Archive for May, 2008

Governance and Module Ownership

May 30th, 2008

At the end of March I made a proposal about updating the way we manage the health of our module ownership system. I’m happy so say that the proposal has now been implemented. Specifically this means:

1. We now have official modules — currently known as Activities Modules — for non-coding activities.
2. We now have a Governance module (owner: Mitchell Baker).
3. We now have a sub-module of Governance for Module Ownership (owner: Brendan Eich).
4. We now have an official Planet Mozilla module (owner: Asa Dotzler).
5. The long-standing web page listing module owners for code modules has been undated to also point people to the Activities modules.
6. The Activities modules are described and listed on
7. The policy governing module ownership has been updated to reflect the creation of the Module Ownership module.

Thanks to everyone involved, and special thanks to Mike Connor for jumping up and down until I got this underway.

The Approach of Summer

May 29th, 2008

Summer is staring here at Mozilla. What that means is not primarily summer vacation. It means summer interns. A 3 to 4 month influx of students working full time on Mozilla. That means the number of full time folks grows by 20 or 25% almost overnight. These folks bring new perspectives, new skills, new expertise, new ideas, new questions, as well as a bunch of new people to get to know. It’s a great time.

Our intern program is a bit unusual. We don’t have special intern projects. We don’t identify special niches where people can dip their toe in the water for a summer.

We identify critical areas of our technology, our product, our outreach, our marketing, our websites, our content, our testing, our localization, etc where a smart, engaged person can make a difference. We expect to get every intern immersed in such an area. We want the work our interns do to affect the lives of 200,000,000 people, just as the work of other participants does.

This isn’t a dream, and it isn’t naive. We did this last summer, when our interns made giant contributions to the product we’re shipping today. We can do this because of how we work and the abilities of our interns. Our interns don’t get a free pass — they live within the processes, policies and discipline we apply to all contributors. They don’t need a free pass — the openness of our development system means that good work is seen and can be incorporated quickly.

Also, it’s a great excuse to drag bunches of people up to the circus gym for some Flying Trapeze lessons 🙂

Firefox 3 — The “End Game”

May 22nd, 2008

We’re getting very, very close to the release of Firefox 3. It’s an odd time around the Firefox part of the Mozilla project. Most of the Firefox and platform engineers are mostly done. The long, long push to get hundreds of issues triaged and resolved is over. Our first Release Candidate is out. Maybe we’ll do another release candidate, that depends on what we learn over the next short period. And if we do there will be a burst of activity. But the vast bulk of the engineering work is done. These engineers are already defining and working on the next projects, from Firefox to mobile. But there’s also a sense of waiting. Firefox 3 isn’t done until we’ve completed a massive test cycle, and there’s a constant and growing throbbing in the air as we work through the final stages.

Meanwhile, other groups of people are in high gear. The QA team is one. It’s a quiet storm of QA activity right now as we throw every test we’ve got at Firefox 3, looking for any cracks or stress points. It’s a quiet storm only because QA is a well-organized, experienced and highly effective team. Otherwise it would be a wild frenzy. Quite a contrast with the Firefox 1.0 release, where we hand-tested the localized versions up through the day of the launch itself, using an easel size pad of paper covered with a hand-written list of localizations and status updates.

Other engineering teams are hard at work as well. The web development team, for example, making sure sites like are ready to go. The website content teams and localization teams are making sure that the many pages of content are available in the massive number of languages that are part of the Firefox 3 release. This includes both the websites themselves and the “product” pages which are part of Firefox. Build and release is the final stage of the release, so they are also in the thick of things right now.

The marketing team is extraordinarily busy, from community activities to press briefings to creating and distributing all the materials needed to explain Firefox: both new features and the overall pleasure of using Firefox to people who haven’t yet experienced what’s possible with Firefox. It’s a massive undertaking to launch a product with a userbase the size of Firefox. We couldn’t do it without the deep integration of the marketing team with the massive Mozilla community and we’re seeing that at work.

So we’re experiencing extreme levels of activity and performance in giant parts of the Firefox community. That’s combined with an intense sense of pressure building. It’s a little like seeing the first rays of sunshine appear on the horizon, and knowing that blazing ball of summer will appear soon.

