For those who are interested in Mozilla govenance, I’ve proposed an Activities Module for ownership of key Mozilla policies. The proposal is in the mozilla.governance newsgroup, which can also be accessed via Google Groups.
Posts Tagged with “governance”
January 7th, 2009
June 4th, 2008
The Mozilla Corporation is welcoming a new board member. I’ll introduce her in a moment. First I’ll describe the role of a board member, and what we looked for.
The board of directors is generally responsible for the conduct and the management of affairs of a company. More specifically, they have fiduciary and ethical responsibility and accountability for what a company does. There are many opinions about specifically what these means as a couple of Wikipedia entries make clear. The main point for this discussion is that a Board is really not like the operational groups. To use more traditional terms, the Board is not like the “management team.” The Board asserts authority in the areas of governance and accountability; it provides assistance, guidance and support in strategic decisions and tactical activities. There’s no one better equipped to understand our world than the people building it every day. We look to the Board to support and improve those efforts, rather than try to micro-manage those efforts.
As in all roles related to Mozilla, we’re looking for individuals who are fundamentally excited about the Mozilla mission and what makes us different, and are highly attuned to MoCo’s role as part of a much larger community. For a board member we’re also looking for someone who can execute the fiduciary and accountability responsibilities required of a board, and is likely to work well with the existing members of the board and the people with whom the board works most closely. We’re also looking for people who understand the consumer and developer Internet world where MoCo lives, and can help MoCo perform better against our mission within this world. Operational experience in running an organization the size or scope of MoCo is very helpful. Experience in working with other organizations and companies in the consumer Internet is also a plus.
All Mozilla directors — those of MoCo, those of the Mozilla Foundation, and those of Mozilla Messaging — are volunteers. There is no compensation for being a board member. This is true of many non-profits but a difference from board membership in many private and public companies.
When the Mozilla Corporation was created we had three board members. Chris Blizzard left the Mozilla Foundation board and joined the Mozilla Corporation. At the time Chris worked at Red Hat. I remained on the Foundation board and also joined the MoCo board. I was (and still am) the only person to be part of both boards. Reid Hoffman joined the MoCo board to bring his insight into the consumer Internet space to moving the Mozilla mission forward. That gave us a board of three, two of whom were “outside” directors. “Outside” here means not part of the management team and employed by MoCo. When John Lilly became COO (“Chief Operating Officer”) in late 2006 he joined the Board as well, and we had a board of four.
Last fall Chris Blizzard changed jobs, moved to the Mozilla Corporation as an employee and resigned from the Board. (We’ve been extremely lucky to have Chris’ contributions in many roles over the years.) We began a search for at least one and perhaps two additional outside directors. We talked to people who have solid experience with what a board does and how good boards interact with the people making things happen on a day to day basis. This is normally called the “management team” or the “executive team.” At Mozilla we don’t use those terms as much, but the concept is the same: a good Board is not trying to manage the operations of the organization, it is providing support and guidance and governance to the group that is. In our case, that’s the Steering Committee.
Legally, Mozilla Corporation board members are responsible to the Mozilla Foundation as the sole shareholder. The Mozilla Foundation Board of Directors is the group responsible for electing board members. We talked to a bunch of people; always looking for people with a good sense for the Internet and a fundamental understanding that MoCo is a mission-driven organization dedicated to building the Mozilla vision. This is key — MoCo must provide consumer offerings that excel — that’s the way we move our mission forward. And yet we do it for a public benefit mission; not for the reasons companies usually create software.
Eventually a few people appeared whom had great expertise and we thought might fit well. John and I asked them to talk with a bunch of Mozilla folks. From there the person with the best fit spent time with the Mozilla Foundation directors. We did some due diligence, talking with people who’ve worked with her before. When everything lined up, the Mozilla Foundation board of directors formally took action to elect a new board member to the MoCo board of directors.
May 30th, 2008
At the end of March I made a proposal about updating the way we manage the health of our module ownership system. I’m happy so say that the proposal has now been implemented. Specifically this means:
1. We now have official modules — currently known as Activities Modules — for non-coding activities.
2. We now have a Governance module (owner: Mitchell Baker).
3. We now have a sub-module of Governance for Module Ownership (owner: Brendan Eich).
4. We now have an official Planet Mozilla module (owner: Asa Dotzler).
5. The long-standing web page listing module owners for code modules has been undated to also point people to the Activities modules.
