Posts Tagged with “Foundation”

The Mozilla Foundation: Achieving Sustainability

January 2nd, 2007

Mozilla is a global community dedicated to improving the Internet experience for people everywhere. We do this by building great software — such as the Mozilla Firefox web browser and Mozilla Thunderbird mail client — that helps people interact with the Internet.

We build great software by building communities. Our software is “open source software.” The source code is available to everyone; as a result people are able to work together and we all share the results of the combined efforts.

The Mozilla project has been building software and communities since 1998.

The Mozilla Foundation recently completed its financial audit and filed its tax returns for 2005. The tax returns should appear on Guidestar shortly, and in any case these materials are available directly from the Foundation. Because the steady revenue stream is so important to our long term sustainability I’ll give an overview here.


In 2003 the Mozilla Foundation was established. The Mozilla Foundation is a non-profit organization organized to provide a home for the Mozilla community and stewardship for the assets of the project. The Mozilla Foundation started with around 10 employees. This was just barely enough people to make the Foundation functional and support the community. Still, supporting 10 people is a noticeable financial commitment; doing so consumed most of the funds the Foundation had available to it. (For those interested in historical detail, we had one person for QA, one person responsible for all of our tools and infrastructure, one person for each of the Firefox and Thunderbird front ends, 2 people for all of the rendering, layout and internals, etc, one person responsible for our “build and release” function, one architect, one engineering manager, one person responsible for business development, and me). The employees were stretched extremely thin, struggling to keep up with the opportunities available to the project.

In 2004 we released the Mozilla Firefox web browser. It was the right product at the right time — an elegant product filling a huge need in the market. Millions upon millions of people began using Firefox. As a result we were able to generate revenue by making it easy for people to find and use Internet search services. We began adding employees. We also began expanding our infrastructure — bandwidth for downloads, modernizing the inventory of equipment used to build the software and provide services to developers, update the public-facing websites, etc.

In 2005 Firefox became a product with millions of users, a growing significance in the Internet industry and a significant revenue stream. The revenue is from the easy “search” capabilities built into Firefox and the related revenue relationships with the search providers. We found that our users like the easy, customizable search capabilities, and the revenue could provide financial stability without the need for ongoing fund raising requests to our users or community.

In August of 2005 the Mozilla Foundation established the Mozilla Corporation as a wholly owned subsidiary to guide the development of Mozilla products, including Firefox. Revenue generated by Firefox becomes an asset of the Mozilla Corporation, which is in turn completely owned by the Mozilla Foundation. The assets of the Mozilla Foundation are dedicated to the public benefit. Revenue generated from Firefox is reinvested in the Mozilla project to improve operational capabilities and to provide long-term stability.

The number of people using Firefox increased steadily through 2005 and 2006. The resulting revenue stream from our search partners allowed us to continue to expand. We did so in both engineering for product development, and in the services we offer our userbase. We hired more people. For example, we started to build a professional IT team to handle increased load. We expanded our infrastructure still more to handle the millions of people who came to get and use Firefox. The improved infrastructure was demonstrated during the Firefox 1.5 release in November when our bandwidth requirements went way up and our service levels remained high. We hired more QA folks to both test and work with the community. We hired more engineers. We launched the Mozilla Developer Center, the first time we’ve had an on-going, successful documentation program.

Our revenue stream remains steady. We’re hiring a great set of people, with small teams where before we had a single person. We have a Firefox front-end team. We now have a build team instead of a single person. We have an Information Technology team. We have a set of people thinking about features and user experience. We have a platform team. We have people to respond when reporters call. We have a team of people maintaining our websites and webservices. We’ve been able to return to having a small set of people thinking first and foremost about community development. We’re still stretched very thin and still looking for great people.

Our infrastructure continues to be modernized. We’re upgrading the development infrastructure, in particular the “build” machines and infrastructure, which is a far larger job than it sounds. We’re upgrading the website infrastructure to support easier and more complete localization. Firefox 2 shipped simultaneously in 37 languages. That’s a massive and very rare achievement; I’m not sure who else does this.

