Last week the Wall Street Journal issued a correction of a factual error central to a story about Mozilla. It’s good to have the official correction for obvious factual errors; this is a mark of journalistic integrity. However, the correction is flawed itself: it notes a key error in the factual underpinnings of the article, but does not reassess the article. Even with the correction, the story still conveys an incorrect impression of the Mozilla decision-making process. I’d like to address this so that everyone touching Mozilla — the thousands of people choosing to build Mozilla products like Mozilla Firefox, the hundreds of millions of users of Mozilla Firefox, and anyone interacting with Mozilla — understands how mistaken this suggestion is.
The story stated that Mozilla removed a feature we believed to be good for users because of pressure from an advertising industry executive. This is not accurate in any shape or form. It’s not accurate about any particular company. It’s not accurate about the particular executive named. It’s just wrong.
Decision-making at Mozilla is based on the criteria in the Mozilla Manifesto — the set of values that underlie all work of the Mozilla project, including Mozilla Firefox. Sometimes people think we’re naive — or even lying — when we say these values are what drive us as we build consumer products. However unusual it may sound, these values are the foundation of our work. Mozilla is a public-benefit, mission-driven organization that uses our products to move our mission forward. We use our products and our development method to increase individual empowerment and give each of us more ability to be in control of our online lives. Our decision-making process reflects this. This process may be difficult to understand, since most software organizations base decisions on maximizing profit. Our challenge is to explain this better.
Our decision-making process may be different from what people expect. That’s fine — Mozilla is an unusual organization. Hopefully, the future will see more public-benefit organizations sharing some Mozilla traits, and hopefully our goals and decision-making process will become less unusual.