6. The Activities modules are described and listed on wiki.mozilla.org.
7. The policy governing module ownership has been updated to reflect the creation of the Module Ownership module.
Thanks to everyone involved, and special thanks to Mike Connor for jumping up and down until I got this underway.
February 28th, 2008
Every now and then someone asks a question about the “Steering Committee” so I thought I’d give some background on what it is and how it came to be.
The Steering Committee began early in the days of the Mozilla Foundation, sometime in 2004, I’m guessing. In these early days we were already trying to do a number of things- develop Firefox, develop Thunderbird, ship our then-current product known as “Mozilla Application Suite” or “Mozilla 1.x”, figure out a funding mechanism to sustain ourselves, establish relationships with other organizations, develop new communities (in particular, the visual identity team and the marketing communities), work with other industry organizations, to name a few. (In those days we had between 10 and 15 employees, plus a set of volunteers that was smaller than today but no less active or committed. The project was much smaller than now, but still trying to do many things.)
We needed a way to make sure that these different activities were working towards the same general goals, that “the right hand knew what the left hand was doing” and that we had some sense of priorities for our resources. We also needed a way to think about “are we doing the right thing?” Is one set of activities getting too few resources? Too many? Causing difficulties in other areas of effort? Are we missing big opportunities? And we needed to do all this while still getting enormous- sometimes almost crushing- amounts of work done.
It quickly became clear that most people could not keep track of all of these topics, effectively deliver their particular individual contributions and remain sane.
We created the Steering Committee to deal with this. The Steering Committee is a set of people who both represent and provide leadership in the various types of activities we are working on. Over the years the individuals and number of people have changed, but it has always included Brendan Eich for overall technical leadership, a representative from the engineering and outreach / marketing parts of our efforts, and me, for overall organizational leadership. Today the term “Steering Committee” is used inside the Mozilla Corporation (“MoCo”). Mozilla Messaging may or may not use this term or mechanism, and the Mozilla Foundation doesn’t currently use this term.
The goals of the Steering Committee are:
- to track the overall progress of MoCo efforts;
- to identify organization-wide activities and goals that move the Mozilla mission forward; and
- to lead MoCo and the Mozilla project effectively towards meeting these goals.
Thus the Steering Committee is responsible for a mixture of (1) empowering others to contribute most effectively; and (2) providing leadership in weaving the various strands of Mozilla together to bring the most possible benefit from our individual activities.
I once had quite a heated discussion with someone who disliked the name “Steering Committee” intensely and felt that it should be called a “Management Committee” or “Executive Committee” as is common in many other organizations. In particular, the objection was that “Steering Committee” was too vague and seemed to ignore the leadership role. But the word “Steering” reflects a basic truth about Mozilla: we work differently than other organizations do. Yes, we need people to focus on the overall picture and to tie different functions together. Yes, we need people to think about the strategic goals and how to reach them. We need people who are world- class in competence and rare in creativity to do this. We need leaders in our mission, our goals for the Internet, our organization. We need them just as much we need leaders in code, in technical vision, in adoption, in local sensitivities, in analysis.
But all leaders operate in the Mozilla context, including organizational and strategic leaders. These people must lead. They must motivate other people to join in the vision, to help create the means and the tools and the activities that allow us to succeed. Just like our module owners with code, these people must lead others who are not employees, and for whom the traditional management tools (salaries, promotion, etc) are irrelevant. This is not traditional management, it is something quite different. From the outside, from other companies, it may look a lot like traditional management. But within the Mozilla project the qualities that lead to success — respect, accomplishments, peer review, helping others to succeed, getting out of the way when someone with a good idea comes along, supporting new things based on mission and goals rather than personal style — must be reflected at all levels.
In this sense “steering” is leadership. But it is leadership in the sense of helping people accomplish things themselves, of identifying which path is most likely to get us where we want to go and steering in that direction. It’s leadership though, and it’s hard. And there are some things about Mozilla which are unusual and make it hard in unusual ways. I’ll say more about this in a subsequent post.
