April 14, 2014 § 11 Comments
Ten years ago, a scrappy group of ten Mozilla staff, and thousands of volunteer Mozillians, broke up Microsoft’s monopoly on accessing the web with the release of Firefox 1.0. No single mastermind can claim credit for this achievement. Instead, it was a wildly diverse and global community brought together through their shared commitment to a singular goal: to protect and build the open web. They achieved something that seemed impossible. That’s what Mozillians can do when we’re at our best.
Over the last few years, we’ve taken on another huge challenge: building a smartphone incorporating the technology and values of the open web. In a few short years, we’ve taken Boot to Gecko, an idea for an open source operating system for mobile, all the way to the release of Firefox OS phones in 15+ countries. It was thousands of Mozillians — coders, localizers, partners, evangelists and others — that made this journey possible. These Mozillians, and the many more who will join us, will play a key role in achieving the audacious goal of putting the full power and potential of the web into the hands of the next two billion people who come online.
Over the last few weeks, the media and critics have jumped to the conclusion that our CEO defines who Mozilla is. But, that’s not the reality.
The reality is this: Mozilla is all of us. We are not one or two leaders, and we never have been. Mozilla is a global community of people building tools for a free and open web that we can’t build anywhere else. We’re people solving the tough problems on the web that most need solving. Mozilla is all of us taking action every day, wherever we are. Building. Teaching. Empowering. We all define who Mozilla is together. It’s the things we choose to build and teach and do every day that add up to ‘Mozilla’.
While hard, the past few weeks have been a reminder of that. The attention, boycotts, ire from across the political spectrum, and departure of an original founder like Brendan would have devastated most companies, leaving them wounded and floundering with their leadership gone. But, Mozilla is not like most companies. Instead, we’re a global community that rolls up our sleeves to work on a common cause, not a company with single leader. Mozilla is all of us. As Mozillians, we need to remember this. And live it.
That’s one of the reasons I’m happy Chris Beard agreed to step in as interim CEO at the Mozilla Corporation today. Certainly, he knows technology and products, having played a key role in everything from the early success of Firefox to unveiling Firefox OS at the Mobile World Congress. But, more importantly right now, Chris is one of the best leaders I know at gathering people around Mozilla in a way that lets them have impact.
Just one example of where Chris has done this: the famous Firefox 1.0 ad in the New York Times.
The notable thing about this ad is not its size or reach, but that Mozilla neither placed nor even paid for it. The ad was a grassroots effort, dreamed up and paid for by roughly 10,000 people who’d been using Firefox in beta and wanted the world to know that there was a real choice in how people could access the web. Chris was running marketing for Mozilla at the time. As he saw community momentum growing around the idea, he jumped in to help, bringing in more resources to make sure the ad actually made it into the Times. He did what Mozilla leaders do at their best: empower Mozillians to take concrete action to move our cause forward.
Mozilla has a tremendous amount of momentum right now. We’ve just shipped Firefox OS in 15 countries and released a $25 open source smartphone that will bring the web to tens of millions of people for the first time. We’re about to unleash the next round of events for our grassroots Maker Party campaign, which will bring in thousands of new volunteers and teach people around the world about how the web works. And we’re becoming a bigger — and more necessary — voice for trust and for privacy on the web at time when online security is facing unprecedented threats. The things we are all working on together are exciting, and they’re important.
In all honesty, the past few weeks have taken their toll. But, as they say, never waste a good crisis. We’re already seizing the opportunity to become even better and stronger than we were a month ago.
This starts with reminding ourselves that Mozilla is at its best when we all see ourselves as leaders, when we all bring our passion and our talent full bore to building Mozilla every single day. Chris has a role in making this happen. So do people like Mitchell and me. The members of our boards play a role, too. But, it is only when all of us roll up our sleeves to lead, act and inspire that we unlock the full potential of Mozilla. That is what we need to do right now.
April 4, 2014 § 208 Comments
A few days ago I wrote: Mozilla is messy. For better and for worse, the week’s events showed how true that is.