Review of Summer ’08 Goals

May 14th, 2008

Here’s a review and evaluation of the “Summer 2008 Goals” that I described in my last post. Indented text is the material that was written two years ago.

Summer 2008 Goals

1. Make the Mozilla project a centerpiece of the Internet. Why? To make our values, our “meme” a fundamental piece of the Internet’s future

  • Contributors come to Mozilla to get involved
  • Developers come to Mozilla resources to build good web-related apps (akin to going to MS to build their type of app
  • Thought leaders come to Mozilla to see our technology and learn what we think
  • Security world comes to Mozilla to see how we do things
  • Users come to Mozilla because they trust us and our products
  • MoFo, MoCo, others well integrated for benefit of the project
  • Others follow our lead even if don’t support our values (e.g., IE7)

Background: If I were to have picked only one goal, this would have been it. We’re trying to move Internet life towards the views expressed in the Mozilla Manifesto. To do that we need to be a significant actor (not the significant actor, but one of the central actors) in Internet development. The more central we are the more we can promote an open, secure, distributed style of online life.

Evaluation: Wow. We’ve done this. I don’t mean that we’ve accomplished every example, the examples are just that, examples of indicators. Here’s where we are:

  • We’re a centerpiece of the user experience, with over 170 million people worldwide experiencing the Web through the Firefox ecosystem.
  • Mozilla’s development and testing communities have scaled along with our user growth.
  • Our outreach/adoption/marketing communities have expanded dramatically in both numbers and scope of activities undertaken.
  • Thought leaders, the press and the industry come to Mozilla both to see our technology and to learn what we think in areas as diverse as Firefox, Prism, Weave, mobile and even small projects such as our social project the “Coop” some time back.
  • People use Mozilla technologies to build products far beyond our focus; in fact people are positioning Mozilla technology as an entry into the “Rich Internet Application” realm even as we’re promoting the Web as the platform.
  • The “browser” is once again understood to be a fundamental piece of the Internet experience, rather than an esoteric piece of the operating system that people can safely forget about. As a result Microsoft has recreated a browser team and has made some improvements to its browser offering.
  • Technology thinkers, governments, developers and users are all interested in what Mozilla is doing.
  • Mozilla is a key voice in the development and adoption of web standards and is often used by website developers as a reference implementation for critical web standards. This is great for the Internet as it promotes compatibility for all browsers.
  • We’re a centerpiece in the awareness of open source and free software, where our consumer products are often the first open source/free software product that a consumer interacts with directly. Our increased contact with people in India, Brazil, Argentina and China reveal intense interest in Mozilla, and nascent communities eager for greater contact and involvement.

We’re not perfect of course and there’s plenty of room for improvement. The Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation (and now Mozilla Messaging) are still confusing to many people and need to be more understandable. Our security record is outstanding, and yet we still find our transparency leads to inaccurate press reports and analyses. Our planning processes are radically transparent and yet sometimes there is so much publicly available information that it’s hard to determine what is important.

We can’t lose focus and we can’t stand still, we need to keep moving forward. We start today from a different place than we did two years ago, and that is a tremendous achievement.

2. Increase Firefox usage to 30% of global browser usage. Why? To embed our values deep in the Internet and make the other goals far more likely.

  • Increase use in many locales
  • Increase use in current high-use locales through creative distribution
  • Must be done in ways that further our product vision, not at its expense
  • 30% not intended as absolutist or maximum target

Background: In this goal we set out one of the key drivers in making us a centerpiece of the Internet — Firefox usage. Mozilla is much more than Firefox, but it is the Firefox userbase that gives us such great mindshare and that causes the Internet industry to respond. There wasn’t any science in picking 30%. We thought other numbers (20%, 25%) might be plenty, but we felt comfortable that there would be no doubt at 30%. We also knew that we’re not done at 30%. There are plenty more people who would enjoy their online experience more with Firefox. We picked a number — and an extremely aggressive one at that — to have something concrete in our minds.

Evaluation: We set an audacious goal –something between doubling and tripling our then-current market share — and we’re well on the way to achieving it. We’re making great progress but can’t check off the 30% marker as done yet. Current third party reports show us at 29 or 30% in Europe and something like 22% worldwide. We have achieved the underlying goal, which is growing marketshare, mindshare and significance in the marketplace. Firefox adoption is growing constantly, and quite dramatically in specific locales. Our momentum has not slowed, despite the introduction of new browsers.

