Archive for July 14th, 2011

Mozilla in the New Internet Era — More Than the Browser

July 14th, 2011

Mozilla’s mission is to build user sovereignty into the fabric of the Internet. We work to ensure that the the Internet remains open, interoperable and accessible to all. To do this we build products, we build decentralized participation worldwide, and we build the ability for people to create their own experiences in addition to consuming commercial offerings.

Internet life is undergoing immense changes. The mobile revolution has huge implications, from new devices to operating systems to user expectations. The social experience means a lot of personal data about me becomes central. The increasingly ubiquitous nature of computing devices (phone to tablets to microwaves to lights and electric meters) means the amount and kinds of data being generated are changing dramatically.

Since the Internet experience is changing, that means Mozilla must change too. The products and tools we use to fulfill our mission need to expand and change. When we started the key roadblock to true user sovereignty was the sorry state of the browser. At the time the browser was the near-universal way people accessed web content. It was so universal people somewhat forgot about it and assumed that what the commercial world provided was enough. With Firefox, we won this first round of the fight for user sovereignty. We have a great browser, it helped spawn vast amounts of innovation and a new generation of capabilities. The browser remains incredibly important. Indeed, it’s so important that other organizations are building their own browsers to build the web they way they want it.

The browser is necessary but it is no longer sufficient. There are a number of reasons the Firefox experience needs to expand to fulfill the Mozilla mission.

For one thing, even if I use Firefox, I use it today to create information about myself that lives in multiple data silos (or “websites” or “apps” or “services”). These are often inter-operable, subject to different rules, and usually difficult or impossible to combine. Access to information I’ve created about myself is fragmented. The set of values that we have built into Firefox is not yet present in this information / data layer.

Secondly, the browser is no longer the only way people access the Internet. People also use more focused “apps” to do discrete tasks, and often feel a strong sense of attachment to the apps and the app model. This is an exciting addition. Mozilla should embrace some aspects of the current app model in addition to the browser model. I think of apps as a new “form-factor” for the web. Focused, with a sense of discovery and ownership. Today apps are also platform specific, sometimes device specific, and don’t provide many of the attributes we associate with the web.

Thirdly, mobile devices mean the entire hardware and software stacks are changing. As a result, the computers many of us use are more closed than they have been in our lifetimes. At the same time, the range of new possibilities and experiences is exploding. Mobile computing needs a strong infusion of Mozilla values. This means Firefox and other software on the new platforms, it means apps and it means bringing the Firefox experience to data and services as well.

Mozilla has a unique ability to put user sovereignty first in all of these areas. We’re organized as a non-profit precisely so that this is the only thing that matters. Our stakeholders care about the values we build into the Internet, not the economic value we create for ourselves. We’ve done this with Firefox. We had a vision of how the world could be, and we created a product to make that vision real. Now the vision seems obvious. It’s been widely adopted and has become a competitive aspect of the mainstream.

It’s time to expand the Firefox experience to encompass the changing face of the Internet.

We have a number of initiatives underway that can form a piece of this expansion. Discussion is underway on a Firefox vision document that points to some of these issues. We now consider Android as a first tier platform; and have begun explorations into providing parts of the Firefox experience on multiple platforms with Firefox Home. There is architecture, protocol and implementation work underway for the apps ideas and identity.

Your thoughts and comments welcome here.  Please stay tuned for more detailed discussions on all these topics.  And most importantly, please jump in, get involved, and build the Firefox experience throughout our online lives.

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