There’s a bit of a discussion underway about what the Mozilla Foundation might do to become an even more effective organization in achieving its mission. Mark Surman and Dave Eaves had some thoughts about this mission in possibly the broadest possible formulation — a social movement for the Open Web (or Open Internet). David Ascher has a nice follow-up, pointing out a few areas beyond the products we shipping today that are in need of serious attention for an Open Internet to be real. Glyn Moody has a piece up at Linux Journal called “How Can we Harness the Firefox Effect” that carries these ideas even further. This is great to see. The open-endedness of this encourages good brainstorming.
I’ve lived deep inside the Mozilla product effort for so long I’m probably a bit less open-ended. At the very highest level we want to make the Internet a universal platform accessible to all, and to promote innovation and choice in Internet activities. Moving one step closer to concreteness, we have the Mozilla Manifesto. The Manifesto sets out some of the characteristics necessary for the Internet to be such a platform. We’re doing a good job through our product and service offerings. The Mozilla Foundation must maintain these, but there’s more to be done.
If the Internet is to be open, universal and truly accessible, there must be ways for individuals to participate in creating this Open Internet. We know that open source is the quintessential model for us. Open source allows us to participate in building products that embody openness and enable innovation and choice.
But not everyone is going to build software products and services. The question is, how do we take the things that make Mozilla effective and expand that to a broader scope? I’m wary of becoming diffuse and losing our effectiveness. I’m wary of the Mozilla Foundation becoming an organization that does a lot of talking about the Open Internet but doesn’t test our ideas by putting them into practice and by enabling people to do things.
This leads me to think that building the Mozilla Foundation is building concentric circles, with the software development we’re already doing as the innermost circle. The next circle out would be pretty closely related to this, the next circle a little less so. One of these concentric layers may become a boundary — the furthest point we can go and still have cohesion and effectiveness. That’s a fine thing. At that point we’ll know the scope of things we can do as Mozilla.
Figuring out what makes sense as the next couple of layers is a good-sized job itself. It’s important to do this, to identify the concrete opportunities for broadening the Mozilla Foundation. I’ve been immersed in the product questions for so long that it is very refreshing to see new perspectives on this. It’s got my mind spinning off in new directions.