2005 Financial Information

In 2005 the Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation combined had revenue from all sources of $52.9M. $29.8M of this was associated with the Foundation (both before and after the creation of the Corporation). The bulk of this revenue was related to our search engine relationships, with the remainder coming from a combination of contributions, sales from the Mozilla store, interest income, and other sources. These figures compare with 2003 and 2004 revenues of $2.4M and $5.8M respectively, and reflect the tremendous growth in the popularity of Firefox after its launch in November 2004.

The combined expenses of the Mozilla Foundation and Corporation were approximately $8.2M in 2005, of which approximately $3M was associated with the Foundation. By far the biggest portion of these expenses went to support the large and growing group of people dedicated to creating and promoting Firefox, Thunderbird, and other Mozilla open source products and technologies. The rate of expenses increased over the year as new employees came on board. The unspent revenue provides a reserve fund that allows the Mozilla Foundation flexibility and long term stability.

Strengthening the Mission

Our financial stability has enabled us to attract and retain world-class talent, people who have willingly turned their backs on the world of startups and stock options in order to work toward our goal of promoting choice and innovation on the Internet for the benefit of all. It enables us to support massive communities of people who contribute their efforts to making the Internet experience better. It allows us to cultivate competitive, viable community innovation.

The results are significant.

Our userbase is growing and happy. The Mozilla name represents quality and integrity to ever increasing millions of people. The extended community — volunteers, students, employees, developers, evangelists, extension developers, testers, documentation writers — is vibrant and effective. Internet life is a far better experience for millions upon millions of people that it was before Firefox and than it would be without the Mozilla project.

The Mozilla community — buttressed by the financial sustainability of the Mozilla Foundation — represents a powerful force for improving Internet life.

Bob Lisbonne and Carl Malamud Join the Mozilla Foundation Board

November 22nd, 2006

The Mozilla Foundation has enormous opportunities in front of it. These include building on the success of the Mozilla project to date, extending the understanding of our community-based development processes, and articulating the vision of the Internet that motivates us. The Mozilla Foundation is in the fortunate position of being limited not by opportunity, but by capacity.

So I’m very pleased to report that the Mozilla Foundation has added two additional Board members to increase our capacity to act effectively: Bob Lisbonne and Carl Malamud. Bob and Carl join Mitch Kapor, Brendan Eich, Brian Behlendorf, Joichi Ito and me.

Bob Lisbonne is a long-time friend of the Mozilla project. Bob was involved in the launch and early days of the Mozilla project at Netscape, and has been involved in the browser space since the early Netscape versions. Bob has consistently provided reasoned and thoughtful advice to me, both at my request and on his own initiative. Bob is currently a general partner with the venture capital firm Matrix Partners. His involvement with Mozilla is a personal effort, not to be associated with or attributed to Matrix Partners.

Carl Malamud has a long history of involvement with Internet and web-based projects supporting the public good, including most notably getting the US Securities and Exchange Commission to release EDGAR filings over the Internet and establishing the Internet Multicasting Service and Internet Talk Radio (home of the “Geek of the Week” show). Carl brings a depth of operational experience to the Board.

The Board is responsible for the assets of the organization, financial controls and overall operation. In addition, a Board provides leadership in setting the overall direction of the organization and represents the organizations and its causes to the world at large.

As part of the selection process, a set of community members participated in interviews with each of Carl and Bob, with feedback provided to the Board. In the future the Board plans to take further steps to involve the Mozilla community in the governance of the Mozilla Foundation. Whatever mechanisms we ultimately adopt, our intent is to have the Mozilla Foundation Board of Directors reflect and be influenced by the views of those who are ultimately responsible for the success of the Mozilla project and thus the Mozilla Foundation -– the many active and dedicated members of the Mozilla community.

Mozilla Foundation Activities (Part 2)

June 21st, 2006

In my last post I identified three major areas of importance to the Mozilla Foundation. These were: project governance, promoting open source and Mozilla software, and development of the Internet as an open, accessible platform. Here I take a stab at translating these broad areas into specific activities that the Foundation should consider. I would say “should undertake” but all things require prioritization and I haven’t tried to rank activities here.

