Community-Wide Discussion of Mozilla in the New Era

August 22nd, 2011

Recently I’ve been writing a series of blog posts about what I think Mozilla needs to do to remain relevant as Internet life changes. Testing the ideas in these posts through a community – wide discussion is critical.    This is because Mozilla doesn’t succeed based on the ideas of any one person. We succeed when an idea gains traction among a critical mass of Mozilla leaders. We succeed when those leaders take an idea and make things happen; when Mozilla contributors become a powerful force for bringing the Mozilla mission to life in new ways.

My post on Mozilla’s future are intended to start a discussion and chart a path for Mozilla.   Over the next few months, with Mary Colvig’s help I plan to  encourage this discussion by doing the following:

  • Start with a series of online conversations with groups of key Mozilla contributors.    The current plan is to start with groups based on time-zone, then move to more diverse groups.
  • Ask those contributors to take the ideas to their communities, giving more people the background to participate in subsequent discussions
  • Continue the discussion at Mozilla meetups
  • Have public online discussions
  • Come to a shared understanding of where we agree and disagree
  • Come to a shared understanding of Mozilla’s direction and goals for this era.

If you’ve got thoughts, questions, or suggestions, please feel free to leave comments here or drop into #mozillians.

We won’t reach perfect agreement. There will always be cases where some of us will disagree with some of the activities we undertake. Requiring perfect agreement will lead to paralysis. We need excitement, creativity, mutual respect, and shared goals for the nature of the Internet we’re building.

My hope is that we develop a path that is wildly energizing for the vast majority of us. This will be a path that builds the Internet we want to live in, and brings the Mozilla mission to life.

21 comments for “Community-Wide Discussion of Mozilla in the New Era”

  1. 1

    Jeffrey said on August 22nd, 2011 at 11:28 pm:

    I think the consensus approach is what lead to the Mozilla Suite. It was the skunkworks approach (which some in the community resented) which lead to Firefox’s creation. The initial Firefox team was a very small team that had already been in agreement on what they wanted the browser to be.

  2. 2

    Caspy7 said on August 23rd, 2011 at 3:04 am:

    I agree with Jeffrey.
    I think the key takeaway here is to listen and respond accordingly.
    My concern here is that the ship will have many hands grabbing at the wheel making for a bigger headache and more problems.

    I think all of the primary issues have been articulated one place or another already, rather than more talking, simply bring them together, weigh them with seriousness and react. Viable solutions are the focus now.

  3. 3

    Alina said on August 23rd, 2011 at 6:24 am:


    As other people comment, I think that is very important to find a way to focus (not just talk). Your previous blog posts were inspiring and indeed the right way for Mozilla to go (and the Internet). But user sovereignty is a complex issue (Free Software definition has also as a fundament ensuring User Sovereignty). Now, the Internet is a more complex medium. I would love to see those meetings (discussions) focused more on problems solving (and currently, there are lot of problems at the community / grassroots movement level) rather than agreeing/ not agreeing level.

  4. 4

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  6. 6

    Mitchell said on August 23rd, 2011 at 2:10 pm:

    Jeffrey, Caspy, Alina

    1. The concern re committee decision-making. I agree, we need clear decision makers who can lead toward something they believe in, not a mushy collection of ideas that achieve consensus. I intend to try to lead an effort that I personally believe is worth my time, and the time of others. Before doing that though, I want to hear what a broad set of Mozilla community members think. I want to vett my ideas. I’d rather find out now if there is a big chunk of the mozilla community that doesn’t agree with some of the big initiatives. Also, new leaders emerge when there is a chance to participate in setting direction. I’m always looking for mozilla contributors who want to expand their scope and lead in new ways

    2. Alina — I certainly want to address existing problems. I also want to explicitly address item 1 above.

  7. 7

    Narain Jashanmal said on August 23rd, 2011 at 9:47 pm:


    Have been following your recent posts with great interest.

    I think Mozilla’s mission is more important today than at any time since it dislodged Internet Explorer’s browser monopoly.

    We now see new monopolies emerge as people spend more and more time experiencing the internet through the lens of a handful of companies, listed below in order of dominance:

    1. Google
    2. Facebook
    3. Apple
    4. Amazon
    5. Microsoft

    Google and Facebook are the online access points where the majority of people start their day and spend most of their online time. Facebook has emerged as the first legitimate threat to Google’s near monopoly on search based advertising revenue and Google has responded by building it’s own walled garden in the form of Google+, signaling the beginning of the end of Google’s commitment to an open, interconnected Web.