Looking back at the past week, this also comes to mind: Mozilla is human. In all the best and worst ways. With all the struggle and all the inspiration. Mozilla is very very human.
On the inspiration part, I need to say: Brendan Eich is one of the most inspiring humans that I have ever met. He is a true hero for many of us. He invented a programming language that is the heart and soul of the most open communications system the world has ever known. He led a band of brilliant engineers and activists who freed the internet from the grip of Microsoft. And, one-on-one, in his odd and brilliant ways, he helped and advised so many of us as we put our own hearts and souls into building Mozilla and building the web. I was truly excited to see Brendan step into the role of CEO two weeks ago. And, today, I am equally sad.
It’s important to remember that all heroes are also human. They struggle. And they often have flaws. Brendan’s biggest flaw, IMHO, was his inability to connect and empathize with people. I’ve seen and felt that over the years, finding Bredan brilliant, but distant. And you certainly saw it this past week, as many calm and reasonable people said “Brendan, I want you to lead Mozilla. But I also want you to feel my pain.” Brendan didn’t need to change his mind on Proposition 8 to get out of the crisis of the past week. He simply needed to project and communicate empathy. His failure to do so proved to be his fatal flaw as CEO.
I would argue that Mozilla is filled with heroes. Thousands of them. All of them very human, just like Brendan. In the past week, I’ve spent every waking hour with these heroes. And I have watched them struggle. I’ve watched Mitchell struggle with how to protect the soul and spirit of a global community that is filled with passion, dreams, tensions and contradictions. I’ve watched the boards struggle with how to govern something that is at once a global social movement, a valuable consumer brand and a company based in the State of California. I have watched dozens and dozens of Mozillians reflect — and sometimes lash out — as they struggle to figure out what it means to be an individual contributor or leader inside this complex organism. And I myself have struggled with how to help Mozillians sort through all this complexity and messiness. Being human is messy. That is Mozilla.
As I look at the world’s reaction to all this, I want to clarify two things:
1. Brendan Eich was not fired. He struggled to connect and empathize with people who both respect him and felt hurt. He also got beat up. We all tried to protect him and help him get around these challenges until the very last hours. But, ultimately, I think Brendan found it impossible to lead under these circumstances. It was his choice to step down. And, frankly, I don’t blame him. I would have done the same.
2. This story is actually not about Brendan Eich. Of course, the critics and the media have made this a story about Brendan and his beliefs. But, as someone intimately involved in the evens of the past week, I would say in earnest: this is a story about Mozilla finding its soul and its spirit again. Over the past three years, we’ve become better at being A Company. I would argue we’ve also become worse at being Mozilla. We’ve become worse at caring for each other. Worse at holding the space for difference. Worse at working in the open. And worse at creating the space where we all can lead. These are the things that make Mozilla Mozilla. And they are the things we did not have enough of to properly find our way out of the crisis of the past two weeks.
Before getting into this kerfuffle, we were working on the right things. We were building a phone that will truly bring the web into the hands and the pockets of the world. We were teaching the world how the web works. And we were standing up against those who want to break the web or turn into a way to watch what each of us do every day. Those are still the things we need to be doing. And we need to start doing them again on Monday.
What we also need to do is start a process of rebirth and renewal. We need to find our soul and our spirit. The good news: Mozillians know how to do this. We know how to make a phoenix rise from the ashes. That is what we must now do.
March 30, 2014 § 143 Comments
I was a anarchist, lefty, peace movementy punk teenager. I spent my 20s making documentaries with the environmental collective. And the feminist collective. And whoever else I could teach to use a video camera. During my 30s I co-founded Canada’s most popular left wing news web site, Rabble.ca. I’ve spent all my life being active and public about the causes I believe in.
Needless to say, people have asked how I could work side by side with people like Brendan Eich who seem to have such different beliefs and politics.