To be clear, I’d feel even better if we are at 30% worldwide. I’d feel ecstatic in fact. And ecstatic is where I want to be. 🙂 There’s still nothing magical that I know of about a 30% number, but it still feels like a number where we can be confident we can influence the quality of Internet life. We’re doing this today as we work our way to and beyond 30% — I’m eager to do more.

Some may see this in a different way, along the lines of: they set a number, they may not reach it by summer ’08, and that means failure. That’s an easy, black-and-white view, and it makes for great headlines. But it’s simplistic. That type of interpretation could be correct IF we had ever believed that the 30% number was special — that for some reason 28 or 29% meant one thing and 30% or 31% meant another. In some settings a number like 30% may well be the switch, where yes turns to no, or no turns to yes. That’s not our world. We knew 30% wasn’t magic; we said so in the goal itself: “30% not intended as absolutist or maximum target”.

3. Diversify browsing focus beyond Firefox today. Why? To increase innovation, improve user experience for new activities people do through the browser (e.g., creating and sharing content)

  • New add-ons, new types of add-ons, “official” extension packs, etc.
  • “.moz” services integration idea to improve the Firefox experience
  • Innovation and experimentation through the Mozilla Labs program
  • Increasing participation (making it easy to engage in)
  • “Expanded” browsing activities such as generating (standards-based) content, sharing content, and collaborating
  • This is not limited to “front-end” work; it includes the platform as well

Background: This was our marker to make sure we’re looking to the future. Internet life is changing as new capabilities appear online. We need to be relevant in these new areas to continue moving the Internet towards our goals.

Evaluation: We’re doing this. The initial steps of launching, understanding, and funding a set of critical new initiatives are done. We don’t yet have new end user product offerings for these areas; that work is in progress. We can’t claim that our impact in these other areas is of the scope of that of Firefox, but that wasn’t the goal. As in the first goal, we’ve used the examples as precisely that — examples of the kinds of things that could move the goal forward. We’ve focused on some but not all of them, and added others. Here’s what we’ve done:

  • Created a new team, new focus, new organization, and revitalized community participation and development for Thunderbird and Internet communications
  • Launched a serious mobile effort, created a team for the mobile work, done the platform performance and memory work to make it feasible now, developed prototypes and become an active part of the mobile discussion
  • Created Mozilla Labs as the home for experimentation, giving us a place to design and prototype
  • Started to deal with data, and doing so in a Mozilla way through Mozilla Labs
  • Launched exploration of deep integration of the browser and online services through the Weave project


The last two years have been extraordinary. Two years ago we were looking at at giant opportunity created by years of hard work combined with some good fortune. Today that opportunity is much larger. The scope has grown. The scale has grown. The breadth and depth of Mozilla contributors has grown. The responsibilities have grown. We should celebrate and marvel and be proud and feel honored.

We shouldn’t get cocky or spend too much time patting ourselves on the back. The challenges before us are real. The allure of closed systems is not gone. Some create closed systems because of the economic advantages of controlling a part of the Internet; some are drawn by the desire to control, some drawn unconsciously by good tools and seemingly simple, safe choices.

In the next few years we need to push hard to make sure new capabilities are developed in and for the open web, not limited to proprietary parts of the web. We need to continue to create the products people need for accessing the Internet. We need to use our voice to make open, transparent and participation ever more deeply engrained in the fabric of the web.

It’s time to identify the next big multi-year milestones: what can we do with our products and technologies to move the Internet towards a more open, participation environment? I’ll make some suggestions soon. In the meantime, ideas, proposals, thoughts are more than welcome.

“Summer 2008” Goals

May 14th, 2008

As we approach the release of Firefox 3, it’s time to focus even more on the future. What can we do with our products and our community-based processes that moves the Internet further toward our vision? The release of Firefox 3 is a giant step forward, bringing improvements in almost every area that the browser touches. We’ll do more releases of Firefox, as there is plenty of room for innovation left. But it is not enough to think of our future in terms of Firefox and Thunderbird releases.

We should ask the bigger questions: how do we use our products and product development cycle to improve overall life on the Internet over the next few years? What can we do that moves the Internet towards our vision?