A. The Mozilla Foundation should cause useful open source internet software to be delivered to human beings. The Mozilla Foundation has delegated a piece of this work related to technical and product development to the Mozilla Corporation. So the Foundation should exercise oversight.

Mozilla Foundation Activities (Part 1)

June 20th, 2006

What kinds of activities should the Mozilla Foundation undertake? When I think of this I look at three major areas that provide input. The Mozilla Foundation could take on additional tasks as well, but there are three that seem fundamental to me. I’ll describe each area in some detail below, but the summary is:

  • Project governance and community dynamics — keeping the project healthy
  • Promoting open source software and Mozilla software; and
  • Promoting development of the Internet as an innovative, accessible universal platform

A. First, the Mozilla Foundation is the home of the Mozilla project. The Mozilla project existed long before the Foundation. The project was founded in 1998, and developed a community, a governance and implementation model, a set of projects and a great deal of software, expertise and best practices. This was done through informal arrangements based on community norms and participation, without the assistance of a legal home for the project. Those active in project governance had long wanted a legal organization for the project and that goal was achieved in July of 2003 with the creation of the Mozilla Foundation. The Mozilla Foundation enjoyed a high degree of continuity with the organizational structure. Key leaders remained in essentially the same roles. Key processes remained in place, particularly the ways in which developers interact with each other and create software. The Mozilla Foundation became the natural and long-awaited official home of the Mozilla project. Some things fall out pretty clearly from this role as home of the project.

One critical piece of the identity of the Mozilla project is tied to how we build software — an open source, distributed model with delegated authority. So a critical aspect of what the Foundation needs to do is to maintain healthy project dynamics relating to how we build software. Historically this was done by staff; it’s time to integrate the Mozilla Foundation and community-based leadership.

B. Second, because it is a public benefit corporation the Mozilla Foundation has a specific legal reason for existing which is set out in its Articles of Incorporation “The specific purpose of the Corporation [here meaning the Foundation] is to promote the development of, public access to and adoption of the open source Mozilla web browsing and Internet application software.

C. Third, the Mozilla Foundation’s tax-exampt status is governed by the exempt purpose approved by the IRS and the State of California. This purpose in the IRS application is: “The exempt purpose of the Foundation is to serve the general public by undertaking activities to (1) keep the Internet a universal platform that is accessible by anyone from anywhere, using any computer, and (2) promote the continuation of the innovation on the Internet (which as already affected the lives of more than 500 million Internet users). Specifically, the Foundation’s exempt purpose is to develop (a) open source, standards-compliant, free Internet applications that will be usable by (and made available free-of-charge to) tens of millions of users, and (b) foundational technologies that will be used by content developers and software developers to develop standards-compliant online content and open source Internet software.”

In my next post I’ll translate this into a set of more specific activities.

Mozilla Foundation and Project Leadership

May 26th, 2006

The Mozilla project is an enormous worldwide community of people who choose to work together to produce and share technology, products and a passion for the web. The Mozilla Foundation is the official home of the Mozilla project. It has certain special abilities and responsibilities with regard to leadership of the Mozilla project and stewardship of the project’s assets.

In some ways the Mozilla Foundation is like the proverbial “tip of the iceberg.” It’s the easiest part to see, it has a size and structure that is easy to understand. But the heart of the Mozilla project is the enormous, highly motivated, loosely structured set of communities that make the project vibrant. Like the tip of an iceberg the Mozilla Foundation is a good marker for the larger reality and a good place to start an understanding of the project. And like an iceberg, one needs to go far beyond the surface of the Mozilla Foundation to understand the breadth and depth of the Mozilla project.

In other words, the Mozilla project is larger than the Mozilla Foundation and its employees. This fact should be reflected in the way the Mozilla Foundation organizes itself. Employment with the Mozilla Foundation is not and must not become the source of all authority within the Mozilla project. Contributors must have a voice within the Mozilla project unrelated to employment.

In the days before the Mozilla Foundation existed a group of people known as “ staff” provided this voice. staff was a virtual organization which governed the Mozilla project in general, and did so increasingly unrelated to any employment relationship. Some of the functions that staff used to fulfill now live in the Foundation — stewardship of the assets, release of products using the Mozilla name, as examples. So the old model of staff cannot continue unchanged in the world of the Foundation.

