Posts Tagged with “history”

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.

History of “Choice and Innovation on the Internet”

March 13th, 2006

I’ve been thinking about how to describe the goals of the Mozilla project, and how the Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation fit into that. By “Mozilla project” I mean all the people who are involved, unrelated to any employment relationship. The Mozilla Foundation, including its subsidiary the Mozilla Corporation, together make up only a small portion of the people involved. It’s important that the Mozilla Foundation remain in sync with the larger project it seeks to lead, and that we have healthy discussions about that goal.

We’ve been using the goal of “choice and innovation on the Internet” for some time now. Recently someone asked me for a history of this phrase. I did a bit of research, here’s what I found.

I. Pre-Foundation website.

As far as I can tell, I think we started using the specific phrase “choice and innovation” when we created the new web pages for the Mozilla Foundation. Before the Foundation existed, our web site and communication was mostly internal, aimed at developers and participants in the project. It was less aimed at end-users or at the general public. So the site did not have a focus on explaining the importance of the project in general terms.

II. Pre-Foundation Public Statements

In the pre-Foundation era I did explain the importance of the Mozilla project to the press, particularly around the release of Mozilla 1.0 in June, 2002. I’ve found and copied a few of these interviews that were done by email below. The comments show their age a bit (2002 was a long time ago in Internet time) but overall still seem relevant today.

Question: “What is your view on the market share currently held by the Mozilla browser? Is it important to take on Internet Explorer? (if it is, how to do that?)”

Answer: “The Internet is becoming an increasingly important part of our lives. ‘Browser’ software is the means through which consumers and citizens access and manipulate data via the Internet. It is an unhealthy situation to have only one means of accessing Internet information. It is unhealthy to have our means of accessing the Internet determined by the business plan of a software vendor. The goal of the Mozilla project is to provide alternative, open source software through which people can access the Internet. This is a critical piece in allowing the needs of citizens and consumers to determine the development of Internet technologies.”

“The Mozilla project provides a viable, vibrant technical alternative to Internet Explorer. This alone is not the entire story, distribution is also important. But distribution is impossible until a viable technical alternative exists, and Mozilla provides such an alternative.”

Question: “Going further than the published roadmap, where do you see the Mozilla browser five or ten years from now? Which kind of features may be incorporated in the future?

Answer: “The Internet is a diverse environment. Human beings can access their data and conduct transactions on the Net based on their goals. Different people choose different means of doing so, some focus on convenience, some on protecting their privacy. Innovation has returned to “browser” software, providing new convenience to users. Many of us use devices other than desktop computers to access the Internet, and Mozilla based software helps power the change.”

Answer: Our goal is a World-Wide-Web where consumers have choice, and where no single entity dictates what the consumer can do or see. In other words, to maintain effective consumer choice in how our personal information is transmitted and used. We’re dangerously close to losing that choice now, as more and more websites provide their data and services in formats only IE can understand.

III. The appearance of “Choice and Innovation”

I believe the “choice and innovation” phrase first appeared in Nov. of 2003, when we set about finding a good way of describing our purpose that could be easily absorbed and understood. “Bonsai” (our web-based tool for showing what has changed in our source repository) suggests it appeared in version 1.2 of the “about” page. The phrase also appeared on the front page of the website when it was revised in mid to late Nov. 2003. In this case the reference was:

What is Mozilla?
The Mozilla project maintains choice and innovation on the Internet by developing the acclaimed, open source, Mozilla 1.5 web and email suite and related products and technology.

IV. What I take from this

“Choice and innovation on the web” has been an excellent way to describe our goals or mission so far. The phrase has developed staying power because it expresses a basic nature of what we’re doing. My believe is that “choice and innovation” is a great starting point, has served us well and is part of our heritage that we should look to. I also suspect it is not enough to guide our daily activities. Is any innovation equally desirable for us to pursue? And do we care if choice lead to a better overall better experience? If so, for whom? “Choice and innovation on the web” is a great foundation, and I’m proud of it. We have the opportunity and the responsibility to build upon this foundation and define what we think the Mozilla project can and should do to make the net a better place.

