Today is a special day.
March 31, 1998 is the date that Mozilla was officially launched. It’s the date the first Mozilla code became publicly available under the terms of an official open source license and a governing body for the project — the Mozilla Organization — began its public work. It’s always been known in Mozilla parlance as “3/31.” We’ll be celebrating Mozilla’s 10 year anniversary throughout 2008. Today I want to look at our first ten years, and a bit at the next ten years.
Ten years ago a radical idea took shape. The idea was that an open source community could create choice and innovation in key Internet technologies where large, commercial vendors could not. This idea took shape as the Mozilla project.
Mozilla was not the first group to pursue this idea. GNU/Linux and the BSD operating systems were already providing a very effective alternative at the server-side operating system level; the Apache web server was already proving that an open source solution could be effective even in areas where the commercial players were actively competing. Each of these gave strength to the idea that this new effort could be successful.
At its inception, Mozilla was:
- An open source codebase for the software we call the browser
- A group of people to build and lead an open source development effort — the Mozilla Organization (also known as “mozilla.org”)
- A larger group of people committed to the idea — and the enormous work involved — in building a browser we all needed
- An open source license granting everyone expansive rights to use the code for their own goals — the Mozilla Public License (which is now at version 1.1)
- A website
- A mascot (the orange T-rex, alternatively referred to as a lizard)
During the years since 3/31 we have taken that radical idea and proved its power. We have broadened the idea beyond anything imagined at our founding. And in the next ten years we’ll continue to be radical about building fundamental qualities such as openness, participation, opportunity, choice and innovation into the basic infrastructure of the Internet itself.
What have we accomplished?
- Converted a closed, proprietary development process into a vibrant, transparent, open source project.
- Grown into a massive global community, quite possibly the largest open source project in the world
- Developed exceptional technology
- Developed a set of long-term, vibrant projects — Firefox, Thunderbird, SeaMonkey, Camino, Bugzilla, Calendar –most, and possibly all of which have millions of users
- Become the software provider of choice for over 170 million people
- Proved that open source development can product great end user products
- Brought the Internet to millions of people in their language
- Moved the overall state of browser software forward dramatically
- Become a technology platform others use to create products built on Mozilla technologies, and in some cases competitive with Mozilla products
- Developed and implemented systems and community norms for a massive distribution of authority
- Conducted all sorts of new activities in a transparent and participatory way, including product planning, marketing, public speaking, UI and organizational decisions
- Developed a reputation that people trust and feel they have helped create
- Developed a sustainability model using market mechanisms to support a public benefit mission
- Become a significant force in the development of Internet technology industry-wide
- Developed a sophisticated organization that can — for example — service, update and respond to 170 million users
- Built and operated giant open-source web applications — where the source code that runs the application IS open source and available to others;
- Articulated our mission in broad, non-technical term
- Encouraged others to try open, transparent and collaborative techniques in a broad range of activities
- Created public assets of enormous value
That’s a lot. And we’re not done yet. The next ten years have challenges and opportunities equal to those of our first decade. The Internet is now interwoven into modern life, and it will certainly grow to be more powerful. There’s no guarantee that it will remain open or enjoyable or safe. There’s no guarantee that individuals will be able to participate in creating or (for the general non-technical consumer) effectively managing their experience. There’s no guarantee that there is an effective voice for individuals benefiting from the increased power of the Internet.
Mozilla can and should fulfill this role. But not as a guarantor. Mozilla is an opportunity for people to make this vision happen. Mozilla is about opportunity and participation. Mozilla is people getting involved, “doing” things, creating the Internet experience we want to live with. We’re not alone in doing this. Other open source and free software projects play a strong role, as do other organizations focused on participation, collaboration, and openness.
We want the Internet to be an open environment, where it’s easy to innovate, and where individuals, small groups and newcomers all have rich opportunities to create and lead. So, we’ll build technologies and products that make this happen. Mozilla offers each person who wants to see this happen an opportunity to do something. Using Mozilla products is an important step in its own right — every person using Mozilla products makes our voice stronger. And there is much, much more that any one of us can do.
What do we know is ahead of us?
- Hundreds of millions of people relying on us for the quality of their Internet experience
- Ensuring that the Open Web itself remains the developer platform of choice for new web applications; providing a compelling alternative to closed, proprietary development environments
- Bringing openness and consumer choice to the mobile environment as we have to the desktop world
- Handling data in a more transparent, participatory way for general consumers
- Bringing openness, paticipation and opportunity to more — and as yet mostly undetermined — aspects of Internet life
- Evolving the “browser” to support the new things we’re doing on the Internet
- Creating a new style of global organization: one where local involvement around the globe has increasing project-wide influence
- Broadening the sustainability options for “hybrid” organizations — that is, organizations that support public benefit activities through market funding mechanisms as well as traditional fundraising
And these are just the things we can see today. Many of the best, most exciting activities of the next ten years will seem to come from nowhere. In reality they will come from people combining their own ingenuity with Mozilla tools, techniques, technologies to build new, wildly innovative aspects to life that none of us can imagine today. And because the Mozilla Foundation is a non-profit organization we are focused on creating the maximum possible public benefit rather than revenue. We don’t limit how people can use our technology to maximize revenue; we encourage people to challenge us to be better.
Opportunity, Challenge, Excitement, Fun
During much of our first ten years people “knew” that our goal of creating choice and innovation in the browser space was impossible. From that perspective we have achieved the impossible. It certainly wasn’t easy, but here we are today in a radically different setting.
The challenges before us are great. But the opportunity is many times larger. We have the ability to affect aspects of Internet architecture and user experience. We have the organization, we have the frameworks we need to work in, we have the voice. And most important of all, we have the Mozilla community. The many thousands of people actively engaged, and the multiples of that who support Mozilla goals and offerings.
It’s our world. Let’s make it great.