Eyeballs with Wallets

July 21st, 2009

Here’s the business approach of the then-current CEO of a very well-known Internet company. (He’s gone now.)

  • get eyeballs looking at my site
  • find or create content that keeps them at my site as long as possible
  • monetize them as much as possible while they’re there

There are times when each of us will be happy to be a pair of eyeballs with a wallet attached, to be a “monitizable unit.” In our physical lives this is a little like going to the mall. I may “window-shop” and I may enjoy a comfortable environment. But there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that the point of the mall is to for people to purchase things.

There are times, however, when being a wallet attached to eyeballs is not enough. The possibilities available to us online should be broader, just as they are in the physical world. Sometimes we choose to skip the mall and go to the library, or the town square or the park or the museum or the playground or the school. Sometimes we choose activities that are not about consumption, but are about learning and creation and improving the environment around us.

We have public spaces for these activities in our physical lives. We have public assets, and the idea of building some part of our infrastructure for public benefit as a necessary complement to private economic activity.

Mozilla strives to bring this public aspect, this sense of compete human beings, the goal of enriching the full range of human activities to the Internet. We envision a world where the Internet is built to support these varied aspects of the human experience; a world where robust economic activity lives alongside vibrant social, civic and individual enrichment.

We’re building this world so that we can all live in it.

9 comments for “Eyeballs with Wallets”

  1. 1

    kflsdf said on July 21st, 2009 at 5:44 pm:

    Mitchell your vision is admirable. But what exactly is Mozilla doing to stop closed source cloud computing which is all about eyeballs with wallets? Looks to me all the browsers are more than happy to help make clouds more powerful.

  2. 2

    Mitchell Baker said on July 22nd, 2009 at 6:49 am:


    Big question. First I’d say that yes, we expect there are efficiencies and power in the cloud. The question is who controls the information that lives in the cloud. There’s two parts to that info: (1) the info that I create intentionally (with I call “intentional data”), and (2) the information that websites create about me (cookies, correlated data). We have experiments in the first category mostly through Weave. That’s early yet, still focused on sync and identity. The hope is that we develop good ways to allow people to control the data we create that also has a good user experience and promotes the richness that personalization and customization can provide. For example, Weave data is now encrypted. This puts individuals firmly in control of the data — Mozilla doesn’t have access to the data even as it lives on our servers. This has some ovehead issues, esp with mobile devices where the decryption capabilities are currently limited, but it’s our starting point for the reason you describe.

    The second aspect — the demographic and personal info about us that websites develop through behaviorial targeting is often labeled as “privacy.” It’s something a bunch of us are interested / concerned with. At Mozilla we also have a few early explorations under way. First, we’re trying to describe some basic uses of data clearly — our metrics blog is unusual in describing and analyzing data in public. Our IT team is trying to get more data about how Mozilla websites/ traffice operate into the public. Our Test Pilot program (still in public design phase) is explicitly designed to be a showcase for how individuals can remain in control of our data while still participating in improving the usability of the web.

    I agree there’s a lot to do here. It’s one reason that I believe Mozilla remains so important even as additional browsers are developed. A healthy Internet needs someone who can build products without needing to maximize financial return.

  3. 3

    kflsdf said on July 22nd, 2009 at 8:49 pm:

    Mitchell, thanks for your reply. I’m surprised that you took the time to answer my question. Can’t say I expect many CLWs to do that!

    I will watch Mozilla Weave with great interest for precisely the reasons you describe. It looks promising.

    I just hope that Web 2.0 does not make Microsoft look like a teddy bear. I will always stick to Mozilla for the reason that it is the friendliest to the Open Web. Kudos for sponsoring Ogg Theora and trying to convince Youtube to switch to it.

  4. 4

    Tristan said on July 24th, 2009 at 1:19 am:

    Cloud computing is fine as soon as you have the ability to run your own cloud and move your code and data from one cloud provider to the other (including your own). The server software wwe produce at Mozilla (Bugzilla, Weave, etc.) can be installed on your own servers. See for example .

  5. 5

    Olivier said on July 25th, 2009 at 7:35 am:

    this kind of reflection is what keeps Mozilla on the right track. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  6. 6

    dl said on July 29th, 2009 at 7:44 am:

    I ask this one question because I think the post is terrific. In ratio to our daily lives and activities where are those activities where wallets aren’t attached? Just a question to investigate this philosophy a little. What percentage of the basic maneuverability of life and journey in the world today is not necessary to think about transaction and revenue after you are not a child? If the browser is to be interfaced with that at all levels how far can you really remove that without it becoming a hindrance to the actual activity?

    Just a question. One that I deal with every day as we are looking at the living room and the couch…where browser choice and interface with the internet is probably going to take over as the directive for choice.

  7. 7

    MadamaAmbi said on July 29th, 2009 at 11:14 am:

    Hello Mitchell–apparently you are the “conscience” of the internet. Some of my feminist colleagues have called me the “Jimminy Cricket” of the femisphere. The questions you raise are critical to the evolution of human consciousness. I have a vision (and a plan) for a needs-based media network driven by user interactivity. It’s about helping people help themselves. I have also given thought to revenue streams so that it can sustain itself. It’s a HUGE concept vision, drawing on my background in psychology, education, the arts, my work with both the richest and poorest people in this country, and having lived online as an activist feminist artist for the past year and a half.

    I’ve run this by enough people to know I’ve got something worth pursuing, but I don’t see myself doing the start-up/venture capital, test market, prove-it-can-make-money model. That’s not what I’m about. I’ve got serious social change/innovation/re-visioning chops and I need a partnership with open-source/social change people.

    From what I’ve read about you, I think you may be it. Some feminists you may recognize (Gloria Feldt, Kim Gandy) have joined groups I’ve started and/or the advisory committee for this media network. I’m 55, retired, and working a full-time unpaid job as an online feminist activist artist. Please let me know if you would be interested in discussing this further. I look forward to hearing from you.


  8. 8

    Bapak Super said on August 4th, 2009 at 9:06 am:

    You mean people are citizens, not just consumers?

    Let’s hope the FCC gets the memo.

  9. 9

    Avery said on August 8th, 2009 at 4:56 am:

    […] Through the Weave project, for example, we want to reclaim the vision of the browser acting as a true user-agent on the web. We want to help broker user data in a secure and private manner. We want to build the foundational, open source building blocks upon which an entire new generation of web applications will be built. We want to enable the poetry so succinctly captured by Mitchell when she says: “I am not a number“. […]

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