Nevertheless, we need a mechanism to recognize, organize and legitimate the leadership of key contributors and community members unrelated to employment status. This mechanism should both (a) organize and amplify this contributor voice and (b) give this voice input and participation into the Mozilla Foundation’s activities.

We have proven policies for ensuring authority unrelated to employment in the development of code itself. We need a way to maintain and update these policies that doesn’t put all leadership in the hands of Mozilla Foundation employees. We also need to ensure contributors can provide leadership in Mozilla project activities other than writing code.

Some may ask “why?” “Why doesn’t the Mozilla Foundation simply take on the leadership and governance role through its employees?” there are many answers to this. First, the Mozilla project is an open source project. We build software through distributed authority based on reputation, peer review, proven results and ability to lead others through results rather than title. This system produces great results, allows new contributors to appear from unexpected places and join us, drives technical excellence and prevents group-think from making us complacent. The operating style of the Mozilla Foundation must reflect this DNA.

Secondly, the Mozilla Foundation does not and will not employ all the great contributors to the Mozilla project. There are far too many contributors for this to be the case. And it is an explicit goal to have volunteers and people employed by different organizations contributing to get broader perspectives into the heart of the project. Expertise and dedication will exist outside of the Mozilla Foundation’s employee base. It is critical that these contributors have an understood, identified, accepted way to participate in the Mozilla Foundation’s activities.

Those people who have been involved in the project for along time have a short hand phrase for this — we say that “ staff needs to be revitalized to provide this role.” Framed more generally the question is: We need a way for participants to exercise leadership and moral authority in the governance and activities of the Mozilla project that is unrelated to one’s employment status. We need to articulate the scope of that leadership and authority and create a mechanism by which that voice is involved in Mozilla Foundation activities.

Mozilla Foundation and Corporation

October 18th, 2005

Yesterday one of the folks at the Mozilla Corporation mentioned that he still has trouble describing the relationship between the Mozilla Corporation and the Mozilla Foundation cleanly and easily. He asked me to write something. I tried out a description David Ascher had suggested a few weeks back, and a discussion followed. I’ve tried to capture the gist below. Many thanks to David for providing the first two sentences, which of course frame the discussion.

The Mozilla Corporation is a private corporation with a single shareholder. That shareholder is a 501( c) (3) non-profit dedicated to the public benefit. This means that the Mozilla Corporation — like all corporations — focuses on satisfying its shareholder(s). In this sense organization is very standard. However, in most cases a corporation satisfies shareholders by producing a financial return on investment — dividends and / or higher stock price. This is where the Mozilla Corporation and its shareholder differ from the standard model. The goal of the Mozilla Foundation is to promote the health of the World Wide Web itself by providing free, open source client software. In other words, to serve the public good. So the Mozilla Corporation satisfies its shareholder by promoting this public benefit, not by seeking to maximize revenue.

The Mozilla Corporation should be a professional, run well organization. It must continue to work with and lead the open source community in our shared efforts to create great software and enable growth and diversity on the web. It must work well with commercial entities using Firefox and building on Firefox. It should treat its employees with respect and be a great place to work. It must recognize and support the contributions of non-employee contributors who play such a critical role. It should generate revenue to support the Mozilla project where appropriate.

So some of our activities will look business-like — that’s how one works well with commercial entities, and this is critical to long term success. Other activities will not look at all like “business as ususal.” They will be driven by our open source DNA and our community. And our ultimate goal is most distinctly not business as usual; it is supporting the health and vitality of the web itself.

New People and Roles

July 28th, 2005

We have added some new people and management capabilities to the Mozilla Foundation engineering organization recently and I’d like to let people know how they fit together.

