Lizard Wrangling: Mitchell on Mozilla & More


Mozilla Open Source Support: First Awards Made

December 10th, 2015

We are delighted to announce the first set of awards in the Mozilla Open Source Support program’s “Foundational Technology” track, which supports projects that Mozilla uses or relies upon.

We have been greatly helped in evaluating applications and making awards by the MOSS “Foundational Technology” Committee – many thanks to them.

The first seven awardees are:

Buildbot: $15,000. Buildbot is a continuous build and integration system which has been immensely valuable to Mozilla over the past few years. Their award will be used to remove the term “slave” from all documentation, APIs and tests, and also to make improvements so Buildbot works better in the Amazon EC2 cloud.

CodeMirror: $20,000. CodeMirror is a powerful source code editor built with Web technologies, used in the Developer Tools and in Mozilla Thimble. Their award will be used to improve support for both right-to-left languages and complex script input.

Discourse: $25,000. Discourse is online discussion forum software, used by several Mozilla communities. Their award will be used to make email a first-class interaction mechanism for Discourse, allowing Discourse instances to replace and improve upon mailing lists.

Read The Docs: $48,000. Read The Docs is a website for building and hosting documentation, used by many of Mozilla’s Web projects. Their award will be used to add the ability to generate documentation from code without needing to install it, thereby making it easier to build the documentation for complex projects.

Mercurial: $75,000. Mercurial is a distributed source code management system, used heavily by Mozilla for core repositories such as mozilla-central. Their award will be used to implement better support for ‘blame’ (showing who last changed some code) and a better web UI.

Django: $150,000. Django is a popular server-side Web development framework, used in many Mozilla websites. Their award will be used to make Django suitable to be a back end for Web apps which use WebSockets.

Bro: $200,000. Bro is network monitoring software, which is at the heart of Mozilla’s intrusion detection system for our network. Their award will be used to build the Comprehensive Bro Archive Network, a public repository of modules and plugins for Bro.

MOSS is an ongoing program, with an initial allocation of $1 million. The above awards allocate just over half of that money ($503,000), and applications are open for the “Foundational Technology” track on an ongoing basis. We look forward to supporting more of the excellent projects that Mozilla uses or relies upon in the future. Thank you to you all – we couldn’t do what we do, without you.

Thunderbird Update

December 3rd, 2015

This message is a summary and an update to a message about Thunderbird that I sent to Mozilla developers on Monday.

Here are the key points. First, Thunderbird and Firefox are interconnected in a few different ways. They are connected through our technical infrastructure. Both use Mozilla build and release systems. This seems arcane but it turns out that “build and release” is a massive component in the development and distribution of complex software projects. They’re connected through the sharing of some pieces of technology. And they share a home in the Mozilla Foundation and the Mozilla Project.

The time has come when it is no longer effective for Thunderbird and Firefox to keep sharing the same technical infrastructure. Firefox and Thunderbird have diverging needs. Firefox needs to move at the speed of the Web, and needs to bring the things we love about the Web into the world of mobile, social, data and the cloud. That’s a fiercely competitive setting with high consequences. We need to be laser-focused if we want to move these parts of online life towards the traits of individual user centrality and control, openness, interoperability and a level playing field. Thunderbird is a valuable and respected open source project, with different parameters. In my message on Monday I noted that planning for the future should be based on the need to plan for a future where the technical infrastructure of Firefox and Thunderbird are separate.

I’ve seen some characterize this as Mozilla “dropping” Thunderbird. This is not accurate. We are going to disentangle the technical infrastructure. We are going to assist the Thunderbird community. This includes working with organizations that want to invest in Thunderbird, several of which have stepped forward already. Mozilla Foundation will serve as a fiscal sponsor for Thunderbird donations during this time.

I also noted that we should look at whether Mozilla remains the best organizational and legal home for Thunderbird. This is a separate question from the technical infrastructure. This question is much more wide open. I don’t know what the answer will be. It could be that Mozilla remains the best home, based on history, affiliation and shared community. It could also be that a home geared to open source projects of Thunderbird’s size and scope is better suited. I can imagine either being the case. We have decided to separate the technical infrastructure and to explore what is best for Thunderbird and for the Mozilla project as a whole.

These discussions are at a very early stage. Finding the right solution requires some effort. This is Mozilla focusing on a more forward looking path, one aimed at longer term stability rather than continuing the status quo.

