Lizard Wrangling: Mitchell on Mozilla & More


Success and Competition

July 11th, 2013

Last week one of the regular browser competitive “bake-offs” named Firefox “speed king”, which highlights how much competition has improved Firefox.  This time we beat Chrome in performance areas where Google once had a significant lead. This has caused me to think a bit about competition, why it matters, when it goes bad, and how we think about it.

First of course, it’s fun to excel and I’m very proud of the Mozilla teams that made this happen. Competing with Google is no easy task –Google’s resources are immense and their employees are talented. Kudos to everyone involved.

Second, competition in “our” space is one aspect of success.  When we started building Firefox, no one believed a browser mattered on the desktop, and a lot of people didn’t know what a browser was.  Today that’s not the case.  The introduction of Firefox spurred the browser into prominence, and generated competition first from Microsoft, and then from Google. This competition has validated our message from long ago that creating the product through which people access the Internet has immense impact.  Google will undoubtedly surge ahead on some aspects of performance before too long, we should expect this, rise to meet the challenge and view it as success.

Third, we need to make sure we’re competing in things that matter. A neck-and-neck competition in an area that doesn’t provide value to consumers isn’t a great use of resources. We should periodically evaluate if the thing we’re competing about is worth the focus. Today raw speed is a key competitive area. That makes sense. It’s worth asking if at some point if improvements in raw speed will become overshadowed by needed improvements in other areas, but right now raw speed is important to users.

We’re also working on performance in new areas.  With Firefox  we are also bringing things like high performance 3D games and video calls to the Web. These rich activities like games and video calls were some of the last remaining challenges to prove that the Web is a capable and powerful platform for complex tasks. Addressing these challenges is another step in Mozilla’s mission to advance the Web as the platform for openness, innovation and opportunity for all.

Fourth, great products are key at Mozilla.  Firefox on the desktop allows us to enhance the key aspects of online life we care about.  It will help us connect “the desktop” to “mobile” and provide a unified online experience based on the freedoms and openness that drive us.


July 9th, 2013

Barcelona has a couple of large music festivals in the spring.  The largest is Sonar, which takes over *both* of the FIRAs, including the gigantic one that Mobile World Congress just moved to in 2013.  It includes a range of activities.  Another is “Primavera Sound,”  a multi-stage, multi-day event that covers an immense area of renovated waterfront on the northern end of Barcelona.  The day we went to Primavera the shows started at noon or so and continued until 5:30 am the next morning.  This being Barcelona, there are tons of shows schedule for 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 am.  This being an odd and cold winter, it was jackets and fleeces and hats to fend off the cold wind from the water and prepare for the threat of rain.

Sometime while waiting for the 4am shows to start my husband and I wandered through the vendor stalls.  It was odd — other than food, drink and a huge number of cigarettes (it is still very surprising to me, still a Californian at heart, to see how much smoking is a part of daily life here), the only item for purchase were all small print runs of posters, mostly band and venue posters.  It was fun to see: there were no mass produced items, and so we saw the return of serious, low-volume speciality printing.

One set of prints caught our eye — it was a set of eyes, not a musical print but interesting.  Here they are:eyes For those of you who are familiar with Terri Prachett’s “Only You Can Save Mankind” these remind me of the captain, although her color palate is different.

We ended up in an instant, totally comfortable conversation with the proprietor of this stall.   As we talk I am repeatedly drawn to a particular poster, very ornate, for some reason I couldn’t quite place. Here’s what it looks like:


After a while we learn the proprietor of the stall is from Berkeley, CA.    That explains it — I was born in Berkeley, grew up in the town next door, went to college and grad  school in Berkeley, understand the vibe and often like the people.

Eventually it’s time for our show to start and so he, his wife, my husband and I say our “we’ll-come-by-and-visit-you-once-we-move-back-to-California” good-buys. We get along so well he pulls out his good, special business card.  Immediately I see it says “monkey.”    I say “there’s a lot of monkeys in the world.”

