Can the Mozilla Foundation’s mission and principles guide and motivate it into a new generation of products beyond its Firefox browser?
The Mozilla Foundation is a non-profit organisation that originated in the late 1990s from the old web-browser company Netscape. Mozilla’s best known product is the Firefox open source web-browser, produced largely for free by a community of volunteer software developers. In 2012, Firefox had about 25 per cent share of the world’s browser market, recently overtaken by Google’s Chrome. About 85 per cent of Mozilla’s revenue is a contract with Google, renewed for three years in 2011, which pays the Foundation in return for using Google as Firefox’s default search engine. Mozilla says the following about itself:
‘Mozilla’s mission is to promote openness, innovation and opportunity on the web. What we do We do this by creating great software, like the Firefox browser, and building movements, like Drumbeat [the community of software developers], that give people tools to take control of their online lives. What we strive for As a non-profit organisation, we define success in terms of building communities and enriching people’s lives instead of benefiting shareholders. We believe in the power and potential of the Internet and want to see it thrive for everyone, everywhere.’
Mozilla also publishes what it calls a ‘Manifesto’, containing a set of principles intended ‘to make Mozilla contributors proud of what we’re doing and motivate us to continue’. Principles of the Manifesto include:
• The internet is a global public resource that must remain open and accessible.
• The internet should enrich the lives of individual human beings.
• Individuals’ security on the internet is fundamental and cannot be treated as optional.
• Individuals must have the ability to shape their own experiences on the internet.
• Free and open-source software promotes the development of the internet as a public resource.
In 2012, Mozilla was developing a range of new initiatives. The most notable was ‘Pancake’, a cloud-based framework that allows users to carry and manage their personal data wherever they go. One objective of Pancake is to counter the way mobile apps are fragmenting the internet. Mozilla’s President, Mitchell Baker, explained to the BBC: ‘The internet was meant to be connected – not siloed. We really do want to encourage developers to develop across devices, using the same kind of power and explosive innovation and freedoms that the web has given us over the last 15 years.’
For Mitchell Baker, ‘the reason for [these] initiatives is not driven by revenue. It is driven because we cannot fulfil the Mozilla mission unless we have a presence in these other spaces.’ She continued, referring particularly to Mozilla’s users and developers: ‘Our stakeholders – we don’t have shareholders – are not looking for a financial return on investment. The return on their time and energy and goodwill that they’re looking for is the product that they like, and an internet that has a layer of user sovereignty in it.’
1 Mozilla does not produce a formal vision statement. Based on the materials here, what do you think Mozilla’s vision would be?
2 How do Mozilla’s mission and principles influence its approach to new initiatives? Is there any danger in its apparent priorities?