Mozilla Open Source Support Program: Applications are Open

October 30th, 2015

Last week we launched the Mozilla Open Source Support Program (MOSS) – an award program specifically focused on supporting open source and free software. The first track within MOSS is a support for open source and free software projects that Mozilla uses or relies on. Our goal is to identify up to 10 such projects that we can fund in a thoughtful, meaningful way by December 12th.

We received positive feedback about the program, and a few ideas to improve and refine the offering. We have collected your feedback and answered questions – the MOSS wiki page has been updated to reflect those additions.

Today we are opening the application process.

Applications must be submitted by project leads in collaboration with a Mozilla champion – an established Mozillian who knows the project concerned and is willing to vouch for and support the application. If you are seeking a champion for your project, the best thing to do is investigate how Mozilla uses your code and ask the people most closely involved – those who integrated it, or who have patched it, or who maintain installations of it. If they can’t champion your grant, they may be able to suggest someone who can.

The deadline for applications which wish to be considered for the initial batch of MOSS grants is 11:59pm Pacific Time on Sunday November 23rd. However, we think it’s unlikely that the initial round of grants will exhaust the money available and so, after that date, MOSS applications will continue to be accepted, and will be considered when time permits.

You can read more about our draft selection criteria and committee in newly-posted information on the wiki. We invite you to take a look and share comments and feedback for one week.

We plan to hold a brown bag with David Bryant on ‘Building a Community around MOSS’ some time in the week beginning November 9th. Please join us if you are interested in becoming a champion for an open source project Mozilla currently uses, and if you would like to help us build a strong community. Timing will be published on the mailing list in the next few days.

If you want to be kept informed of Mozilla Open Source Support Program (MOSS) updates please join the public mailing list.

We look forward to considering the applications.

Mozilla Launches Open Source Support Program

October 23rd, 2015

Initial Allocation of One Million US Dollars

Today Mozilla is launching an award program specifically focused on supporting open source and free software.  Our initial allocation for this program is $1,000,000. We are inviting people already deeply connected to Mozilla to participate in our first set of awards.

Mozilla is a part of the open source and free software movement.  We were born out of this movement.  We prosper because of the technology and activism which comes from this movement.  And we know that open source and free software remains a key part of the Internet and the online life we seek to build.  We have had a grant program for many years.  Now it is time to formalize a systematic way to provide a new level of support to this community.

The Mozilla Open Source Support program is designed to recognize and celebrate communities who are leading the way with open source projects that contribute to our work and the health of the Web.  It encompasses both: a) a “give back” element for open source and free software projects that Mozilla relies on; and b) a “give forward” component for supporting other projects where financial resources from Mozilla can make our entire community more successful.  We’ll give more specific names to these components as we go forward.   The Mozilla Open Source Support program will also encompass a component supporting increased attention to the security of open source and free software programs.  Our initial allocation for Mozilla Open Source Support is one million US dollars.  As we develop this program we will determine future allocations.

We will start immediately implementing the “give back” component for open source and free software projects on which Mozilla relies.  Our goal is to identify up to 10 projects we rely on and can fund in a thoughtful, meaningful way by December 12th.

I invite Mozillians and our community to participate in the further refinement of this program by suggesting improvements to its terms, which you will find at I’ll take input on the design of the program for a week and then will finalize the terms for the first set of awards.  Please send suggestions to the Mozilla Open Source Support mailing list; you can subscribe here. The wiki contains a FAQ with more information about the program.

I also invite Mozillians and friends of Mozilla to begin identifying projects we rely on and are good candidates for this program.  We are compiling a basic list of projects we rely on here.

I am reminded regularly of how deeply Mozillians identify open source and free software as a critical element of an open Internet and healthy, trustworthy online experiences.  I am excited to build a program that helps us bring concrete support to this worldview.  You are the key to making this program great – to identifying great projects, to helping figure out what engagement from Mozilla would make a meaningful difference and to deepening Mozilla’s connections with our open source and free software compatriots.

I’m here to support this effort, and to support you in making it awesome.

Zero Rating and the Open Internet

May 6th, 2015

One of the challenges of our time is how to make Internet access and use a realistic possibility for the billions of people who cannot afford the data charges.  An attitude of “just wait, eventually this will work out” is not acceptable.  Such an approach would reinforce the global digital divide; it would keep a large fraction of humanity from benefiting from the possibilities of the Open Internet.