He responds “Yes, I made a JaegerMonkey t-shirt for Mozilla a while back.”  My husband and I stop, stunned.  Our son wears his JaegerMonkey t-shirt regularly  (actually, it started off as my t-shirt but we both realized  immediately it would become his.) There is JaegerMonkey inspired artwork, album covers and even music floating around our house, thanks to the kids  who have been drawn to the JaegerMonkey t-shirt.  On a recent trip to the coast one of my son’s friends spent the trip making an 8-bit, mine-craft like JaegerMonkey image ….

My husband points to the small Firefox button he has pinned to his jacket and describes my role.  The print-maker shows off the t-shirt he’s wearing, which is the test print for the new Mozilla shirt he’s driving down to our offices when he gets back to California.  We all stand around stunned for a bit.  I don’t  have the new Mozilla t-shirt, but thanks to this odd meeting we’ve not the copies of the prints above.  You can find the prints at the monkeyink website.

Success and Firefox OS

July 1st, 2013

Firefox OS is launching today.  With that in mind, it’s a good time to recap why Mozilla builds products, what our products represent and how our products relate to our goals.

Mozilla’s goal is to build openness, innovation, and opportunity into online life.   One of our biggest levers is of course building products.   We build products that provide a great user experience and engender openness, innovation and opportunity into the technology of the Web itself.

Firefox has done this in many ways.  Firefox was a pioneer in the world of open source consumer products, in open techniques for feedback, support, and quality, just to name a few examples.  We have always built Firefox to give developers huge opportunities for innovation in areas they care about.  We do not seek to control the ways developers can innovate, or the way people take control of their software.

As a result, Firefox helped usher in a whole new era of Web computing, bringing new experiences for users and new freedoms for developers.  Today Firefox continues to pioneer new technologies and features that benefit users.  Some recent examples include features such as Do Not Track, which allows people to tell websites they do not wish to be tracked around the Web, and our Social API that makes the browsing experience more personal and customizable.

With Firefox OS we hope to do something similar with the mobile computing environment.  We want to bring the power of the open Web to this world.  We want to bring the same kinds of flexibility, opportunity and freedom to this computing environment that the original Firefox brings to the desktop.  More specifically, we want  Firefox OS to:

  • Prove that the Web is the platform, surprise people with what HTML5 is capable of on mobile devices.
  • Advance adoption of mobile Web standards and APIs across the industry, including on other operating systems.
  • Spur developer innovation; break the mold of what a mobile app is capable of.
  • Make the open Web accessible to more people.
  • Spur competition in making the Web the platform for mobile computing.
  • Excite people.
  • Provide a powerful, exciting and open alternative to the current closed ecosystems.

You’ll note that I haven’t included something like “we want to ship X numbers of phones.”  Ultimately, we want enough people choosing Firefox OS to confirm we’ve built a great product and to move us toward  a more open mobile computing platform based on the Web.    Our goal is to provide an alternative that has a deep and exciting user experience based on openness, choice and competition.

Total Surveillance

June 11th, 2013

Imagine you live in a world where the buildings are glass and you can’t ever close the curtains. Imagine the floor is glass, the ceiling is glass and all the walls are glass. There are no curtains, no window shades, no shutters and you can’t make your own. We’re heading into this world online. A robust network, cheap sensors and massive data manipulation builds the equivalent of glass houses.

The question today is whether we can have curtains. Whether any business or ecosystem provides curtains and whether we can make our own. Today we have very little ability to close the curtains in commercial activities. Websites are technically able to track *everything* we do, from how long we stay on a page to what ads attract us to how to travel from one website to the next. The data about you can be sold to others. Online data can be combined with data from your physical world and made available or sold to others  Telephone providers know when we make a phone call, where we made it from, who we called, how long we talked, our regular patterns of calls, and more.

Now we know that the U.S. government is gathering significant quantities of this data. Currently it’s understood to be using only “metadata” about phone calls for U.S. citizens, and to be using the actual content as well for foreign nationals. Now we also know that the inability to pull the curtains applies to governments as well.  We can also wonder how many other governments are collecting these types of data.

Now is the moment to ask — do we care?  Do care how much our government watches us, tracks us without our knowing it? Do we care how  the U.S. government treats the citizens of friendly, allied states? Do we care if other governments emulate the U.S. and gather this data?   How do businesses, organizations and individuals approach the US knowing the scope of online activities that are being monitored?  How much do other governments do this — either to  citizens or to foreign nationals?