For the record: I don’t like the fact that Brendan supported Proposition 8, and I stand strongly for gay marriage. And, while I don’t actually know what Brendan’s politics are, as he is normally quite private about them, I have always assumed they are very different from mine on a wide range of issues.
But Brendan and I very aligned on something very political: defending the free and open internet. This is one of the most important issues of our day. And it is what Brendan and I — and countless other Mozillians around — the world are working on together.
We live in a great moment in history, where more people than ever before can express themselves wildly and creatively, thanks to the web. As a punk rock kid, it’s more than I could have ever dreamed of. But we also live in a world where Big Brother is among us and around us. There are governments and companies using the web to watch us and control us. That’s happening more and more. As billions more people roll onto the web in the next few years, we really are at a critical crossroads for humanity: we have to decide if the web is about freedom or control.
What’s amazing is Mozillians, including me, work side by side with people who have very different beliefs — even beliefs that upset them — because protecting the web matters so much right now. As we do, differing beliefs on issues other than the web almost never enter the fray. In Brendan’s case, I didn’t even know he had taken a position on Prop 8 until it became the subject of public attention. And, as someone with public views that are likely different than his, I’ve never experienced him as anything other than a supportive and hardworking colleague. This ability to set aside differing and diverse beliefs to focus on a common cause is something we as Mozilla stand for on principle. And, in a way that I have never seen in any other organization, this works at Mozilla. It makes us stronger.
But Mozilla is messy. Our ability to set aside differences does not mean that everything is simple or that we’re always civil. In fact, when the topic is the web or Mozilla itself, we quite often get into open, heated and, for the most part, thoughtful debate. Many people outside Mozilla may not understand this. But, again, it makes us stronger.
The community dialogue around Brendan’s appointment is an example of this. People have reflected on the tension feeling of being emotionally effected by Brendan’s donation while at the same time experiencing Mozilla as a supportive and safe space for all sorts of people to work and protect the web. People have said personal opinions and donations are not their business. [corrected link] People have said that a CEO has to be held to a different standard as they are a public figure. People have talked about the tension between inclusion and free speech. And people have talked about forgiveness, the benefit of the doubt and picking your battles. All of this in public on blogs and twitter. All of this, in my opinion, making us stronger as we work through the complex questions at hand.
Which brings me to a worry I have. And an ask.
I worry that Mozilla is in a tough spot right now. I worry that we do a bad job of explaining ourselves, that people are angry and don’t know who we are or where we stand. And, I worry that in the time it takes to work this through and explain ourselves the things I love about Mozilla will be deeply damaged. And I suspect others do to.
If you are a Mozillian, I ask that you help the people around you understand who we are. And, if you have supported Mozilla in the past are frustrated or angry with us, I ask you for kindness and patience.
What Mozilla is about is working through these things, even when they’re hard. Because the web need us to. It’s that important.
March 24, 2014 § 1 Comment
I’m excited that Brendan Eich is Mozilla’s CEO. Brendan knows what’s important right now: building the values of the web into mobile and into the cloud at a massive scale. This vision is key to our success. But Brendan also offers something else: a real example of how we can each roll up our sleeves to tackle the hard, messy problems that we need to solve if we want to make this vision into a reality.
When I first came to Mozilla, I was a little starstruck. Here was an organization that had rallied a global community to build Firefox and beat Microsoft. An organization that had made open source — and many of the ideas behind it — mainstream. An organization filled with internet rock stars like Brendan. People who have changed the world, for real.
What I realized quickly: Mozillians are just everyday people. What makes them special is their particular ideas about how to make things happen in the world. Ideas like: build your vision and values into products that lots of people will want to use. And, find leverage, create standards and nurture relationships that help these products shape whole industries. And, do these things by empowering people and inviting them to help you out. Mozilla has won in the past because its people had been smart, tenacious and committed to this particular brand of poetry and pragmatism.
In my opinion, this way of working is something we need more of at Mozilla right now. See the big picture. Roll up our sleeves. Pick the right battles. Make the right compromises. Figure out all the different kinds of things we need to do to win. And help each other out to get these things done.