An early response to address this problem has been various programs known under the name “zero-rating.”  “Zero-rating” as practiced today means two things:  First, someone other than the ultimate consumer covers the cost of their data charges. Secondly, the parts of the Internet that are available for citizens to choose from is limited, and predetermined by those entities with financial power.

The first part of “zero-rating” is clearly part of the long-term answer, and Mozilla applauds the work being done here.  The second part of zero-rating as practiced today — the predetermined, limited access — is disastrous.

Selective zero-rating is unquestionably bad for the long term opportunities and inclusion for the people it is designed to serve.  It pre-selects what’s available, directing people to where others want them to go.  It is bad for economic inclusion. It is bad for the ability of new entrepreneurs to grow onto the global scale.  It is bad for the long term health of the Internet.  Zero-rating as practiced today is “selective zero-rating for a few apps and websites; exclusion for the rest of the Internet.”

The correct answer is that all data is transmitted at the same price, whether that price is “zero” or anything else.  This way, consumers pick the content they choose to access based on the quality of that content, not the financial power and business partnerships of the provider. This way, new entrepreneurs can still reach any and all users on the Internet, even if they are a few  people working in a co-working space with no ability to subsidize data charges.  I’ll call this system “equal-rating for all” or “equal-rating” for short. (One could call it “zero-rating for all” as well.  I haven’t done so to limit the chances of confusion.)  There’s no question that this is a better answer.

The question is, how do we get there?  Today “zero-rating” comes in a few flavors:

1) Network providers cover the costs to users of accessing certain hand-picked sites and apps;

2) A company pays to provide access to a suite of different services; or

3) a company pays to subsidize access to only their services.

In any of these cases there is a direct connection between a particular site and a cost. This is a well known model for the private sector, and it’s no surprise this is the first model to be explored. As recent protests in India and elsewhere are showing, however, selective zero-rating has massive unwelcome properties which threaten to make this model unacceptable.  In an optimistic vein, we can see this as the dialog between the initial proposals from private industry being adjusted and improved by citizen engagement in the future of the Open Internet.

There are many cases where industry leaders gather together to resolve a problem shared across an entire industry. Could the private sector organize itself to provide a baseline “equal rating” for some amount of data necessary for modern life at discounted or no charge?  Such a program would integrate the “version 1” private solution of limited access with the citizen demands for the opportunity and full inclusion of the full Open Internet.   Perhaps those companies paying for the equal rating might get a “brought to you by” attribution that could bring brand value and network effects.  Orange and Mozilla are experimenting with this sort of model in multiple African African and Middle Eastern markets, where users purchasing a $40 (USD) Klif phone receive unlimited talk, text, and 500 MB a month for 6 months.

Another possible way of “equal-rating” content so it is free-of-charge to the user is a model where people watch ads in order to access other sites. Mozilla has been exploring this model in a partnership with Grameenphone (owned by Telenor) in Bangladesh, where users can receive 20MB of unrestricted data per day after watching a short ad in the phone’s marketplace.  One question is whether the model makes sense economically when the audience has little disposable income, so testing and exploration here is important. This model may seem odd to Open Internet activists in markets where most can pay for data charges.  However, this group isn’t the target market.

In a related vein, an increasing number of companies, foundations and non-profit organizations around the world are interested in how we promote social benefit via the Internet.  These organizations could join together to come up with creative approaches to make sure everyone has access to a certain amount of data that lets them participate in online activities.  Could these organizations join together to organize and implement an “equal-rating” plan?  What would that look like?

Immediate exploration into how to implement these “version two (“v2”) solutions is important for two reasons.  First, they are better for the people being served, economic inclusion and the health of the Open Internet as the platform for global inclusion and development.

Second, a growing number of people are advocating that their governments ban zero-rating. Such action would, of course, force the private sector to find some different solution.  We agree that different market solutions must be found.  If the private sector can react quickly and effectively, achieving these solutions without regulatory bans has two significant benefits.  First, it would avoid any unintended consequences from the specific text of legislation.  And second, once a government has the authority to ban zero-rating in general, it might decide to issue exceptions. We’ve seen this happen in Chile, for example, with Wikipedia Zero being granted an exception. We love Wikipedia and believe if there is going to be any exception at all, Wikipedia is a good one. However, this government ability to control content that is actually available so easily has some profound implications for free expression and censorship that have yet to be explored.