How do we balance between civil rights and national security?

At Mozilla we have a long, deep focus on individual control of online life, including the degree of privacy a person wants. We build products to promote this goal, and we will continue to do so. In essence, we try to provide the option of pulling the curtains for individual citizens.

However, products do not make government policies. This is the role of  citizens. We urge all citizens to get involved with the issue of wholesale government surveillance. It will determine the realities of  online life going forward.  Our online houses are become increasingly built of glass. Our lives our increasingly visible to whomever wants to look.

Let’s ask ourselves: do we want to live in a house or a fishbowl?

Keynote talk: Nature of Mozilla; Public Policy Approach

April 25th, 2013

Here’s a  talk  I gave at the annual public policy event organized by the Center for Democracy and Technology.  It starts with about 3-4 minutes summary of my high level view of Mozilla, using language tuned for the public policy audience.  You won’t find comments about interoperability or standards.  This talk focuses on the human experiences these approaches help create, rather than talking about the technical approaches themselves.

The first 90 seconds is the introduction.  The next 3 or 4 minutes are the description of Mozilla and what we do.  Right around the 5-minute mark, the talk moves into the Public Policy area. Given the event and the audience, Mozilla’s public policy approach is the bulk of the talk. Around the 16-minute mark, I return to Mozilla’s biggest lever —  building technology and products.  In total, about 20 minutes.


Mozilla Manifesto – Towards 1.0

April 18th, 2013

The Mozilla Manifesto identifies a set of principles that we believe are critical for the Internet to continue to benefit the public good, commercial life and individual opportunity. For those interested in Mozilla history and development, this 2007 post describes why the Mozilla Manifesto was written and its goals.

In 2007 we gave the Mozilla Manifesto an “0.9” designation and began using it as a guidepost for our work. My plan at the time was to see if translating the Mozilla Manifesto caused questions or suggestions for improvements before moving to a 1.0 version. We have seen many translations (35 languages to date). In an unplanned path, the 0.9 version proved extremely resilient and we didn’t actually change it to a “1.0” version.

We’ve now reached Mozilla’s 15 year anniversary, which is a good time to make a few tweaks and identify this as our version 1.0. To do this, we’ve gathered input from the Mozilla community over the last 12 months, via workshops held at MozCamps and at the Mozilla Festival. Having considered all that has been said so far, we are proposing 3 changes to the 10 principles in the Manifesto.

1. Add a reference to “privacy”

Preserving the privacy of users is a core Mozilla value. In version 0.9, the reference to “security” in principle 4 was intended to imply “privacy”. However, experience has shown that the text is not read that way. And so we propose changing principle 4 to add an explicit reference:

Individuals’ security and privacy on the Internet are fundamental and cannot be treated as optional.

2. Make all principles expressible in 140 characters

Rightly or wrongly, being able to make a point in 140 characters is now an extremely useful (and sometimes necessary) way of conveying information. Making each principle tweetable helps us communicate them. Also, we believe that we can do this without losing key messages, and that the shorter versions are clearer. To do this, 3 principles – 1, 6 and 9 – need to be shortened. We propose:

1: The Internet is integral to modern life – education, communication, collaboration, business, entertainment and society.

6: The effectiveness of the Internet as a public resource depends upon interoperability, innovation and decentralized participation worldwide.

9: Commercial involvement in the Internet brings many benefits; a balance between commercial goals and public benefit is critical.

3. Strengthen the reference to individuals being able to create their own experience

Mozilla’s mission involves empowering people to act, to move from being consumers to creators of online life. A rewording of principle 5 makes the “building and making” part much more clear:

Individuals must have the ability to shape the Internet, and their own experiences on it.

A summary is available of the feedback from the MozCamps and the Mozilla Festival – this was the document we considered in coming up with the proposals above. If there’s something big you think has not been considered, let us know. If you think any of these changes are wrong-headed or destructive, also let us know. You can comment on these proposed changes in the governance forum.