Where I Am

March 2nd, 2006

My experience with the Mozilla project in 2005 was about a few things:

1. Growing our organization into the stature the rapid adoption of Firefox brought us. We started the year with about 15 people, and an unexpectedly large set of users. Organizationally we needed to get more people involved full time to take care of things, to build our physical infrastructure (with special thanks to the Oregon State University Open Source Lab), to take care of our user base, and to start to add more coordination among our contributors. Coordination means management of resources so we added a few managers to the employee base. Management in an open source project like ours is not as well understood or developed as code development in an open source project, and I hope to describe our thinking more clearly here and to generate discussion before long.

2. We adjusted our organization a bit, forming the Mozilla Corporation as an adjunct to the Mozilla Foundation. Personally, this was a lot of work. It needs more work, in particular to work explain, refine and further develop the roles of the Foundation and Corporation to help guide the Mozilla project.

3. We shipped Firefox and Thunderbird 1.5. This was important to get updated technology to our users and to provide a way to help protect users through automatic update, particularly for improvements related to security and privacy. It was also important to show that Firefox 1.0 wasn’t a one-shot wonder; that we understand how to ship software on a regular basis. We also broadened our search relationships, with Yahoo becoming the default in the Japanese, Chinese and Korean languages.

We did a lot of other things, but these are the chunks that occupied me for long periods of time.

In 2006 I see a continued focus on products. This has always been the core of what we do and we will continue to ship great products. For me personally, another large focus is in articulating the overall nature and goals of our organization and the means by which we will seek to achieve them. What is the mission of the Mozilla project? How do we best achieve these? What should the Mozilla Foundation do to help people enjoy free, useful participation in what the Internet offers? How best can the Corporation develop products and technologies to promote this goal? How do we combine management with open source DNA? How can I help bring the open, collaborative and distributed decision-making principles of code development into management and leadership of the Mozilla Corporation?

I don’t think there’s a how-to guide about how to do this 🙂

Organizing the Mozilla Project — Mozilla Corporation

August 3rd, 2005

The Mozilla Foundation has created a wholly owned subsidiary known as the Mozilla Corporation to help achieve the Mozilla Foundation’s goals of promoting choice and innovation on the Internet. We’ve done this to respond to the success and growing market-share of Mozilla Firefox and the new opportunities this makes possible. Mozilla Firefox is approaching 10% market share, with figures showing usage several times higher in selected groups and countries. We’re reaching the point where Mozilla Firefox is becoming a significant element of the Internet experience and has growing influence within the Internet and software industries.

This presence brings a range of opportunities. Many of these opportunities involve working with other commercial entities. Some involve generating revenue. This is an exciting time, both because our products are so well received and because the opportunity for the Mozilla Foundation to become self-sustaining in terms of revenue makes the long term vitality of the project much greater.

The Mozilla Corporation is created to respond to these opportunities. Non-profit law is reasonably well understood for traditional non-profit organizations like museums, universities and the traditional style of charities. But organizations like the Mozilla Foundation, which develops and distributes consumer software, are new in the non-profit world and the application of nonprofit laws to their activities is a developing area. We’ve found that this uncertainty makes responding to Mozilla Firefox’s success very complex. It is difficult to know what relationships with commercial organizations make sense for a non-profit or how to structure them. It is difficult to know what activities the non-profit should and shouldn’t engage in. It is difficult to determine what ways of generating revenue make sense for a non-profit and which ways of generating revenue are not appropriate.

The Mozilla Corporation has been created to address this. The Mozilla Corporation is a taxable entity and so is legally permitted greater freedom of action that is the Mozilla Foundation. The Mozilla Foundation will use this ability to interact with commercial entities and to generate revenue only in those cases where doing so meets the goals of the parent. In other words, its goals and mission are the same of the Mozilla Foundation, only it has greater flexibility in how to meet them. If it makes sense to generate revenue (as we currently do through search relationships) the Mozilla Corporation will look at doing so.

The Mozilla Corporation is legally a taxable, or in general terms, a “for-profit” entity. However, it is not a typical commercial entity. Its purpose is not to generate a return on investment in the financial sense. It is not an investment vehicle or an IPO candidate. It is completely owned by the Mozilla Foundation to promote an open Internet, where consumers have choice and innovation thrives.