The correct answer for full opportunity of people coming online is to provide is “equal-rating” for all data. How we get there and how fast we can get there is a critical question. The opportunity level for billions of people depend on it.  Mozilla will actively engage in this process.  Our first formal action was to deliver a letter dated May 5 to Prime Minister Modi of India in support of the Open Internet, and stating that  “Zero rating is not the right solution  … we do recognize the need for new and alternative market solutions ….we are committed to doing our part alongside the other actors in the Internet community to address these challenges.”

You can follow the ongoing work at the Mozilla Policy Blog, which today has a companion piece to this post, authored by our Policy team. And please jump in, either with Mozilla or elsewhere, to build effective, healthy solutions to Internet access for all.


Philanthropy and the Health of the Internet

April 27th, 2015

On Feb. 11, the Ford, Knight, Open Society, MacArthur, and Mozilla, Foundations together launched NetGain:  Working Together for a Stronger Digital Society as a major shared initiative.  The NetGain initiative advocates that building the Internet as an open, global public resource is a social issue in its own right,  and a free and open Internet is foundational to advancing all issues.  NetGain is a call-to-action, an organizing framework and a support mechanism for the philanthropic world to express its voice on creating the Internet for the common good.

Today Darren Walker, the President of the Ford Foundation and I are leading an interactive session at the Annual Meeting of the Council on Foundations on the topic “Sparking a Digital Revolution for Good: The Role of Philanthropy.”  The Council on Foundations is a nonprofit membership association that provides philanthropic organizations with leadership and tools to enhance their ability to advance the common good.  Approximately 1,000 leaders attend the Annual Meeting  to develop the ideas and strategies that will shape the future.

During this session Darren and I will describe why each of us and our organizations care about the fundamental nature of the Internet itself so passionately and our belief that the philanthropic world has an important role to play here.  We’ll explore with all the participants the kinds of activities and programs that could make a difference.

In addition to the development of programs, there are also a number of things Foundations can do today to assist in developing the public benefit aspects of the Internet.  I’ve made a starting list of these things, which I’ve put below.  Other ideas are very welcome — the NetGain Challenge is for exactly this purpose!

Internet Ideas for Foundations

NetGain offers Foundations a way to help sustain the Internet as a public commons that helps us
create a better economy and more just society.  In addition to participating in NetGain Challenges, there are many simple things Foundations can do as part of their day-to-day work.

A.  Help build the public commons layer of the Internet.

  1.  Promote open source technology in your work through your grant making.  This means your work results in public assets that can be used by others.
  2.  Encourage your grantees (or yourselves) to make your content, data or research available via a Creative Commons license.
  3. Learn about open source technology non-profits.  These orgs develop software – from voting platforms, medical records systems to geospatial data to core Internet tools like Mozilla – with a public purpose.

B.  Help create digitally literate citizens, not just digital consumers.

  1. Help your constituencies and your own teams understand how Internet issues like privacy, security, open source licensing, governance, etc. impact their work.
  2. Anytime that you support a program with a digital literacy focus, ensure that it includes more than just content consumption: everyone should be able to read, write and participate in the Web.  This is essential if we want people to be digital citizens.
  3. Encourage your constituencies to blend a Web literacy element into their programs in areas like civic engagement, education, development, and health. This will ensure their programs are fully leveraging the Internet.

C.  Help protect the Internet as a public resource, open and accessible to all.

  1. Consider participating in education efforts and campaigns on issues like net neutrality, surveillance, open government, etc.  These issues impact our ability as Foundations to rely on the Internet as a public and civic resource for our work.
  2. Spread the idea that the Internet should be a global public resource, open and accessible to all.  As such a resource, the Internet supports both commercial and civic activity.  It must remain open for both of these things to be true.

These are meant to be simple things you and your Foundation can do today.  Hopefully, they also inspire your thinking about the NetGain Challenge.  See:

If your Foundation wants advice on any of the topics above, please feel free to contact:

Jenny Toomey, Director, Internet Rights Unit, Ford Foundation (
Mark Surman, Executive Director, Mozilla Foundation (

Both are playing an active role in helping other foundations embrace the NetGain principles.

Participation at Mozilla

April 10th, 2015

Mozilla aims to build openness and choice into the fabric of the Internet.  We see that fabric as including technology and products on the one hand, and the communities of people who understand and build an open Internet on the other hand.