As I noted above, the Steering Committee is a set of people who both represent and provide leadership in the various types of activities we are working on, and who can work with others on topics that cross different types of activities. That’s a bit amorphous and doesn’t answer questions like “why type of activities” or “what level of leadership.” We try to have one person we can look to and hold responsible for each giant set of activities that we need to accomplish. In terms of titles, these people usually have a “chief” or a “vice-president” in their titles. Titles and management at Mozilla are a bit different than at other organizations, and so this isn’t a perfect way to map the Steering Committee to other organizations. But it’s generally close and probably the best “quick and dirty” way of thinking about the Steering Committee.
Today the Steering Committee is:
John Lilly, CEO
Chris Beard, VP Mozilla Labs
Mike Schroepfer, VP Engineering
Paul Kim, VP Marketing
Brendan Eich, CTO
Harvey Anderson, General Counsel
Mitchell Baker, Chairperson
You can see that these are truly giant chunks of activities- engineering, marketing, overall technical direction, labs, legal. None of this is set in stone, we need flexibility everywhere at Mozilla.
January 14th, 2008
Mozilla is an unusual organization, perhaps even unique. But we are part of a new type of organization — organizations that are mission — driven but use market mechanisms to achieve their goals. By “mission driven” I mean an organization that exists to provide social and civic value. In Mozilla’s case we have a public benefit mission — building an Internet that is open and participatory, where people have meaningful choices about their Internet experience. By “market mechanism” I mean that we use tools that non-profit organizations traditionally haven’t. We use financial tools — we sustain ourselves by generating revenue from our activities, rather than relying completely on grants and donations. We also use the “market” to drive change. In the Internet industry today we are promoting open source, innovation and participation by building products people want to use. Because so many people use our products, we are able to influence technical and policy decisions.
Both John and I have been using the phrase “hybrid organization” to describe this group of organizations. It’s a useful word, but not necessarily precise. I’ll get back to that in a minute.
One important point is that Mozilla is not alone in being a hybrid organization. We are very rare in the technology space. And even rarer in having our size and scope in the technology world. But we are part of a large world of organizations that are combining a social purpose with new tools for financial sustainability. That means some smart people have already been thinking about how to describe these new organizations and we can learn from them.
So, what does a “hybrid organization” mean? There seems to be some academic history of using “hybrid” to mean different types of organizations working together. That’s not what we mean. Wikipedia has a definition of “hybrid organization” that is closer, describing them as operating
in both the public sector and the private sector, simultaneously fulfilling public duties and developing commercial market activities. As a result the hybrid organization becomes a mixture of both a part of government and a commercial enterprise.
The first sentence fits the world I’m trying to describe. But the reference to a hybrid organization being partly “government” is not what I think of with Mozilla. With a little poking around on the Web I found not only a nice description of hybrid organizations but also a very well thought out framework for distinguishing between different gradations of hybrid organizations. (Have I said recently how much I love the Web?).
Here I’m going to call out a few points. This is partly because I’m finding the framework useful for thinking about the broad range of organizational structures people are trying. And it’s partly because the materials help set Mozilla within a larger set of organizations working to create social value in new ways. The author describes a spectrum of hybrid organizations, ranging from “corporations practicing social responsibility” to non-profits that generate income. One type of hybrid with this spectrum is the “Social Enterprise” which is
“any business venture created for a social purpose — mitigating/reducing a social problem or a market failure — and to generate social value while operating with the financial discipline, innovation and determination of a private sector business.” Source
This definitely describes the Mozilla Corporation. (I’m leaving aside for the moment whether one applies this designation to the Mozilla Foundation itself; or treats the Mozilla Foundation as more of a pure non-profit parent of a Social Enterprise.
The world of Social Enterprises is further divided into social enterprises where the “social programs and business activities are one and the same” (the “embedded social enterprise”) and where they are related but not necessarily the same (the “related social enterprise”). In our case, our social programs — creating, distributing and helping people enjoy open source software products — and our business activities are the same.
This slide captures all of this in one place. It describes Mozilla extremely well. We are a mission-driven organization, a portion of which (Mozilla Corporation and soon MailCo) perform some traditionally commercial activities as an integral part of accomplishing the mission. (I would like to copy the entire slide, but haven’t yet contacted the author to see how much I can reproduce here.)