I truly think Brendan can help us all do more of this right now. He’s already started with Firefox OS, not only leading us to build a compelling product in a few short years but also playing an active role in helping carriers and device manufacturers become partners contributing to Mozilla’s cause. Like always, Brendan has helped us build not just a product but also platforms and relationships that have the potential to shift the whole playing field. As we tackle everything from cloud services to building up new revenue lines to teaching 100s millions of people about the web, I believe Brendan can help each be smart, tenacious, practical and open as we work on solving our particular piece of the open web puzzle.
I’m feeling hopeful and inspired today. I’m looking forward to working closely with Brendan as Mozilla’s new CEO. And to rolling up my sleeves even further to build the web we’re dreaming of. I hope you want to do the same.
March 12, 2014 § 6 Comments
As my business card says, I have an affection for the world wide the web. And, as the web turns 25 this week, I thought it only proper to say to the web ‘I love you’ and ‘I want to keep you free’.
From its beginning, the web has been a force for innovation and education, reshaping the way we interact with the world around us. Interestingly, the original logo and tag line for the web was ‘let’s share what we know! — which is what billions of us have now done.
As we have gone online to connect and share, the web has revolutionized how we work, live and love: it has brought friends and families closer even when they are far away; it has decentralized once closed and top-down industries; it has empowered citizens to pursue democracy and freedom. It has become a central building block for all that we do.
Yet, on its 25 birthday, the web is at an inflection point.
Despite its positive impact, too many of us don’t understand its basic mechanics, let alone its culture or what it means to be a citizen of the web. Mobile, the platform through which the next billion users will join the web, is increasingly closed, not allowing the kind of innovation and sharing that has made the world wide web such a revolutionary force in in the first place. And, in many parts of the world, the situation is made worse by governments who censor the web or use the web surveil people at a massive scale, undermining the promise of the web as an open and trusted resource for all of humanity.
Out of crisis comes opportunity. As the Web turns 25, let us all say to the web: ‘I love you’ and ‘I want to keep you free’. Let’s take the time to reflect not just on the web we have, but on the web we want.
Mozilla believes the web needs to be both open and trusted. We believe that users should be able to control how their private information is used. And we believe that the web is not a one-way platform — it should give as all a chance makers, not just consumers. Making this web means we all need access to an open network, we all need software that is open and puts us in control and we all need to be literate in the technology and culture of the web. The Mozilla community around the world stands for all these things.
So on the web’s 25 birthday, we are joining with the Web at 25 campaign and the Web We Want campaign to enable and amplify the voice of the Internet community. We encourage you to visit www.webat25.org to sign a birthday card for the web and visit our interactive quilt to share your vision for the type of web you want.
Happy Birthday to the web — and to all of us who are on and in it!
pps: Here’s the quilt: the web I want enables everyone around the world to be a maker. Add yourself.
February 27, 2014 § 1 Comment
When I first joined Mozilla I was blown away by its mix of poetry and pragmatism.
Mozilla started with a very basic question: How can we create a web that is more open? In answer to that question we witnessed the growth of a global community of Mozillians around the world who have an ingrained instinct to roll up their sleeves, learn from and teach each other, and build the solution to a problem.
The Mozilla community fundamentally understands that in order to affect change, people need to be makers, not just consumers.
After all, it’s this instinct to teach and build that enabled us to develop Firefox: 10 paid staff and a global army of volunteers contributed to the creation of a browser that beat out the biggest software company in the world. And we didn’t just build a better browser — we demonstrated the power of teaching. Millions of us installed Firefox on our friends’ and families’ computers—and explained what Mozilla stood for as we did this.
Fifteen years later, the world faces different problems.
In this new, post-Snowden era, it feels like everyone is talking about — and craving — a more open and trustworthy internet. The world has a better understanding of how people are being tracked online, and of the delicate balance between privacy and a world where we are all constantly connected. We live our lives online, and store everything in the cloud, yet our lives depend on technology and networks that too few users really understand.