Preparing for the Next Chapter

April 10th, 2013

Gary Kovacs joined us in November of 2010 as the Mozilla Corporation’s third CEO. I was the first (2004-2008), and John Lilly the second (2008-2010). We’ve had two CEO transitions so far, and now we will have a third. Gary will step down as CEO later this year. He will remain a member of our board of directors. As we did before, we are making this announcement as we begin a search for a new CEO, rather than waiting until after we have identified one. This fits with Mozilla’s identity as a public benefit organization dedicated to openness and participation in Internet life.

Each of Mozilla Corporation’s CEOs has brought our particular skills and expertise to an important era of Mozilla and Firefox development. I led during the start-up/underdog phase and the transition into an industry success with a strong open source and public benefit core. John’s leadership helped us solidify that success, grow to a couple of hundred people (huge by our standards then) and extend our reach in ways we hadn’t imagined.

Gary joined us to make a dramatic pivot — to move Mozilla from the desktop browser world into the mobile ecosystem. In 2010 we knew that we would need to change many things in order to be effective in the mobile computing environment: our technology, our expertise, our worldview, our focus. Gary’s leadership during this period has helped us build on the strong foundation to make these changes, and to bring that strength into the mobile environment. Gary has reinvigorated our focus on working with commercial partners, a trait that was central in Mozilla’s early life but less so during the Firefox desktop era.

We have accomplished a huge amount since Gary joined us. I want to thank Gary for his contributions to our cause, and for bringing new things to Mozilla. Our understanding of the world is deeper and our ability to focus stronger as a result. We have also built many layers of strong leaders at Mozilla. I have every confidence in the leadership team, in the dedicated individuals throughout Mozilla, in our vibrant community and the growing participation of our commercial contributors. We’ll celebrate this at the Summit, we’ll see it in action before then, and we’ll see it in the products we build and ship in the coming months.

There’s a lot to do. The future of our freedoms online are at stake. For my part I’ll be more deeply involvement in Mozilla’s daily activities during the transition period and in the CEO search. I’ll also be working to ensure that our partners and individual contributors have the tools they need to make meaningful contributions to Mozilla, and through us to the potential of the Web.

I urge each of us to step forward and *lead* — lead each other and lead others to join us. Lead a growing number of people as we build as much openness, innovation and opportunity into Internet life as we possibly can. Let’s make something great of the changes that come our way. Let’s make the next 15 years a watershed time for the digital freedom and opportunity.

Celebrating 15 Years of a Better Web

April 2nd, 2013

On March 31, Mozilla turned 15 years old. In these years, something radical has happened: the Web has become an everyday presence in the lives of billions of people. It’s made their lives better. Mozilla was a big part of this.

Looking back, Mozilla’s plan was as radical as the Web itself: use open source and community to simultaneously create great software and build openness into the key technologies of the Internet itself. This was something commercial vendors weren’t doing and could not do. A non-profit, community-driven organization like Mozilla was needed to step up to the challenge.

In our first phase, Mozilla brought competition, choice and empowerment to the World Wide Web on the desktop. We did this by bringing a phenomenally better experience to hundreds of millions of people with Firefox. At the same time, we used Firefox to drive openness and opportunity across the whole Web ecosystem — open source, open standards, open development process for Firefox, and the ability for people everywhere to participate in creating Firefox, in tuning it to fit their local environments, in customizing and extending it to fit their needs, all on their own terms and without needing permission from Mozilla or anyone else.

We did these things by cracking open the closed, tightly-integrated set of software, hardware and related services provided by Microsoft, the commercial Internet giant of its time.

The result: over a decade of creativity, innovation and increased competition on the Web. Mozilla has helped shift the center of gravity to a Web that’s more open — that gives more people the opportunity to create and enjoy the Web on *their* terms. The “open” way of thinking has spread to a range of other activities, from open data to open government to open science. More importantly: billions of people experience the openness of the Web every day as they create, connect and invent in ways that reflect their goals and dreams, without needing the permission of a few commercial organizations.