“Embedded mission-centric social enterprise.” That’s a lot of words and I’ll probably keep using “hybrid” in most settings. But each of these words has a specific meaning, often capturing a concept I’ve been trying to organize somehow. Each helps place Mozilla among other organizations. How are we like /unlike microfinance? How are we like / unlike kiva.org? How are we like / unlike the Fair Trade organizations? And, it helps distinguish us from the makers of other browsers and products, *whether or not those products are built using open source software.* The open source nature of Firefox and Thunderbird is fundamental; other products in the market may match those (though none do today). The public-benefit, mission-driven nature of Mozilla is also fundamental, and this regard we are very close to unique.
January 7th, 2008
2007 has been another year of extremely high growth for Mozilla and thus for the Mozilla Corporation. The number of Firefox users has grown to approximately 125 million. Mozilla’s mindshare in the industry continues to grow. We’ve launched both a number of significant new initiatives: a mobile effort, an innovation focus in Mozilla Labs, an integrated, ambitious support effort (support.mozilla.org) and a range of new outreach and evangelism programs. We’ve launched a serious effort in China and are vigorously supporting the new mail related Mozilla organization. We continue to build and ship great software, as the recent Firefox 3 betas demonstrate. Our contributors are increasing around the globe. Employees are increasing around the globe. We’re doing this in a Mozilla way, with a tiny number of employees for the work, distributed authority and tens of thousands of people contributing to create a more open and participatory Internet.
Our accomplishments are remarkable; the opportunity in front of us is enormous. To meet this opportunity we need to execute really, really well. And we need to make the best use of our resources, most notably people.
Today both John Lilly and I are spending a lot of time in classic “CEO” activities– organizational structure, employee well-being, budget and resource allocation, representing Mozilla products (especially Firefox) in discussions with other industry executives and the press, monitoring the progress of our product efforts, and overall execution of MoCo (our shorhand for the Mozilla Corporation). In addition to this work, I spend another chunk of time on overall organizational issues, in particular the relationship of the Mozilla Corporation to other Mozilla entities — The Mozilla Foundation, Mozilla Europe, “MailCo”, and the Mozilla community. I’m starting to spend time thinking about Firefox as a springboard in the Internet industry for bringing participation to areas not directly touched through using a browser– for data, for understanding what’s actually happening with the Internet. I spend time on Mozilla Foundation activities and project wide policies, including recruiting an Executive Director and filling in somewhat until we find someone. Each of these areas needs more time than it gets, and each will need even more time in the future.
So I’ve asked myself repeatedly: what is the best use of my talents? Not the use that is known, or that fits a standard model or is most glamourous. Those are all fine criteria, but not for Mozilla and not for me. More recently I started framing the question a little more precisely, asking myself: what am I doing that someone else could do as least as well? Are there unmet aspects of the opportunity in front of us that I could do a particularly good job of moving forward if I focused more on them?
I have some unique attributes within the Mozilla world. I’ve had a leadership role since the early days and along with Brendan Eich I’ve been involved in — and often instrumental in — almost every major strategic and organizational decision following the launch of Mozilla. My focus ranges across the Mozilla world, and no one title captures the scope of what I think about and where I try to lead. I have a vision of the Internet and online life and a positive user experience — and of Mozilla’s role in creating these — that is far broader than browsers, email clients and even technology in general. Mozilla has shaped me during this first decade of my involvement; constantly astounding me with the ingenuity, commitment and excellence of our contributors. And I’ve undoubtedly had a hand in shaping Mozilla.
Framed like this, a couple of things jumped out at me. One, I want Mozilla’s influence on the industry to go beyond the bits we ship as software. More particularly, I want to use the impact Firefox gives us in the market to get openness, collaboration and user control embedded in other products, services and aspects of online life. I’ve listed a few examples of what I mean below. You’ll see they are not yet precise and detailed. That’s why I want to dive into them– I can sense the enormity of the opportunity and a general sense of how to approach it, but I don’t have detailed project plans, and I’m not aware of anyone else who does. Some examples are:
- Making the standards process more effective.
- Encouraging more hybrid organizations like the Mozilla Corporation — organizations which serve the public benefit but support themselves through revenue rather than fund-raising.
- Making “security” understandable enough that people can help protect themselves.
- Providing individuals with the means to control their data and the content they create.
- Making the public benefit, distributed and collaborative nature of Mozilla and Firefox more generally understood.