More information about the Mozilla Foundation and the Mozilla Corporation and the relationship between them can be found at: or

The health of the Mozilla project, its long-term sustainability, and its role in maintaining diversity to the web is critical for the web. The Mozilla Foundation is extremely important in this goal, and extremely important to me personally. Many people, myself included, have worked for years to see the Mozilla Foundation come to life, the Mozilla project grow and tens of millions of people choose Mozilla products. The Mozilla Corporation is another organizational tool to bring these goals about.

First Days at the Mozilla Foundation

January 28th, 2005

I recently came across a post I started many, many months back (like a year ago) but never finished. So I updated it. Here are a few short vignettes of coming to work at the Mozilla Foundation.

Some months ago (this would be late 2003) there was a rattle at the door of the Mozilla Foundation. Our office is one big space, and it was about 5:30 pm, smack in the middle of prime working time, so everyone looked up. Someone actually got up, opened the door and let the new person in.

The visitor looked right at home. He had a cardboard box under one arm, and knew exactly where he was heading. No one said a word; he went straight for a desk, dropped his box down beside it, sat down, plugged in his laptop and settled in. As he connected to the Mozilla network he lifted one arm in a giant “score” sign, a small cheer went up and he went to work. He was no visitor, he was our then-newest employee. He had finished his exit interview at his previous job, driven straight over to the Mozilla Foundation, plunked himself down at 5:30 and started work. I’ve never seen someone looks so happy at starting a second workday.

This morning (August or September 2004) there was another rattle at the door. Someone got up to open it and asked — does anyone know this person? Marcia replied “Maybe it’s Chase, he’s supposed to be here to start working as a Mozilla Foundation employee today.” Chase is our new build engineer, stepping in since Leaf has moved on to other things. We knew Chase by name and skills, but none of us knew what he looked like. All of our interviews had been done by phone, since Chase wasn’t living in the San Francisco area. Someone opens the door, there’s an awkward silence as the visitor looks around and we all look at him. Feeling responsible but a little awkward I get up and mumble something like “Hello, er, ah, are you Chase?” Sure enough, this is no visitor, it’s our newest Foundation employee. Wahoo!

Update 1:

7 days ago (Fall 2004) Chris Beard arrived for his first day. This time we all knew him, as he’s local and pretty much everyone in the Foundation met Chris before he joined us. So we greeted Chris by finding a half-empty desk periodically used by visitors and inviting him to make himself at home. This went on for a few days until Chris unleashed a frenzy of spatial reorganizing. Looking up one day he noted “We probably should actually figure out where I might have a desk because the person who uses this one is going to be back one of these days.” I suspect it may be because his temporary desk left he and I starting at each other across the table, and some distance is definitely a good thing. Soon machines were moving, racks were moving, our swag pile was moving, people were moving and desks were rearranged. Asa profited the most, coming away with a nice space near the windows and the sunlight he so craves. My own craving for a window and a nice space has totally evaporated — I can’t tell if this is good or a sign of trouble. In any case it’s convenient.

Update 2:

Doug Turner has arrived. There wasn’t much available room after our last re-shuffle, so Doug got the space facing the door. Doug addressed that problem by turning his back to the door, making a space with two desks and hunkering in. He still graciously answering the door when we have visitors, but I’ll bet he’s waiting for our next spasm of reorganization.

Update 3:

Today I came in and found that the giant chess board (about 18′ by 18′ — literally) has been folded up and moved out of the center of the floow. We’ll pull it out for special occasions. There is also a new cluster of desks set up under the soda-can bridge (a 19 foot long replica of the Golden Gate bridge made of soda cans, brought from Netscape and lovingly but partially reassembled by chofmann). So far, no one has claimed the new desks — maybe looking up at soda cans is inhibiting people. Or maybe people are waiting for the “real” office furniture we’ve been talking about getting, since we need some ergonomic upgrades.

We didn’t really throw much away in all any of these rearrangements — we have a hefty supply of things left over from the Netscape era or accumulated on our own. Now there’s the real challenge!

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