First, Mike Schroepfer has joined the Mozilla Foundation as director of engineering. We’ve talked many times about the need to integrate overall product goals, specific engineering goals, technology goals, resource planning, engineering coordination and management much more fully in our development process, and to have someone chartered to guide the overall engineering effort. We’ve talked about this among employees, and I’ve received mail from a set of other community members noting the need for more organization, communication and planning as we grow. Mike is the person the Mozilla Foundation has asked to do this. We’ve consistently identified organization and knowing what other people are doing as areas needing improvement. So we’ve asked Mike to focus initially on product planning and delivery. We have planning efforts underway for specific areas, such as graphics, layout, content, toolkit, XULrunner, Firefox, Thunderbird, Firefox 1.1, Gecko 1.9, etc. We have asked Mike to lead the effort to bring these into a coordinated whole and to drive our efforts into cohesive product releases.

Mike will also take on the classic people management functions for those people who are employees of the Mozilla Foundation.

Chris Hofmann has picked up a number of special projects in the last 18 months that need more attention. Having Mike Schroepfer on board means Chris Hofmann will now focus on these projects. The two most active projects today are working with organizations interested in understanding how to integrate with our technical development team; and the security work.

There are a number of organizations that want to understand how to work with us. These include the companies who have engineering groups working on Mozilla, companies wanting to use Mozilla technology, companies thinking about support for Mozilla projects, to name a few. These needs have gone up dramatically in the last 6 months and we need more focus in this area. On the security side, Chris has been working with Secunia, our security group and interested parties. He’s been tracking security issues, proposed fixes, what those might mean for the web and so on. He’s been helping those who find bugs understand our process and figuring out good ways to work together. Security is a topic that will require even more attention in the future. Chris also has an enormous amount of information about our engineering and release processes; he’ll be spending a chunk of time initially making sure that information is dispersed throughout the organization.

Mike Shaver is now officially working with the Mozilla Foundation. We’ve asked him to help identify and investigate technical domains which we should understand, and to help figure out and drive implementation of what we should do in these technology domains — should we build our own offering, partner with an offering from another source? Examples of the kinds of technologies that Mike might investigate include “identity,” “presence”, VOIC, XMPP / instant messaging. Mike will work very closely with Brendan in these areas.

We’ve also asked Mike to help us bring out “platform” strategy and our product focus into crisper alignment, and to help us think of our platform technologies in more product-like terms, requiring not only technical excellence, but also an understood scope and good delivery mechanisms.

Brendan Eich will continue in his role as the guiding voice of our technical development. No changes here, I include Brendan so no one wonders why I’ve left him out.

These changes also allow Chris Beard to focus more on products, helping bringing a product focus to our engineering efforts. We’ve done some work in this area, but a great deal needs to be done and it’s a big step forward to be able to give Chris Beard time to do this. Chris has done a remarkable job at filling many roles, I’m very excited to be able to offload some of the operational and other tasks to have allow him to think in a much more focused way about our products, and to make sure that this thinking is closely tied with our technology and engineering plans.

Needless to say, everyone will be working closely with each other and with the engineering mechanisms the project has developed — drivers, module owners, reviewers, etc. And there is always a fair amount of “doing what needs to be done” so flexibility remains key.

Email Addresses, and the Mozilla Foundation

February 24th, 2005

A couple of weeks ago I wrote something about my belief that staff membership is different than employment with the Mozilla Foundation. Here’s a concrete example of questions that come up: email addresses. It almost sounds trivial when I write it. But email addresses are often a statement of identity or relationship and so they turn out not to be trivial I believe that membership in staff is not a decision that should be made by the Mozilla Foundation. And a hiring decision by the Mozilla Foundation should not automatically convey staff membership.

When we set up the Foundation a set of key contributors became employees. Some of these people were staff members (Asa, Myk, Leaf, Brendan, me) of long tenure. Others were key contributors who had previously been employed to contribute their work product to the Mozilla project but weren’t officially chartered to speak for the Mozilla project or guide its general policies — jst, dbaron, Ben Goodger, Scott Macgregor, Chris Hofmann. (If this sounds obtuse or too “inside” to be understandable, please take a look at the Mozilla Roles and Responsibilities doc which lays out the role of staff in our past incarnation.)