We aim to offer increased participation opportunities across our activities—to enable more people to know more, do more, and do better in online life.  Recently we’ve renewed our focus on embedding participation even more deeply into Mozilla.  Mark Surman and I have each committed to a deeper ongoing involvement in the participatory aspects of Mozilla.  We’ve also asked George Roter to lead a 6 month experimentation phase of testing activities that make participation more impactful on our mission and more rewarding for contributors.  Mark wrote about this here.

For much of our history, Mozilla has been a pioneer—even radical—in the scope of participation that’s possible with Mozilla.  Many of our prior innovations have been adopted as mainstream today.

So that raises the question—what do pioneering—even radical—new innovations in a participatory structure look like?

How do we test out ideas, especially those that might require changes in how we operate?  Right now I see the scope as including three broad areas.

  1. The first area is the world of our “core contributors”—those people who identify deeply with Mozilla and devote considerable amount of time and their energies in moving the Mozilla mission forward.  Here we’re focused on how to help this group of people be more effective, how to grow skills and leadership, and how to have more impact flowing from the edges.
  2. A second area is making connections between all the different groups of people who want to contribute to Mozilla and our mission.  This includes our core contributors of course, and expands much further.  It includes the people who are Firefox enthusiasts, the 22,000 Firefox Student Ambassadors in 139 countries around the world, and the 1,300 volunteers who help people with our products every day on  It includes the 382,500 people who make financial donations to Mozilla.  It includes the hundreds of thousands of people who participate in advocacy campaigns such as Stop Watching Us and Net Neutrality.  Can we act in ways that these groups feel more connected?  Can we act in ways that make it easy for people to move from one group to another fluidly?
  3. The third area is organizational structure and practices.  As we learn more about new and deeper styles of participation, how do we organize ourselves to maximize this potential?

We’re going to explore and experiment in these 3 areas. We’re introducing the idea of a Participation Lab to lead this process.  You can learn more about how we’ve gotten to this point over the last few months here.  And you can find information on the Participation Lab from George Roter here.

Mozilla and the Future of the Open Internet

November 10th, 2014

Today I’m wishing Firefox a happy 10th anniversary! I’ve reflected on the past ten years and on what the next decade may hold for the Web, and shared my thoughts on re/code, reposted below.

People often ask me: why are you still involved so deeply with Mozilla? Firefox won. Why haven’t you gone to do something else? Does Mozilla still have work to do?

The answer is: yes, Firefox did win in the desktop era. We changed the fundamental landscape by bringing a new experience and a new view of the world to hundreds of millions of people. However, there is still essential work to do as the Web still faces real threats today — and likely will again in the future. Here are details on what’s happening as part of the 10th anniversary of Firefox.

A decade ago, the threat was the Web being gathered up and controlled by a single integrated centralized organization — in that era, Microsoft. The browser had become part of Windows — irrelevant as a product on its own. It looked liked the Internet was going to be a stack of Microsoft products, from Windows to Internet Explorer to Office to servers to file formats to protocols. We didn’t want that to happen. Which is why we were working on Firefox: to shift the trajectory of the Internet.

Everyone who paid attention “knew” what we were trying to do was impossible. And everyone else simply didn’t care. They didn’t see that the future could be different — and much, much better. It took six long years — including many dark days where people thought Mozilla was a marginal open source project at best and a failure at worst — to create a fully formed, polished consumer product called Firefox. Only then did consumers and industry experts come to realize how different the world could be.

When this happened we started to move towards ‘winning’. Tens of millions of people installed the browser in no time. Mozilla and Firefox became both respected and sustainable. And, in many ways, more importantly, we helped spark a wave of thinking about “open” in modern life — open data, open government, open science, citizen journalism, open architecture, etc. — that was completely new. We had achieved a great deal.

Winning on the desktop was great. And, if our goal was just to build a successful product, I might have just moved on. But our goal was — and is — quite different. We created Firefox to build openness and opportunity in our lives and into the internet industry. That is our mission. And it’s mission that is even more relevant today than 10 years ago.

Today, this goal is at risk again. Many of the principles we associate with the Web — openness, decentralization and the ability of anyone to publish without asking permission from others — are at risk.

Normally, infrastructure is built to be highly centralized. The bigger it gets, the more centralized it is. And the more centralized it gets, the more one has to get permission to be able to do anything. The World Wide Web is a rare exception. It is explicitly designed to have no center, and to allow people on the edges — that’s you and me and the rest of humanity — to make decisions. Ordinary people and small businesses can create opportunities and try things for ourselves without asking some large centralized business for permission. The Web allows boundless innovation from everywhere; it is a connection point that does not dictate what happens as people connect.