The second thing that jumped out at me is that John Lilly is the right person to guide the product and organizational maturity of MoCo. John has been doing more and more of this since he took on the COO role in August of 2006. John understands Mozilla, is astonishingly good at operations and has an innate facility for our products and technologies and the directions in which they should develop. John has been instrumental in developing an organizational structure for MoCo that is both embedded in Mozilla and open-source DNA and which can function at the extremely high degree of effectiveness that our setting requires.
Once I allowed myself to think about this I realized that John will be a better CEO for the MoCo going forward than I would be. I’m sure that I was the right person for this role during the first years of MoCo; I’m equally sure that John is the best person for this role in the future.
As a result I’ve asked John to take on the role of CEO of the Mozilla Corporation, and John has agreed. In reality John and I have been unconsciously moving towards this change for some time, as John has been providing more and more organizational leadership. It is very Mozilla-like to acknowledge the scope of someone’s role after he or she has been doing it for a while, and this is a good part of what is happening here. I expect this transition to continue to be very smooth.
I will remain an active and integral part of MoCo. I’ve been involved in shipping Mozilla products since the dawn of time, and have no intention of distancing myself from our products or MoCo. I’ll remain both as the Chairman of the Board and as an employee. My focus will shift towards the kinds of activities described above, but I’ll remain deeply engaged in MoCo activities. I don’t currently plan to create a new title. I have plenty of Mozilla titles already: Chairman of the Mozilla Foundation, Chairman of the Mozilla Corporation, Chief Lizard Wrangler of the project. More importantly, I hope to provide leadership in new initiatives because they are worthwhile, separate from any particular title. We will probably create an Office of the Chairman with a small set of people to work on these initiatives. I intend to remain deeply involved with MoCo precisely because I remain focused on our products and what we can accomplish within the industry.
There will be some differences with this change of roles. Most notably:
- John’s role in products and organization will become more visible to the world as he becomes more of a public voice for MoCo activities.
- Today — in theory at least — John provides advice to me for a range of decisions for which I am responsible. In the future I’ll provide input to John and he’ll be responsible for making MoCo an effective organization. I expect to provide advice on a subset of topics and thus reduce the duplication of work. On the other hand, I also expect to be quite vocal on the topics I care about most. John and I agree on most things these days, but that doesn’t stop me from being vocal 🙂
I’m thrilled with this development, both with John’s new role and with mine. If you’ve got thoughts on the kinds of projects I want to set in motion, I’m eager to hear them. And don’t be surprised if you see the Mozilla Corporation doing more faster — that’s a part of the goal. We’re all committed to doing things in a Mozilla style and you should expect to see that continue to shine through all that we do, whether it’s shipping product or developing a new initiative.
June 13th, 2007
In the days before the Mozilla Foundation existed, the Mozilla project was originally managed by a group known as “mozilla.org staff.” Mozilla.org staff was a virtual organization which governed the Mozilla project in general, and did so increasingly unrelated to any employment relationship. Mozilla.org staff managed the project’s day to day activities, and held responsibility for basic technology and policy decisions. Today, some of these functions live in the Foundation — stewardship of the assets, and release of products using the Mozilla name, as examples. So the old model of mozilla.org staff cannot continue unchanged in the world of the Foundation.
Nevertheless, we need a mechanism to address governance issues that are broader than any particular product or project issue. More specifically, we should identify the key activities of the Mozilla project, identify the decision-makers, define the scope of their authority and the criteria by which they are designated.
In the past I’ve thought of trying to modernize or reconstruct a group like mozilla.org staff — a group that would have a set of project-wide responsibilities and obligations. I’ve made several attempts at this. It sounds good in theory, but in reality turned out to be very messy. In the days of mozilla.org staff, there was no Foundation. Trying to create another group in the Mozilla world with another set of responsibilities that would overlap with, or maybe be governed by the Foundation’s Board where required by law, or maybe govern or direct the Board is very complex. And the idea of doing this in a way that people can understand and remember is even more difficult. I’ve stumbled at the effort a couple of times now and find the task pretty daunting.