    We see an analogous hegemony emerging in mobile, driven by Apple and aped by Google’s Android: the “appification” of the web, a paradigm that appears to be extending back into the desktop, by way of the tablet. Signs of this are all over Apple’s latest release of Mac OSX, Lion and also visible in the form of Google’s Chrome OS which locks the user out from choosing any browser other than Google Chrome because the browser is the OS.

    Amazon built their monopoly on a foundation of media content distribution and creation. While they have to date taken (a necessary) cross-platform, cross-device approach their success with the Kindle device indicates that they will pursue a parallel strategy in proprietary distribution.

    While Microsoft is not taking the lead in any of these developments it has equivalent or alternative offerings for many of them and is a minor shareholder in Facebook. Whatever path Microsoft chooses to follow remains very significant given the size of their installed user base in the desktop and laptop markets and soon, potentially, on tablets and phones.

    In the midst of all of this it is clear that end users are more than willing to exchange freedom for convenience and that developers choose platforms offering the most direct path to monetization.

    What do these developments mean for Mozilla?

    For those of us who hold the fundamental belief that the Internet should be free (in the sense of liberty) and open (in the sense of interoperability) then the above developments should give one pause.

    So it’s great to see that you intend to lead some meaningful debate around this topic as multiple stakeholders and potential partners stand to benefit should be engaged in this discussion:

    – End users
    – Developer communities
    -Other Open Source entities like the Linux foundation, including the MeeGo project and associated enterprises such as Canonical.

    Boot to Gecko and the recent announcement of the related WebAPI ( are critical components in Mozilla’s evolution and it would be great to hear some more about this project.

  8. 8

    Ken Saunders said on August 24th, 2011 at 7:44 am:

    I disagree with the first three comments.

    I try to read all of the comments made on posts and articles pertaining to Mozilla and Firefox around the web. They’re ore important than the story itself.
    My takeaway is that there are several large fractures between Mozilla, enterprise, contributors, add-on developers, and most importantly right now, end users with some of those being in the media.

    I understand that it must be tough operating openly and in a transparent manner and at the end of the day someone has to pull the trigger because it’s their responsibility to do so, but from what I’ve seen that causes literal outrage is that something is seemingly all of a sudden presented and as what will be without there being an open discussion about it, the opportunity for one, or, the willingness to change it or compromise despite an overwhelming amount of negative response from the groups that I mentioned above.

    What exactly is open for discussion? Mozilla itself is, but is Firefox? Design by committee doesn’t work, but design by consensus, especially from a diverse mix of individuals with different perspectives, different areas of expertise, experience, and real world usage should for an open system to work.

    They’re called stakeholders, and they do have a voice and they are heard, but are they listened to. Does what they have to say hold any weight?

    Look, for me, I have full faith and trust in Mozilla. My concern is watching what I’ve been framing as my family having some serious issues that are a major distraction, and destructive.
    Mozilla really can’t afford to lose more people. They’re losing long time, consistent, and even original contributors and end users. It isn’t just from one group or community, it’s from several.

    As far as solutions, well, I’m not too sure without knowing what role and/or influence the majority has on product direction and policies but I can say this.
    If an overwhelming majority of people from all different areas (as mentioned above) expresses such a negative reaction to something, it’s best to just go ahead and give them what they want. For good PR, for peace, to show that Mozilla is flexible, for better press, and to stop the rapid and large amount of contributors and end users from leaving Mozilla altogether.

    The issue about removing the version listing from the about window and moving it to another which is the same amount of mouse clicks and /or keystrokes away is a silly issue that has been, and continues to be overblown -imo-.
    But it just isn’t worth losing more people over. It isn’t.

    I’d hate to see Mozilla move forward in an unwavering manner with whatever direction, policies, and road maps that it establishes at all costs.

    Mitchell, your an excellent, inspiring, and trustworthy leader and this post, and your comment above is evidence of that.

    I just want peace so that we can all get going.
    I can live with Firefox being the 3rd most used browser, but not if it’s because we weren’t all behind it and Mozilla giving 100%.

    This article is worth reading for a general idea of what’s going on right now.