It’s a broad question. That’s a mark of success, and reflects the size of the opportunity before us. It’s also easy to imagine how a discussion could be interesting but fail to result in good goals. “Good” goals need to be broad enough to be meaningful over several years and yet formed enough to motivate action and lead to concrete tasks. Maybe we should think as far forward as the next ten years. But at the least we should think of the next two or three years.

We have some experience in doing this. Just about two years ago Mozilla employees spent some time figuring out what we would like to accomplish over an approximately two year period ending in mid 2008. Those goals became known as “Summer 2008 Goals.” This was an early attempt attempt to create long term goals and it wasn’t a public process. At the time it was hard enough to have this discussion even among the set of Mozilla employees. We were just learning how to talk about goals bigger than “fix these bugs for this release.” It required a change of mindset, longer term thinking and a bit of audacity to set difficult stretch goals. This time we’ll look at long term goals as a community process, involving the broad set of people who are critical to making our products great.

The Summer 2008 Goals are a good set of goals. They are good in their scope and good in expressing big ideas rather than specifying implementation plans. And even better, they were forward-looking goals when we set them and provide a means for evaluating the scope of the progress we’ve made to date. On the other hand, these goals aren’t measurement tools. Anyone looking for specificity will be disappointed. They are directional goals. They are intended to describe the kind and scope of accomplishment we wanted to see.

Broad aspirational goals are a good starting point because Mozilla as a project needs to motivate many thousands of people (tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands, actually) to move in the same general direction, most of whom aren’t full time, aren’t employees and may not even be known personally to the project leadership. We won’t know and don’t seek to control all the things people will do that make us more successful. Articulating a broad, commonly shared set of aspirations helps many disparate groups of people organize themselves and work towards very practical, concrete tasks that make our aspirations real. Sometime during the summer of 2008 I’d like to have a good draft of our goals for how we want to promote the Mozilla vision of the Internet through our products during the next few years.

In my next post I’ll look at the Summer ’08 goals and what we’ve accomplished over the last couple of years.

Upcoming “Firefox Plus” Summit

May 13th, 2008

For the last couple of years the Mozilla Corporation has organized and hosted an event known as the “Firefox Summit.” We’ve done this twice so far; once after the release of Firefox 1.5 and once after the release of Firefox 2. The Summits have been a gathering of the people most deeply involved in creating the just-released product, and likely to be deeply involved in the design and creation of the next version. The summits are part celebration, partly closure, and mostly planning and consensus building for the future efforts.

The Summits bring together a range of contributors, both volunteers and those employed by Mozilla and other organizations. The fundamental goals are to build closer bonds between contributors who rarely meet face to face, and to do serious planning and focusing for the future Firefox work (including the underlying platform). We also try to have some fun, of course. 🙂 Mozilla funds participation — travel, lodging, food, etc — for our volunteers. Mozilla Corporation employees are expected to attend, others attend by invitation.

We’ll be having another Summit this July. This time we plan to expand the focus a bit to move beyond Firefox and the platform technologies that make work. The main focus will still be Firefox and the technology that underlies it — that’s still the key that so much of our vitality. This includes discussions about how our products and technologies can and should move the Mozilla vision forward. And we’ll undoubtedly have discussions about building strong communities, this is an element that runs through every Mozilla activity.

Eventually it would be great to have a broader Mozilla Summit, discussing not only our technology and products but also the range of other activities that the Mozilla project is, or should think about, undertaking. We’re not ready to plan and take that one quite yet, but it’s time to see if we can broaden the focus somewhat.

We’ll clearly broaden this to include Thunderbird, email, and Internet communications. That’s an official Mozilla product that shares our technology and the Mozilla mission. We’ll undoubtedly broaden this in other ways; mobile, Weave, data, and Prism are obvious candidates.

So while we’ll probably refer to this as the “Summit” or the “Firefox Summit,” its official, somewhat-awkward name is the Firefox Plus Summit. If we knew exactly the scope we could figure out a more precise name. I came up with this name to be clear about what we do know: most discussions in the context of Firefox, not completely Firefox, not aiming to cover the entire possible scope of the Mozilla project.

We’re just starting to plan for the Summit. This includes invitees, content, how to get the most input into the discussions and how to get the results dispersed to greater audiences. We hope to make progress in the next couple of weeks, and the bulk of the content development will happen as more and more people finish up their work on Firefox 3.

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