So I have a new idea that is much more simple. I’m indebted to Mike Connor, who suggested something like it in a newsgroup posting a while back. (Needless to say, if you hate the idea, please leave mconnor out of it 🙂 )
My new idea is to identify the roles that mozilla.org staff used to play and make modules for these roles. We might have a “governance” set of modules, or a governance module with sub-modules. We’re in the process of creating modules for non-code topics anyway and so we could use a single type of mechanism for code, non-code and governance activities. We would determine governance related activities as well as activities the Mozilla Foundation now handles directly, like management of trademarks. We’d identify a module owner. We would also identify someone (a Peer, or a member) with an acknowledged voice in the Mozilla Foundation. We could do something like arranging for owners, peers or members for these modules to meet periodically with a Foundation representative. In any case, we would develop a mechanism for notifying the Foundation when an important issue has become contentious enough that escalation beyond the module owner is warranted. I’m not sure about the right mechanism here, but am pretty confident we can figure out something workable.
This path means the activities for which mozilla.org staff used to have authority are identified, we are clear about which have become Foundation / Corporation activities and which, if any, are related to employment. We have owners and a way for differing opinions to be expressed.
I like this approach because it allows us to address these issues within a structure and process that is already understood. It requires giving up some of the emotional attachment of a separate mozilla.org staff. I think this is manageable; keeping everything from our past intact will drag us into paralysis. And this offers a good chance of having a working process.
June 8th, 2007
Mozilla has a long history of dividing our code into “modules,” identifying module owners and giving module owners authority over their modules, within general parameters. Details can be found in the Modules and Module Ownership document.
Mozilla activities have expanded dramatically in the last few years. A number of us have been thinking that using the module ownership concept for non-coding activities will help us better understand who is doing what and how we work.
A while back, Stuart did a massive reorganization of our code modules and owners. Along the way he compiled an initial list of potential modules for new activities. I’ve posted that list here. Take a look if you are interested. The next steps on my to-do list are to select a few of the suggested modules that seem most clear, evaluate how well the module ownership document would apply, and determine what changes would be needed in that document. Then there’s working on the list itself, which is very preliminary now.
Help is more than welcome!
I think newsgroups are often better for discussions, so I’m going to post something in the Mozilla governance newsgroup (available via newsreader or mailing list, or via the browser) and suggest discussion occur there.
November 30th, 2006
We’re getting started on a series of activities relating to governance principles and policies. I’ve listed the topics I’m planning to start with in the Mozilla newsgroup known as “governance.” You can access this newsgroup by subscripting to it directly from Mozilla (lists.mozilla.org/listinfo/governance) or through Google groups at groups.google.com/group/mozilla.governance.
The Mozilla project has a set of policies that were developed in the early days, starting in 1999. These policies have served us well, and I expect most of the basic principles will remain. Nevertheless, many of these policies need updating. They should all be reviewed and either confirmed, updated, expanded, retired or replaced.
As we get started I thought it might be helpful to describe how the first set of policies was created.
When I arrived at mozilla.org full time in 1999 — a year after its founding — I spent a bunch of time learning how the organization was working. This involved a lot of watching and a lot of questions. It involved an amazing amount of trying to pull from people’s heads various descriptions of what they were already doing and why they were doing it. (Brendan can no doubt attest to my endless questions during this period.) Then I “translated” the various bits I had learned into a somewhat consistent picture, wrote it down, checked to see if it matched reality, and iterated when it didn’t. The next step was looking at the points of tension — with Netscape and other commercial participants, with volunteers, among various groups of engineers and between engineers and other participants. I took the various perspectives and wove them into a proposal that I thought would benefit the project as a whole and satisfy at least broad elements of the community. Then we implemented the proposals. In many cases there was general agreement. But not always. As a project, we shouldn’t be afraid of difficult decisions — we’ve made them before. This is how we came up with the various governance policies.
In other words, we did not try to imagine what a good system would look like and then decree it. We looked at what we were doing, described those things that were working well, lived with pain until we could find solutions for things that needed improvement and then codified them. We had some knock-down drag-out fights in the early days. But we ended up with a set of governance principles and policies that have served us very well, even through the last few years when they’ve been neglected. I became known and accepted as the final decision-maker for governance and policy issues, much as Brendan is the final decision-maker for technical topics.
Our governance principles need updating now, there’s no question of that. I’m very hopeful we can do so without the coming-of-age angst we went through the first time. And I’d like to start with the same techniques that worked so well the first time — codify what we’re doing now that’s working well, try some new things where we need improvement, see what works and codify that. We’ll need to be creative since we’re in a new reality. But it’s still critical to identify work patterns that actually produce good results, and not to make up a system because it sounds good.
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 mozilla.org 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.