In the coming era both the opportunities and threats to the Web are just as big as they were 15 years ago. As the role of data grows and device capabilities expand, the Internet will become an even more central part of our lives. The need for individuals to have some control over how this works and what we experience is fundamental. Mozilla can — and must — play a key role again. We have the vision, the products and the technology to do this. We know how to enable people to participate, both by contributing to our specific activities and coming up with their own ideas that advance the bigger cause of enriching the Web.

It’s an exciting time for Mozilla and the Web. Another two billion people will join the Internet community in the coming years. It’s critical that these people all have access to the openness and empowerment that the Web has brought to date. The browser is a necessary piece of making sure this happens; yet we need to do more.

One part of “doing more” is Firefox OS, a completely new mobile device ecosystem that brings openness and the freedom for individuals to create and enjoy the Web on their own terms, enables new kinds of competition across the ecosystem, and brings new opportunities for locally-tailored content to be created, organized and consumed.

We’re also building the Mozilla Webmaker program. Webmaker will give people the tools and skills they need to move from being consumers to being co-creators of their online experiences. It will also provide an umbrella for people who want to teach others how to tap into the full power of the Web. Finally, we’re re-focusing our efforts to better support local communities as they grow and organize.

Let’s enjoy our history.  But let’s also celebrate by thinking what great things we can make happen for the future. The world needs Mozilla. Mozilla has been key to getting us where we are and it’s key to getting us where we want to be.

Mozilla Summit

March 31st, 2013

Mozilla contributors participate from all over the globe. We participate in ones and twos from home. In Internet cafes and hacker spaces and university buildings. In Mozilla spaces with large concentrations of peers. In every continent, including Antarctica. Our participation structure is distributed, decentralized and highly individualized. In this way we represent the Web. We’re also human beings, of course, and we *love* to get together. It’s fun, it allows us to get to know each other, and to exchange the high-bandwidth ideas that face-to-face provides. And it helps us develop a shared understanding of what we are doing.

This year we’re going to gather as many key contributors as we can at the same time for the 2013 Mozilla Summit. The Summit will be open to about 1,000 Mozilla volunteers and all 900 or so of our employees. This will be the first time since 2010 that key volunteers and all Mozilla employees will have the opportunity to gather together and to work face to face. We expect this to be very exciting.

Our last Summit was in 2010 and gathered about 600 people. It seemed huge then, yet in 2013 we’ll have more than three times as many people. Because of this we’re going to try some new things. First, we’re going to try having three different locations rather than gathering 2,000 people in one place. This means the Summit will be different than 2010. Exactly! Mozilla’s not like 2010, the world isn’t like 2010, and innovation is at the heart of who we are. So we’re going to try some innovations. We’re hoping to have three locations, each with the intimacy (!!!) of 600 or 700 people, some shared content and some innovative ways to join the three locales. We’ll learn from this and use what we learn to design our future events.

The multiple locations means that the Summit will be different than a geo-located “work week.” It’s unlikely that everyone who you’ll want to see face to face will all be in the same place. On the other hand, an organization our size needs trusted connections across groups, and good relationships between people you would never have thought to get to know.

My greatest hope for the Summit is to develop a shared understanding of who we are as Mozilla, how we plan to move our shared mission forward, and how our products and offerings fit into these goals. That of course means getting to know people, lots of spontaneity and fun settings and of course some real quality time exploring our products and programs.

To do this, we’re planning to identify a pretty good size planning group. That group will do a bunch of pre-work, and will meet in mid-June to figure out the content for the Summit and help shape the overall experience.

The Summit should be great fun. It is a hugely important step in bringing Mozilla together and developing a shared understanding of who we are and how we and our products bring openness and freedoms to digital citizens.


Imprisioned Contributor, 1 Year Later

March 16th, 2013

Yesterday makes it a full  year since Creative Commons and Mozilla contributor Bassel Khartibil was imprisoned by the Syrian regime.  Last July a public campaign was launched, and Mozilla participated .

This public  campaign to #freebassel  may have played a significant role in getting Bassel moved from a military intelligence to a civilian prison with visitation rights.

We continue to urge support for the #freebassel campaign by visiting the website, tweeting about Bassel’s case (#freebassel), or attending an event in his honor.

Skip past the sidebar