It’s pretty hard to argue that this latter group of folks haven’t been “speaking for the Mozilla project” or guiding policy or determining releases or doing the myriad of things that staff has historically been chartered to do. Even so, we didn’t have a policy for what staff meant vis-à-vis Mozilla Foundation staff. So we didn’t officially make these new people staff. That is, they are (still) not listed on the staff page. However, we did give them “” email addresses. These addresses have historically been limited to staff members. And in the real world, an email address that is in use everyday is probably a much clearer indicia than a listing on a web page most people never see and may think is outdated anyway.

As management goes, I’m not proud of this. It left key contributors in a state of limbo that would have best been avoided. However, I felt it was important for the health of the project to keep the idea that mozilla,org staff membership means something separate from employment status. Fortunately the people living in this limbo are dedicated primarily to the success of the project and were able to live with this. As I said, tolerance for ambiguity is a key value.

Then we began hiring a few more people. By this time I had realized that not having a process for determining staff membership meant that we really shouldn’t give out “” email addresses. Not just realized it, which wasn’t hard. But realized it enough to force implementation of it. So over the last year we’ve hired a set of people and asked them to continue to use their own email addresses. More precisely, I have declined to authorize more “” email addresses. (I would say refused, but we haven’t had a real fight about it. Maybe others would say refused.)

Again, I’m not proud of this. It’s definitely been awkward for the people involved. So we’re going to create email addresses for Mozilla Foundation employees. I’m not sure what they’ll be — perhaps. That’s awfully long so perhaps we’ll choose something shorter. Those of us with addresses will probably continue using them, just as current staff members employed elsewhere use their addresses.

I expect that these new addresses will remain in use after we figure out the relationship between and Mozilla Foundation staff. Maybe it will turn out I’m wrong, and we’ll end up realizing that there is no need for staff or no need to distinguish it from Mozilla Foundation employees. But we spent years learning how to build an organization and manage the project separate from an employment chain, and I don’t want to let that experience fade away by accident.

When we figure out exactly what the email addresses representing employment with the Mozilla Foundation will be we’ll say something about that, and hopefully get them implemented soon. And of course we’ll keep working on the question of what staff membership means — or could mean, or should mean — in the current era.

I remember when I joined the Mozilla project I was astonished at how much energy went into technical topics that didn’t seem so important to me. I’m embarrassed to admit this included such things as directory names. Now of course I understand their importance better. And judging from the attention I have paid to the topic of email addresses and organizational identity, I have come to fit right in!

DevMo and DevEdge updates

February 23rd, 2005

For months I’ve said I’ve been optimistic that the Mozilla Foundation would be able to reach an agreement allowing us to host and improve the materials from the former Netscape DevEdge site. I’m very pleased to report that my optimism was well founded.

We’ve reached an agreement with AOL that allows us to post, modify, and create new documents based on the former Netscape DevEdge materials. The agreement is done. I want to thank AOL for making this happen. Netscape DevEdge was a great resource. We’re very pleased those materials haven’t been lost and that the Mozilla Foundation can host their continued development and use. I also want to thank the many people who wrote to offer encouragement and help regarding the DevEdge materials — your encouragement was very helpful.

What happens now? Well, we probably won’t be able to simply recreate the site — we don’t have the build scripts for one thing. Naturally, we’re eager to get the data sorted out and the most important documents posted asap.

Starting next Monday we’ll have a new person working full time at the Mozilla Foundation to help with just this activity. On Monday Deb Richardson joins the Mozilla Foundation as a Technical Editor and Project Manager for DevMo. DevMo is our community based project focused on developer documentation and resources. We have a group of people interested in working on this, and are thrilled Deb can join us to provide the overall coordination, support and project management for this effort, working very closely with our volunteer community. Deb comes to us with extensive documentation and open source experience, having founded both Linuxchix and the Open Source Writers Group. She has also worked professionally as a technical writer, freelance editor, web designer and developer.

One of the first things we’ll ask Deb to do is to work with those familiar with the DevEdge material and sort out the most important documents, get those posted asap, and then develop a plan for handling the rest of the material. We want to make critical resources available asap and also build a coherent site. We already have a website at the developer part of that is hard to navigate, not well designed, and filled with material that is or may be outdated. staff and Mozilla Foundation Employees

February 7th, 2005

In the beginning of the Mozilla project there was the “ staff.” staff is the virtual organization that guided the Mozilla project, spoke for the project, developed and implemented policy for the project. At its inception, the individual members of staff were all Netscape employees. As time went on more and more staff members were volunteers or employed by someone other than Netscape / AOL.

