness that our setting requires.
Once I allowed myself to think about this I realized that John will be a better CEO for the MoCo going forward than I would be. I’m sure that I was the right person for this role during the first years of MoCo; I’m equally sure that John is the best person for this role in the future.
As a result I’ve asked John to take on the role of CEO of the Mozilla Corporation, and John has agreed. In reality John and I have been unconsciously moving towards this change for some time, as John has been providing more and more organizational leadership. It is very Mozilla-like to acknowledge the scope of someone’s role after he or she has been doing it for a while, and this is a good part of what is happening here. I expect this transition to continue to be very smooth.
I will remain an active and integral part of MoCo. I’ve been involved in shipping Mozilla products since the dawn of time, and have no intention of distancing myself from our products or MoCo. I’ll remain both as the Chairman of the Board and as an employee. My focus will shift towards the kinds of activities described above, but I’ll remain deeply engaged in MoCo activities. I don’t currently plan to create a new title. I have plenty of Mozilla titles already: Chairman of the Mozilla Foundation, Chairman of the Mozilla Corporation, Chief Lizard Wrangler of the project. More importantly, I hope to provide leadership in new initiatives because they are worthwhile, separate from any particular title. We will probably create an Office of the Chairman with a small set of people to work on these initiatives. I intend to remain deeply involved with MoCo precisely because I remain focused on our products and what we can accomplish within the industry.
There will be some differences with this change of roles. Most notably:
- John’s role in products and organization will become more visible to the world as he becomes more of a public voice for MoCo activities.
- Today — in theory at least — John provides advice to me for a range of decisions for which I am responsible. In the future I’ll provide input to John and he’ll be responsible for making MoCo an effective organization. I expect to provide advice on a subset of topics and thus reduce the duplication of work. On the other hand, I also expect to be quite vocal on the topics I care about most. John and I agree on most things these days, but that doesn’t stop me from being vocal 🙂
I’m thrilled with this development, both with John’s new role and with mine. If you’ve got thoughts on the kinds of projects I want to set in motion, I’m eager to hear them. And don’t be surprised if you see the Mozilla Corporation doing more faster — that’s a part of the goal. We’re all committed to doing things in a Mozilla style and you should expect to see that continue to shine through all that we do, whether it’s shipping product or developing a new initiative.