  9. 9

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  10. 10

    Jeffrey said on August 24th, 2011 at 2:53 pm:

    @Ken Saunders

    I see what you mean about Mozilla alienating long time users and contributors. I think that has to do more with Mozilla’s agendas taking over product development than anything else. Also, they are making the mistake of trying to innovate using a exiting product, with a large core userbase, rather than creating a new product. This all seems to be a reaction to the fear that they are becoming irrelevant.

    Mozilla should pick people to lead the Firefox team that have a strong instinct for what users want and value users over all else. The team should be free and willing to say ‘no’ to any agendas or goofy ideas that might push away users. Finally, the team should be willing to do the boring, uninteresting work of maintaining a core product rather than seek acclaim for being innovative geniuses.

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  18. 18

    Peter said on August 31st, 2011 at 2:41 pm:

    I think the mozilla project should think first of how some other project did manage to overtake firefox in “being liked by end customers”.

    Was it lack of (fresh) developers?
    Was it lack of (fresh) ideas?
    Was it too many (sub-(sub-(sub-)))projects?
    Was it (too much) self-conciousness?

    (With me, it was one single thing which drove me to using chrome: the difference between having 20 core files from flashplugin in the evening vs. 20 heart attacks from segfaulted browser sessions during the day. Yes, my DSL is 384kBit/s in good times. Yes, I have 20+ tabs open. Yes, more RAM was easy to buy. Yes, I’m choleric sometimes 😉
    Okay, really one and a half: the need to restart after installing/upgrading add-ons)

    What I like(d) at mozilla: aza’a Ubiquity, perspectives plugin, adblockplus which actually blocks requests and not just hides it like the chrom(e|ium) counterpart, Ghostery, that you developed a blocker against skype and XYZ-search-bar add-ons AND THOUGHT OF IT (<-that is Mozilla's strength!)

    Ideas a.k.a. what i still miss in "using the web" (on the most generic level):
    – a completely multiplatform BSD licensed "trust administration", which would be the single only certificate store on a computer, with a perfekt designed interface which people actually understand. (for example, after the dutch diginotar debacle, if i wanted to revoke the CA cert of this failed excuse of an CA, I have to do that on each browser, in each JVM, in openssl, and on windows in the system CA store. Why can't I have that in one place, and have only the certificates in it which I actually trust? – trust *myself*, and not need to trust someone else to "trust", see honest achmed).

    – i want to use some sites, but I do not want to be tracked by them. Why can I not make my browser to always automatically open, google+ and other like these in an private mode window of its own, with no contact to other sites likeit or plusone buttons?

    HTTP could need a major overhaul:
    – why not something like http over ssh (could be good for restful GUIs for SCADA)
    – why not an additional zx transfer encoding?
    – embedded applications can only provide 2 or 4 sockets at once (think uIP webserver on an 8bit processor), yet "modern" browsers suck up to 16 sockets at once!
    – why not have an htmz file type (an all in one compressed and possible signed archive for html and all cacheable js/cs/images) for single-page AJAX applications?

    The last idea could IMHO also provide for a testbed to dump SSL in some years and use GPG/PGP instead (or side by side to SSL/TLS), to replace the chains of trust with webs of trust.

    You see, there are enough areas where the mozilla project could drive the others. On the other hand I think it is time to overcome the "not invented here" syndrome. If it would take 90% of the available resources to bring one component on par with the competition – dump it. Do not be dogmatic. Take the competition's component or process, combine it with your new idea, improve it, patch it, make it faster or what ever, and put the saved ressources in coming up with new ideas.
    (KDE dumped khtml and used webkit, although it was "only copied" from khtml before, for example)

    If Mozilla would come up with a browser called "firesomething" that just used the best rendering engine and the best js implementation (chosen by facts and measurements) available (and not per default only own ones just because they were invented here), but the look and feel (HMI) and the performance would feel superior to other browsers and you just could use the browser instead of having to install and configure and extend it on every computer that you use – that would be great. (hint: even premium car manufacturers sometines use engines and other components from other manufacturers nowadays – to be more cost-effective 😉 )

    For me, Mozilla is about good HMIs, making the web user friendly, improving the processes used in the web. This has not necessarily to be done with 100% homebrew software. "steal"/"borrow"/"lend"/"reuse" where it is legally possible and put the saved ressources into making the web simpler and more unterstandable to the user.

    (disclaimer: I'm not a native english speaker, if you find bugs or a clumsy insult, please be mild :))

  19. 19

    Peter said on August 31st, 2011 at 2:46 pm:

    Sorry, the “additional zx transfer encoding” should really be “additional xz transfer encoding”.

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