It feels like this is changing: like the ability to act without permission slipping away into “mobile” or “social” or “big data.” A choice of device will determine much of your online experiences — the software and content available to you, what payment systems you can use, where your data goes, which if any of your data you can manage, the way you identify yourself to the world. People and businesses are able to innovate within the frameworks determined by larger businesses. One can only act as you’re given permission.

Frankly: this direction for the Internet sucks. And it isn’t very different from the ‘Microsoft stack’ version of the internet that was emerging 10 years ago. The possibilities of mobile, social and big data are astonishing. But the current implementation drives all of us into a world of monitoring and control and opportunities determined by others far, far away from our lives. I don’t want to be owned and tracked by giant multinationals or governments, or told which of the Web’s astonishing possibilities I’m allowed to enjoy. I don’t want that for the rest of the world’s citizens either. This is not the trajectory that I think the Internet should be on.

Of course, changing this trajectory feels impossible to most people — just as it did 10 years ago. But I believe we can have great technology, exciting products, great user experiences, innovation and freedom as well. That’s why Mozilla’s here. And it is why I am still at Mozilla.

Figuring out how to do this is hard work and takes time. Firefox OS is a big step in the right direction — an effort to put the open and decentralized technologies of the Web at the heart of where the Internet goes next. We’re currently trying to show this can work on smartphones. We want to show the devices in our pockets can be as open as the Web on our desktops. We also hope that Firefox OS and related projects can bring these values to all devices, including what’s currently called the Internet of things. And, ultimately, we hope we can build a world where all our devices — and all the data we create that connects them — give us choice, independence and agency.

And fortunately I’m not alone in believing this is possible. Mozilla pulls together the people who want exceptional technology and the freedoms of the Web combined. We want this with our devices, our data, our identity, and our privacy and security. And — together — we are building this, as we did before. It’s a huge and important challenge. I hope you will join us.


Chris Beard Named CEO of Mozilla

July 28th, 2014

I am pleased to announce that Chris Beard has been appointed CEO of Mozilla Corp. The Mozilla board has reviewed many internal and external candidates – and no one we met was a better fit.

As you will recall, Chris re-joined Mozilla in April, accepting the role of interim CEO and joining our Board of Directors.

Chris first joined Mozilla in 2004, just before we shipped Firefox 1.0 – and he’s been deeply involved in every aspect of Mozilla ever since. During his many years here, he at various times has had responsibility for almost every part of the business, including product, marketing, innovation, communications, community and user engagement.

Before taking on the interim CEO role, Chris spent close to a year as Executive-in-Residence at the venture capital firm Greylock Partners, gaining a deeper perspective on innovation and entrepreneurship. During his term at Greylock, he remained an Advisor to me in my role as Mozilla’s chair.

Over the years, Chris has led many of Mozilla’s most innovative projects. We have relied on his judgment and advice for nearly a decade. Chris has a clear vision of how to take Mozilla’s mission and turn it into industry-changing products and ideas.

The months since Chris returned in April have been a busy time at Mozilla:
•   We released major updates to Firefox, including a complete redesign, easy customization mode and new services with Firefox Accounts.
•   Firefox OS launched with new operators, including América Móvil, and new devices, like the ZTE Open C and Open II, the Alcatel ONETOUCH Fire C and the Flame (our own reference device).
•   We announced that the Firefox OS ecosystem is expanding to new markets with new partners before the end of the year.
•   We ignited policy discussion on a new path forward with net neutrality through Mozilla’s filing on the subject with the FCC
•   In June, we kicked off Maker Party, our annual campaign to teach the culture, mechanics and citizenship of the Web through thousands of community-run events around the world. President Obama announced the news at the first-ever White House Maker Faire.

Today, online life is a combination of desktop, mobile, connected devices, cloud services, big data and social interactions. Mozilla connects all of these in an open system we call the Web – a system that puts individuals in control, offers freedom and flexibility and that is trustworthy and fun.

Mozilla builds products and communities that work to break down closed systems that limit online choice and opportunity. There is a huge need for this work today, as our digital lives become more centralized and controlled by just a few large companies. Toward that end, Mozilla builds products that put the user first, with a focus on openness, innovation and opportunity.