Over time staff took over more and more of the activities previously managed by the Netscape management team — milestone releases, managing the CVS tree and so on. staff members guided both the policy decisions and the daily operational decisions that kept the project going. Some years ago I described the role of staff in some detail in the Mozilla Roles and Responsibilities document.

The Mozilla Foundation was born in July of 2003. For the first time we had an official legal organization that could hold the critical assets and hire people to work on the project. Launching the Mozilla Foundation was a hectic and pressure-filled time. The pressure grew continuously through the release of our 1.0 products. I’m sure anyone who’s been through a make-or-break product release cycle will understand this!

With the creation of the Mozilla Foundation it was clear that some thought needed to be given to the relationship between staff and Mozilla Foundation employees. But we also needed to get the Foundation off the ground, establish key relationships, focus on maintaining our development community, think out how to raise enough money to sustain ourselves (a big topic, more on that later), develop our new applications and make progress on the underlying platform technologies as well. So the question of rationalizing the roles of staff and Mozilla Foundation employees (ie, Mozilla Foundation staff) has been on my mind, but not front and center. We’ve trimmed the staff list to reflect those people who have moved on and are now longer active. But we haven’t had a policy for what “ staff” means in our new incarnation and so we haven’t added anyone to it. Even key players like our lead developers aren’t officially listed as staff members. (Tolerance for ambiguity is probably a characteristic of those comfortable in our world.)

The Mozilla project still has a great deal to accomplish, and we’ve all got more to do than we can imagine finishing. But we have successfully completed a series of milestones with the release and adoption of Mozilla Firefox and Mozilla Thunderbird. So I’d like to start the discussion of staff and Mozilla Foundation employees.

I have a few basic premises that drive my thinking. I should be clear here — these are my personal views. At some point I’ll write an official policy for review and (hopefully) adoption, but this isn’t it. My current working framework is:

  • The Mozilla project is bigger than the Mozilla Foundation
  • The Mozilla Foundation does not and probably never will employ all leading contributors to the project or all those whose voices represent the project
  • An employment relationship with the Mozilla Foundation should not take the place of peer review and leadership through respect
  • A single management chain, even that of the Mozilla Foundation itself, does not reflect the diversity of the Mozilla project
  • An employment relationship with the Mozilla Foundation should not be necessary in order for key contributors to have a respected voice in the direction of the project
  • Checks and balances create a messy governance structure but are nevertheless worthwhile

In concrete terms this boils down to my belief that (1) a role for “ staff” is important for the project, and (2) this role will build upon and modify the previous role of staff.

It probably doesn’t make sense to continue the previous role of “ staff” unchanged. Before the Mozilla Foundation, staff was the group involved day-to-day, making the operational decisions. Doing this requires pretty intense, constant involvement and Foundation employees do much of this. A staff member who isn’t involved on a serious if not full time basis will have trouble keeping current with enough info to make these decisions. This isn’t to say that I believe that dailyoperational decisions should be made only by Foundation employees. It’s possible this is the case, but I can also envision scenarios where this is not the right path at all. But I do believe that maintaining a group separate from Foundation employees to make daily operation decisions is a mistake.

There should be a mechanism for clear, valued input into project direction and Foundation activities by those who are not employees. Our open-source DNA gives us mechanisms for this when code is involved — module ownership, peer review, leadership through reputation, etc. I think it’s important to develop mechanisms for significant issues that don’t end up in source code. This could be extending the Module Owner system to non-code areas. It could involve a role for staff. Perhaps both; perhaps something entirely new. The Mozilla Foundation will grow and change over the coming years. I want to do so in a way that delivers great products, moves the web forward and reflects the community that has built the Mozilla project.

There’s much more to say but I think I’ll stop here since it’s getting late and there’s no need to get everything into one comment.

Skip past the sidebar