And so, as Mozilla, we strive to answer the same fundamental questions that guided us at the beginning: how, today, can we strengthen an internet that is open and trustworthy? What is the next set of tools to enable people to protect their privacy? How best can we teach everyone basic web literacy skills like how to secure their information? Should we use our influence to ensure government and corporate policies help make the web more open and trustworthy? How do we do this work at scale, recognizing that billions of people will soon be online?
We’re trying to answer these questions in a number of ways, but we can’t do it alone. That’s why we are thrilled to join foces with the Knight Foundation and Ford Foundation on this year’s Knight News Challenge, which will fund $2.75M in grants to find and support great ideas.
In part, this new Knight Challenge aims to fund the technology, education programs and campaigns that will begin to satisfy the craving we have for a more open and trustworthy web. But, it also aims to spark a conversation around how to shape the next era of the web – an era where openness, security and innovation regain their status as elevated principles.
Mozillians bring our very practical ‘roll up our sleeves and build the future as we want to see it’ ethic and that is exactly what we need now. We’re the right ones to figure out how we can best leverage the mechanics, culture and citizenship of the web to keep it open.
So, let’s all commit to help out and participate in The Knight News Challenge. I’d love to see as many people as possible from the broader Mozilla community submit ideas for tech and propose new education programs.
Along with Knight and Ford, Mozilla is trying to build a wave of people creating the web we want. Let’s help start that wave.
This posting is also on the Knight Foundation blog.
January 14, 2014 § 1 Comment
I’m excited about 2014 at Mozilla. Building on last fall’s Mozilla Summit, it feels like people across the project are re-energized by Mitchell’s reminder that we are a global community with a common cause. Right now, this community is sharply focused on making sure the web wins on mobile and on teaching the world how the web works. I’m optimistic that we’re going to make some breakthroughs in these areas in the year ahead.
Last month, I sat down with our board to talk about where we want to focus the Mozilla Foundation’s education and community program efforts in 2014. We agreed that two things should be our main priorities this year: 1. getting more people to use our learning tools and 2. growing our community of contributors. I’ve posted the board slides (pdf) and a screencast for people who want a detailed overview of our plans. Here is the screencast:
If you are just looking for a quick overview, here are some of the main points from the slides:
- Over the past 5 years, MoFo has successfully built Webmaker, Open Badges and other community programs to compliment our work on Firefox, FirefoxOS and other products.
- In 2013, MoFo generated $13M in revenue and gathered thousands of community members and contributors around these programs.
- In 2014, MoFo’s goal is to improve and scale our education and community initiatives by:
- a. Growing the number of contributors working on Mozilla initiatives like Webmaker, Open Badges, Open News, etc. to at least 10,000.
- b. Driving adoption of Webmaker and Open Badges, with a particular focus on getting our tools into the hands of many more teachers and evangelists.
- Our key strategy for doing these things is to identify and work with ‘lead users’ across all our programs in 2014. Lead users are people who are already enthusiastic about what we’re doing.
- I talked alot about lead users for Webmaker in this post back in September. These people play a key role in testing, building and promoting our education and community programs alongside us.
- In 2013, MoFo aims to generate at least $17M in revenue to support this work. We are projecting expenses of approximately $18M, over $1M of which are covered by grant revenue we received in 2013.
In addition to these slides, you can also find detailed workplans for Webmaker, Open Badges, Open News and other MoFo initiatives on the Mozilla Wiki.
At the Mozilla Summit, we imagined a bold future 10 years from now: one where the values of the web are built into all aspects of our connected lives and where the broad majority of people are literate in the ways of the web. In this world, Mozilla is a strong global movement with over a million active contributors.
We move towards this world by building real things: a widely used mobile operating system based on the web; new ways to store and protect personal information online; content and tools for teaching web literacy. I’m excited working on the education and community sides of all this in 2014 — I think we can make some breakthroughs.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on our plans and the year ahead, either as comments here or by email.