Chris has a keen sense of where Mozilla has been – and where we’re headed. He has unique experience connecting with every constituency that touches our products, including consumers, partners and community members. There’s simply no better person to lead Mozilla as we extend our impact from Firefox on the desktop to the worlds of mobile devices and services.

Chris, welcome back.

Panel on Internet Governance Mechanisms

May 26th, 2014

Internet Governance has become a much more active topic of discussion recently, as I described a bit in this previous post on NetMundial.  As part of the Internet Governance activities of the last 8 or 9 months, I have participated as a member of the Panel on Global Internet Cooperation and Governance Mechanisms.  This  panel was convened in late 2013 by ICANN and the World Economic Forum (WEF), chaired by President Toomas Ilves of Estonia, vice-chaired by Vint Cerf, and infused by Fadi Chehadé, the president of ICANN, and supported by the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands.  The Panel has just completed its work, releasing its final report on how to evolve the Internet Governance ecosystem.  The press release is here.  There are also comments by some of the Panelists, which came out of interviews done with the Panelists at the various panel meetings (the questions have been edited out of the final versions).  In some cases, including mine, the comments cover a range of topics broader than the Panel.

In this post I’m going to set out a couple thoughts about the process.  It was a first for me to participate in a panel like this chaired by a sitting Head of State.  This reflects the very high degree of commitment to an open internet by President Ilves, which is exciting to see in action.  The report adopts the principles set out in NetMundial whole-heartedly.  This was interesting, it is an example of people evaluating a ton of our own work and effort and pride of ownership and happily setting it aside to participate in something bigger.  The principles the Panel had put together were very similar to those of the NetMundial document.  Not exactly the same, but Panel members clearly saw our core outlook and goals reflected in the NetMundial principles.  And so we adopted them as our own, and view this as a huge success.  I am proud of how we did this.  It’s so easy to grow attached to one’s own work for its own sake.  It’s easy to convince oneself that one’s own words or style or approach or work is subtly better, and should be maintained and promoted.  It’s *so* easy to create fragmentation when unity is key.

I also am drawn to this paragraph in the preamble: “The Panel’s report is based on rough consensus.  The views represented in this report do not necessarily reflect the views of the conveners or of all individual Panel members.”  I know the latter sentence is not so uncommon.  It’s not that rare to have people decide that the overall result is good and they are willing to attach their names to it, even if some part is imperfect or weak.  So there’s not much new there.  What struck me is the phrase “based on rough consensus.”  A number of Panel members are very deeply involved in core Internet operations and protocols: the Panel included the head of ICANN, the head of the Internet Society (home of IETF), and of course Vint Cerf.  A number of the rest of us have been almost that deep in Internet technology for a good while.  So the idea of “rough consensus and running code” is deep into the mindset of many Panelists.  I can’t speak for others of course but I saw a bunch of the traits that are important in a rough consensus in action here.  We started with a bunch of diverse views on the panel, combined with a determination to move forward.  We identified key areas of fundamental agreement.
— Multi-stakeholderism.
— Distributed governance, not a single centralized authority.
— Solutions and organizations that develop organically by people working on the problem.
— Building knowledge and capacity so that more people can participate knowledgeably.

“Rough consensus and running code” isn’t a panacea of course.  Like almost every approach, there are plenty of ways in which it can be corrupted and derailed.  When it does work however, it’s extremely powerful.  It gets people aligned, moving in the same direction with the same general principles to a shared goal, and empowers people to go make things happen.

The final report itself sets out suggestion for building on the work of NetMundial.  Some people undoubtedly want the final report to go much further in proposing solutions, and processes to follow.  Others were very focused on this document as a second stage building on NetMundial, and encourage more to come.  I personally am of two minds.  On the one hand I’d love to be able to point to concrete processes or distributed governance mechanisms and say “see what we’ve done and how much more we can do.”  On the other hand, one big part of the goal is to describe the multistakeholder, distributed governance approach to citizens and governments and policy makers who are relatively new to Internet Governance.  There is very explicit mention in the report’s Introduction.  Given this, pointing to new solutions might not be the right approach.  Pointing the direction and figuring out new solutions together might be a much more long-lasting approach.

In  any case, I am eager to see multi-stakeholder Internet Governance strengthened.  And deeply interested in building a governance system where citizens and civil society organizations are valued participants and leaders.

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