What’s Mozilla’s scope? What should it be?

A couple of canadians (!) have recently put up interesting posts about the Mozilla Foundation: David Eaves, with whom I had a great breakfast a few weeks ago, and Marc Surman, with whom I had a great long-distance phone chat. Both posts are worth reading, and digesting.

For what it’s worth, I agree with both.

I agree with David that the people involved in the open web (and that includes all wikipedia authors, youtube uploaders, and consumers of the same) are part of a social movement, whether they self-identify or not. I’m really interested to learn from him and people like him what the history of social movements can tell us about how to take what has traditionally been a very geeky concept (open standards, open source, etc.), and make it politically and socially not just relevant but critical and much more powerful than it is today. The “opposition” is much more astute at manipulating both courts and markets to their advantage, but that will shift if we’re ambitious enough.

I also agree w/ Marc that the Mozilla Foundation can do a lot more than what it does today, in shaping, energizing, and facilitating that movement. Especially when I’m outside of North America, it’s the Foundation that has credibility, and that credibility is currently languishing, unleveraged. We could and should do more.

It’s nice to see that the Mozilla galaxy is growing up enough that there can be simultaneous energy towards one thing, and very different but also important energy towards this complementary set of thought processes.

Oh, for the record: when I say open web these days, I mean something much broader and richer than just “the WWW using open standards”, although that’s the definition that I first used. Thunderbird’s goals, for example, are in scope, even if it doesn’t have much to do with traditional web protocols yet. Things like data portability, identity 2.0, net neutrality, data privacy, etc., are all in scope. Trying to pin down exactly what I mean with that word is something I’m trying to figure out — as David mentions, we need to do a better job of defining what we’re agreeing on.

I look forward to the conversations.


  1. To be honest, I think the web is open enough. I am inclined to think Mozilla has cracked the web browser market open enough already. While there are still lots of people using proprietary browsers, the presence of Firefox in the market (and to a lesser, but growing, extent, WebKit) has made an impact which is almost irreversible.

    Originally I was a little disappointed when I heard about Firefox 3, because I thought Firefox 2 was “good enough”, and I wanted to see more focus on other Mozilla products – specifically Thunderbird/Sunbird.

    However, after seeing the almost ridiculous amount of improvement Firefox 3 has, I stand corrected – it is a fantastic piece of work and the time was clearly well spent.

    Of course, now it’s out, I’m defaulting back to my previous position, despite the fact I was almost criminally wrong to have it before – more focus on Thunderbird and Sunbird.

    At the moment there are very few strong contenders in the open groupware world. Almost everything has to tie back into Outlook and/or Exchange, otherwise you just can’t use it. I’ve been searching for OSS replacements and there’s just nothing that compares to the “simplicity” of Exchange in terms of coming up with a great groupware solution that you can just plug in and have everyone use.

    Thunderbird/Sunbird are on their way to competing – I’ve been following the nightly builds with great interest as the teams working on them appear to be really making great strides.

    This is a little rambly, so I guess I’ll summarise – I think “open standards” aren’t just important on the web, but also any other number of Internet-connected applications/services. I think an improved focus on Mozilla offerings in the groupware space – building on and enhancing standards like CalDAV, creating killer clients, etc – will be the Next Big Thing for open standards and accessibility.

    That’d be my vote, anyway πŸ™‚


  2. Well, you asked πŸ˜‰

    I think work on Mozilla_The_Platform should finally start to evolve in a less haphazard, more mapped out fashion. XUL should be spec’ed and versioned and made truly usable (beyond Firefox). Fx development should not break XUL behaviour anymore. Mozilla developers should keep a public log/feed of breaking changes. XULRunner should become easy to configure for new projects.

    Maybe Mozilla should even encourage a completely new project: an open source video codec.



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